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.

A headshot photo of Eric Liu.Eric Liu

Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder
Pronouns: he/him

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

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A headshot photo of Christy Decker.Christy Decker

Senior Manager of Finance and Operations
Pronouns: she/her

Christy Decker 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.

A headshot photo of Kayla DeMonte.Kayla DeMonte

Deputy Director
Pronouns: she/her

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.

Chris smiling at the camera.Chris Hayashida-Knight

Director of Administration
Pronouns: he/him

Chris Hayashida-Knight directs finance, human resources, and operations at Citizen University. He has worked in nonprofit administration for nearly 20 years and teaches US history at California State University in Chico, California, where he lives with his wife, daughter, and Chihuahuas. Chris has always looked for ways to put idealism into practice and is proud to be a part of the CU team. He holds a PhD in US History and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies from Penn State and an MA in American Studies from the George Washington University.

A headshot photo of Natalie Jamerson.Natalie J. Valentine

Senior Communications Manager
Pronouns: she/her

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.

Talya Gillman smiling.Talya Gillman

Senior Manager of Learning Experiences
Pronouns: she/her

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.

Vicki Rubio smiling.Vicki Rubio

Program Manager
Pronouns: she/her

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.

A headshot photo of Zoey Cane Belyea.Zoey Cane Belyea

Program Manager
Pronouns: she/her

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.

Photo of Irshad smiling.Irshad Molla

Youth Collaboratory Intern
Pronouns: she/her

Irshad Molla is currently a student at The Ohio State University majoring in Political Science. She is passionate in sparking confidence in the youth so they can advocate for themselves and others. She was part of the fourth Youth Collaboratory cohort and wanted to continue helping Citizen University’s powerful mission. She is an intern with Kids Voting Ohio and a Youth Leader at Living Room Conversations, and previously served as a Student Voice Ambassador.


Board of Directors

Diane Douglas | Diane Douglas Consulting

Kristen Cambell | PACE Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement

Eric Liu | Citizen University

Jená Cane | Citizen University

Katie Hong | Principal, KH Consulting

Martin A. Rodgers | Accenture

Rich Tafel | Pepperdine School of Public Policy

James Williams | Perkins Coie

Stephanie Ybarra | Baltimore Center Stage