Des Moines 2018 Fellows

Meet the 2018 Des Moines Fellows
(back to NLC 2018 Fellows)

Marlú Abarca

Bilingual Services Library Assistant, Des Moines Public Library

Des_Moines_Marlu_Abarca_-_Marlu_Abarca.jpgMarlú Abarca was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She moved to Iowa in 2010 to attend Grinnell College, where she studied Psychology with a concentration in language acquisition; she was the first in her family to attend and graduate from college. After graduating in 2014, she joined AmeriCorps*VISTA where she worked for two years building capacity around higher-educational resources and services for Latinos in Central Iowa. In 2016, she became one of the youngest commissioners to be appointed by an Iowa Governor to the Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs where she now serves as Vice Chair. She volunteers her time serving on several Boards of Directors, including as President of ¡Al Éxito!--a state-wide mentorship program for Latino youth, and DREAM Iowa, a network of Iowa DREAMers. Ms. Abarca is a recent graduate of the Latina Leadership Initiative of Greater Des Moines, class of 2016. In 2017, she received a Graduate Certificate in Professional Fundraising from Boston University. Abarca resides in Des Moines, where she works as a Bilingual Services Library Assistant at Des Moines Public Library (DMPL). Through her position, she ensures that the Library is a welcoming environment that engages the community, celebrates culture, and promotes literacy. Her passion involves supporting and empowering youth, creating opportunities for her community, and pursuing social justice and equity. She hopes to use her experience to serve the Greater Des Moines Community by running for City Council in 2019.

Tammy Armstrong

Informatics Analyst III, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield

Des_Moines_-_Tammy_Armstrong.jpgTammy is passionate about using data to solve problems and make the world a better place. In her career, she has put her analytical skills to use toward the causes of healthcare and education. As an Informatics Analyst at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, she uses speech analytics to improve the customer experience and administrative efficiency. Before graduate school, she worked in independent education fundraising as the Director of Analytics for Oregon Episcopal School in Portland, Oregon, and as an alumni relations associate at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania. Tammy also serves as the Treasurer of Reboot Iowa, a nonprofit startup dedicated to educating adults in computer science. In her spare time, Tammy uses data science to explore everyday questions on her website, littledatablog.com. Projects have included sentiment analysis of the 2016 presidential debates, explorations of Polk County inmate data, and a meal planning web app. Tammy has an MS in Analytics from North Carolina State University, where she was the team leader for her practicum project optimizing hurricane evacuation routes. She also has a BA in Economics from Gettysburg College, where she studied the effects of income on child labor incidence worldwide, and was the president of her ultimate frisbee club. Tammy enjoys playing soccer with her husband, snuggling with their infant daughter and two cats.

Jessica Avant

Benefits Counselor, Mercer

DesMoinesIA-Jessica-Avant_-_Jessica_Avant.jpgJessica Avant currently works as a Benefits Counselor at Mercer, where she assists individuals and employees with understanding and enrolling in health and life insurance. She also serves as Political Action Chair for the Iowa Nebraska NAACP State Conference working to educate, train and organize NAACP units across the two states. She also sits on the City of Des Moines Park and Recreation Board. Since 2012, Jessica has served as Campaign Manager for District 32 State Representative Ruth Ann Gaines and served as Dallas County Field Organizer for the Iowa Democratic Party's Coordinated Campaign in 2014. Jessica is a graduate of Des Moines Area Community College in Liberal Arts and Iowa State University in Political Science. While in college, she coached and judged Congressional and Public Forum Debate and Speech as Assistant Coach for Des Moines East High School, her old team. She also helped to charter and reactivate three NAACP College Chapters. Jessica enjoys completing puzzles, reading and volunteering in her spare time. She has a big passion for historical and science documentaries and comic books. Before moving to Des Moines in 2004, Jessica grew up in Richmond, California.

