top of page
Shaka, Lillian Class 3_edited.jpg

Civil Society Fellowship

Press Release

ADL and the Aspen Institute Seat Fourth Class of Civil Society Fellows Committed to Creating a More United and Vibrant American Future

Diverse class of 2023 Fellows to tackle Key Issues from racial injustice to mental health, economic disparities, and more

New York, NY and Washington, D.C., November 15, 2023 -- The Civil Society Fellowship: A Partnership of ADL and the Aspen Institute today announced its fourth cohort of Civil Society Fellows and the completion of this cohort’s first of five seminars together in Montgomery,  Alabama.

A cohort of 22 Fellows, the Class of 2023 was selected from a pool of approximately 180 nominees from across the country. The new class of community and civic leaders possesses a diverse cross-section of geography, profession, race, religion, and political ideology. This year’s Fellows include former White House staff, authors, state senators, journalists, military commanders, nonprofit leaders, entrepreneurs, movement leaders, election managers and consultants.  

Launched in 2019, the Fellowship invests in and cultivates the next generations of national leaders, across political ideology and other differences, to explore and forge solutions to the biggest issues facing our society including but not limited to racial injustice, mental health advocacy, economic disparities, and more. Fellows address these issues on both communal and societal levels, contribute toward collective progress, and preserve our nation’s democracy.

Expanding the Fellowship’s reach, particularly in non-coastal states, five new states were added including Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, and South Dakota. The Class of 2023 is bi-partisan, having nearly the same number of conservatives and liberals represented.

“At a time when our country is grappling with difficult problems, including a surge in antisemitism in light of recent events in Israel and Gaza, we are also grappling with polarizing political identities,” said ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt. “We need to bring leaders together from both sides of the spectrum and engage in the tough conversations with fresh perspectives. ADL is proud to join this effort with our Aspen Institute partners to build our most diverse class of Fellows yet. We look forward to seeing the fruits of their work as they develop innovative strategies and solutions to help us as a society and as a country bridge and heal our divides.”    

Civil Society Fellows will spend five weeks over the course of three years in structured retreats in the United States and abroad – exploring their leadership, core values and visions for a more free, just and equitable society, as well as their desired legacies. Each Fellow will then launch a leadership venture tackling a societal problem of their choosing with the aim of positively impacting their communities, their country and the world. Seminar 1, The Challenge of Leadership, grounded Class 4 Fellows in a pedagogy that examines values, challenges preconceptions, and predicts challenges often faced by leaders in order to develop an effective and enlightened leadership skill set.

"As we welcome the newest class of Civil Society Fellows, we are filled with excitement and hope for the future,” said Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, “The Aspen Institute is committed in all of its work to strengthening trust and building community across difference—two pillars of this Fellowship—and we are confident that the Fellows assembled in this cohort are ready to work toward our shared goal of a more free, just, equitable, and inclusive society.”


The Class of 2023 will join the 55 Fellows from the first three Fellowship classes and the 3,500+ Fellows in the Aspen Global Leadership Network, a worldwide community of high-integrity, entrepreneurial leaders from business, government, and the nonprofit sector in more than 50 countries. 


"We are proud to introduce 22 new Civil Society Fellows representing key issues at all levels of society and government, from across the United States with conservatives, progressives and independents, demonstrating a commitment to build productive, civil discourse,” said Nike Irvin, Managing Director of the Civil Society Fellowship. “As restless problem-solvers, they'll come together to hear, be heard and embark in critical work to move our country and help our democracy live up to its highest ideals.”


The Civil Society Fellowship Class of 2023 is:


Maralyn Beck, Founder/Executive Director, New Mexico Child First Network, Albuquerque, NM

Priya Chordia, Chief Operating Officer, Mysterious, Plano, TX

Kate Davenport, Co-President, Eureka Recycling, Minneapolis, MN

Kevin Epstein, Squadron Commander, U.S. Air Force, Chicago, IL

Jason Esteves, Georgia State Senator, Georgia General Assembly, Atlanta, GA

Aisha Francis, Ph.D, President & Chief Executive Officer, Franklin Cummings Tech,

Boston, MA

Jo Jensen, Co-Founder & President, Iron Light Labs, Denver, CO

Chris Johnson, Mississippi State Senator/Entrepreneur, Mississippi State Legislature, Hattiesburg, MS

Eliana Johnson, Editor-in-Chief, Washington Free Beacon, Washington, DC

Matt Jones, Host, Kentucky Sports Radio, Louisville, KY

Jennifer Martinez, Ph.D., Policy Director, Housing Affordability, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Redwood City, CA

Father Justin Mathews, CEO, Reconciliation Services, Kansas City, MO

Robert "Bobby" Morgan II, Vice President of Public Affairs, Atmos Energy Corporation, Jackson, MS

Elizabeth Neumann, Chief Strategy Officer, Moonshot, Denver, CO

Ali Noorani, Program Director, U.S. Democracy, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Oakland, CA

Stephen Richer, Recorder, Maricopa County, Phoenix, AZ

Syrita Steib, President & CEO, Operation Restoration, New Orleans, LA

Billie H. Sutton, Founder of Sutton Leadership Institute/Human Resources Manager and Investment Services Officer of First Fidelity Bank, Burke, SD

Noam Weissman, Ed.D., Executive Vice President, OpenDor Media, Hollywood, FL

Marvin Wilmoth, Managing Principal, Intersection Ventures, Miami, FL

Nate Wong, Partner, The Bridgespan Group, Washington, DC

Layla Zaidane, President & CEO, Future Caucus, Washington, DC



“There are no simple answers to the challenges we face as a society. The most dynamic solutions will be developed through collaboration across communities and disciplines. I look forward to advancing approaches that bridge historical boundaries and accelerate problem-solving,” said Marvin Wilmoth, Civil Society Fellow Class of 2023.


"Civic leadership is about sitting in the tensions of competing interests and points of view and helping to guide people through to a shared future. I look forward to being part of a network of people who, despite our differences - or perhaps because of them - are committed to growing these skills of leadership and to exercise them in the world together,” said Jennifer Martinez, Civil Society Fellow Class of 2023.


Photos and bios for the new Fellows are available here.


The Civil Society Fellowship is accepting nominations on a rolling basis for the next class of Fellows at:


The Civil Society Fellowship is a leadership development program preparing the next generation of community and civic leaders, activists and problem solvers from across the political spectrum. The Fellowship provides participants the opportunity to engage in experiential learning and text-based dialogue, build trust among a diverse cohort of leaders based on shared insights and mutual respect, and put ideas into action through a required leadership venture. The Fellowship is a partnership of ADL and the Aspen Institute. The Fellowship is now accepting nominations for future Fellows at

ADL is the leading anti-hate organization in the world. Founded in 1913, its timeless mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of antisemitism and bias, using innovation and partnerships to drive impact. A global leader in combating antisemitism, countering extremism and battling bigotry wherever and whenever it happens, ADL works to protect democracy and ensure a just and inclusive society for all.


The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization whose purpose is to ignite human potential to build understanding and create new possibilities for a better world. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve society’s greatest challenges. It is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, as well as an international network of partners. For more information, visit

bottom of page