STAFF

Mimi Lok is Co-founder, Executive Director and Executive Editor of Voice of Witness. Her work builds on over fifteen years of experience in education and the literary arts in the U.K., China, and the U.S. She has consulted on arts and literary programs, worked as a freelance reporter for the Asia bureaus of The Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times and USA Today, and taught Creative Writing at San Francisco State University and in schools throughout Hong Kong and China. Her passion for human rights storytelling led her to volunteer as an editor and interviewer at Voice of Witness, before joining as Executive Director/Editor in 2008. mimi is an award-winning fiction writer, a student of Vipassana meditation, and a novice mushroom hunter.

Co-founder & Executive Director

Cliff Mayotte joined Voice of Witness in 2010 as Education Program Director. Cliff’s professional education career has included many years as a full time classroom teacher, curriculum designer, program director, and arts instructor. He also occasionally moonlights as a theatre director, having staged plays for many notable local companies. His belief in the power of storytelling feeds his daily practice. When not engaged with teaching and learning, Cliff likes riding his bike all over the East Bay, working in his garden, pretending that Major League Baseball could really use a guy like him, and spending time with his family.

Education Program Director

Dao X. Tran, born in Mỹ Tho, was a youth and community organizer in Philadelphia and has been politically active in Providence and New York City, most recently focused on equity in public education. Before joining Voice of Witness, Dao was senior editor at Haymarket Books and a freelance book editor. She co-edited 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed US History. She’s an old-school radical lefty, passionate about social justice and democratizing the kinds of stories being heard, and finds a curiosity about our world essential. When she’s not marking up manuscripts, she’s raising a spirited and sensitive child not to become a smart-alecky New Yorker. And though she lives in Brooklyn, she embraces the Bay Area vibes of the Voice of Witness team.

Managing Editor

Erin Vong is a Bay Area native who graduated from UC Davis with degrees in Art History and Communication. Before coming to Voice of Witness, she spent three years teaching curious children in Madrid and even curiouser teenagers in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and remains dedicated to her English Language Learner students. She returned home with a renewed interest in education, social justice, and fútbol, and hopes to finally finish recording her family’s stories as Vietnamese refugees. She can often be found practicing self-care by walking her dog, Yuki, and stopping to smell literal roses.

Education Associate

Claire Kiefer joined Voice of Witness as Education Program Associate in 2012, after six years of teaching children of incarcerated parents at a public high school. She has developed curricula for subjects ranging from the prison industrial complex, to collaborative poetry writing, to art responding to gang violence. For the past ten years, Claire has taught poetry writing in prisons and jails around the country, and she remains dedicated to prison reform and education. Claire is also the proud tender of a vegetable garden and owner of three Ragdoll cats named Meal, Lenny, and Miranda.

Curriculum Specialist

Alexa Gelbard moved to San Francisco in 2014 after four years of college in Philadelphia convinced her she needed to return to the California sun. Before joining the Voice of Witness team as Communications & Outreach Manager, Alexa spent three years in Public Relations representing a variety of clients addressing issues of public health, environmental justice, and human rights. Outside the office you can find her hiking trails in Marin or trying out (vegetarian) recipes from her collection of cookbooks.

Communications & Outreach Manager

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Ipek S. Burnett is a Turkish author and depth psychologist living in San Francisco. In addition to serving as the Chair of the Voice of Witness Board, she is on the committee of advisors for The Journal of Archetypal Studies and a member of the Human Rights Watch California Committee North. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Modern Culture & Media from Brown University, master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies, and doctorate degree in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Chair

Kristine Leja is the chief development officer for Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco. She previously worked for six years as the Edgewood Center for Children and Families in San Francisco, where she served as the development and communications director. Kris is a published poet and serves as an editor at Sidebrow Books, a San Francisco-based independent press. She has served on the Voice of Witness board of directors since 2012.

Treasurer/CFO

Nicole Janisiewicz has worked as an attorney at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2010. She previously worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Brown University. She is a member of the State Bar of California, including the International Law Section and the Peace and Justice Initiative. Nicole joined the board in 2015.

