2012 NLC Fellows: Des Moines

Des Moines

Zebulon Beilke-McCallum, Housing and Economic Justice Coordinator, The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Zebulon Beilke-McCallum currently works as the Housing and Economic Justice Coordinator for the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In this work Beilke-McCallum directs the Housing and Economic Advocacy Taskforce (HEAT), a grassroots effort of survivors and advocates standing up for the economic needs of survivors including increased funding for affordable housing and to support equal pay initiatives. Beilke-McCallum got his start organizing as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and has also worked for the AFL-CIO, the Serra Club and the Minnesota Senate. He is a member of the Iowa Council on Homelessness, The Family Development and Self-Sufficiency Council and Iowa Men’s Action Network. Beilke-McCallum has a Masters in Advocacy and Political Leadership from the University of Minnesota Duluth and a B. A. in Philosophy from the University of St. Thomas. Beilke-McCallum has extensive knowledge of state and federal affordable housing policy, economic justice, financial literacy and nonprofit voter engagement. Beilke-McCallum grew up in Minnesota and after short stint in North Dakota has fallen in love with Iowa. When not organizing for social justice he can be found reading, playing chess or watching Minnesota Twins baseball.

Indira Blazevic, Advocate & Prevention Educator, L.U.N.A.

Indira Blazevic is an Advocate and Prevention Educator at L.U.N.A., a non-profit organization that serves victims/survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, with an emphasis on providing services to the Latino community. She advocates on behalf of victim rights, provides legal advocacy and crisis counseling. In her role as a prevention educator, she educates and facilitates groups with children and youth regarding prevention of teen dating violence, bullying, sexual assault, and building healthy relationships. One of her prevention groups was selected to participate in the “Underserved Teen Victim Initiative” funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Crime Prevention Council and the National Center for Victims of Crime in Washington D.C. Blazevic immigrated to the United States in 1995 as a refugee of genocide in Bosnia, where she was born. Since then, she has learned Spanish, along with English, and graduated from Drake University with a Bachelor Degree in Law, Politics, and Society, and shortly after that, earned her Master in Public Administration degree, with an emphasis in Public Policy. During her time at Drake, she was selected for membership in Pi Alpha Alpha, Phi Beta Kappa, and various other honor societies.

Sara Crouse, Marketing Strategist, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland

Sara A. Crouse is currently employed as a Marketing Strategist with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PP Heartland). PP Heartland is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing accessible reproductive health care, education and advocacy; responsive to the needs and rights of families and individuals. Her responsibilities at PP Heartland include social media strategy, print design and promotional outreach. Previously she was a communication coordinator at Indigo Dawn, a green real estate development company currently working on the Green & Main initiative - a LEED project in the Historic Sherman Hill Neighborhood. Crouse's other work experiences include positions with the Iowa Office of Energy Independence, Metro Waste Authority and the United States Senate. In 2010, Crouse graduated with honors from Simpson College with a bachelor’s degree in both Integrated Marketing Communication and Political Science. She was a collegiate member of Omicron Delta Kappa (Leadership Fraternity), Order of Omega (Greek Honor Fraternity) and Pi Sigma Alpha (Political Science Fraternity). Crouse is a professional member of the American Marketing Association and is looking forward to furthering her involvement in the Greater Des Moines Community. Crouse resides in West Des Moines and is a Humboldt, IA native.

Matt Denner, Legislative Clerk, Iowa House of Representatives

Matt Denner is a political organizer and community activist from Ames, Iowa. A veteran of advocacy and political campaigns, including President Obama's Iowa team, Denner has served as a field organizer, fundraiser, and ad-hoc tech director. In 2003, he ran for a city council seat while attending Iowa State University as an undergrad. As a former communications director, radio host, and opinion columnist, Denner is passionate about communicating and organizing for maximum impact. He shared some of these experiences as a presenter at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference, and is always looking to learn new ways to be more effective in creating social change. In addition to learning from presenters and peers in the NLC Institute, Denner has trained with Wellstone Action, the Midwest Academy, and Democracy for America. Outside of organizing, Matt is an avid supporter of the arts, has canoed 83 miles of rapids on the Rio Grande, is a fierce competitor in his local trivia league, and is the only person he knows whom has actually slipped on a banana peel. Matt currently lives in Des Moines and looks forward to helping build a more just and democratic Iowa.

