Keynote Speaker 

Tara Houska is Ojibwe from Couchiching First Nation. She is the National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth, a tribal rights attorney, a co-founder of Not Your Mascots, and served as Native American advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign. Tara is involved in advocacy on a broad spectrum of issues facing indigenous communities, with a focus on environmental justice, protection of sacred sites, and institutional racism. Her experience ranges from grassroots organizing to working for the White House Council on Environmental Quality and lobbying on Capitol Hill.

She has appeared on MSNBC, Comedy Central, RT America, CCTV and contributes to the Guardian, Huffington Post, and Indian Country Today to elevate the conversation about extractive industries, destruction of indigenous lands, religious rights, cultural appropriation, and police brutality. A born and raised Minnesotan now based in Washington, D.C., Tara earned a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Minnesota.

Alumni Program

Whitney Benns

Whitney Benns is a consultant at Triad Consulting Group, and an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center. She has coached students in negotiation and difficult conversations Tufts and Harvard.  She has also facilitated executive education programs for the Harvard Program on Negotiation.

She has a B.S. in Political Science, International Relations and Campaign Management from the University of Utah, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Between college and law school, Whitney worked as an intern at Comedy Central’s former satirical news show, The Colbert Report

Big Public Service Ideas

Maribel Hernandez Rivera

Maribel Hernández Rivera (Moderator) is Executive Director of Legal Initiatives at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and leads ActionNYC, a program that provides free and safe immigration legal services in trusted sites within the community across the five boroughs.  She previously served as Supervising Attorney at Immigrant Justice Corps where she directly supervised Bureau of Immigration Appeals Accredited Representatives as they helped low-income New Yorkers apply for immigration benefits.  Maribel is also a former Fried Frank/ MALDEF fellow.  As a fellow, she represented individuals in immigration detention, submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of the US government in the Arizona v. United States case, and participated in a group advocating for the representation of people in immigration detention.   

Maribel received her J.D. from New York University School of Law, her Masters in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and her A.B. from Harvard University.  Upon law school graduation, Maribel served as law clerk to the Honorable Mary M. Schroeder in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Ariel Brooks

Ariel Brooks (Speaker) has worked at the nexus of higher education, nonprofits and K-12 education throughout her career. By happy accident, at first, and now by design, Ariel has played a start-up or intrapraneurial role in each organization she’s joined, working to build new nonprofits and innovative new programs within existing institutions.  She graduated from Harvard College, and received her M.Ed from UMass Boston in Instructional Design.


Nick Gates

Nick Gates (Speaker) is the Founder and Global Strategist for Coaches Across Continents (CAC), an NGO that uses sport for social development and impact in more than 40 countries. Using a self-directed learning methodology, CAC partners with local community organizations to design, develop and implement (DDI) programs on issues like child rights; conflict prevention; gender equity; health and wellness (incl. HIV behavior change); skills for life and fun!  Nick studied Sociology at Harvard and graduated in 1991. An All-Ivy League soccer player, he started his first company during his junior year called PLAY SOCCER that used 'soccer as education'. Nick accepted an Executive Role in the English Premier League, but left to travel from Cape Town to Casablanca and to set up CAC. CAC has received more than 14 Global Awards including the Beyond Sport Award for their partnership with Chevrolet.


John Simon

John Simon (Speaker) is an active entrepreneur, creator and investor in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. He is currently a managing director at Sigma Prime Ventures where he focuses on software-based businesses and disruptive technology businesses, often getting involved in businesses at their formation or earliest stages. John is a member of the World Presidents’ Organization (WPO). He’s a co-founder and current trustee of The Steppingstone Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides educational opportunities to deserving inner-city students. In addition, he’s continued his involvement with the non-profit sector by founding the GreenLight Fund (www.greenlightfund.org), which spurs the replication and growth of innovative non-profits.  John was honored with the 2015 Lewis Family Foundation CEO Social Leadership Award at the Boston Business Journal’s annual Corporate Citizenship Summit. John is a graduate of Harvard University, earning a BA in History and Science and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar and received his MA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

Sozi Pedro Tulante

Sozi Pedro Tulante (Speaker) is the City Solicitor for the City of Philadelphia. As City Solicitor, he is Philadelphia's chief legal officer. In that role, he manages the nearly 200 lawyers and 300 total staff in the Philadelphia Law Department and, along with the Department’s lawyers, represents the City in all lawsuits, advises the Mayor, City Council, and all departments, agencies, and commissions of the City. 

