Katayoun Alidadi, PhD (Katie, pronounced “Cat-tee”)
Assistant Professor of Legal Studies, Bryant University
Katayoun Alidadi is an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island, specializing in comparative law, law and religion, and the intersection of human rights and business law. She is also a Research Partner at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany. Originally from Tehran, Iran, her family fled Iran after the 1979 revolution and settled in Belgium where they were recognized as political refugees. She went on to complete her law degree at the KU Leuven in Leuven, Belgium. She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and grant from the Belgian-American Educational Foundation (B.E.A.F.) to continue her studies in the U.S. and obtained an LL.M. in International Legal Studies from Harvard law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her doctoral thesis analyzed and compared the legal treatment of religious symbols and practices in employment relations and unemployment benefits litigation in both Europe and North America. She successfully defended the thesis in 2015 at the KU Leuven before a prominent jury which included UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Heiner Bielefeldt. She has won various research and writing awards, including the 2013 Ius Commune Prize for her research on reasonable accommodation for religion and belief and the Addison Brown Prize at Harvard Law School for her paper on the recognition of Islamic talaq (divorce) in Western jurisdictions. Prior to entering academia, she practiced law, first with the international law firm Clifford Chance LLP in Brussels and later with Public Counsel Law Center in Los Angeles. She was also a reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Before joining Bryant University, she taught conflict of laws at the University of Houston Law Center and was a post-doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Germany. She is the author of Religion, Equality and Employment in Europe: The Case for Reasonable Accommodation (Hart, 2017, honorable mention from the International Academy of Comparative Law for the 2018 Canada Prize) and co-editor of A Test of Faith: Religious diversity and accommodation in the European workplace (Ashgate, 2012) and Belief, Law and Politics. What Future for a Secular Europe? (Ashgate, 2014), Public Commissions on Cultural and Religious Diversity: Analysis, Reception and Challenges (Routledge, 2018) and Redesigning Justice for Plural Societies: Case studies of Minority Accommodation from around the Globe (Routledge, 2022). She was Principal Investigator of a project titled “Religious Services in the Age of Social Distancing: Rhode Island Narratives and Snapshots”, which explored how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected religious communities in Rhode Island. This project benefited greatly from a mini-grant awarded by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities in the summer of 2021.
Executive Counsel, Rhode Island Department of Health
Kenny Alston began his legal career over 20 years ago in New York City. After practicing for more than six years in the corporate department of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, LLP (an internationally recognized law firm), he landed successive in-house positions at publicly traded companies, focusing on corporate, transactional, and securities regulatory matters (the first, a real estate investment trust eventually purchased by Deutsche Bank; and the second, Weight Watchers International, Inc.). After 12 years of maximizing shareholder profits, Kenny shifted gears and found different professional challenges in politics and government. He staffed the gubernatorial campaign of then-Senator Lincoln D. Chafee, was hired as a legal counsel for Governor-elect Chafee in the fall of 2010 and, after several promotions to key legal and policy roles in the administration, was selected as Governor Chafee’s Chief of Staff in February 2014. Kenny currently serves the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), the State’s sole, consolidated public health agency, as Executive Counsel. He oversees RIDOH’s entire legal function, comprising a varied portfolio of internal and external compliance; subject matter advocacy; representation of the agency and certain of its health-related boards in administrative hearings; contract review and management; legislative and regulatory surveillance, drafting, negotiation, and modification; and first chairing litigation matters (from Family to Supreme Court). Kenny is a graduate of Brown University and The University of Chicago Law School. A member of the Rhode Island and New York bars, in his free time, he enjoys singing the baritone part, deconstructing cultural phenomena, and flipping through stacks of post-1985, pre-2000 white label vinyl.
Global Real Estate Advisor
Cherry Arnold is a Global Real Estate Advisor with Mott & Chace Sotheby’s International Realty. Cherry is also an EMMY-award winning Filmmaker and has a background working in marketing and venture capital in New York City. Cherry has served on the board of New Urban Arts and is an active supporter of many non-profits, including the RI Food Bank, The RI Nature Conservancy, The Sakonnet Preservation Association, and The Public’s Radio (RI Public Radio).
Tiffini Bowers, Vice Chair
Exhibitions Curator, John Hay Library, Brown University
Tiffini Bowers is an award-winning museum curator with over 15 years of experience. She is currently the Exhibitions Curator at the John Hay Library at Brown University. Tiffini has worked with numerous museums, cultural institutions, and entertainment organizations including the Smithsonian Institution, Hermosa Beach Historical Society, Hollywood Black Film Festival, Autry/Southwest Museum of the American Indian, and the California African American Museum. In addition to libraries, Tiffini has a love of synchronized swimming, film, and culinary history. She received her Master of Arts in History-Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program.
