Meet the team

Staff & Board



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. A regular contributor to the Atlantic, Eric can be found on Twitter @ericpliu. Learn more about Eric Liu. To reach Eric email his Executive Assistant Athena.


Special Advisor and Co-founder

Jená Cane co-founded Citizen University and shepherded the creation of key Citizen University programs including Civic Saturday, Civic Seminary, Sworn-Again America and the National Conference. For over twenty-five years Jená created and performed with the Seattle-based company One World Theatre, taking reimagined classics and new plays to communities and festivals around the world. She was the Communications Director for the late, great Seattle International Children’s Festival, and worked for the famed entertainment company ENTROS. Central to every program or gathering she creates or hosts is the desire to bring surprise, delight, joy and hope to those looking for inspiration and common purpose.


Managing Director

Kayla DeMonte leads the Citizen University team and oversees the 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 current serves as a member of the Seattle Arts Commission, and has has served in volunteer leadership and board roles for a variety of arts and civic organizations including The Vera Project, 4Culture, ArtsFund. She is happiest when working on projects where community, celebration, and action collide.



Operations & Project Manager

Christy Welch brings a passion for structure and harmony to her work as the Operations and Project Manager 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.


Senior Program Manager

Taneum Fotheringill manages Civic Saturday in Seattle and nationally, as well as the Civic Saturday Fellowship program. 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.


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.


Programs Coordinator

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.


Logistics Manager

Emily Naftalin currently manages the logistics for our national programs, though she has worked with Citizen University in various capacities since 2017. Her background includes a variety of personal and professional projects that have taken her around the world over the past decade, but her commitment to local and national issues brings always brings her back to the beating heart of civic engagement work. After years working for sustainable food and farming in East and West Africa – first as a Peace Corps volunteer and then as part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation agriculture team – she left her day job to help build the community-owned and -operated performance venue Black & Tan Hall. In addition, she teaches yoga and is pursuing a career in data science.


Diane Douglas | Diane Douglas Consulting

Kristen Cambell | PACE Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement

Eric Liu | Citizen University

Jená Cane | Citizen University

Hahrie Han | SNF Angora 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