Our Advisors

Board of Advisors

Jill Beck Ph.D.

Jill Beck is President Emerita of Lawrence University, where she served as president from 2004-2013. A native of Worcester, Massachusetts, she received her B.A. in philosophy from Clark University, M.A. in history and music from McGill University, and Ph.D. in theatre from the City University of New York. A recognized authority on arts education, she was a scholar and a practitioner of dance and choreography and has written extensively in the fields of dance history, theory, repertory, and technique and has directed ballet and modern dance repertory internationally. After serving on the faculties of the City College of the City University of New York (1978-1993) and The Juilliard School (1985-1995), she became dean of the School of the Arts at the University of California, Irvine (1995 to 2003), where she was the driving force behind the establishment of two innovative programs for furthering the impact of the arts – the Center for Learning Through the Arts, an interdisciplinary center for research focused on learning across disciplines, and ArtsBridge America. She continues to be active in professional organizations and is co-author of the upcoming article, “The Banyan Tree Spirits: Using Photography to Commune with the Natural World,” in the International Journal of Religion and Spirituality. She is a recipient of the Disney Corporation’s Jack Linquist Award for Innovation, given in recognition of ArtsBridge America’s creative approach to social problems; the American Red Cross Association’s Clara Barton Award for humanitarian service in the arts; and the University of California, Irvine, Medal, the university’s highest honor, for “visionary leadership in building community.”  Dr. Beck is married to Robert J. Beck, Ph.D., professor emeritus of education at UCI, where he taught research and evaluation methods in the university’s doctoral program in education.

James Blumenfeld

James built a career as a senior marketing executive, with a dynamic management career and track record of success in Fortune 100, business start-up and non-profit environments.  He has conceptualized, spearheaded and supported marketing, branding, and communications programs that generated millions of dollars in revenues and expanded market share for leading brands within short time frames.

James specializes in strategic branding, marketing planning, communication strategies, new product development, competitive positioning and project management. James served as Chief Marketing Officer for a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ameritrade, Vice President of Marketing for Citibank’s virtual venture Citi-f/i, Director of Marketing for The Coca Cola Company in their Global Marketing Group and various marketing and new product positions with Nabisco and Ralston Purina. For the past 18 years, Jim has run his own marketing and business consulting firm called The WilMark Group based in Delray Beach Florida.

Ten years ago, James introduced the WilMark Group Foundation that provides the same breadth of services as The WilMark Group at deeply discounted prices for non-profit organizations. The Foundation has provided services to organizations focused on autism, education, equality, fighting AIDS, the fine arts and civic engagement.

James’s studies empowered a life-long appreciation and collection of the fine arts leading him to open the mAe Gallery in Delray Beach, Florida which he owned for nearly 3 years.

James has served on several non-profit boards including Childcare Learning Centers, Stamford, CT (Chair); The Hope & Help Center, Orlando, FL, The Board of Trustees for the Paragon School, Winter Park, FL (Chair) and Education Rocks, Delray Beach, FL. He has also served as the President of the Parent-Teacher Organization at his son’s school, The American Heritage School, also in Delray Beach.

James has a husband, a married daughter with three grandchild and a son in his late teens. He has a BA in Art History from the George Washington University in Washington, DC (1985) and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri (1989).

Peter Grossman

Peter has had a career in International Banking working in the Philippines, Thailand, Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria, and Italy.  He supervised the Latin American Region and International Private Banking at Bankers Trust Company and held similar positions at American Express Bank. He has long had an interest in emerging markets writing his graduate thesis at Columbia on French West Africa. The economics and politics of developing countries along with his background in political science have given him a broad perspective on the issues facing governments abroad and the challenges of creating functioning democracies.

Peter has been working with Civic Life for several years as he continues to support its efforts to spark civic engagement and voting by America’s youth. The current effort to establish a National Dialogue among America’s youth through the 2020 Film Challenge is the culmination of years of work to make civics and civic engagement and voting relevant through the compelling stories by Americans about the issues they care about.

Peter has a BA from Bowdoin College with a major in Political Science, an MA from the School of Public Law and Government at Columbia as well as an MBA from the Columbia Business School.

Barbara Moller

Barbara Kahn Moller left a Wall Street career in equity and fixed income research in 1991 to move to Germany with her husband and two young children.  In 1998 the family relocated to London and remained there until 2013.  While abroad Barbara volunteered for a variety of educational and arts organizations.  She has a BA from Skidmore College and an MBA from The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania.  Barbara is a member of the Skidmore College Board of Trustees, chair of the Francis Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery National Advisory Council, and a member of the Women’s Support Services Board of Directors.   She recently became an Advisor to the Civic Life Project and is determined to help expand the reach of the project and help the next generation of leaders learn the importance of well researched, non-partisan civilized discourse.