Secretary

Mimi Lok is Co-founder, Executive Director and Executive Editor of Voice of Witness. Her work builds on over fifteen years of experience in education and the literary arts in the U.K., China, and the U.S. She has consulted on arts and literary programs, worked as a freelance reporter for the Asia bureaus of The Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times and USA Today, and taught Creative Writing at San Francisco State University and in schools throughout Hong Kong and China. Her passion for human rights storytelling led her to volunteer as an editor and interviewer at Voice of Witness, before joining as Executive Director/Editor in 2008. mimi is an award-winning fiction writer, a student of Vipassana meditation, and a novice mushroom hunter.

Co-founder & Executive Director

Jill Stauffer is an associate professor of philosophy and the director of the Peace, Justice and Human Rights concentration at Haverford College. Jill has published widely on the international reach of rights, personal and political responsibility, political reconciliation, and the rule of law. She recently published a book The Ethics of Loneliness on political subjectivity as it relates to the promise and limits of reconciliation after violence. She has served on the Voice of Witness board of directors since its inception in 2009. She also serves on its editorial committee.

Director

Charles Autheman is the cofounder of Labo des Histoires, a group of five creative writing workshop centers throughout France. In his previous work with the Panos Institute, he consulted on capacity building and journalism training in Europe, North & West Africa, and the Middle East, with a specialization in migration, trafficking and labor issues. Charles joined the board in 2015.

Director

Trevor Stordahl works as senior counsel for Viz Media and has over a decade of experience in entertainment law. He received his Juris Doctorate from Hastings College and is a member of the State Bar of California. Trevor joined the board in 2015.

Director

EDUCATION ADVISORY BOARD

Rick Ayers is a Professor of Education at the University of San Francisco in the Urban Education and Social Justice cohort. He taught in the Communication Arts and Sciences small school at Berkeley High School, where he pioneered innovative and effective strategies for academic and social success for a diverse range of students. Rick has won the Berkeley Community Award (2004), Distinguished Educator of the Year Award, Occidental College (2004), and the Distinguished Adviser Award by Dow Jones Newspaper Fund (2000). He has his PhD from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education in the Language, Literacy, and Culture division. He is the co-author, with his brother William Ayers, of Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the Classroom (2010) from Teachers College Press. He is also author of Great Books for High School Kids and A Teacher’s Guide to Studs Terkel’s Working.
William Ayers is a former Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), the founder of both the Small Schools Workshop and the Center for Youth and Society, and he has written extensively about social justice, democracy and education, the cultural contexts of schooling, and teaching as an essentially intellectual, ethical, and political enterprise.

William’s articles have appeared in numerous scholarly and popular journals, and his books include Teaching Toward Freedom; A Kind and Just Parent; Fugitive Days; On the Side of the Child; Teaching the Personal and the Political; (with Ryan Alexander-Tanner) To Teach: The Journey, in Comics; (with Kevin Kumashiro, Erica Meiners, Therese Quinn, and David Stovall) Teaching Toward Democracy; (with Bernardine Dohrn) Race Course.

Diana Cohn has worked for over two decades on environmental, economic, and global justice issues as a teacher, media activist, and as a senior program officer and executive director for philanthropic grantmaking foundations. Her current work as Executive Director of the Panta Rhea Foundation has included oversight for the foundation’s Water Governance, Environmental Justice, and Corporate Accountability programs. Her expertise as an educator led to the creation of the foundation’s Social Imagination, Arts and Education program that provides grants for professional development support for teachers and deeper learning opportunities for students. She is a member of the Bay Area Arts Education Funders Group, Grantmakers for Education, and Grantmakers in the Arts.

Diana holds a BA in Human Ecology from the College of the Atlantic and a MA in Educational Policy from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is also an award-winning children’s book author. Her books include, Dream Carver, Si Se Puede! Yes We Can! Janitor Strike in LA, Mr. Goethe’s Garden, The Bee Tree,  Namaste!, Roses for Isabella, and her most recent book, Crane Boy. She currently serves on the boards of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and the Food Craft Institute in Oakland.

Praveena is a student at Tulane University in New Orleans, where she serves as a Community Service Fellow and Community Engagement Advocate. Her annual service trips to rural south India, where female infanticide and feticide is prevalent, have fueled her desire to advocate for women’s rights and health. As the youngest certified domestic violence counselor in the Bay Area, she educates high schoolers about dating violence.

