Aspen Institute Announces 2021 Ascend Fellows

Lori Severens | January 21, 2022 | Ascend Fellowship, Press

Washington, DC – Today, the Aspen Institute announced its 2021 Ascend Fellows. This vanguard of 18 changemakers are committed to reinventing systems, unlocking potential and breaking barriers, so children and their families can thrive.

Each fellow is a groundbreaker in their own right, pursuing bold change on a host of challenges and opportunities families encounter, many still reeling from the pandemic and the nation’s racial reckoning. Fellows are spearheading efforts, from combatting the erasure of Native voice and visibility, growing a movement fueled by the strength of historically undervalued communities, and working shoulder-to-shoulder with whole communities to co-design new care paradigms that give all children the opportunity to thrive, learn, feel safe, known, and loved. 

“For our families to be the backbone of strength our nation needs, we must eradicate insecurity as the status quo for too many families. This requires visionary leadership that can not only reimagine an America where more families thrive but also have the courage to remake our society, dismantle discrimination, and make opportunity a destiny we all share.” said Anne Mosle, vice president, The Aspen Institute. “Our 2021 class joins forces with 80 other fellows who have the talent and drive to do better for our families and an unstoppable aspiration to succeed.” 

Over the next 18 months, fellows will inspire, challenge, and support each other as they work across sectors that all impact the prosperity and wellness of families, from reinventing systems of care and learning and unlocking capital that opens doors for economic inclusion and justice, to breaking ground with research that changes the course for policies and practices directly affecting communities.

“Our future as a country is inextricably tied to how well we do by our families. This new class of fellows is dedicated to creating a nation where every child is set up to prosper and where every family has access to the education and opportunity to do better than the previous generation. At the Aspen Institute, we cultivate and celebrate leaders who help society live up to its ideals. The new class of Ascend Fellows joins an extensive global network of such individuals who are doing just that.” said Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute.

The 2021 class joins more than 80 Aspen Institute Ascend Fellows selected for their visionary leadership and readiness to make a quantum leap forward toward breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty for families in America. Below is a list of all 18 Ascend Fellows:

  • Gayatri Agnew – Senior Director, Opportunity, Walmart (AR)
  • Christine Norbut Beyer – Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Children and Families (NJ)
  • Melanie Bridgeforth – President and CEO, Women’s Foundation of Alabama (AL)
  • Jay Chaudhary – Director for the Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (IN)
  • Janeen Comenote – Executive Director, National Urban Indian Family Coalition (WA)
  • Craig Garfield, MD – Professor of Pediatrics and of Medical Social Sciences, Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine (IL)
  • Jesús Gerena – CEO, UpTogether (CA)
  • Ron-Li Liaw, PhD – Cannon Y. & Lyndia Harvey Chair in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Chair of the Pediatric Mental Health Institute and Professor, Vice Chair of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Division Director of Child and Adolescent Mental Health at the Children’s Hospital Colorado and University of Colorado School of Medicine (CO)
  • Alicia Mousseau, PhD – Vice President, Oglala Sioux Tribe (SD)
  • Aysha E. Schomburg – Associate Commissioner of the United States Children’s Bureau in the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DC)
  • Rinku Sen – Executive Director, Narrative Initiative (TX)
  • Keesa Smith – Deputy Director for Youth and Families, Arkansas Department of Human Services (AR)
  • Greg Taylor – Executive Director, NBA Foundation (NY)
  • Ebony Underwood – Founder & CEO, WE GOT US NOW (NY)
  • Joe Waters – Co-Founder and CEO, Capita (SC)
  • Atiya Weiss – Executive Director, Burke Foundation (NJ)
  • Daniel Williams, EdD – President and CEO, Steelcase Foundation (MI)
  • Daria Willis, PhD – President, Everett Community College (WA)

###

Ascend at the Aspen Institute is a catalyst and convener for systems, policy, and social impact leaders who are working to create a world where every family passes a legacy of economic and educational success and well-being from one generation to the next. We serve as the hub for two-generation (2Gen) solutions and an amplifier of innovations that create pathways to economic mobility. ascend.aspen institute.org.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.