Bill Moyers

Bill began his journalism career at age 16 as a cub reporter on the Marshall News Messenger. He earned his B.A. in journalism with honors from the University of Texas at Austin in 1956, and three years later received his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at Fort Worth, Texas. After serving as deputy director of the Peace Corps during the Kennedy Administration, he became the press secretary for former President Lyndon B. Johnson. As the first presidential spokesperson to make the transition to journalist, he has a unique perspective on the forces affecting news coverage. Moyers left the White House in 1967 to become publisher of Newsday, served as editor-in-chief of Bill Moyers’ Journal an award-winning program on public television, from 1970-76, and then moved on to CBS. He has also served as president of The Florence and John Schumann Foundation, and was a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation for 12 years.

Bill has been recognized with many major awards, including over 30 Emmys; the Erik Barnouw Award from the Organization of American Historians; the George Foster Peabody Award for political reporting and international coverage; and the Gold Baton, the highest honor of the Alfred I. duPont/Columbia University Award. Five of the books based on his television series, among them the 1971 work Listening to America have become bestsellers.

Parker J. Palmer Ph.D.

Parker J. Palmer is a writer, speaker and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality and social change. He is the founder and Senior Partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal, which oversees long-term retreat programs for people in the serving professions, including teachers, administrators, physicians, clergy, non-profit leaders and philanthropists.

Palmer holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley, as well as ten honorary doctorates, two Distinguished Achievement Awards from the National Educational Press Association, and an Award of Excellence from the Associated Church Press.  He is the author of nine books, including several best-selling and award-winning titles: Healing the Heart of Democracy, The Courage to Teach, A Hidden Wholeness, Let Your Life Speak, The Active Life, To Know As We Are Known, The Company of Strangers, The Promise of Paradox, and The Heart of Higher Education.  His latest book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, was chosen by Spirituality & Practice as one of the best books of 2011 on contemplation and social activism.

In 1998, the Leadership Project, a national survey of 10,000 educators, named Dr. Palmer one of the thirty “most influential senior leaders” in higher education and one of the ten key “agenda-setters” of the past decade. Since 2002, the Accrediting Commission for Graduate Medical Education has given annual Parker J. Palmer “Courage to Teach” and “Courage to Lead” Awards to directors of exemplary medical residency programs. In 2005, Living the Questions: Essays Inspired by the Work and Life of Parker J. Palmer, was published. In 2010, Palmer was given the William Rainey Harper Award whose previous recipients include Margaret Mead, Elie Wiesel, Marshall McLuhan, and Paolo Freire. In 2011, the Utne Reader named him one of 25 Visionaries on its annual list of “People Who are Changing the World.” A member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker), Dr. Palmer lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Marietta Robinson

Marietta S. Robinson was nominated by President Barack Obama as Commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in January 2013, was confirmed by the Senate in June 2013, and served a five-year term that ended in June 2018.

Ms. Robinson spent the calendar year of 2019 as a Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow. Since her departure from the CPSC, Ms. Robinson has also served as a Distinguished Fellow for Consumer Protection at the American Constitution Society, and is presently a Professorial Lecturer in Law at George Washington University School of Law, and a member of the Board of Managerial Trustees for the International Association of Women Judges.

Prior to becoming a CPSC Commissioner, Ms. Robinson practiced as a trial attorney for 35 years, handling a wide variety of complex litigation for both plaintiffs and defendants.  MsRobinson served from 1989 to 1997 as a federally-appointed trustee of the Dalkon Shield Trust, which disbursed more than $2.4 billion to more than 300,000 claimants in over 120 countries. In 2000, she was the Democratic nominee for the Michigan Supreme Court.  In 2011, Ms. Robinson served as independent legal counsel to the Chair of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission in Liberia.  She has taught as an adjunct professor at several law schools over the years including Wayne State University School of Law and Duke School of Law. In 2015, she was a speaker in the Distinguished Speaker Series of the World Bank Executive Committee. Ms. Robinson is a Fellow of the International Society of Barristers and served as its first woman president from 2010 to 2011.