Bobby Baccam

CBI Case Manager, Woodward Community Based Services

Desmoines_Bobby_Baccam_-_bobbyJAYbaccam.jpgBobby Baccam is an Iowa native, where he grew up in Pleasant Hill, Iowa. Bobby comes from a family of Tai Dam refugees who settled in Iowa back in 1975. He was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and remains actively involved in the Tai Dam Community. After graduating from Southeast Polk High School, Bobby attended Iowa State University where he obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. Bobby started interning at YSS in Ames, Iowa, while attending Iowa State University. He later obtained a job and worked as a Youth Addiction Specialist at YSS Residential Treatment Program. After graduating from Iowa State University, Bobby moved back home to Pleasant Hill and started working at IHYC as a Youth Advocate. Bobby currently works at Woodward Community Based Services as Community Based Intervention Case Manager, where he helps youths who are involved with the Juvenile Court System through their probation. As a CBI Case Manager, Bobby helps the youths get involved and learn to function within the community. Through his time at Woodward Community Based Services, Bobby has seen a relationship between mental health and those involved with the Juvenile Court/Criminal Justice System. To better help youths remain outside of the criminal justice system, Bobby would like to work more on the mental health side, while still remaining involved in the justice system. Bobby is currently working on obtaining his CADC and becoming a substance abuse counselor. In his free time, Bobby enjoys taking on many hobbies such as music, creating videos, doing outdoor activities, and taking on any challenges that comes his way.

Austin Baeth

Physician, UnityPoint Clinic

Des_Moines_Austin_Baeth_-_Austin_Baeth.jpgAustin Baeth is an internal medicine physician with UnityPoint Clinic in Des Moines. He has been an outspoken advocate for creating a more equitable and sustainable health care system and has focused his volunteer efforts on medical outreach. He is a staff physician at La Clinica de la Esperanza which provides free or low-cost comprehensive health care to Latino immigrant families in Central Iowa. He also sees patients at a free clinic set up in the nursery of Christ the King Parish on the south side of Des Moines. Austin is a native of Des Moines and attended Hoover High School before going to the University of Iowa to earn a Bachelor of Science in Physiology. He then spent a year backpacking through Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America before returning to the University of Iowa to earn a medical degree. He completed his internal medicine residency at the University of Colorado in Denver and then returned to Des Moines to start his practice. Austin has since been appointed as Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine by the University of Iowa and teaches residents and medical students on the Des Moines campus. He enjoys time with family and friends, fly fishing, and traveling.

Matt Becke

Event Coordinator, The Outreach Program

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Matt was born in Reno, NV and grew up in Denver, CO, before moving to small rural town in Iowa when he was 16. While the initial culture shock has never been something he has entirely gotten over, he has happily made a home in Des Moines with his partner and two daughters.

Matt spent his 20’s living on the fringe of society and eventually served 8 months in an Iowa prison on non-violent cannabis charges. This experience with the criminal justice system had a profound affect on his worldview and acted as a catalyst that engendered a new passion for education and activism. Following his release from incarceration Matt pursued an education that has garnered him an Associates Degree from Des Moines Area Community College and a Bachelors degree in Law, Politics & Society from Drake University. In addition, in 2016 he successfully completed the arduous process of having his citizenship rights reinstated by the Governor of Iowa.

He is pursuing a career in law to provide a unique and direly needed perspective on the prison industrial complex. He hopes to serve as a Public Defender and dreams of someday opening a legal non-profit to help the disenfranchised access quality legal care. He believes it is not the fall that defines us, but how we pick ourselves back up.

Elizabeth Blind

Membership & Database Coordinator, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

Des_Moines_Elizabeth_Blind_-_Elizabeth_Blind.jpgOriginally from several small towns in eastern Iowa, Elizabeth currently lives in Des Moines. After graduating from the University of Iowa in 2012 with a BA in Anthropology and a Museum Studies Certificate, she decided to take a chance and move to the ‘big city’. Her chance paid off and she is currently the Membership & Database Coordinator for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Iowa CCI is a 42 year-old grassroots community-organizing group that believes people should be put over corporate profit and works for climate, economic, and racial justice. Through her work at Iowa CCI, Elizabeth pushes for meaningful change in her community and across the state by working collaboratively to develop grassroots fundraising strategies and communicate organizational work to their 4,300 dues paying members. Outside of work, Elizabeth spends her free time trying new recipes, planning trips, spending time with her friends and family, going to art museums, and having impromptu photo shoots with her two cats. Having just purchased her first home this past summer, she looks forward to starting a garden, working on her house, and becoming an active member of her neighborhood.