###

Contact: Brendan Creamer, Communications Manager
Ascend at the Aspen Institute
brendan.creamer@aspeninstitute.org

Related Posts

Joe Waters is the co-founder and CEO of Capita and a 2021 Ascend Fellow. In this Q&A, he answers questions from the Ascend team about why climate change is an important children’s issue and how we can help them navigate the crisis.
Ascend FellowshipApril 19, 2022
Image caption: Ascend Fellows at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 2018. Pictured left to right: Ann Kalass, Darius Tandon, Kirsten Lodal, Lori Severens, John Hudson III, Myla Calhoun, William Serrata, Dipesh Navsaria, Anne Mosle, Myra Jones-Taylor, Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, Laurie Miller Brotman, John Annis, Roxane White, Raquel Hatter, Sherece Y. West-Scantlebury, …

Making Black History and Forging Black Futures Read More »

Ascend FellowshipFebruary 23, 2022
Daniel Williams was featured in MiBiz discussing his long-term plan to help guide families from intergenerational poverty. “So often what happens is we provide early investments in folks — whether through career training or food benefits, for example. We support families on their front end of their journey, but instead of doubling down on that support, we remove it. They hit the benefits cliff. If they get a raise, they don’t get access to certain benefits,” he said. “We know there’s a gap from what workers are earning and family income to what it actually costs to live and thrive in our community.”
PressJanuary 16, 2022
Melanie Bridgeforth was featured in Alabama NewsCenter for her work to boldly advance equity through statewide policy wins for women & their families. “It is definitely humbling to be considered as one of the thought leaders in our nation working to solve critical issues that affect communities and families,” Bridgeforth said. “To be in a room …

Leader of Women’s Foundation of Alabama chosen for prestigious Aspen Institute fellowship Read More »

UncategorizedDecember 11, 2021
The inaugural Aspen Leadership Impact Forum brought Aspen Institute Ascend Fellows and philanthropic leaders who share a commitment to courageous leadership for children and families together with the inaugural cohort of SOARFellows, leaders working to expand opportunities for women and girls.
BlogNovember 15, 2021
In order for America to thrive, our families must thrive. This is the understanding of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, a program dedicated to mobilizing systems, policy, and social impact leaders who are working to create a world where every family passes a legacy of well-being from one generation to the next. This week, the Institute announced that 19 leaders were selected for the 2021 Ascend Fellowship, an 18-month-long program that brings together innovators from diverse backgrounds to build political will, change systems, and drive policy that benefits the well-being and prosperity of all children and families in the US.
Ascend FellowshipOctober 7, 2021
A new report released today by Ascend at the Aspen Institute (Ascend) takes stock of the two-generation (2Gen) field. It analyzes what has been accomplished, the lessons learned, and the opportunities ahead with unprecedented federal expenditures in social policy. The report comes at a time when Americans are more fully recognizing that a system that tolerates social, racial, gender, and economic inequities is on unstable ground — and we are reckoning anew with the history of racism, sexism, and economic exploitation that built them into the foundation of our nation.
BlogJune 7, 2021
Ascend at the Aspen Institute and The Jed Foundation Release a New Mental Health Framework with Recommendations for Supporting the Mental Health of Students Who Are Parents Washington, DC – A new study released today by Ascend at the Aspen Institute (Ascend) and The Jed Foundation (JED) finds that more than two in five (43 percent) …

New Study: Student Parents in College Experience Unique Mental Health Challenges but Lack Access to Support on Campus Read More »

PressMay 26, 2021
Shaquana Graham is a single mother of three beautiful children. She lives in The Bronx, NY, and is currently a full-time student at Bronx Community College.
Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsMay 24, 2021
After Yoslin had her first son, she knew she had to go to college and earn her degree to break her family’s cycle of poverty. During that time, she applied to become a Generation Hope scholar and has been part of their program for four years.
Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsMay 17, 2021
Hailing from Denver, Colorado, Lesley Del Rio and her son Leo enjoy all the great activities that the state offers. She graduated from Florence Crittenton High School in 2013 and is working toward her B.A. degree in business administration through an online platform called AdvanceEDU and Southern New Hampshire University.
Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsMay 10, 2021
Lynnette Coney is a mother to three boys, ages four, eight, and 10. Lynnette grew up in foster care from 1992 to 2003, which endowed her with a strong sense of independence.
Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsMay 3, 2021
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which then turns to May as Foster Care Month. The time to acknowledge deep disparities in our child welfare system is long overdue. The data is clear that our current response is hurting our children and families, particularly Black, Indigenous and people of color. We cannot and should …

Time to Transform Child Welfare into A Child and Family Well-Being System Read More »

BlogApril 30, 2021
Rashika Lee was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI. She currently works for Spectrum Health on the Patient Liability Support Team and helps patients understand billing and insurance.
Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsApril 26, 2021
It’s a common story across the country. A parent living paycheck to paycheck, overloaded by stress, where just one setback can tip the balance. Without the supports that all families need – stable adequate housing, safe neighborhoods, affordable quality childcare, access to health and mental health care, economic security and the resources to meet basic …

Scaling Family-Centered Child Abuse Prevention Read More »

BlogApril 26, 2021