Meet the Team | Not in Our Town

Meet the Team

   Staff  |   Board Members   |   Advisors

Staff and Consultants

Patrice O’Neill, Not In Our Town Executive Producer, is an award-winning media producer dedicated to telling stories about everyday people transforming their communities. As co-founder of the Oakland-based non-profit strategic media production company The Working Group, she has produced successful national series on PBS for fifteen years, using a multi-platform approach that utilizes documentary film, social networking, outreach and organizing efforts to encourage dialogue and spur action.

Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas is the Director of Not In Our School (NIOS). She has spoken on the subject of how to combat bullying at conferences,schools, and universities across the United States. Becki's newbook,“Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn,” co-authored with Dr. Dorothy Steele was published by Corwin Press. Prior to working at The Working Group, she spent over 35 years in public education in California. She was a preschool director in Healdsburg, teacher and  principal in the Oakland Unified School District, Elementary Curriculum Director for the Palo Alto Unified School District and Superintendent of the Luther Burbank School District. While serving in Palo Alto in 2003, Becki initiated Not In Our School: Palo Alto, one of the first NIOS initiatives featured on KQED public television. 

Paul A. Di Lella is the Director of Law Enforcement Relations for Not In Our Town. He is an attorney and a recently retired prosecutor from the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey. He is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Criminal Trial Attorney and by the New Jersey Police Training Commission as a Police Academy Instructor. Paul is a member of the National District Attorneys Association and the American Bar Association.

Charene Zalis is a Senior Producer who oversees film production for The Working Group/Not In Our Town and served as Director and Producer on Waking in Oak CreekA Prosecutor’s Stand and Producer for PBS films Light in the Darkness and Class Actions. Prior to joining The Working Group, Zalis produced for the public television human rights series, Rights and Wrongs and Frontline. As a freelancer based in Asia and the Middle East, she produced for Asia Business News, PBS and Nickelodeon. Zalis began her career at NBC News and Sports.

Radhika Jit is the Digital Campaign and Network Manager at Not In Our Town. Prior to working at the Working Group, she spent several years as a journalist and developing global narratives for international development non-profit The Asia Foundation. She is thrilled to bring her expertise to NIOT in this community organizing role. 
 
Jeremy Jue is an Assistant Editor at Not In Our Town. He has taught basic video production to youth around the world, and is passionate about providing voice and greater opportunities to underserved and vulnerable populations. He is thrilled to be part of the NIOT team. 
  
Erika Gosser, Kelly Whalen and Alicia Upano were integral to the creation of NIOT.org. Gosser managed and coordinated the production of NIOT.org. Whalen produced many of the short films, interviewed NIOT community members, and wrote and edited the stories in the Local Lessons section. Upano managed and coordinated NIOT.org as well as communications strategy for NIOT for multiple years.
 
Past and present team members who have also contributed to Not In Our Town's films and website include Emma Clune, Kate McLean, Heather Blackwell Gersh, Christina Corodimas, Kirthi Nath, and Sue Fishkoff; producer Adrienne Calo; and editors Anthony Lucero, Bob Laird, Matt Dibble, Andy Gersh and Jill Strong.
 
David Molina is responsible for some of the music featured in the videos on NIOT.org. You can find David's music here. Additional music was provided by Music Orange and Dave Nelson of Outpost Studios.
 
NIOT.org was built and designed by EchoDitto and their collaborators at Biro Creative. We could not have asked for a more skilled, experienced and simpatico team. They listened… they heard. We’re proud to work with them. Special thanks to Michael Silberman, Scott Bulua, Nicco Mele, and the entire Biro Creative team. NIOT currently works with the wonderful team at verynice.co
 
Our other brilliant advisors include Ben Rigby, Allen Gunn of Aspiration Tech, Evelyn Messinger, the team at CoCo Studios, and Jeroen Lapré.