Janae Burgmeier

Financial Crimes Specialist, Wells Fargo

DesMoines_Janae_Burgmeier_-_Janae_Burgmeier.jpegJanae is an Iowa native from Cedar Rapids who has found a great home and a great community of friends here in Des Moines. She currently works at Wells Fargo in their Dealer Risk Mitigation department. Janae is also in the final stages of her Masters of Business Administration at Drake University. Janae obtained her undergrad degree at Grand View University and upon graduating in 2011; she served in AmeriCorps NCCC with their inaugural FEMA Corps class. Janae traveled with her team throughout the east coast to assist areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. In 2013, Janae served another year of AmeriCorps as a VISTA with the United Way of Central Iowa. Currently, she is very active with the National Federation of the Blind and serves on their Iowa student board as vice president. She assists the organization both on the national and local level with social media, community service, fundraising and event planning. In her spare time, Janae enjoys going to trivia, reading, bowling and hiking. She hopes to continue collaborating with others to make Des Moines an even greater place to live.

Keenan Crow

Director of Policy and Advocacy, One Iowa

DesMoines_Keenan_Crow_-_Keenan_Crow.jpgKeenan Crow was born in Tuscon, Arizona. He has lived in various parts of Arizona, Texas, and Missouri, but considers Iowa his home. Keenan graduated with a BA in Political Communications from the University of Northern Iowa, which included an internship at the Sioux City Water Treatment plant doing legislative oversight. Upon graduating he began working at Apple Inc. During his time at Apple, Keenan began interning with Chris Hall's 2010 campaign for Iowa Representative. The experience convinced him to go back to school and pursue a career in public policy. During graduate school, Keenan took internships and volunteer positions with diverse groups such as Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Cedar Valley Citizens for Undoing Racism. His graduate research, alongside the League of Women Voters of Iowa, focused on the racially disproportionate impacts of sentencing policy at the state level. Keenan graduated with a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Northern Iowa in 2013 and quickly took on a position as the Community Outreach Coordinator at One Iowa, a group he had volunteered with in graduate school. Keenan is currently the Director of Policy and Advocacy at One Iowa. In this role he has worked to train a diverse number of organizations and institutions around LGBTQ issues including K-16 educators, local and federal agencies, businesses, health care providers, and law enforcement facilities. As a lobbyist and policy analyst, he also works with state and local government officials to create policies that protect and advance LGBTQ equality in Iowa.

In his spare time, Keenan has a small home recording studio and performs with his partner, Brittany Deal, in a band known as BeetleBox. He also enjoys cooking, writing, reading, and spending time with Brittany and their two cats.

Kristen Daily

Grants Associate, Des Moines Art Center

Des_Moines_Kristen_Daily_-_Kristen_Daily.jpgKristen Daily is a writer, arts advocate, and food justice activist. She works as a Grants Associate at the Des Moines Art Center, where she is thrilled to pursue her passions—storytelling and arts advocacy—while utilizing her voice as a writer. She seeks to create tangible impact for a vibrant local and international arts community by securing support for exhibitions and programming for the museum, school, and sculpture park. Her interest in grant writing and nonprofit work began at Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF), a nonprofit land trust committed to land protection and conservation in Iowa. Writing grants gave her the opportunity to cultivate connections across the state and fully understand the importance of those relationships in leveraging funding and support. One of the things she loves most about this work is forming community connections—drawing upon the enthusiasm of those working on the ground and infusing that energy into her writing. After INHF, she pursued further grant and proposal writing experience at Minitex, a library resource-sharing program out of the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Department of Education. Prior to working at the Art Center, Kristen earned her Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University, where she taught writing and communications courses. As both a student and educator, curiosity and the desire to learn drives her work. Her creative writing—poetry and essays—explores identity through place, language, and food. She pursued this degree, as well her job at the Art Center, because she believes in the power art had to make us feel and respond. Art can create change and gives us ways to make meaning and speak to one another. As a vegetarian and food activist she is passionately involved in food politics and sustainable agriculture. When she’s not writing, Kristen can be found in the kitchen making ice cream, baking sourdough, or canning pickles. She is happiest exploring Iowa’s natural beauty by bike, working in her garden, and inventing new recipes in the kitchen.

