“Don’t settle for anything other than your passion – if you’re lucky enough to find it.”~ Warren Buffett

We are thankful to the people who shepherd NoVo’s work and inspired daily by their dedication, passion and spirit.

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    Asha Agrawal


    Asha_2_4740Asha is the NoVo Foundation’s intern. In this role, she serves as office manager and provides essential support to NoVo’s operations, overseeing its central phone line, mail delivery, supplies, messenger, and petty cash systems. She also supports the foundation’s accounting and financial services by maintaining our central database of contacts and vendors.

    Asha brings years of experience in office administration and customer service, having worked for local nonprofit organizations and major retailers in the New York region. From 2010-2012, she worked for a leading travel agency in Surat, India.

    She has degrees from the Gandhi Vidhyalay School and the C.U. Shah Arts and Commerce College in India, where she majored in Literature and minored in Sociology and Psychology. In addition to English, she is fluent in Gujrati and Hindi.

    Asha is a passionate cook, loves to dance, and is always planning her next travel adventure.

    “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
    – Mahatma Gandhi


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    Ramatu Bangura

    Program Officer, Advancing Adolescent Girls' Rights

    Ramatu serves as program officer for the foundation’s Advancing Adolescent Girls’ Rights initiative. She has spent the last 20 years working with and on behalf of adolescent girls in New York City, Washington DC, and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica.

    Prior to joining NoVo, Ramatu served as Program Director at the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women in the South Bronx, where she founded and managed a program designed to meet the educational, developmental, leadership and college readiness needs of immigrant young women from West Africa. She engaged in advocacy and research on a host of issues impacting transnational girls, including early and forced marriage, sexual violence, trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, and educational access for English Language Learners. Ramatu has also managed girls’ programs for organizations such as GEMS, Girls’ Educational & Mentoring Services; and the DC Rape Crisis Center.

    While working in community-based organizations, Ramatu earned both a Masters of Education (EdM) and Doctorate of Education (EdD) in International & Transcultural Studies Teachers College, Columbia University. Her dissertation, entitled In Pursuit of Success: The Educational Identities and Decision-making of African Girls with Limited Formal Schooling utilized African feminism to examine how immigrant girls with limited formal schooling navigate American schools, and make decisions about college and marriage.

    In her free time, Ramatu spends time with her daughter and together they dance and listen to Stevie Wonder.

    “In a troubled world, I pray the Lord to keep, keep hatred from the mighty… And the mighty from small, Heaven help us all.” –Stevie Wonder (1973)

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    Sherrill Katsi Cook Barreiro

    Program Director for Indigenous Communities

    Sherrill Katsi Cook Barreiro serves as program director for Indigenous Communities and is helping to develop and lead new programmatic work that we expect to launch in late 2015.

    Katsi is a member of the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne, one of the six nations of the League of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois; Six Nations Confederacy). Her community of Akwesasne is located in Northern New York State, Southwestern Quebec and Southeastern Ontario. She is an international activist in the field of environmental health and reproductive health.

    For the past 25 years, Katsi has directed and based her work in the First Environment Collaborative, most often working at the intersections of environmental justice and reproductive justice in policy areas at the tribal and federal levels, increasing discussion and promotion among North American public health authorities of the importance of Native American women’s health across the lifecycle, drawing from the Longhouse traditionalist perspective that Woman is the First Environment. Katsi initiated the Akwesasne Mother’s Milk Project, which launched major studies on heavy metals contamination, while serving her community as a traditional Mohawk midwife.

    “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
    -Arundhati Roy

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    Jennifer Buffett


    Photo of Jennifer Buffett

    Jennifer Buffett is co-president of NoVo Foundation with her husband, Peter. She is responsible for creation and oversight of the Foundation’s vision, strategy, and program development. In addition, Jennifer is co-chair of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

    Jennifer works passionately advocating for girls and women worldwide and to end violence and exploitation against them, promoting “whole-child” education practices, and supporting balanced, sustainable communities.

    Jennifer currently serves on the Board of V-Day. She began her work in philanthropy in 1997 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, primarily as a funder of social service organizations, with a focus on early childhood education for at-risk children and families.

    In September 2008, Jennifer and Peter received the Clinton Global Citizen Award for their “visionary leadership and sustainable, scalable work in solving pressing global challenges.” Presenting the award to the Buffetts, former President Bill Clinton said, “The Buffetts are leading an inspirational campaign to improve the status of women and girls across the globe. Their innovative approach to philanthropy has leveraged the capacity of existing organizations to affect real, positive change.”

