Conference Speakers


Keynote Speakers

Ben Allen 

California State Senator Ben Allen represents the Westside and coastal South Bay communities of Los Angeles County. He chairs the Senate Education Committee and the Joint Committee on the Arts. He serves on the committees on Elections and Constitutional Amendments, Natural Resources and Water, and Transportation and Housing.  He co-chairs the Environmental Caucus, is vice chair of the Jewish Caucus, and vice chair of the Select Committee on Defense and Aerospace.  His policy priorities include education, the environment, jobs and the economy, transportation, and political reform. 

Prior to his election to the Senate, he served as a board member, and president, of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.  Ben worked for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and as communications director for Congressman Jose Serrano.  He is a Senior Fellow with Humanity in Action (Amsterdam 1999), a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, and a graduate of the Jewish Federation's New Leaders Project. While in law school he was a voting member of the University of California Board of Regents and a judicial clerk with the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.  He has a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University; a Master of Philosophy from the University of Cambridge; and a Juris Doctor from UC Berkeley.

Mike Brickner

Mike Brickner, Senior Policy Director, ACLU of Ohio. During his tenure at the ACLU, Mike Brickner has worked on a variety of critical civil liberties movements. These include coordinating campaigns to expand and protect the right to vote, combating privatization of prisons, and promoting reforms to Ohio’s criminal justice system. Mike co-authored two reports focusing on the intersection of poverty and the criminal justice system. Mike has also become a nationally recognized expert on prison privatization. In 2013, he created a timeline documenting the rapid decline of Ohio-based Lake Erie Correctional Institution, the first state prison sold outright to a private company in the nation. He also co-authored and designed the report, Prisons for Profit: A Look at Private Prisons. Mike frequently provides commentary to members of the media on core ACLU issues ranging from voting rights to ending capital punishment. Mike is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow (Amsterdam 2002). 

Łukasz Niparko

Łukasz Niparko is currently completing the ACLU-Humanity in Action Fellowship with the Cleveland office of the ACLU. Łukasz is an activist for human rights and holds an LL.M. in international human rights law from the European University Viadrina. He is an alumnus of the United World College and St. Lawrence University. He served with various NGOs, including the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the Stepping Stones China, and Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH). In 2015, thanks to the support of Humanity in Action, Łukasz directed a summer school of tolerance and anti-discrimination in his hometown Poznań, Poland. He is also a co-founder of The Peace and Liberal Arts Education Center (China) and The Global Dialogue Center (USA). His interests concern legal prevention of discrimination and international affairs. Łukasz is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow (Warsaw 2014).

Julie Vainqueur 

Julie Vainqueur is currently completing the ACLU-Humanity in Action Fellowship with the Cleveland office of the ACLU. Julie graduated from the Paris School of International Affairs of Sciences Po Paris in 2016 with a master’s degree in international public management and concentrations in human rights and Latin America. She often worked on minority related issues and black communities, but also on profiling and police brutality in France. In parallel she specialized herself in communication through extra classes at Sciences Po Paris’ School of Communication and a semester in global communication at George Washington University. Julie has experiences in NGOs, including the FIDH, international organizations such as UN Women Tanzania or the Agence Francaise de Developpement, but also in private companies. She is engaged with several associations focusing on French Caribbean youth, and as part of her Humanity in Action Project, completed some work through SciencesCurls to raise awareness on social issues using the prism of natural hair. Julie is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow (Sarajevo 2016). 

Tanya Washington

A native of Washington, DC, Tanya Washington the Program Director for Humanity in Action’s John Lewis Fellowship in Atlanta. She is also a professor of law at Georgia State University College of Law. After earning her J.D. from The University of Maryland School of Law, Tanya clerked for Judge Robert M. Bell on the Maryland Court of Appeals. In the years following, she completed the Albert M. Sacks Fellowship, the A. Leon Higginbotham Fellowship and earned her LL.M. at Harvard Law School. Tanya has been widely published in law journals and periodicals across the nation. A self-professed activist scholar, she has worked collaboratively to ensure that legal scholarship has a practical and positive impact on vulnerable individuals and communities. Tanya believes deeply that the true value of the law lies in its capacity to improve the human condition. As such, she has co-authored several amicus briefs with the Supreme Court, including in the recent same-sex marriage cases, highlighting the harmful impact of exclusionary marriage laws on children in same-sex families.