Dawson Davenport

Human Trafficking Prevention Specialist, Meskwaki Victim Services

desmoines_dawson_davenport_-_Dawson_Davenport.jpgDawson Davenport is the Human Trafficking Prevention Specialist for the Meskwaki Victim Services. Dawson raises awareness about Human Trafficking in Native American communities, and in his own community, the Meskwaki Nation, in Iowa. Dawson is also a student at the University of Iowa, majoring in Graphic Design, and obtaining a certificate in Entrepreneurial Management. Dawson also is a host of his own radio show, called "We Still Here Radio", on 89.7 KRUI Iowa City, which aims to raise awareness about Native issues, and topics, as well as promote Native American musicians/artists. Dawson is also a member of the University of Iowa Native American Student Association, and served as Co-President. Dawson is also a recipient of the Diversity Catalyst Award from the University of Iowa. Dawson received his Associate of Arts degree from Marshalltown Community College. Dawson is also a entrepreneur, creating his own clothing brand, called Daepian Apparel. Daepian is an acronym he created meaning; Drive, Ambition, Empowerment, Progression, In All Natives. Dawson is also an environmental activist, raising money and awareness about the social and environmental injustices to Native American peoples, and lands. Through his activism Dawson co-founded a non-profit organization called Indigenous Iowa, which helps inform and educate people about those issues. Through this organization Dawson helped raise money for national causes by hosting concerts and other events in Iowa City. Dawson is a member of the Meskwaki Nation in Iowa, where he has worked for the Meskwaki Language Preservation Department, working to help preserve the Meskwaki language by creating resources and other ways to help his community learn. Dawson has also worked for Red Earth Gardens, a organic garden in the Meskwaki community, where he helped with the Elders Garden and the garden for the Meskwaki Settlement School. He has also served on the Meskwaki Nation Day committee, and the Meskwaki Annual Pow-Wow Association, planning for the yearly events and creating logos for the promotional products, and serving as Master of Ceremonies. He has also created several groups aimed to help his community, like the Concerned Parents Group, and a group to help people with substance abuse issues. Dawson is the proud father of Miles, Aaliyah, Waseaka, Annagleigh and Howard.

Hana Kajtazovic

Examiner, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

DesMoines_Hana_Kajtazovic_-_Hana_Kajtazovic.jpgHana Kajtazovic is an advocate for a wide range of economic justice issues, from the glass ceiling to financial literacy, and has worked in the progressive space for the past five years. Currently, she works as an examiner at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago where she ensures financial institutions adhere to consumer protection laws. She specializes in anti-discriminatory lending practices and community reinvestment regulations. Hana also worked on political campaigns, in the Iowa State Senate, and in non-profits focused on poverty alleviation. She credits her community organizing role on the 2012 Obama campaign as being the catalyst that took her from dreamer to achiever. Prior to her role at the Fed, she worked at Iowa Center for Economic Success, counseling local small business owners and helping them access capital through a microfinance initiative. As a first-generation Bosnian-American, she is also passionate about comprehensive immigration reform and educational equity. Hana has been an ESL teacher for Lutheran Services of Iowa and a reading mentor for Everybody Wins. The responsibility we feel to help others is not a burden, but rather a privilege and Hana’s everyday goal is to help others embrace that privilege and know that they can make a difference. She considers herself equal parts poet and quant. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Economics, with a minor in Philosophy, from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. She also spent time studying Public Policy abroad at Seoul National University in South Korea and is currently working on her MBA at the University of Iowa, Tippie College of Business. Hana lives in Des Moines, her hometown and favorite little big city, with her partner, Ryan, and their flock of backyard chickens. They all love to listen to “Planet Money” together.