Before joining the City, he spent five years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney at the US Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, where he represented the government in criminal investigations and prosecutions. Prior to entering government service, he was a partner at Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, concentrating in general commercial litigation. He graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2001, and received his A.B. in 1997, cum laude, from Harvard College, where he was recognized with a John Harvard Scholarship. He is a proud graduate of Philadelphia’s public schools and attended Mary McLeod elementary school, Russell Conwell Middle School, and Northeast High School. 

Jen Zhu

Jen Zhu (Speaker) is a Policy Lead at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation. Her work has included creating a new preventive health benefit and a new Medicare provider class of community-based organizations, as well as briefing the White House and Office of the Secretary. Previously, she served as the UN Millennium Villages Project’s Health Systems Quality Improvement Coordinator and Global Health Corps fellow in Uganda. She implemented and monitored maternal health and emergency interventions, as well as analyzed key health indicators to help reach the Millennium Development Goals in their final year. Jen’s passionate about advancing women’s rights and graduated Harvard College with a joint concentration in sociology and government.

Why Work in the Public Sector? (Panel)

Heather Henricksen

Heather Henriksen (Moderator) has served as Harvard University’s chief sustainability officer since 2008, advising the President and senior leadership on the institution’s sustainability strategy.  As Director of the Office for Sustainability (OFS), Heather leads a University-wide organizational change initiative across Harvard's 13 Schools and departments to set and achieve goals for a healthier, more sustainable future.  Heather co-chairs a working group of the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN), and she manages the Higher Education Working Group of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission and serves on the City of Cambridge’s Compact for a Sustainable Future Steering Committee.  She holds a Master in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Anthony Britt

Anthony Britt (Panelist) manages the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund at Commonwealth Corporation where he oversees a portfolio of public-private partnerships that prepare unemployed and underemployed workers for in-demand jobs to meet the needs of businesses and communities. He serves as a youth mentor, is on the board of Young Education Professionals Boston, and is an alumnus of AmeriCorps, SPARK Boston, and the Institute for Nonprofit Practice. Previously, he held various roles in K-12 education in Mississippi and Massachusetts, most recently as an instructional coach and director at City Year Boston. Anthony graduated from Harvard College in 2010 with a degree in Sociology and Government.

Jim Himes

Jim Himes (Panelist) represents Connecticut’s 4th District in the United States House of Representatives where he is serving his fourth term. Jim grew up as the child of a single working mom in a small town. As a member of Congress, Jim works hard to provide all American children the same opportunities he had to succeed: access to a first-rate public school, affordable and effective health care, a decent and safe home, and a supportive community.

Jim graduated from Hopewell Valley Central High School and then attended Harvard University. After completing his undergraduate work, Jim earned a Rhodes Scholarship, which enabled him to attend Oxford University in England where he continued his studies of Latin America, including research in El Salvador.

Natalia Linos

Natalia Linos (Panelist) is a policy specialist at the United Nations Development Programme.  She has worked in international development for the last decade, mostly with the United Nations in Beirut and in New York. Her current role is focused on global health, including tobacco control, and she previously served as Science Advisor to the New York City Health Commissioner.  She has also served as a speechwriter. Natalia is a graduate of Harvard College (social anthropology) and has a doctoral degree from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health (social epidemiology).  She is married and has one daughter, Amalia.

Erica Scott-Pacheco

Erica A. Scott-Pacheco (Panelist)  is experienced in development, advocacy, and social justice campaigning, particularly in Native and Latino communities. She currently serves as the Director of Development at South Coastal Counties Legal Services and Senior Campaign Advisor for Presente.org. Erica holds an AB from Harvard, MA from UNC-Chapel Hill, and a Certificate from the Institute for Nonprofit Management and Leadership from the Boston University School of Management as a Community Fellow. She speaks English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Erica is also a co-founder and Board Member of Native American Alumni of Harvard University.

Caitlin Vogus

Caitlin Vogus (Panelist) is the first Stanton Foundation Media Litigation fellow at the Reporters Committee. She will spend the two-year fellowship working on First Amendment and free press litigation matters, with a focus on access to courts and freedom of information litigation. Vogus was previously an Attorney Advisor in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission. Prior to working at the FCC, she served as law clerk to the Honorable Rossie D. Alston, Jr. of the Virginia Court of Appeals. Vogus earned her bachelor's degree in American Studies in 2007 from the University of Virginia, where she was executive editor of The Declaration, a weekly news and humor magazine. She earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2010. She was previously a volunteer for the Digital Media Law Project and a summer associate at Levine, Sullivan, Koch, & Schultz, LLP.