C. Alexander Chiulli, Esq.
Attorney at Law, Savage Law Partners LLP
C. Alexander Chiulli is an attorney at Savage Law Partners LLP, in Providence, Rhode Island. Alex provides legal counsel to individuals, emerging businesses, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions with respect to intellectual property, Internet law, privacy and information law, entrepreneurship, and the First Amendment as well as education law, general liability, employment, contract, and corporate matters. Previously, Alex worked at Barton Gilman LLP, a litigation firm with offices in Boston, Providence, Philadelphia, and New York. In 2013, Alex graduated from Suffolk Law School, with distinction in the area of intellectual property and received Suffolk Law’s Stanley W. Sokoloff Intellectual Property Award. He was a judicial intern for the Rhode Island Superior Court, assisting the Honorable Judith Savage. Upon graduating, Alex served as a judicial law clerk for the Rhode Island Superior Court, assisting the Honorable Sarah Taft-Carter, the Honorable Luis Matos, and the Honorable Brian Van Couyghen. Prior to law school, Alex worked for a range of businesses, from Fortune 500 to start-up, in the areas of business development, project management, and research. A native of the Edgewood area of Cranston, Rhode Island, Alex graduated from Cranston High School East in 2000. He obtained a BS in Business Administration from Fairfield University in Connecticut in 2004.
Robert E. Craven, Esq
Attorney at Law, Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C., Adjunct Professor, Community College of Rhode Island
Robert Craven is an attorney and an Adjunct Professor at the Community College of Rhode Island. Born and raised in Saunderstown, Robert is a lifelong Rhode Island resident. After graduating with a degree in International Affairs from George Washington University, Robert earned his law degree at Villanova University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On returning to Rhode Island, he sought out opportunities for civic involvement. Robert finds civic education and engagement, particularly among this state’s youth, to be of central importance to a healthy 21st-century democracy.
Marcia Sousa Da Ponte, Secretary
Marcia Sousa Da Ponte was born and raised on the island of São Miguel, Azores, Portugal. Since childhood, she was an active participant in various grassroots community and cultural organizations such as the Girls Scouts, her church, and as an elected member of the Ribeira Grande Municipal Assembly. Marcia is a graduate of the University of the Azores, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Upon graduation, she began working at Lucromais, Lda as an economist and certified public accountant, advising businesses on their financial operations and preparing business development plan applications for European Union economic development incentive programs. Marcia was also an instructor at several professional and vocational schools from 1999–2004. In 2008, Marcia emigrated to Rhode Island and began working at the Vice-consulate of Portugal in Providence in 2010 as a technical administrator. In February 2014, she was appointed Vice-Consul by the Secretary of State for Portuguese Communities, where she served until 2018. She is a member of several Portuguese-American cultural organizations in Rhode Island and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Rhode Island Day of Portugal Committee. She resides in East Providence with her husband Daniel and their children Antonio and Sofia. Marcia enjoys reading, spending quality time with family and friends, and winter ski trips. Whenever possible, she enjoys returning to the Azores to be with family and friends.
Jeannine Dingus-Eason, PhD
Dean, Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, Rhode Island College
Jeannine Dingus-Eason is Dean of the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development at Rhode Island College. Prior to relocating to Rhode Island, she served as Professor and Program Director of the Executive Leadership Doctoral Program at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York. A graduate of the University of Washington with a doctorate (Ph.D.) in Curriculum and Instruction, Jeannine holds a Masters in Secondary English Education and a Bachelors of Arts in English, specializing in African American literature from the University of Rochester. Her research interests include the professional socialization of teachers, specifically, Black intergenerational teachers, examining familial and cultural influences as well as the intersections of race, class, and gender on their work. For this area of research, Jeannine earned a Spencer Pre-Dissertation Fellowship. Additionally, her research focused on bridging historical and contemporary contexts of Black education in the urban North, as demonstrated in her study of Black teacher recruitment to the North. She has published articles in educational research journals including Teachers College Record, Urban Education, and the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, to name a few. She is currently completing her book, A Thousand Worries: Black Mothers of Sons with Autism, to be published by SUNY Press. The book focuses on Black mothers at the intersection of race, class, gender, and autism. A Rochester, New York native, Jeannine is a former secondary English teacher in the Rochester City School District and served as founding board president for a charter school. She also worked with TRIO Programs in Washington State including Upward Bound and the McNair Scholars Program. Jeannine served on the Curriculum Committee for the Rochester United Way’s African American Leadership Development Program. She is currently an active member of the Providence Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Jeannine is married, a mother to one son, and three bonus children and grandchildren.