Board of Directors

Dr. Grace Carroll received her B.A., M.A, Ph.D. in Sociology of Education and teaching credentials from Stanford University. Her research focus on African American self-concept and racial perception culminated in her book, Environmental Stress and African Americans: The Other Side of the Moon, published in 1998. Dr. Carroll is currently CEO of Carroll Consulting that focuses on program design, implementation and process evaluation, and assessment/evaluation of community based projects. She has served as a consultant on ethnic data collection and reporting, evaluation, community development projects, and diversity with clients. She served ten years as the Director for African American Student Development at the University of California, Berkeley, and for three years as the Associate Director of the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk (CRESPAR) at Howard University. She also served on the research team that developed and conducted the qualitative data collection and analyses for the University of Michigan Law School’s defense of affirmative action policies.

Frank Dukes is a mediator and facilitator who directed the Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN) at the University of Virginia (UVA) from 2000 to 2015 before stepping down to concentrate on his applied work. He also is founder of the University & Community Action for Racial Equity (UCARE), which addresses the university’s legacy of slavery, segregation and its impact on the wider community. He served on Charlottesville's Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces, was on the design team leading community engagement for the forthcoming Memorial for Enslaved Laborers at UVA, and speaks frequently about the history and legacy of white supremacy at UVA and Virginia.

Cathy R Fischer has a background in social issue documentary and for almost two decades worked at the Independent Television Service (ITVS) leading Interactive Programming, as Senior Content Producer and Supervisor Producer. She is now working independently producing transmedia, film and digital projects. Cathy first became involved with NIOT during the original 1995 PBS campaign, when she served on the board of Artists for a Hate Free America.

Stephen Scaffidi has worked extensively in media research, marketing, public relations and local government, and is currently the co-host of the Scaffidi and Bilstad show, which airs from 12-3 p.m. every day on 620WTMJ in Milwaukee. He served as the mayor of Oak Creek, Wisconsin for 5 years, beginning in April of 2012. 4 months after his election, a gunman killed 6 people at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and he led a community response which is considered a model for communities dealing with mass shootings. As a project manager in Special Projects for the Nielsen Company, one of the largest media research firms in the world, he was involved in audience research for the major U.S. television networks, leading a team that identified and tested new research methods to extract viewing data from new viewing platforms like laptops, smartphones and PCs. He is the founder of Oak Creek Cares, a donor fund established by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, which raises money for programs which help to reduce violence in communities. He is also the author of the book, Six Minutes in August, which tells the story of the shooting in Oak Creek in 2012, and the incredible community response and recovery from that horrific event.

Advisory Council 

Aman Ahuja is a founder of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of DataKind, a non-profit dedicated to helping NGOs and other organizations tackle data science problems. In his third year as chapter leader, Aman focused on developing processes and leadership structures that lead to successful, sustainable projects. With a background in engineering and physics, he worked for several years at a consulting firm that focused on content management systems, taking on roles as a project manager, business analyst, and data engineer.

Malissia Clinton is senior vice president, general counsel, and secretary of Aerospace, an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to the objective application of science and technology toward the solution of critical issues affecting the nation’s space program. There, she provides legal advice and counsel at the senior management level and manages corporate transactions of the board of trustees and its committees. Before joining Aerospace, Malissia worked for several years in the Office of General Counsel at Northrop Grumman. Prior to joining Northrop Grumman in 1998, she worked for the law firm of Tuttle and Taylor in Los Angeles. She began her career working summers during college as an analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency. Malissia received her BA from Arizona State University and her JD from Stanford Law School, where she was an editor for the Stanford Law Review. She serves on the boards of directors of the City of Hope Medical Center and the Arizona State University Alumni Association, and she formerly served on the board of the Constitutional Rights Foundation. Malissia lives with her husband, Ronald, and their three children in Manhattan Beach.

Ellen Hume is a journalist, teacher and civil society activist who works on the front lines of democracy around the world. Before moving to Budapest (2009-2016) where she mentored journalists and founded a project on Roma integration, she was research director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT (2008-9), and creator of the New England Ethnic Newswire (2007-2009). Hume’s analysis of why independent journalism hasn’t done well in post-Communist countries “Caught in the Middle: Central and Eastern European Journalism at a Crossroads”  was published in 2011 by the Center for International Media Assistance. Her earlier report “Media Missionaries” was the first comprehensive study of U.S. efforts to train foreign journalists, published in 2004 by the Knight Foundation. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the advisory aboard of the Center for International Media Assistance, the Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University, and DIREKT36, a Hungarian investigative reporting group. An international journalism trainer since 1993, Hume also served on the board of Internews. Hume is also a founding member of the International Media Development Advisers which trouble-shoots media problems in challenging environments, I work to help people develop their own versions of journalism and democracy.