    Jennifer and Peter were named in Barron’s list of top 25 most effective philanthropists in 2009 and 2010.

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    Peter Buffett


    photo: Peter Buffett

    Peter Buffett is the co-president of NoVo Foundation and co-chair of its Board of Directors.

    In partnership with his wife, Jennifer, he helps to guide NoVo’s vision, strategic mission, and program development. Peter is a well-established musician, composer, and producer.

    Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Buffett began his career in San Francisco writing music for commercials. After recording four albums for Narada Records, Peter signed with Epic and then Hollywood Records resulting in four additional releases. His Emmy-winning album, titled Ojibwe, was released on his own label, BisonHead.

    Highlights of his film and television work include the fire dance scene in the Oscar-winning film Dances With Wolves and the entire score for 500 Nations, the 8-hour miniseries produced by Kevin Costner for CBS. Peter is the author of Life Is What You Make It, which debuted at No. 4 on the New York Times Best Seller Hardcover Advice list and is a companion to his live “Concert & Conversation” performances.

    Buffett’s theatrical production, Spirit—The Seventh Fire, was performed on the National Mall for the Smithsonian’s opening of the National Museum of the American Indian. Spirit—The Seventh Fire combined Imax scale film and imagery, native dancers and a live band to tell the story of one man’s journey toward reconnection through his heritage and the land we live on.

    Peter and Jennifer were named in Barron’s list of top 25 most effective philanthropists in 2009 and 2010.

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    Melissa Centeno

    Assistant, Advancing Adolescent Girls' Rights

    Melissa_9747Melissa supports NoVo’s initiative to advance adolescent girls’ rights. She graduated from Dartmouth College in 2013 with a B.A. in Psychology modified with African and African American studies. While at Dartmouth, Melissa spent time growing with and learning from her peers through the Women of Color Collective. In her senior year, she co-directed a multi-university symposium, Beyond the Brochures, that brought together student activists from across the country to discuss the intersecting forms of discrimination at their institutions.

    After graduation, Melissa spent time working with playwright Sarah Jones as she performed her one-woman shows. Melissa is deeply passionate about helping girls and women of color heal and thrive. In her free time, she enjoys reading, laughing, organizing with Black Youth Project 100, and eating as many mangos as she can get her hands on.

    “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own” -Audre Lorde

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    Trude Chandler

    Assistant to the Senior Director and Office Manager

    Trude_13_4777_2Trude assists the senior director across all areas of his work and manages NoVo’s office in Kingston, New York. There, she supports NoVo’s initiatives to advance social and emotional learning and promote local living economies.

    Prior to joining NoVo, Trude ran her own personal organizing business, helping her New York City-based clients make the most of their tiny residential and/or commercial spaces. Her desire to spur socially conscious relations to the things we own and the assemblages we participate in inspired her to complete a B.A. in Sustainability Studies at CUNY Hunter College.  Garnering internships at The Department of Environmental Conservation and the NYC Parks Department as a Public Service Scholar, Trude also participated in numerous on-campus environmental campaigns and events. Namely, for her work as President of Hunter’s Sustainability Project, which empowered fellow students and faculty to reduce their environmental impacts, she received the CUNY Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Leadership.

    In her free time, Trude likes to travel, bake, dance, go thrift shopping, and read up on ways to live a more organized, eco-conscious life.

    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
    –Richard Buckminster Fuller


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    Puja Dhawan

    Director, Initiatives to End Violence Against Girls and Women


    Puja directs NoVo’s Initiative to End Violence Against Girls and Women.  In that role, Puja oversees NoVo’s largest operational program, Move to End Violence, as well as three of the initiative’s grantmaking priority areas: achieving economic justice for girls and women, addressing commercial sexual exploitation, and building a movement to end violence against girls and women in the United States.

    Before joining NoVo, Puja was the Senior Program Officer for the U.S. Human Rights Fund at Public Interest Projects—a donor collaborative that provides strategic field-building support to social justice organizations engaged in human rights work within the United States. Puja joined the U.S. Human Rights Fund when it first launched in 2005, and over the next four years helped build the Fund’s grantmaking, program and fundraising work.

    Puja has also done consulting work on developing domestic human rights funding and advocacy strategies. She authored a 2010 report for the Asian Law Caucus on integrating domestic human rights into the Asian American advocacy community, and consulted with the International Human Rights Funders Group. After law school, Puja worked as a Staff Attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid, where she represented battered women in their family law proceedings, and worked on gender and caste discrimination in South Asia at Human Rights Watch. Puja earned her J.D. from NYU School of Law and a B.A. with honors from the University of Michigan.  After violence against girls and women has finally ended, Puja plans on becoming a professional organizer (closets, not people).