Elaine Fain, MD
Dr. Elaine Fain is a native of Providence, RI. A graduate of Classical High School, she started her career as an environmental health specialist in New York before changing her career path to internal medicine. Initially employed at RI Hospital and Women & Infants Hospital, she entered private practice in the Providence area in 1988, retiring in 2015. She now volunteers at the RI Free Clinic. She is a recipient of a Woman of the Year Award from RI Medical Women’s Association (RIMWA) and a Community Service Award from the American Medical Women’s Association and served on the medical faculty at Brown University. Elaine is involved with numerous civic and charitable organizations in RI. She has served as the President and remains active on the Boards of both RIMWA and the Classical High School Alumni Association. She is past President of her class at Brown and Global Alliance for Immunization against AIDS, past Vice-President of The Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School. She received her MD degree from Columbia University, MSc from Harvard School of Public Health, and BA from Brown University. Elaine and her husband Barry reside in Providence.
Antonia Noori Farzan
Antonia Noori Farzan is a watchdog reporter at The Providence Journal. A Rhode Island native, she previously worked at The Washington Post and spent several years at alt-weeklies in Arizona and Florida. Antonia is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Hamilton College, and was honored with a George K. Polk award for investigative reporting in 2017.
Michael R. Fein, PhD
Dean, College of Arts & Sciences, Johnson & Wales University
Michael R. Fein is Associate Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Professor of History at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Michael is the author of Paving the Way: New York Road Building and the American State, 1880-1956, which earned awards from the Public Works Historical Society and the New York State Department of Education. He has presented his research on the politics of American infrastructure at over a dozen national and international conferences. His work on U.S. transportation policy, radio regulation, and Boston’s “Big Dig” has appeared in the Journal of Urban History, the Journal of Planning History, and the Journal of Policy History. Before joining the faculty at Johnson & Wales, he taught at Babson College and Brandeis University and served as a Research Associate at Harvard Business School. He received his BA in History from Columbia University and earned his PhD in American History from Brandeis University, where he was a Crown Fellow. He was also selected as a Miller Center Fellow in Contemporary History, Public Policy, and American Politics by the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. A native of Connecticut, he lives in Massachusetts and has worked in Providence since 2007.
Jorge Mejia, Treasurer
Director of Finance, International Charter School
Jorge Mejia has served as the Director of Finance at the International Charter School since 2016. He is responsible for the financial integrity and accounting practices of the school, including financial planning and budgeting. He has become a great resource for the school not just in the area of finances but also in the area of facilities and operations. He is always willing to help in any way possible. Born and raised in Colombia, Jorge migrated to the United States in the year 2000. At an early age, he always showed his passion for numbers and math. He studied Accounting at Rhode Island College where he earned his bachelor’s degree. In 2005, during his junior year, Jorge joined Progreso Latino as the Staff Accountant. This job allowed him to gain familiarity with all aspects of accounting. Additionally, he was able to witness firsthand the importance of community organizations and their advocacy role in our society. He then transitioned to the position of business manager, where he was able to help the organization grow financially. He is married and the father of three children.
Kenneth C. Newman
Kenneth C. Newman is an independent consultant working with nonprofit organizations, foundations, and government entities. Kenneth focuses on development, board development, strategic planning, and risk analysis for groups situated in Rhode Island, California, and Mexico City. He is a current member of the Advisory Board of Common Cause and the University of Rhode Island College of Arts and Sciences, and past board member of the Jamestown Arts Center.
Julie Nora, PhD, Immediate Past Chair
Director, International Charter School
Julie Nora has been Director of the International Charter School in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, since 2003. Prior to that appointment, she worked as a teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in several educational settings spanning K-16 and as an applied researcher at the Education Alliance at Brown University. Her books include No More Low Expectations for English Learners and The Organization of Learning in a 7th/8th Grade ESL Social Studies Classroom. Her work has also been published in One Classroom, Many Learners: Best Practices for Today’s Multilingual Learners. She is a member of Rhode Island College President Sanchez’s Inclusive Education Commission and has served on the Governor’s Funding Formula Working Group, the Governor’s Task Force on Diversity in STEM Education, and the Commissioner’s Education Equity Task Force, among other commissions. Julie is a graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in US Intellectual History, received a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from San Francisco State University and a PhD in Education, specializing in Language, Literacy and Culture from the University of Rhode Island/Rhode Island College. Originally from California, Julie has lived in Rhode Island for the past 20 years.
