Aspen Institute Announces 2021 Ascend Fellows

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

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

Today, Ascend at the Aspen Institute (Ascend) announced that 11 new Parent Advisors have joined its Postsecondary Success for Parents initiative (PSP) to help shape Ascend’s expanded agenda to improve higher education policy and practice for student parents.
Press ReleasesSeptember 29, 2022
Over the last 10 years, the Institute’s Ascend Fellowship has seen 120 leaders from across the United States join together to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
Ascend FellowshipAugust 22, 2022
In a recent article on EdSurge.com, Ascend executive director and founder Anne Mosle discusses the tighter focus of the 2022 Ascend Fellowship class.
Media MentionsAugust 17, 2022
Today, the Aspen Institute announced its 2022 Aspen Institute Ascend Fellows, 22 leaders from across the United States who are primed to transform systems so that our youngest children and families can thrive.
Ascend FellowshipAugust 8, 2022
In an op-ed for amNY.com, Félix V. Matos Rodríguez shares insights and reflections on how higher ed can make a difference for families by supporting student parents.
Media MentionsJuly 29, 2022
In an article in Early Learning Nation, the Ascend Fellowship and two Ascend Fellows - Joe Waters and Atiya Weiss - are highlighted for their leadership to combat the climate crisis and mobilize thinking and action for the next century and beyond.
Media MentionsJuly 26, 2022
RFP for HBCUs and TCUs to apply for funding and technical assistance to support student parent success on their campuses One in five college students – close to 4 million – is pursuing higher education while parenting. More than half are students of color, with Black and Native students more likely to be balancing school …

Ascend’s New Family Futures Fund Focuses on Black and Native Student Parent Success Read More »

Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsJuly 20, 2022
In an op-ed for Chronicle of Philanthropy, Joe Waters highlights the Ascend Fellowship as an “example of an effective approach” to developing a new generation of global leaders in the climate and early-childhood movements.
Media MentionsJuly 19, 2022
Dr. Aisha Nyandoro, an Ascend Fellow, is one of three winners of the 2022 John P. McNulty Prize.
Media MentionsJuly 18, 2022
I started off the 2022 Aspen Ideas Festival at Aspen Words Book Ball, a passion project of Isa Catto and Daniel Shaw.
Ascend FellowshipJune 25, 2022
This year, the Aspen Idea Festival returns to in-person programming at our campus in the Rocky Mountains June 25 - July 1, 2022.
Ascend FellowshipJune 15, 2022
We have an abundance of talent that is ready to reimagine early childhood and well-being in America for our youngest children and families, but we do not have an abundance of leadership experiences that nurture, propel, and position them as the dynamic leaders our country urgently needs. Leadership that reflects the full diversity and genius …

Charting a New Future for Early Childhood Leadership in America Read More »

Ascend FellowshipMay 24, 2022
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.”
Ascend FellowshipJanuary 16, 2022