Oscar Alejandro Baez

Oscar is a U.S. diplomat, currently serving in the Executive Secretariat’s Operations Center, the State Department’s 24-hour nerve center, where he prepares briefings for the Secretary, monitors world events, and supports crisis-related task forces. Overseas, he has served as Human Rights Officer in the U.S. Embassy in Brazil, as Vice Consul in China, and on temporary assignments in Angola, Belgium, and Haiti. Prior to State, Oscar worked on communications in the Obama White House, on education and foreign policy in the U.S. Senate, and for various nonprofit organizations focused on immigrants’ and minority rights. A polyglot himself, Oscar has researched the intersection between language and social inclusion worldwide. Oscar's family immigrated to Boston from the Dominican Republic, and he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in college. He has a B.A. in political science from Amherst College and a master’s in public policy from Harvard University. Oscar is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow (Berlin 2008). 

Ana Baptista

Ana Baptista is an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice and the Chair of the Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management graduate program at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School University. She also serves as the Associate Director of the Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School. The Tishman Center fosters the integration of design, policy, and social justice approaches to environmental issues to advance just and sustainable outcomes in collaboration with communities. The center serves as a hub for climate and environmental justice research and practice. Her research focuses on community based participatory action in the areas of environmental and climate justice, zero waste policies, the goods movement industry and cumulative impacts in environmental justice communities. Prior to The New School, Ana was the Director of the Energy and Environment Programs for the Regional Plan Association in New York City. Ana was also formerly the Director of Environmental Justice and Community Development Programs for the non-profit organization, Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) in Newark, NJ where she now serves on the Board of Trustees. At ICC she oversaw a wide range of environmental justice, community development, planning and research projects in her native Ironbound community. Ana has a Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Public Policy from Rutgers University. 

Anthony Chase 

Anthony Chase serves as Director of Programs at Humanity in Action where he focuses on organizational strategy and program development. He and Judith Goldstein developed the Diplomacy and Diversity Fellowship from a nascent idea into a multinational educational initiative that has engaged nearly 400 emerging and established foreign policy experts in seven cities. When Anthony joined the staff in 2013 as a Program Coordinator, he produced a program in Cairo and New York on human rights and politics in Egypt since the revolution. Anthony previously worked for Libraries Without Borders in Paris and is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow (France 2011).

Shelby Chestnut

Shelby Chestnut served as the Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) for five years prior to joining Transgender Law Center. At AVP, Shelby worked on a city, state and national level advancing the rights and protections of LGBTQ survivors of violence.  For over a decade, Shelby has been organizing with LGBTQ people, people of color, and low income communities to address violence, promote access to resources, and affect local policy change that is for and by the people most impacted by oppression. Shelby is a gender non-conforming, two spirit, mixed race organizer who has called Brooklyn their home for the past 7 years, but always draws of their Montana roots for country sensibility and dry sense of humor.

Anna Duensing

Anna Duensing, who hails from Charlottesville, Virginia, is a PhD student in history and African American studies at Yale University. Her work focuses on the history of white supremacy in the United States and an examination of the long civil rights movement through a transnational U.S.-Germany lens. She is interested in the shifting tensions and cohesion between race, citizenship, and national belonging and grounds her work in histories of military service and the context of war. In addition to her graduate studies, Anna works as an educator at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York. She holds a B.A. in history and cultural studies from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. Anna is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow (Warsaw 2012). 

Judith S. Goldstein 

Judith S. Goldstein founded Humanity in Action in 1997 and has served as its Executive Director ever since. Under Judith’s leadership, Humanity in Action has organized educational programs on international affairs, diversity and human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Poland, the Netherlands and the United States. She received her Ph.D. in history from Columbia University and was a Woodrow Wilson Scholar for her MA studies. Judith has written several books and articles about European and American history, art and landscape architecture. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and several boards and advisory groups. 

Michael Kunichika 

Michael Kunichika teaches and writes about Russian literature and culture, cinema and critical theory. He is an associate professor of Russian at Amherst College, having held faculty appointments at New York University and Harvard. His research, including his award-winning “Our Native Antiquity” (2015), has been supported with a senior fellowship at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard and with a membership at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, NJ). He is currently working on two projects: the first, a study of anti-imperialism and Soviet avant-garde cinema; the other, a series of essays on the study of prehistoric archaeology during late socialism. He is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow (Amsterdam 1999), a member of its International Board of Directors since 2011 and an intern on its various national programs, for which he received Humanity in Action’s inaugural Louis Rabineau Award.

Christelle Onwu

Christelle Onwu is a Human Rights Specialist at the New York City Commission on Human Rights and a Coro Fellow with the New York Leadership Center (Immigrant Civic Leadership Program). She is a fierce advocate for social justice within underserved populations with a focus on African communities in New York City. In her role at the New York City Commission on Human Rights, Christelle conducts grassroots organizing in the Bronx, collaborating with community-based organizations and elected officials, connecting marginalized communities to the New York City's appropriate educational and other social services. She also conducts trainings and workshops to educate New Yorkers about their rights under the New York City Human Rights law and what to do in case anyone becomes a victim of discrimination. Christelle previously served as a social worker at Sauti Yetu Center for African Women and Families where she provided individual, family, and group counseling for survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and gender-based violence. She has published an article in the Columbia Social Work Review analyzing the issue of female genital cutting in the U.K. and made culturally-sensitive policy recommendations to reduce this practice. She graduated from Columbia University School of Social Work and is an alumna of John Jay College; additionally, she is an alumna of the New American Leaders Program.