Pardeep Singh Kaleka is the eldest son of Satwant Singh Kaleka – the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, who was gunned down during the attacks of August 5th, 2012. Pardeep grew up in Milwaukee and graduated from Marquette University. Being a former Milwaukee Police Officer and a current teacher in the inner city – Pardeep is no stranger to the never ending battle against racism, bigotry, and ignorance. He firmly believes that the lamp of knowledge and truth will outshine all the darkness in the world, and does his best to profess this through his work with Serve 2 Unite.

Arno Michaelis, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was a leader of a worldwide racist skinhead organization, a reverend of a self-declared Racial Holy War, and lead singer of the hate-metal band Centurion, which sold 20,000 CDs by the mid-nineties and is still popular with racists today. Single parenthood, love for his daughter, and the forgiveness shown by people he once hated all helped to turn Arno's life around, bringing him to embrace diversity and practice gratitude for all life. After spending over a decade as a successful information technology consultant and entrepreneur, Arno is now a speaker, author of My Life After Hate, and very fortunate to be able to share his ongoing process of character development as an educator working with Serve 2 Unite. Founded as an ongoing peaceful response to the August 5th 2012 Sikh Temple shooting in Oak Creek, WI, S2U engages students creatively with a global network of peacemakers and mentors in partnership with Against Violent Extremism, The Forgiveness Project, Arts @ Large, and Parents for Peace. Arno’s customizable keynotes and workshops leverage noble qualities of compassion, curiosity, and kindness to engage all human beings, building foundations for diversity appreciation and cultural agility. 

Rabbi Sydney Mintz was ordained in 1997 by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion where she progressed through the Jerusalem, Los Angeles and New York campuses.  Rabbi Mintz has served on the Reform Movement's Commission on Social Action, the Board of the Brandeis Hillel Day School and the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis, the Rabbinic Advisory Councils of Shalom Bayit-the San Francisco Jewish Domestic Violence Board and the Jewish Community High School of the Bay. In addition to lecturing widely in the area of Midrash and Jewish humor, she is currently on the Board of the Documentary Production, "A Gift for Laughter-Comedy and the Jews."  Rabbi Mintz became a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem after completing her fellowship in 2004. She helped to found the award winning Late Shabbat Young Adult Program at Congregation Emanu-El where she has served as Rabbi since her ordination in 1997. Although Rabbi Mintz dreams that real Chicago pizza existed in San Francisco, she would never dream of giving up life in the vibrant Jewish community of the Bay Area.  Rabbi Mintz led Team Emanu-El in the AIDS Lifecycle Ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles and is an avid open ocean swimmer.

Deepak Puri is a Silicon Valley veteran with executive experience at OracleNetscape and VMware. He specializes in applying technology to maximize the impact of philanthropy and volunteers with non-profit groups such as AshokaTaproot and IESC. Deepak is the co-founder of Democracy Labs and also serves on the board of the Tides Foundation.

Adam Strom is the Director of Re-Imagining Migration. Throughout his career, Mr. Strom has connected the academy to classrooms and the community by using the latest scholarship to encourage learning about identity, bias, belonging, history, and the challenges and opportunities of civic engagement in our globalized world.  The resources developed under Strom’s direction have been used in tens of thousands of classrooms and experienced by millions of students around the world including Stories of Identity: Religion, Migration, and Belonging in a Changing World, What Do We Do with a Difference? France and The Debate Over Headscarves in Schools, Identity, and Belonging in a Changing Great Britain, and the viewer’s guide to I Learn America. Before joining the ReImagining Migration Project, Strom was the Director of Scholarship and Innovation at Facing History and Ourselves.