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    Hester Dillon

    Program Officer for Indigenous Communities

    Hester_9992Hester Dillon serves as program officer for Indigenous Communities and is helping to develop new work that we expect to launch in late 2015.

    A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, she studied Native American Studies and English at the University of Montana and Law at the University of Arizona. Hester has worked as a grant writer and development director for several Indigenous organizations. Over the course of her career, she has held leadership positions at the Indian Law Resource Center and with the Karuk Tribe, securing funds to support legal advocacy and Tribal programs. She also tutored GED students at the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s Even Start Program.

    Hester was regional supervising attorney for the Keepseagle v. Vilsack Settlement, managing claims on Indian reservations in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington State. She lives in Great Falls, Montana.

    Hester likes to hear live music, ski, write poetry, and bake.

    “Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion – towards ourselves and towards all living beings.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

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    Antoinette Harris

    Grants Associate

    Antoinette_6_4638Antoinette serves as the NoVo Foundation’s grants associate. In this role, she helps to manage the foundation’s grants processes, database and budgets, working to ensure that the administration of NoVo’s grantmaking is marked by efficiency and integrity from the start of a project to its completion.

    Antoinette brings extensive experience in philanthropy and grant management. After earning her B.A. in French from SUNY-Geneseo, Antoinette joined Trinity Wall Street’s grant program, where she helped manage the domestic portfolio and provided coordination and translation services for the foundation’s Francophone consultation in Burundi.

    She further honed her grantmaking skills at the Michael J. Fox Foundation as Grants Administrator and at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as Grants Management Specialist.

    “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
    –Mother Teresa

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    Stephanie Hartka

    Initiative Associate

    Stephanie_9800Stephanie helps to manage the NoVo Foundation’s initiatives to promote local living economies and advance social and emotional learning. She is also helping to develop new programmatic work focused on Indigenous communities that we expect to launch in late 2015.

    Stephanie comes from a big family of artists and crafters, healers and engineers based in the Hudson Valley. Raised in a biodynamic farming community and educated in a Waldorf school, she developed a deep sense of social responsibility, belief in community-based solutions, and a close relationship to Mother Earth that continue to shape her work today.

    Stephanie graduated from Goddard College with a BA in Individualized Studies, focusing on cultural identity and belonging through nonfiction creative writing and art. She spent most of her college years pursuing service learning and place-based studies in Latin America, Asia, and Europe. After college, Stephanie worked as a writer, photographer, and teacher. In 2010, she co-created a program with Fundacion Pachamama in a remote indigenous Achuar community in the Amazon rainforest, where she lived as an education and permaculture volunteer.

    In 2012, Stephanie joined the Tides Foundation to support the Indigenous People’s Fund, a Donor Advised Fund dedicated to ending violence against women and advancing Native-led education. Among numerous additional roles at Tides, Stephanie served as manager of the Youth Courage Awards of the Colin Higgins Foundation, which annually awards LGBTQ teens for their advocacy and courage. When not dedicating her time to NoVo’s mission, Stephanie seeks to remember and connect to meaningful ways of living joyfully and sustainably.

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    Usman Gulzar

    Finance Manager

    Usman_9880Usman serves as NoVo’s finance manager. In this newly created role, he supports NoVo’s grantmaking, fiscal and investment operations. He graduated from Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business with an M.S. in Accounting. He brings financial and operations management experience from the corporate and nonprofit sectors in New York City.

    In his leisure time, Usman likes to watch historic, scientific and travel documentaries. His other escapes include exploring national parks and dreaming of traveling to far away places.

    “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

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    Kerri Kleven

    Director, Grants Administration

    Kerri_2_4678Kerri directs all aspects of NoVo’s grants administration, in addition to managing the grants portfolio of the Initiative for Local Living Economies. Prior to joining NoVo, Kerri was Manager of Philanthropic Services at RSF Social Finance, where she oversaw domestic and international grantmaking in areas focused on food and agriculture, education and the arts, and ecological stewardship. Kerri has also worked on a variety of socio-economic rights-related projects, including with the Global Development Initiative in Cacha, Ecuador, where she focused on a micro-credit project to revitalize investment within local indigenous communities. She was  also a research assistant at the Center for Urban & Regional Affairs, where she concentrated on the “Adolescent Girls to Aging Women Project”, a needs-based assessment of community-based programs assisting girls and women in under-served communities. In other previous roles, Kerri served as an Americorps VISTA Volunteer with the Human Rights Documentation Exchange in Austin, Texas, as well as an Upper Midwest International Human Rights Fellow with the MN Advocates for Human Rights Child Survival Project in Mexico and the U.S.

