Staff & Board
Get to know the team behind the magic at CU.
The CU staff approaches our work with spirit, joy, and a deep responsibility to each other and to the civic health of our nation. We bring enthusiasm and ingenuity to our work. We ask each other, why does democracy matter? We work with incredible people and each strive to live like citizens the best we can each and every day.
Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder
Eric Liu is the co-founder and CEO of Citizen University. He also directs the Aspen Institute’s Citizenship & American Identity Program. He is the author of several books, including The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker; The Gardens of Democracy (co-authored with Nick Hanauer); You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen; and his most recent, Become America: Civic Sermons on Love, Responsibility, and Democracy. Eric served as a White House speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and later as the President’s deputy domestic policy adviser. He has served as a board member of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Washington State Board of Education, and the Seattle Public Library and is a co-founder of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. He has been selected as an Ashoka Fellow and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A regular contributor to the Atlantic, Eric can be found on Twitter @ericpliu. Learn more about Eric Liu. To reach Eric, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Athena Prado Higgins
Executive Assistant & Program Associate
Athena is the assistant to Eric Liu and is a Program Associate for the Civic Collaboratory. Prior to joining the team, Athena has worked in many fields, including international law in Paris, France, media in NYC, and K-12 education system as a teacher in San Diego. In Seattle she worked at Street Outreach Services before going on to work in higher education for fifteen years. Athena is a passionate advocate for equity, inclusion, and social justice, having served on the college’s Diversity Advisory Council for the length of her tenure. Co-founder and partner of a small batch artisanal syrup company, Athena and her family can often be seen at Urban Craft Uprising, Gobble Up or at the Tom Douglas Cookbook Social peddling their wares and having a good time! Athena holds degrees from The American University of Paris and l’Université de la Sorbonne – Paris IX.
Senior Manager of Finance and Operations
Christy Welch brings a passion for structure and harmony to her work as the Senior Manager of Finance and Operations for Citizen University. She has worked with nonprofit organizations in the region and is happiest when transforming systems for greater impact and efficiency. Her admiration for Nelson Mandela prompted civic engagement and academic pursuits related to international human rights. Christy is a graduate of Harvard University, University of South Africa and the University of Washington with degrees in International Relations, African Affairs and Political Science.
Kayla DeMonte leads the Citizen University team, and oversees the development, strategy, and operations for our national slate of programs. Previously, she worked on community programs and partnerships at the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce and managed sponsorships for Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival at One Reel. Kayla currently serves as a member of the Seattle Arts Commission and has served in volunteer leadership and board roles for a variety of arts and civic organizations including The Vera Project, 4Culture, ArtsFund. She is a proud graduate of the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
Laurette Hanna coordinates and aids in development of youth programming at Citizen University. An alumnus of Citizen University, she began her career as an events and programs intern for CU in 2016 and has since pursued work in non-profits and community organizations in Berlin, San Francisco, and at the University of Washington before returning to CU. Laurette is a graduate of University of Washington with a degree in Political Science and Psychology, with focused study on how narrative, power, social psychology and conflict intersect as explored through her senior thesis.
Natalie J. Valentine
Senior Communications Manager
Natalie J. Valentine brings a passion for storytelling, strategy, and community connection to her work of managing Citizen University’s communications. She cares deeply about amplifying the voices of changemakers and sharing the ideas of organizations, which she’s done with other nonprofits. Natalie holds a Master’s degree from the Communication Leadership program at the University of Washington and is a graduate of Whitman College. In her spare time, she serves on the board of AGE UP — a youth leadership and social justice organization — and spends lots of time working in her garden.
Senior Manager of Learning Experiences
Talya Gillman develops resources and experiences that spark and support powerful citizenship, rooted in the CU tenet that “we’re all better off when we’re all better off.” Many experiences and relationships have fueled her commitment to building eco-systems of dignity, equity and belonging: designing and leading experiential learning initiatives with organizations including Jewish Family Service, University of Washington, and Repair the World; receiving a Covenant Foundation Pomegranate Prize for emerging Jewish educators; completing an M.A. in Transformational Leadership through Seattle University; organizing with anti-racist and immigrant justice community networks in Seattle; and serving as an AJWS World Partners Fellow doing harm reduction work with Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust in Mumbai.
Senior Program Manager
Taneum Fotheringill manages the Civic Saturday Fellowship as well as the Citizen University Civic Saturdays. Prior to joining Citizen University, she studied Public Affairs and Humanities at Seattle University during which time she also worked for the University and interned for an M.P. at the U.K. House of Commons, APACEvotes, and Seattle CityClub. In addition to her work at Citizen University, she is a volunteer advisor for a delegation of high school students in YMCA Youth and Government, which is the program which first introduced her to civics.
Vicki Rubio manages our National and Local Civic Collaboratory programs. She brings experience in leadership development, partnership building, and process creation to this role. Vicki is committed to supporting community impact and has demonstrated her passion to contribute to positive social change through her past experiences as program director of Public Allies Indianapolis at the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center and development and communications manager at College Mentors for Kids. She currently serves as a board member for the Peace Learning Center.
Zoey Cane Belyea
Zoey Cane Belyea manages our Youth Collaboratory and Citizen Redefined programs. She is a theatre artist and spent many years as an educator integrating the arts with STEM curriculums. Zoey brings the same sense of playful imagination and creativity to her work at Citizen University. Zoey has worked as a program manager and curriculum development specialist for several organizations in Seattle, Austin, and her current home of Ashland, OR including Seattle Children’s Theatre, Arts Corps, The Paramount Theatre School, and ScienceWorks Hands On Museum.
Board of Directors
Diane Douglas | Diane Douglas Consulting
Kristen Cambell | PACE Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement
Eric Liu | Citizen University
Jená Cane | Citizen University
Hahrie Han | SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University
Katie Hong | Raikes Foundation
Martin A. Rodgers | Accenture
Rich Tafel | Pepperdine School of Public Policy
Stephanie Ybarra | Baltimore Center Stage