Nadia La Fontant

Underserved Communities Specialist, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault

Des_Moines_Nadia_La_Fontant_-_Nadia_La_Fontant.jpgNadia La Fontant was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa and is Puerto Rican and a 2nd-generation Haitian-American. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Child, Adult, and Family Services from Iowa State University in 2013. Nadia has been involved and employed in the Anti-Violence Movement since 2012 as an Emergency Shelter Advocate and a Sexual Assault Advocate at ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter & Support). She was also employed at Mainstream Living and Easter Seals of Iowa during this time working with individuals with disabilities by providing a variety of services including vocational training, respite, and in-home care. Nadia currently serves as the Underserved Communities Specialist at the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault in Des Moines, Iowa where she provides support to a statewide group of advocates of color working in comprehensive sexual assault programs. She also assesses the needs of marginalized and other underserved populations; provides training and oversees efforts to work with correctional institutions so that they come into compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards; and provides consultation and support to member programs in these areas. As a self-identified activist, she has a passion for raising the voices of marginalized communities and has assisted in organizing a variety of social justice awareness events throughout Iowa. Nadia currently volunteers for the non-profit organization Train to Inspire where she assists in facilitating events for individuals with disabilities to provide opportunities to socialize and be active. When she is not working, volunteering, or involved in local activism, Nadia is outdoors hiking, reading, traveling, enjoying music festivals and concerts, or playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Blake Loomis

Self-Sufficiency Advocate, Iowa Homeless Youth Centers

Des_Moines_-_Blake_Loomis.pngAfter growing up on a farm in New Virginia, Iowa, Blake attended the University of Northern Iowa, as a first-generation college student, majoring in Spanish and Psychology. While at UNI, Blake was very active in student government and worked for Classic Upward Bound, mentoring first generation and/or low income students as they navigated high school and prepared for college. After graduating, Blake moved to New York and received his master’s degree in Political Psychology from Stony Brook University. While there, Blake wrote his thesis on the political empowerment of those in poverty. Since finishing his degree, Blake has worked at Orchard Place, a psychiatric mental institute for children, and now works at Iowa Homeless Youth Centers as a Self-Sufficiency Advocate for youth who have aged out of foster care and the court system. In the next year or two, Blake plans on attending a PhD program in social work and psychology, where he would investigate the shame of being lower social class and/or having undergone trauma and how this intersects with societal ideals of masculinity and can lead to socially deviant behaviors such as gang affiliation, sexual and relational violence, academic disengagement, etc. Blake is passionate about mental health, social class, immigration and education issues and, more broadly, working to ameliorate oppression. Outside of work, Blake enjoys reading (really enjoys reading, he owns over 1,000 books), hiking, listening to music, and developing relationships and friendships.

Taylor McKee

Development Coordinator, Iowa Homeless Youth Centers

Des_Moines_Taylor_McKee_-_Taylor_McKee.jpgAn Iowa native, Taylor McKee grew up in Clinton, Iowa, and studied Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Iowa. It was there that she became involved in nonprofit work through leadership positions with Campus Activities Board and Dance Marathon. Taylor was also accepted and completed Iowa’s Entrepreneurial Venture School. Taylor is now the Development Coordinator for Iowa Homeless Youth Centers, an organization that works to end homelessness among youth and young families in Central Iowa. She helps connect individuals with volunteer opportunities, plans events, creates interactive classes, runs the social media, and focuses on fundraising and grant writing efforts for the organization. Taylor also serves as the 2018 President of the Des Moines Jaycees Chapter, a nonprofit organization that provides development opportunities that empower young people to create positive change in the Des Moines Community. During her free time, Taylor plays ice hockey, enjoys reading, going to concerts, cooking, and exploring nature.