    Kerri holds a B.A. from Northern Arizona University, and a MPA from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, with a concentration in Women & Public Policy & International Relations. Kerri spends most of her free time exploring new and familiar places—both far and near—never without a camera in hand.

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    Kelly Merryman

    Director, Finance and Operations

    Kelly_wKelly directs the financial strategy and fiscal functions of the Foundation, and oversees its information technology, human resource management, and administrative operations. She also guides NoVo’s Mission Related Investment program. Kelly brings many years of diverse experience, in both the non-profit and private sector. Prior to joining NoVo in 2007, she managed various small offices in NYC, Hawaii, and Ohio.

    Kelly graduated from the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, where she earned a B.A. in International Business Administration and Spanish. She has volunteered for the last 15 years as a camp counselor for children impacted by AIDS/HIV. When not wearing the many hats of operations management, you can usually find Kelly at the various thrift stores, stoop sales, and record shops sprinkled throughout the fabulous borough of Brooklyn.

    “One love, one heart.” —Bob Marley

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    Jody Myrum

    Director, Initiative to Advance Adolescent Girls' Rights

    Jody_wJody directs NoVo’s Initiative to Advance Adolescent Girls’ Rights.

    Before joining NoVo, Jody was the Gender-Based Violence Coordinator with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Ethiopia, where she managed IRC’s efforts to end violence against girls and women. Jody previously managed IRC’s Somali region gender-based violence program focused on ending violence against girls and women in the Somali refugee camps and established host community programming. Before joining IRC, Jody was a consultant with NoVo working on our strategy to end violence against girls and women and was a Fellow with Columbia University’s International HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment Program in Kenya. There, she helped strengthen medical response to survivors of sexual violence while looking at the unique needs of children and adolescents. Jody has also worked with UNICEF’s Child Protection team to strengthen gender-based violence programming; Girls International Forum to bring girls around the world together to solve problems in their community; served in the US Peace Corps, and on a girl’s education and empowerment program where she focused on child trafficking prevention and rehabilitation, and making communities and schools safer for girls.

    Jody holds a B.S. from Colorado State University and a MSW from Columbia University. Jody spends most of her time flying around the world and hanging out with super star teenage girls.

    “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” —Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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    Anna Quinn

    Special Assistant

    Anna_wAnna Quinn is NoVo’s special assistant and supports the executive director in all areas. She graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Community Health. While at Brown, Anna worked with the Female Sexuality Workshop, an organization dedicated offering inclusive and comprehensive sexuality education.

    As an intern at the Rhode Island-based worker center Fuerza Laboral she supported efforts to build cross-community coalitions around economic and immigrant justice.

    Anna later joined the team at Fuerza Laboral working to research and document the issue of nonpayment of wages in Rhode Island and its effect on low-wage workers.

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    Linda Rosenthal

    Assistant to the Presidents' Office

    Linda_wLinda provides administrative support to NoVo’s co-presidents, Jennifer and Peter Buffett, and works closely with the foundation’s staff and board. Before arriving at NoVo in April 2012, Linda spent over 20 years in the fashion industry where she enjoyed her work as a senior executive assistant within the communications, marketing and operations sectors. Linda held various positions throughout her 13-year tenure at Liz Claiborne Inc. (now Fifth & Pacific Companies, Inc.) including executive assistant to the senior vice president of corporate marketing and most recently as the company’s intranet content manager.

    In addition to her career in the corporate world, Linda ran her own business designing and producing millinery collections for women and children under the label Linda Rosenthal Millinery, which were carried by fine specialty stores throughout the New York metropolitan area.

    Linda brings a diverse set of organizational, creative and editorial skills to NoVo Foundation. She holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from Cornell University and continues to pursue her personal interests in fashion history, couture sewing, painting, drawing, and gardening, as well as spending time with her family, which now includes two grandchildren.

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    Jesenia A. Santana


    Jesenia_4_4762Jesenia serves as program officer for the NoVo Foundation’s Initiative to End Violence Against Girls and Women.

    Prior to joining NoVo, Jesenia spent a decade at STEPS to End Family Violence, where she worked with survivors of domestic violence and trauma. As the legal services coordinator for the STEPS’ Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) program—the only ATI program in the country designed specifically for survivors of partner violence—she helped lead defense-based advocacy efforts and provided trainings throughout the country on the unique barriers survivor-defendants face.