Director of Storytelling & Presentations, CVS Health
Doug Popovich is a brand storyteller with industry-leading expertise in marketing communications. As Director of Storytelling & Presentations at CVS Health, Doug serves as lead creative and hands-on manager of the editorial and graphic design team charged with translating business objectives into visual narratives. Prior to moving to Rhode Island in 2013, Doug was Managing Director of Office ROI, a brand design and marketing communications agency in New York City. His other previous agency roles include Senior Vice President at Sterling Group and Production Director at Sequel Studios, as well as client-side director and management-level leadership roles at CA Technologies, Mercer Management Consulting, and Scholastic. Doug is a co-founder and board member of the nonprofit Arts in Common in Bristol, RI, which champions local arts and culture collaborations including Bristol PorchFest and Bristol BookFest events. His past service as a pro bono consultant and volunteer includes work with the Bronx Conservatory of Music, Bronx, NY; Change for Kids, New York, NY; EcoSpaces Education, Newark, NJ; Kids in Crisis, Cos Cob, CT; Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), Nairobi, Kenya; and Sing for Hope, New York, NY. Doug is a proud alum of Pennsylvania State University where he received a BA in English, a BA in Journalism, a business minor, and a certificate in International Communications via study abroad at the University of Manchester, UK. An active student leader, his service during college included publicity manager of Thespians; communications director of the Undergraduate Student Government; reporter, night editor, and opinion editor at the Daily Collegian student newspaper; and membership in the Lion’s Paw, Skull & Bones, and Phi Beta Kappa honor societies. Doug and his husband, the artist Bradley Wester, reside in Bristol. His interests include cooking, international travel and culture. He is also an avid theater patron and contemporary art collector.
James P. Riley
James P. Riley is the retired Secretary Treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union (UFCW) Local 328. Jim began his career in the labor movement in 1974 as a meat cutter for Stop and Shop. He went to work full time for UFCW in 1984 as an international representative. He came to Rhode Island in 1997 to help organize workers and represent his local union as a lobbyist and advocate for RI’s working families. As a board member of Justice Assistance, Jim helps advocate for victims of crimes and offender rehabilitation programs. Jim is the “Official Voice” of the Providence St. Patrick’s Day Parade. He is also on the Occupational and Environmental Health Center of RI as board chair and a member of the RI Labor History Society. Prior to being selected for the Council for the Humanities board, Jim served two terms on the board of the State’s Council on the Arts. He has also been involved in fundraising efforts for the ALS Association of RI, for which he was awarded the 2017 Advocate of the Year Award. Of all his fundraising activities, Jim is most proud of his efforts on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Along with his equally hardworking UFCW team, he has helped to raise over $1,000,000 to date. In 2018, he was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. In his spare time, Jim is an accomplished pen and ink and watercolor artist. His work can be seen in the Rhode Island Governor’s office, the RI AFL-CIO, and several union headquarters across the state.
Jeannette E. Riley, PhD
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Rhode Island
Jeannette E. Riley is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Rhode Island and Professor of English and Gender and Women’s Studies. Her research interests focus on women’s literature, with an emphasis on contemporary women writers and feminist theory, and feminist pedagogy and online/blended teaching and learning. In addition to publications on writers such as Eavan Boland, Toni Morrison, and Terry Tempest Williams, Jeannette has published extensively on American poet Adrienne Rich and is the author of Understanding Adrienne Rich from the University of South Carolina’s Understanding Contemporary American Literature series. Her public humanities work includes teaching literature for the Clemente Course in the Humanities in New Bedford from 2006-2015 and the Providence Clemente Veterans Initiative from 2018-2021. Prior to joining the University of Rhode Island, Jeannette was a Professor of English/Women’s and Gender Studies at UMass Dartmouth (2002-2015) and served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (2012-2017). Jeannette completed her bachelor’s at Colby College and went on to earn an MA in English from the University of New Hampshire and a PhD in English in post-1945 American and British Literature and Literary Theory from the University of New Mexico.