Adriyel Mondloch

1st Five Family Outreach Specialist, HCI & VNS of Iowa

Des_Moines_Adriyel_Mondloch_-_Adriyel_Mondloch.jpgGrowing up in the Des Moines metro with parents who taught in the Des Moines Public School District, Adriyel observed early on the importance of building strong communities. She has worked to build more inclusive, equitable, and just communities everywhere she has lived. While earning her B.A. in anthropology at Grinnell College, Adriyel was awarded a grant to develop a community enrichment program which explored concepts related to diversity, education, and building inclusive spaces. After graduation, she combined these areas of interest by joining Lutheran Volunteer Corps and working as a mentor and tutor for at-risk high school youth in Milwaukee, WI. In addition to providing academic support, Adriyel directed extra-curricular activities including volleyball, slam poetry, and yearbook. After her time in Milwaukee, Adriyel decided to return to the Des Moines community to join an AmeriCorps program that aimed to strengthen students’ connections to their community through volunteer opportunities. Her projects included developing and facilitating a service-learning club centered on student-led action and creating inquiry driven lessons that aligned with the school’s International Baccalaureate program. Adriyel’s investment in education and youth led her to pursue her current position at Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa. Through partnerships with medical providers participating in the 1st Five program, Adriyel helps families connect with community services to improve social, financial, and developmental outcomes for families and children. Adriyel is passionate about trauma-informed care, combating adverse childhood experiences, and advocating for early childhood education. Outside of her professional work, Adriyel enjoys entertaining friends and family, playing tennis, and volunteering for Iowa Homeless Youth Centers.

Sarah Myren

Parenting and Life Skills Specialist, Young Women's Resource Center

Des_Moines_Sarah_Myren_-_Sarah_Myren.JPGSarah Myren moved from Minnesota to Iowa in 2006 to attend Simpson College. She received her Bachelors in Sociology with Minors in French, Spanish and Social Work in 2010. Shortly after, she completed two years of AmeriCorps*VISTA at Children and Family Urban Movement and the Des Moines chapter of the "I Have a Dream" Foundation, where she served youth and their families. In 2012, she transitioned into her position as Latino Outreach Coordinator and Behavioral Health Intervention Specialist at Orchard Place. In July of 2017, she began working at Young Women's Resource Center as a Parenting and Life Skills Specialist, with close to a decade of experience working with Latinx Iowans. In her free time, Sarah enjoys volunteering as a Board Member of Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors, and supports grassroot efforts to improve Latinx students' graduation rates through the Latino Forum of Central Iowa. Sarah's expertise in Communications and Public Relations, Web Development/Social Media Management, Conflict Resolution, and Capacity Building give her the ability to pursue her passion for social justice and equity. Through the New Leaders Council, she hopes to gain experience in Fundraising, Canvasing and Public Speaking. She believes these new skills will help her reach her personal and professional goals. In ten years, she hopes to achieve her dream of directing a nonprofit that supports her immigrant and refugee neighbors.

Robert Rushing

Managing Member, 1st Place Home Buyers, LLC

Des_Moines_-_Robert_Rushing(1).jpgRobert Rushing is a native within the King Irving Neighborhood of Des Moines, Iowa. Growing up, Mr. Rushing attended King Elementary, Callanan Middle School, and a 2009 graduate from Hoover High. Respect, wisdom, and manners were leadership qualities that were instilled in him by his grandparents. The King Irving community gave Robert the strength and courage to go after his dreams. The community served as a reminder to never forget where you have come from. In 2012, Mr. Rushing pursued one of his dreams and opened a real-estate company known as 1st Place Home Buyers, LLC. Mr. Rushing has been involved in many real-estate transactions providing services to first-time home buyers, renters, and sellers. Respecting his humbleness, he acknowledges God first in all his endeavors, is grateful for his family’s support, and strives to continue to use his business mentality to pursue his life goals.