    Jesenia went on to serve as STEPS’ manager of advocacy services and senior policy advisor, overseeing a team of counselors and advocates. In that position, she helped develop and manage three projects: community-based services, a re-entry program for formerly incarcerated survivors returning home, and innovative court-diversion programs for survivors charged with prostitution. She also worked closely with an array of community partners to develop policy briefs and reports that sought to impact institutional responses to survivors of abuse and trauma.

    Jesenia is a committed advocate for systems changes that eliminate the criminalization of survivors of violence, and is currently the co-chair of the Violence Against Women Committee of the Coalition for Women Prisoners. She holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University and a Masters of International Affairs, with a concentration in Human Rights, from Columbia University. In her free time, Jesenia enjoys traveling, spending time with her family, and having friends over to listen to old record albums.

    “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
    -Lilla Watson

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    Gary D. Schwartz

    Senior Director

    Gary_10_4815Gary D. Schwartz joins NoVo after fifteen years of service at Tides.  He was the founder of the Tides’ New York office and served in many different capacities during his tenure there including Interim CEO before departing in 2014.

    Previous to Tides, Gary was the Co-Director of the Fund of the Four Directions based in NYC.  The donor-advised Fund granted in the areas of Environmental & Economic Justice, Native American Communities, and the Leadership of Women and Girls.  He was also previously employed at the Houston Area Women’s Center Rape Crisis Program in Texas and Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York.  Gary has spent his entire work life in the progressive non-profit arena.

    Gary is a Midwesterner whose roots go back to many generations of farming in northeastern Nebraska.  He graduated from Southern Illinois University and attended the New School of Social Research in NYC majoring in Non-Profit Management.

    Gary has served on numerous boards of directors including the Texas Abortion Rights Action League, Children of War, Artists for a New South Africa, the Highlander Center and the North Star Fund.  He continues to serve on the Board of the New Field Foundation, based in San Francisco.

    Gary will be establishing a new NoVo office in Kingston, NY and will oversee NoVo’s work in the areas of Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) and Local Living Economies (LLE).  He will be working with the NoVo staff and Board in co-creating additional program priorities for 2015.

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    Pamela Shifman

    Executive Director

    Pamela_7_4930Pamela is the Executive Director of the NoVo Foundation. From 2008-2014, Pamela served as NoVo Foundation’s Director of Initiatives for Girls and Women. She came to NoVo Foundation from UNICEF headquarters where she led the organization’s efforts to end gender-based violence in conflict-affected settings including in Darfur, Eastern Congo, Uganda, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Prior to joining the UN, Pamela served as the Co-Executive Director of Equality Now, where she focused extensively on trafficking of girls and women and convened a coalition of organizations for passage of the first US legislation on trafficking in persons and the UN Transnational Crime Protocol on Trafficking in Persons. From 1996-1998, Pamela served as legal advisor for the ANC Parliamentary Women’s Caucus in South Africa where she supported development of South Africa’s first post-apartheid legislation addressing domestic violence, and led a National Campaign on Ending Violence against Girls and Women.

    Pamela is the author of several articles on women’s and girls’ rights, including, “Trafficking and Human Rights in a Globalized World,” Oxfam Journal of Gender and Development, and “Sexual Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict: A Need for More Focused Action,” Refugee Survey Quarterly. Pamela is the recipient of the 2011 Lucretia Mott Award from Women’s Way and was named as one of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century by Women’s e-News.

    Pamela has taught Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan and at Hunter College, and she holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School.

    When not rabble rousing for human rights and an end to injustice, Pamela likes to run around Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with her dog Marzipan and drink copious amounts of coffee with friends.

    “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” —Fannie Lou Hamer

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    Joe Voeller

    Director of Communications

    Joe_15_4687Joe Voeller is the foundation’s director of communications. In this new role at NoVo, Joe works across the organization to harness the power of strategic communications to advance NoVo’s mission.

    Prior to joining NoVo, Joe spent over ten years at the Ford Foundation, where he led communications efforts in such areas as economic justice, the rights of Indigenous peoples, climate change and HIV/AIDS. He also managed an array of media partnerships, authored articles and opinion pieces about the foundation’s work, and developed communications trainings for the foundation’s grantees and partners in the United States and around the world.

    A native of Minnesota, Joe began his career in Washington, DC, working as a special assistant for the White House Millennium Council in the Clinton Administration. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from The George Washington University and an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University.

    Joe enjoys traveling and loves recommendations for off-the-beaten-path destinations. He can often be found jogging around Central Park, or making a creative excuse about how he’ll get to that tomorrow.

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
    -Martin Luther King, Jr.