As a Public Health student, she has been exposed to the interworkings of the healthcare system and the intersectional determinants of health. She strives to work within an organization that encourages sustainability and utilizes best practices for healthcare systems and access. Inspired by her Foundations of Health Care Systems class and professors who have experience managing the complicated and unique New Orleans health care systems, she delves into the discourse surrounding coordinated versus fragmented care, access, cost, quality of care, and health care policy.

After receiving her Masters of Health Administration Praveena would like to manage a holistic health center and clinic to provide coordinated care to those who usually lack access.  The center would provide free classes for community members on topics ranging from nutrition to healthy relationships, its youth council would spearhead campaigns to explain health issues to young people, and the clinic side would offer low cost health services and testing.

Nishat Kurwa is Executive Producer of Audio at Vox Media, where she oversees production and development of podcasts across the company’s eight brands. Previously, she led digital strategy for the Peabody Award-winning, teen-driven production company Youth Radio. Nishat began her career in journalism at Pacific News Service, and as a producer for the seminal hip hop public affairs show Street Knowledge with Davey D.
Kathryn Kuszmar is an English teacher of 9 years. She has taught at the university, community college, and high school levels. Currently, Kathryn is the coordinator for Social Justice and Immersion programs at Notre Dame High School in San Jose, California, where she has participated in developing an interdisciplinary Facing History program at Notre Dame, piloted the Facing History and Voice of Witness Oral History program, and continues to develop ways in which oral history can be used as a tool for advocacy in community service learning and justice immersion programs. Additionally, Kathryn is on the Educational Committee with the Oral History Association and volunteers with Justice For Immigrants to provide consultation on their Storytelling Project.
Gerald Richards is the Chief Executive Officer of 826 National. With twenty years of management and development experience at national nonprofit organizations, including the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship where he served as the Executive Director of the Bay Area office, Gerald is a respected trainer and sought after speaker on topics of youth and education access. He is interviewed regularly on these topics and has appeared on NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams, CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s 360, and The Michael Eric Dyson Show, as well as in articles in publications including The San Francisco Examiner and Inc. Magazine. He has also served as an education expert for national marketing campaigns promoting creativity in and outside the classroom. In 2008, he was named one of 101 African-American Champions for Youth in the Bay Area. Gerald has a BA in Film Studies from Wesleyan University and an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Anne Germanacos’s collection of short stories, In the Time of the Girls, was published by BOA Editions in 2010. Her novel, Tribute, was published by Rescue Press in 2014. For thirty years, together with her husband, she ran the Ithaka Cultural Study Program, an immersive academic semester for high school and college students on the islands of Kalymnos and Crete in Greece. Through the Germanacos Foundation, she supports the work of dozens of individuals and organizations in the U.S. and abroad. Her time as an Artist-in- Residence at the Marin Headlands Center for the Arts in the fall of 2015 resulted in a collaborative work, Not Upon You. She serves on the boards of the Los Angeles Review of Books and T’ruah: a Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.
Barbara H. Yasue is currently the department chair and tenured instructor in the ESOL (English for Students of Other Languages) department at Laney College in Oakland, California. She has worked with refugee, immigrant and international students for more than 30 years in the United States and abroad, including a stint in the Peace Corps, and was awarded a Fulbright grant to train teachers in Portugal. She is the author of Transitions: Stories of Immigrant Students, a three-year study of eight immigrant students in an urban college, which brings to light intimate stories of war, poverty, discrimination, workplace challenges, street violence and the struggle for democracy.

EMERITUS BOARD MEMBERS

Dave Eggers
Co-founder, Voice of Witness
Co-founder of 826 National, Founder of McSweeney’s Publishing LLC, and author

Lola Vollen M.D., M.P.H
Co-founder, Voice of Witness
Founder & Executive Director, The Life After Exoneration Program

FOUNDING BOARD OF ADVISORS

Roger Cohn
Former Editor-in-Chief
Mother Jones

Mark Danner
Author, Professor
UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

Harry Kreisler
Executive Director
Institute of International Studies
UC Berkeley

Martha Minow
Dean
Harvard Law School

Samantha Power
Author; Professor, Founding Executive Director
The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy

John Prendergast
Co-chair, The ENOUGH Project
Strategic advisor, Not On Our Watch

Orville Schell
Arthur Ross Director
Asia Society

William T. Vollmann
Author

FOUNDING ADVISOR

Studs Terkel (Deceased)
Author, Oral Historian