Lorin Ditzler, Planner, RDG Planning and Design

Lorin Ditzler is a community planner with RDG Planning and Design in Des Moines, where she works primarily for small towns across the MidWest. She recently relocated to Des Moines from Iowa City, where she attended graduate school in urban planning and worked for the Chamber of Commerce. Ditzler was born on the east coast, but after attending Iowa's Grinnell College and spending 6 great years in Iowa City and Des Moines, she's a full-on Iowa convert! Her current non-work interests include playing the banjo, learning to draw, and failing miserably at cooking Indian food.

Brian Guillaume, Political Staff Representative, AFSCME

Brian Guillaume currently works for AFSCME in the political department as a Political Staff Representative for Western Iowa, he has been with AFSCME since February 2011. Working for AFSCME Guillaume works with and on behalf of AFSCME members in the political arena. Whether it be volunteering on campaigns or lobbying their local legislators on issues that are important to working families across the state of Iowa. Prior to working for AFSCME Guillaume managed a state house campaign in Sioux City for David Dawson. Guillaume graduated from Iowa State University in 2011 with a degree in History and Political Science. While at Iowa State Guillaume was a member of Beta Sigma Psi National Lutheran Fraternity. While in the Fraternity Guillaume was elected to various positions including Recording Secretary, Vice President, and President. Guillaume also served on the Student Senate while at Iowa State, Sitting on the University Affairs Committee and The Social Justice Sub Committee, working to make Iowa State a more inviting place for all students regardless of background or economic situation. Guillaume has lived in Iowa his whole life and was born in Sioux City in 1987 and currently resides in Council Bluffs.

Molly Kotval,

Molly Kotval is a Project Manager for ITAGroup and manages special projects in the Strategic Initiatives and Technology Department. Prior to joining ITAGroup Kotval was a Marketing Specialist for UnitedHealthcare and was responsible for building relationships with medical providers and non-profit groups providing services to clients in 57 Iowa counties. From 2007 to 2010 Kotval worked for the Downtown Community Alliance (DCA) as the Operations Manager for the Downtown Farmers Market a weekly event with 25,000 attendees and 300 business vendors. Kotval then transitioned to the DCA’s Downtown Events Group as a Program Manager for the 2010 Des Moines Art Festival. Her responsibilities included working with the Executive Director to develop and manage programming to attract diverse populations to the festival. Kotval graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Art and Certificates in Entrepreneurship and Museum Studies. A Des Moines native, Kotval was appointed to the Iowa Arts Council Board in 2010 and is an active member in the Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity young professionals group. Previously she served as the Fundraising and Special Events Chair, Friends of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women.

Stephen Lauer, Graduate Student, Iowa State University

Stephen Lauer is a graduate student in sustainable agriculture and community planning at Iowa State University. His research focuses on mutual learning between farmers in developing and developed countries. Lauer also volunteers as a grassroots organizer with Oxfam America in Des Moines, where his activities include public education, outreach, and advocacy on the impacts of United States policies on global poverty. Lauer's prior work experience includes a Wallace Carver internship with USDA Rural Development, where he worked on strategies to integrate local food systems into Rural Development programs; a Professional internship with Pioneer Hybrid, where he researched the morphological changes in Pioneer inbred corn from the 1930s to 2007; and a Borlaug Ruan internship with the World Food Prize, where he assisted with aquacultural research and extension in Egypt. In addition to his internship in Egypt, Lauer's international travel experiences include studying in South Africa and a planned research trip to Uganda. Lauer's undergraduate degree is in Biology and Environmental Policy from Drake University in Des Moines. Lauer grew up in Des Moines, Iowa; and graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School on the city's west side.

Kendra Malone, Information & Technical Assistance Specialist, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault

Kendra Malone is the Information Specialist at the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (IowaCASA), the membership organization for the 28 direct sexual assault service providers throughout the state of Iowa and a Technical Assistance Specialist for the the National Resource Sharing Project, an initiative of IowaCASA created to help state and territorial sexual assault coalitions across the country access the resources to develop and thrive. Malone manages the coalitions communications and provides technical assistance and facilitates peer-driven resources for state sexual assault coalitions in the Mid-West and Eastern parts of the country. Before joining IowaCASA, Malone taught Women’s Studies at Iowa State University and has also worked in women’s health care clinics providing direct reproductive health services. Malone received her Master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology and Women’s Studies at Iowa State University in 2010. Malone conducted ethnographic fieldwork on the island of Trinidad in 2008, her research focused on the disproportionate ways Trinidadian women are contracting HIV/AIDS as opposed to their male counterparts. Malone also participated in a Practicum in Advocacy at the 53rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women Meeting at the United Nations during her graduate study. Malone is a native Iowan originally from Ames.