Sophia Philip

Sophia Philip recently completed the Virginia Mason-Humanity in Action Fellowship, one of two new professional fellowships to focus on housing, healthcare and LGBT rights in Seattle. Sophia is originally from New York City and is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow (Paris 2015). Having studied ethnography, education and the arts, her professional work has varied from producing TEDx conferences, leading literacy classes for young adults, consulting on diversity and equity, teaching girls’ empowerment art classes to developing curriculums on consent with Mt. Sinai Hospital’s Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention team. Currently, she teaches at Nightingale-Bamford School in New York City. 

Andy Post

Andy Post recently completed the Capitol Hill Housing-Humanity in Action Fellowship, one of two new professional fellowships to focus on housing, healthcare and LGBT rights in Seattle. Andy is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow (Warsaw 2016) and served as a Program Intern for the Amsterdam Fellowship in 2017. In Colorado Springs, he helped grow Colorado Springs Food Rescue (CSFR), an organization that has redistributed over half a million pounds of food that would otherwise be thrown away to communities in need. Through CSFR, Andy helped create Mobile Meals, a food truck that partnered with a local LGBTQ center to make delicious meals with the youth. Andy is a jazz keyboardist and a proud owner of a thirteen year old rabbit. 

Elena Ricciardi

In 2016 Elena graduated from UC Berkeley. There she studied Political Ecology, focusing on contemporary and historic land issues. She also carried out research in the agroecology lab and on food issues in her home county, worked at the campus radio station, and as an elementary school reading tutor. Today, living in New Orleans, she co-founded the Delta Collaborative to bridge the divide between the political left and right by pealing back the layers of our individual histories, hoping that united, we may address environmental issues. She also teaches in New Orleans’ schools and hones her linoleum block printing skills. 

Antje Scheidler  

Antje Scheidler has been with Humanity in Action since 2002, when she became Program Director of the newly established German fellowship program. She currently serves as International Director of European Programs and National Director of Humanity in Action Germany. Antje among other things facilitates the transatlantic communication between the Humanity in Action chapters on both sides of the Atlantic. Her focus areas have been the Annual International Conferences, the organization's outreach to Greece as well as Grant Competitions for Humanity in Action Senior Fellows.

Michael Schober 

Michael Schober is a Professor of Psychology and Vice Provost for Research at The New School. Michael served as the Dean of The New School for Social Research from 2006 to 2013 and has taught courses in psycholinguistics, human-computer interaction, research methods, data visualization, and the psychology of music. He was editor of the multidisiciplinary journal Discourse Processes from 2005-15 and is the recipient of the Warren J. Mitofsky Innovators Award from the American Association for Public Opinion Research. He received a doctorate in cognitive psychology from Stanford University.

Ben Trachtenberg

Professor Ben Trachtenberg joined the University of Missouri School of Law faculty in 2010. He taught at Brooklyn Law School from 2008-2010.  From 2006-2008, he was a litigation associate at Covington & Burling LLP in New York. Trachtenberg received his J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he was an Articles Editor on the Columbia Law Review and recipient of several academic awards. He has an M.A. in International Studies from the University of Limerick, Ireland and a B.A. from Yale in Political Science, with distinction. After law school, Trachtenberg clerked at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit with Judge Jose A. Cabranes. Trachtenberg has published in various academic law journals, the New York Times, and the ABA Journal, among other publications. Trachtenberg teaches Criminal Procedure, Evidence, and Professional Responsibility, and he has won multiple teaching awards. He chaired the MU Faculty Council on University Policy from 2015-2017. Ben is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow (Amsterdam 2000).

Emma Yip

Emma graduated from UC Berkeley in 2016 with a BS in Society and Environment. Her honors thesis produced a discourse analysis showing land relations and control grabs in the neoliberal cacao sector of Indonesia. She has traveled extensively, including a summer research program in Cuba, and walking the entirety of Spain’s El Camino de Santiago. She was a founding member of Students for Standing Rock at Berkeley, journeying out to North Dakota in November.  She was a 2017 Humanity in Action Fellow in Copenhagen, and has just launched the Delta Collaborative in Southern Louisiana, working towards emboldening the environmental justice movement in the South.