Cynthia Scheinberg, PhD
Professor, English Literature, Roger Williams University
Cynthia Scheinberg is Professor of English Literature in the School of Humanities, Arts and Education at Roger Williams University, where she also held the position of Dean of Humanities, Arts and Education from 2018-2021. Prior to coming to Roger Williams, she was Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Professor of English at Mills College (Oakland, California). She is an internationally known scholar on intersections between Victorian literature, religion, women writers, and Jewish studies; her publications include the book, Women’s Poetry and Religion in Victorian England: Jewish Identity and Christian Culture (Cambridge 2002) as well as a wide range of journal articles, book chapters and reviews; she has ongoing research on Jewish-Christian literary relations in nineteenth-century England. Cynthia also does research on humanities pedagogy, designing faculty development projects and developing workshops on intersections between academic research and teaching in higher education. Her past awards include grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Harvard Divinity School, the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, the Teagle Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson/Mellon Fellowship Foundation. She holds a BA from Harvard-Radcliffe College, and a PhD from Rutgers University and currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where she and her husband, Rabbi Eliahu Klein, are active in the Jewish community; she has one daughter, Rachel Gavriella Klein, who is an avidly engaged with the humanities in many ways!
Josh Stenger, PhD
Professor of Film and New Media, Wheaton College
Josh Stenger is professor, chair, and founder of Film and New Media at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. His current research combines elements of media industry studies, platform studies, fan and audience studies, and digital humanities to examine the ‘datafication’ of culture and how this phenomenon both affects and effects everything from creative content, media audiences, (mis)information, online publics, and transformative works. A lifelong believer in higher education generally and the liberal arts specifically, Josh has nevertheless spent much of the last decade pursuing opportunities to reimagine the value of these institutions by focusing less on disciplinary expertise and more on a relationship to learning that will help students to navigate and contribute to the world as it will (soon) be rather than as it (just) was. He has served as co-director of the Wheaton Institute for the Interdisciplinary Humanities and as a founding project co-manager for the InterMedia Arts Group Innovation Network (IMAGINE), a grant-funded initiative to integrate technology and the arts; consulted on curricula, program development, and assessment at various institutions in the region, and has served on several strategic planning groups. Currently, in addition to his faculty role at Wheaton, he also serves as the college’s Director of Academic Affairs Data Strategy Development. A southern California transplant to the east coast, he has lived in Rhode Island since 2001 and began to think of himself as a New Englander when family on the west coast pointed out that he had started to say “highway” instead of “freeway.”
Jonathan Stevens, MCP, Chair
Planning Director, Town of Cumberland
Jonathan Stevens is an urban planner. He was the governor’s special projects director (2011-15), and served as policy director for Senator Lincoln Chafee. His municipal experience includes planning director of Warwick and Cumberland; he has also served as Newport’s economic development director. Jonathan has a passion for celebrating American history and culture. He initiated the 350th anniversary celebration of Rhode Island’s 1663 Colonial Charter, and directed a team that created a new Charter Museum in the Statehouse. He organized the Newport World Heritage Committee, to promote pre-Colonial Rhode Island as the first society founded on the principles of freedom of religion, separation of church and state and locally-elected government. As State Historic Preservation Officer, Jonathan helped craft the “Creative and Cultural Economy Bond,” which provided $35M for performing arts centers and historic restoration projects. He produced the design and installation of the iconic “Discover Beautiful Rhode Island” gateway signs and murals featuring original artwork of David Macaulay, Gretchen Dow Simpson and Anthony Russo within Rhode Island’s Interstate system. Jonathan earned a BA in American History from Boston University and a Masters in Community Planning from the University of Rhode Island.
Don E. Wineberg
Partner, Chace Ruttenberg & Freedman, LLP
Don Wineberg leads Chace Ruttenberg & Freedman’s health law practice. He has extensive expertise in mergers, acquisitions and affiliations, joint venture structuring, HMO and preferred provider relations, governance, fraud and abuse compliance, antitrust compliance, medical staff relations, HIPAA compliance, information technology contracting, physician recruitment, reimbursement, general counsel issues and tax exemption. Don has been practicing Health Law for over thirty years. Don received his degree in Health and Society with honors from Brown University and graduated from Washington and Lee Law School cum laude. He is active in community affairs, including board service on Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, The Guttmacher Institute, The Public’s Radio (RI Public Radio), Acadia Center, Festival Ballet Providence, Trinity Repertory Company, The Sandra-Feinstein Gamm Theatre, the Jamestown Zoning Board of Review, the Jamestown Wind Energy Committee, Conanicut Yacht Club, and HealthSource RI. He is currently serving as Chair of The Public’s Radio and has previously served as Commodore of Conanicut Yacht Club and Chair of Acadia Center, Festival Ballet Providence, the HealthSource RI Expert Advisory Committee, the Jamestown Wind Energy Committee, and Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island.