Jaimie Miller, Director of Philanthropy, Wesley Life

Jaimie Miller has spent the last three years working in the nonprofit and government affairs sectors. Most recently, Miller was hired as the Director of Philanthropy for Wesley Life in Johnston, Iowa. As the Director of Philanthropy, Miller works to expand the organizations’ Good Samaritan/Good Shepherd program through fundraising and advocacy. Prior to this position, Miller worked in development for Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa where she led major events and individual giving efforts. Miller received her Master’s degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in public policy from Drake University in 2010, and she received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa in 2008, where she studied political science, international affairs and law. Miller is passionate about volunteerism and advocacy. She serves as a board member for Des Moines Young Professionals Connection and is a volunteer with Variety Iowa, Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa, Junior League of Des Moines, and her sorority Gamma Phi Beta.

Francis Musignac, Web Application Analyst II, The Members Group

Francis Musignac currently works as a Web Application Analyst for The Members Group in Des Moines, Iowa. Right after completing his BS in Management Information Systems from Iowa State University, Musignac was hired by Iowa's Area Education Agencies where, for three years, he developed and supported information technology solutions. Musignac is originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and moved to Iowa at age 17 to pursue higher education in this Midwestern state which has become home for him. Musignac speaks three languages: Spanish, English, and French, the latter which he was intent on learning because of his heritage. He developed SWEBS Online (School-Wide Efficient Behavior Screening), a research-based screening web application that allows for proactive identification of student and school system social/behavioral needs. Musignac has also been a contributor to multiple extracurricular activities including youth sports coaching, a chamber of commerce, and has been highlighted in corporate communications as an excellent teammate whose contributions have been vital to the progress and completion of numerous software development projects.

Nicole Rommero, Second Year Law Student, Drake University Law School

Nicole Rommero is a second year law student at Drake University Law School where she is a Public Service Scholar. She is very active on campus and in the community. Rommero is involved in student government where she serves as the Diversity Representative as well as an Integrated Studies Group Leader. She is interested on legislative, civil rights and constitutional law. Last summer, Rommero interned at a federal agency in Washington, D.C. Prior to entering law school, she received her Masters of Public Policy from the University of Southern California where she focused on social and urban policy. While attending USC, Rommero worked in the Office of a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor. Prior to graduate school, she interned in DC on Capitol Hill. Rommero also holds in B.S. in International Business with a concentration in Japanese from the University of San Francisco. Throughout her academic career, Rommero has been exposed to the arena of politics and advocacy on every level of government through various professional, internship and volunteer opportunities at the local, state and federal level. Rommero is originally from Los Angeles, California.

Annika Schilke, Assistant Planner and Economic Development Specialist, City of Urbandale

Annika Schilke is the Assistant Planner and Economic Development Specialist for the City of Urbandale where she works with elected officials, citizens and businesses to make the city a more vibrant and livable community. Growing up in Connecticut Schilke volunteered for a wide variety of arts and community enrichment organizations. After moving to the upper Midwest she became more involved with local and national politics volunteering with campaigns, bringing a Wellstone Action Training to her college campus, and working with Working America, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, for two election cycles. Her other career highlights include working for Kidcity Children’s Museum and The Community Health Center Inc. Schilke has a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and a B.A. in Urban Studies, Geography, and History from Macalester College. Even though she is a native New Englander, Schilke has grown to love the Upper Midwest region along with its residents and weather. Schilke continues to be a supporter of the performing arts, an avid traveler and an enthusiastic cook and baker.

Kelli Todd, Graduate Student, University of Iowa

Kelli Todd is currently obtaining her master’s in public health in health policy at the University of Iowa and is a Research Assistant for the Rural Policy Research Institute. Todd has held numerous policy positions including developing food safety policy for the nation with the United States Department of Agriculture and participating in a Commonwealth Fund research project with the University of Iowa Public Policy Center assessing the impact of the health care reform on the most vulnerable populations in Iowa. This project is intended to serve as the model for the nation. Additionally, Todd has also worked for Iowa State Senator Jeff Danielson. While attending Iowa State University, Todd received her bachelor’s degree in English literature and Spanish in 2006 and is from Sioux City, Iowa. An active member of her community, Todd volunteers with the Ronald McDonald House and serves as a commissioner on the Iowa College Student Aid Commission. Todd has also served as the Assistant Director of Operations of Emerging Opportunities for Sustainability, a 501(c)3 that engineers sustainable irrigation systems and technology for developing countries to address malnutrition and foster economic growth by extending the agricultural production into the dry season.