Megan Srinivas

Infectious Diseases Fellow, University of North Carolina School of Medicine

DesMoines_Megan_Srinivas_-_Megan_Srinivas.jpgMegan Srinivas grew up in Fort Dodge, Iowa, the daughter of two Indian immigrants. As a third grader, Megan began volunteering in local homeless and domestic abuse shelters, founding the Presents of Hope organization that targeted helping these vulnerable populations in her local community. Since that time, she has dedicated her life to addressing disparities in health resource allocation and public health issues domestically and abroad. As a high school student, Megan was the first student member of the Iowa State Board of Education, appointed by Secretary Tom Vilsack. She advocated for comprehensive health education in public schools, serving on the National Association of State Boards of Education health education policy group. As a 16-year old, she was selected as the youngest World Food Prize (WFP) Foundation international intern in the organization’s history and spent 3 months working in Kenya analyzing the factors influencing household food security in rural Africa. She was awarded WFP's John Chrystal Award for outstanding contribution to hunger issues.

In Megan’s freshman year of college at Harvard University, she co-founded the Boston branch of Peer Health Exchange, a non-profit that focuses on teaching comprehensive health education in socioeconomically-disadvantaged high schools. As her college senior thesis project, she studied the factors contributing to the evolution of malarial drug resistance in South America, making policy recommendations used by the Peruvian Ministry of Health to amend treatment standards. Her work earned Harvard College's prestigious Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize. While earning her MPH at Harvard School of Public Health, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies funded Megan's investigation of healthcare stigma and discrimination impeding HIV treatment in Brazil. In medical school at the University of Iowa, Megan received a Barry Goldman Fellowship to expand the project to India. As a medical student, she also co-founded the Professional and Graduate Student State Lobby Day, now held annually in Iowa’s Capitol. Megan is one of 26 Medical Resident/Fellow delegates to the national American Medical Association (AMA). Megan graduated from Harvard College in 2009 with an AB cum laude in Human Evolutionary Biology and minors in Spanish, health policy, and Latin American studies. She earned her Medical Degree from the University of Iowa in 2014, her Masters in Public Health from Harvard University in 2014, completed internal medicine residency at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2017, and is an infectious diseases fellow at the University of North Carolina.

Ashley Vanorny

IT Support Analyst, University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics

Des_Moines_Ashley_Vanorny_-_Ashley_Vanorny.jpgAshley Vanorny is a Cedar Rapids resident and native, working as an IT Support Analyst for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, rated America’s 7th best large employer by Forbes in 2016. She currently is in the first year of her 2-year term serving on the Staff Council (a non- bargaining committee) representing staff interests for the University of Iowa, where she is also placed on the HR Committee. Ashley is underway in her pursuit of her Masters in Health Care Administration from Des Moines University, having served as a co-facilitator in the Kaiser Permanente Diversity & Health Film Series. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with an emphasis on Neuroscience and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with an emphasis on International Relations and American Institutions. She also holds an Associates of Science in Criminal Justice Studies from Kirkwood Community College. Ashley holds civic and non-profit engagement close to her heart. She currently serves as a Co-Chair for Project Provide the Advocacy Committee which will focuses on foster care and human trafficking advocacy. She also volunteers her time with Families Helping Families of Iowa Inc. which provides clothing, activities, and scholarships among other things for children who are currently in foster care. Ashley served on the planning committee for a summer fundraising event for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. Ashley also gives back to her sorority by serving in the capacity as the Education Vice President Advisor for Rho Gamma Phi Beta at the University of Iowa overseeing scholarship, ritual, and sisterhood efforts. She is also a member of the League of Women Voters of Cedar Rapids and will serves as the Secretary for the board in the 2017-2018 term. Ashley also currently serves on the board of the Hawkeye Chapter of the ACLU which represents the local interests of Johnson County and its 7 surrounding counties.