Washington, DC – 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.
The 2022 cohort is focused on mindset and systems change to ensure our youngest children and families thrive. These leaders work across sectors and systems of early learning and care, from connecting mental health and infant-maternal well-being to critical economic supports. In addition, the 2022 cohort includes a commitment to building services and policies designed by and for parents and caregivers to drive national early learning, racial equity, and family well-being in systems of care and well-being as well as solutions and learning from Indigenous wisdom and cultural traditions. The diverse cohort includes Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other leaders of color focused on eliminating systemic inequities and disparities for young children and families.
“Breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty starts by changing the trajectory for our youngest children and families in early childhood, and we are honored to have these 22 changemakers committed to making that change happen,” said Anne Mosle, vice president of the Aspen Institute and founder and executive director of Ascend.
On the 10th anniversary of the Ascend Fellowship, the 22 newest Ascend Fellows join a leadership pipeline of more than 100 dedicated changemakers who have transformed state systems; launched groundbreaking nonprofits; and conducted field-altering research. This is the first cohort focused primarily on the leadership needed to transform the systems serving our youngest children and families, including formal and informal systems of care, pediatric and maternal health, human services, and state legislatures.
Ascend is accelerating its investments in leadership, with a new cohort each year and every other year prioritizing leadership focused on our youngest children and families. The emphasis on our youngest children and families builds on lessons illuminated in Ascend’s recent publication, Toward A More Equitable Tomorrow: A Landscape Analysis of Early Childhood Leadership.
“At the Aspen Institute, we work to understand the lived experiences of those with whom we partner so we can support the systems that are working for the most vulnerable in our society, and change those that are not,” said Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “Our new 22 Ascend Fellows are leaders who are doing just that—driving change that advances equity for children and families—and we could not be more excited to support them and welcome them into our community.”
In the spirit of radical collaboration and fostering partnerships, these leaders will gather together in person four times over the next 18 months to learn from and with each other. With Ascend and their cohort, Ascend Fellows will develop an action plan that aligns with their organizational goals and individual leadership journeys to advance the north star of intergenerational economic mobility and well-being for children and families. Fellows will also have the opportunity to apply for small grants intended to be catalytic capital to accelerate Fellows’ work where flexible resources could help drive results or meet a critical need.
- Erin Arango-Escalante, Administrator of the Division of Early Care and Education, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (WI)
- Jovanna Archuleta, Assistant Secretary for Native American Early Childhood Education and Care, New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department (NM)
- Deana Around Him, Senior Research Scientist, Child Trends (MD)
- Katherine Beckmann, Program Officer and Manager for the Children, Families, and Communities program, David and Lucile Packard Foundation (CA)
- Chris Bennett, CEO & Co-founder, Wonderschool (CA)
- Rashida Brown, Associate Program Director of Children, Youth and Families, Counties Futures Lab, National Association of Counties (DC)
- Nathan T. Chomilo, Medical Director, Medicaid & MinnesotaCare, Minnesota Department of Human Services, and general pediatrician with Park Nicollet Health Services/HealthPartners (MN)
- Mary Alice Cohen, Deputy Executive Director, Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CO)
- Twylla Dillion, Executive Director, HealthConnect One (NY)
- Ciara Garcia, President and CEO, Social Venture Partners Tucson (AZ)
- Blythe Keeler Robinson, President and CEO, Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Centers (GA)
- Lucy Marcil, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Boston University, Associate Director of Economic Mobility for the Center for the Urban Child and Healthy Family, and Co-founder and Executive Director, StreetCred (MA)
- Emily Miller, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and the Division Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Women and Infants Hospital (RI)
- Roxana Norouzi, Executive Director, OneAmerica (WA)
- Adrián A. Pedroza, National Executive Director for Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors (NM)
- Teresa Ramos, First Assistant Deputy Governor for Education, Office of Illinois Governor JB Pritzker (IL)
- Tonja Rucker, Director for Early Childhood Success in the Institute for Youth Education and Families, National League of Cities (MD)
- Kimberly Seals Allers, Founder, Irth, and Creator, Birthright podcast (NY)
- Jessica Saniguq Ullrich, Assistant Professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage in the School of Social Work, and research consultant, Indigenous Connectedness Consulting (AK)
- Leseliey Welch, Co-Founder, Birth Detroit and Birth Center Equity (MI)
- Layla Zaidane, President and CEO, Millennial Action Project (DC)
About the Ascend Fellowship
With the addition of the 2022 cohort, there are now 120 Ascend Fellows across the country working to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
Through the Ascend Fellowship, we invest in a diverse cadre of leaders, well-connected, well-prepared, and powerfully positioned to build the political will, change systems, and drive the policy agenda needed for the well-being and prosperity of all children and families
To date, Ascend Fellows have enacted transformative state policies, advocated for children and families as part of the United States Senate, led revolutionary nonprofits, and conducted groundbreaking academic research. Click here to learn more about previous Ascend Fellows cohorts.
The Ascend Fellowship is made possible through the generous support of the Ann B. and Thomas L. Friedman Family Foundation, Bezos Family Foundation, Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Catto Shaw Foundation, Charlotte Perret Family Trust, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Liz Blake Giving Fund of the Blake Family Foundation, Merle Chambers Fund, Patrice King Brickman, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Ascend at the Aspen Institute’s mission is to create a society where every family passes a legacy of prosperity and well-being from one generation to the next. In 2011, Executive Director and Aspen Institute Vice President Anne Mosle founded Ascend to spark and spread breakthroughs in the ways we think about and invest in leadership to foster the well-being of children and the adults in their lives, together. Ascend has since propelled a national movement to shift the odds back in favor of families. Through the visionary leadership of more than 100 Ascend fellows and 460 Ascend Network partners, two-generation (2Gen) approaches are now being advanced in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Ireland and Rwanda. Together, the leaders in this growing 2Gen movement are transforming systems that serve more than 10 million families.
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: Adam Flango, Communications Officer
Ascend at the Aspen Institute
- Erin Arango-Escalante
- Jovanna Archuleta
- Deana Around Him
- Katherine Beckmann
- Chris Bennett
- Rashida Brown
- Nathan T. Chomilo
- Mary Alice Cohen
- Twylla Dillion
- Ciara Garcia
- Blythe Keeler Robinson
- Lucy Marcil
- Emily Miller
- Roxana Norouzi
- Adrián A. Pedroza
- Teresa Ramos
- Tonja Rucker
- Kimberly Seals Allers
- Jessica Saniguq Ullrich
- Leseliey Welch
- Layla Zaidane
- Adam Flango