Tom Vance, Development Coordinator, Central Iowa Shelter & Services

Tom Vance is the development coordinator for Central Iowa Shelter & Services. As the development coordinator Vance oversees fundraising efforts from writing grants to special events. In his first year, Vance raised almost $3 million through grants and events. Vance also manages volunteers and launched a 16 member AmeriCorps VISTA project working to end Veteran homelessness. He is a 2009 graduate of Iowa State University with a Bachelor’s of Art in Journalism and Mass Communication with minors in Sociology and Horticulture. Journalism lead Vance down many paths from campus publications to planning the Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity and educating students on issues of White Privilege to joining Delta Lambda Phi. ISU made Vance social justice-oriented and committed to a progressive future. Vance's other community activities include: singing with the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus; serving on the Chorus board as Vice President; member of the Des Moines AmeriCorps Alumni Chapter leadership team; member of the Transportation Advisory Group for Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization; and serving on the board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Michael Weeks, Loan Counselor, Iowa Student Loan

Michael Weeks is a loan counselor with Iowa Student Loan as of February 2011. A Des Moines native, Weeks attended East High School and went on to major in Economics at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA. During his time at Iowa, Weeks was involved with and held leadership roles in his business organization, Phi Beta Lambda, and was involved with University Democrats, Dance Marathon, and Children’s Miracle Network. After graduation from Iowa in 2007, Weeks worked at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in the Pharmacy Department and Emergency Room. Weeks joined Vangent, Inc., in 2009 as a loan counselor, while completing his MBA in Organizational Leadership from Ashford University. After graduating from Ashford in October 2010, Weeks moved from Iowa City back to the Des Moines area to pursue other career opportunities. Weeks has worked for the YMCA of Greater Des Moines for several years since 1999, and in his free time enjoys swimming, tennis, cooking and following Iowa Hawkeye sports.

Jason Wells, Sales/Marketing Manager, Internet Solver

Originally from the Chicago area, Jason Wells first came to Des Moines to attend Drake University, where he majored in News/Internet journalism and minored in management and marketing. Being part of the "brain drain," Wells returned to Chicago after graduation in 2004 to work as a product marketing specialist for CDW Corp. At the time, he didn’t know a future job opportunity would take him back to Des Moines, a place he is proud to call home. Today, Wells is a sales/marketing manager at Internet Solver and in seizing an opportunity to get more involved in the community, he joined the Young Professionals Connection (YPC) in 2008. Wells served as the 2011 president for YPC and is collaborating with many organizations to help the Des Moines young professional community thrive even more. In 2012 Wells will also join the YPIowa board in an effort to help grow YP groups around the state. Also passionate about sustainability, Wells sits on The Metro Planning Organization's Tomorrow Plan committee to represent the young professional demographic. Wells also reaches out to YPs as a contributing blogger for the Business Record's IowaBiz.com blog. Staying active in the Drake University community, Wells sits on the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication Alumni Council. During the winter, you can often find him cheering on the Drake Bulldogs basketball team. Wells is also known to be a music snob. As part of his music obsession, he has seen the Dave Matthews Band play 72 times so far. He enjoys attending shows with his two younger brothers, whom he wishes he could spend more time with.

Benjamin Williams, Staff Assistant, United States Senate

Benjamin Williams is a Staff Assistant for Iowa’s Progressive United Sates Senator Tom Harkin in Senator’s Des Moines office. There he enthusiastically juggles responsibilities regarding constituent services, casework, outreach, and the internship program. Williams has previously worked with many progressive campaigns and causes but credits his past work experience with Howard Dean’s Iowa caucus campaign in 2003-2004 as fundamental to his progressive roots and activism. He has a fiery passion for LGBT equality, Labor rights, and cares deeply about the plight of the middle class. Williams is a graduate of Simpson College where he studied early American History and Religion. He hails from the very rural northwest Iowa town of Pocahontas, affectionately known as the, “Princess City.” He is also an avid early 20th Century history guru, including his hero and progressive champion Theodore Roosevelt. Additionally, Williams loves to travel and notes that he has been to six countries including Australia where he lived for six months as a participant in a community service learning study abroad program.