In 2009, Ms. Robinson was appointed by Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow as a member of the Judicial Advisory Committee for the Eastern District of Michigan and, from 1985 to 1989, she was on the Michigan State Building Authority. She has also served on a number of professional and charitable boards, is a Fellow of the American and Michigan Bar Associations and is a Member of the International Women’s Foundation. She has been listed for more than 20 years in Who’s Who in The World, In America, In American Law and of American Women.

David Scobey Ph.D.

David Scobey is Senior Scholar at The Graduate! Network, a national organization that fosters educational opportunity for adult, working college students.  From 1989 to 2005, he was a member of the University of Michigan faculty, teaching U.S. history and American Studies in the College of Literatures, Sciences, and the Arts, and urban and architectural history in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.  In 1998, he founded the Arts of Citizenship Program at UM, an initiative that fostered public work and community projects in the arts, humanities, and design.  Between 2005 and 2010, he was the Donald W. and Ann M. Harward Professor of Community Partnerships at Bates College, serving as the inaugural Director of the Harward Center for Community Partnerships. From 2010 to 2014, he was the founding Executive Dean of the School for Public Engagement at The New School in New York City.

David Scobey holds a doctorate from the Program in American Studies at Yale University, a Diploma in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford, and a B.A. in English Literature (summa cum laude) from Yale University. His historical scholarship focuses on culture, politics, urbanism, and space in 19th-century America. He is the author of Empire City: The Making and Meaning of the New York City Landscape (Temple University Press, 2002), as well as other studies of U.S. cultural and urban history. He writes extensively on the condition and recent history of American higher education.  His current research centers on the needs of nontraditional undergraduates—the large majority of U.S. college students—and their importance to the future of higher education.

For twenty years, David Scobey has sought to foster the democratic purposes of higher education. In his writing, teaching, and programmatic initiatives, he has worked to build bridges between academic and public work, especially through the integration of community engagement into liberal education and the full inclusion of nontraditional students into higher education.  He has been active in national efforts on behalf of these goals, serving on advisory boards for Project Pericles, the Bringing Theory To Practice project, and Imagining America: Artists and Scholars In Public Life.

David Scobey is the recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship, a Senior Research Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, and other research fellowships and awards.  He is a member of the New York Academy of History.  He was awarded an Excellence in Education Award and the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award by the University of Michigan, and he was a finalist for the Thomas Ehrlich Prize, a national faculty award given for community-based education.

Frank Sesno

Frank is Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University, an Emmy-award winning journalist, and host and creator of Planet Forward, a ground-breaking web-to-television show seen on PBS.  Sesno’s diverse career spans over 30 years of experience, including 21 years at CNN where Sesno served as White House correspondent, anchor, and Washington Bureau Chief. He is currently hosting a ten-part series for public television that explores news and communication in the digital age titled, “The Future of News with Frank Sesno,” at the Newseum in Washington D.C.As a journalist, Sesno has interviewed business and government leaders including U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan and former General Electric Co. CEO Jack Welch, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He covered stories ranging from the Iraq War, the disputed U.S. presidential election of 2000, and the historic series of superpower summits during the 1980s.

Before joining CNN in 1984, Sesno worked as a radio correspondent at the White House and in London for the Associated Press. He has won several prestigious journalistic awards, including an Emmy, several cable ACE awards, and an Overseas Press Club Award. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Sesno holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Middlebury College and serves on the Washington Advisory Board of the Posse Foundation, on the Board of Trustees of the Potomac School in McLean, VA, and on the Educational Advisory Board of CINE 2009.

Kate Stiassni

A summer job doing public relations for a fair housing organization piqued Kate Stiassni’s interest in becoming a journalist.  With an internship at the PBS Newshour and several lucky breaks, she landed a first job out of college at CBS News.  What followed was a 20-year career covering stories for the CBS flagship broadcasts, THE EVENING NEWS, 60 MINUTES, AND SUNDAY MORNING WITH CHARLES OSGOOD.

Journalism and television production were the foundation for Kate’s subsequent ventures; launching her own real estate development company, Imagine Design and Construction, and becoming a textile artist. Kate exhibits her art quilts nationally in galleries, museums, and juried exhibitions.  Throughout her career, Kate has always been involved with non-profit organizations such as the Riverside Park Fund in NYC, the Northwest CT Arts Council, The Northeast Community Center in Millerton, NY,  the University of Vermont, and The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT.  She hopes her work with the Civic Life Project will help more students to have life changing experiences!

Kate received a BA from the University of Vermont and has studied architecture, art, and design at the Columbia University School of Architecture, Parson School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC.

Civic Life Project and Youth Film Challenge