Kenny Alston, 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.
Cherry Arnold, 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).
Chrystal Mars Baker, Education Manager, Tomaquag Museum
Chrystal G. Mars Baker, wife, mother of two, and citizen of the Narragansett Indian Tribe. Chrystal is a graduate from the University of Rhode Island, class of 1996, holding a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education/Social Studies. In October 2021 she joined Tomaquag’s team as the Indigenous Empowerment Education Coordinator and was promoted the following year to Education Manager. She is a teacher at heart and enjoys both learning and teaching where opportunity arises. Chrystal believes in sharing truth, enjoys opportunities to have thought provoking dialogue where understanding of both spiritual and cultural appreciation can be gained. She loves history, enjoys reading, visiting museums, taking long country rides and spending time outdoors, but most importantly, spending time with her family.
Stephanie Basile, Founding Agent, Stephanie Basile Group
Stephanie received her BS in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University in 1995, her MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago (with study at London School of Economics) in 2001 and continues to be an avid and enthusiastic learner. She held several positions in both Chicago and London for a Fortune Global 500 company, fast tracking her way to senior management, before deciding to follow her passion, move back to Rhode Island and start a career in real estate. 20+ years have passed since that decision and Stephanie has never looked back. Along the way, she has cultivated a loyal following of clients and a deep knowledge of the ins and outs of real estate. Her own experiences with buying on the East Side of Providence, coastal Rhode Island and Nantucket help her to guide and educate her clients. Stephanie has a keen understanding of what they are looking for and thoroughly enjoys helping others with finding that special home or in making smart investment choices. It’s the satisfaction of helping others achieve their goals that motivates her every day. She is the recipient of multiple customer service awards, peer review awards and sales awards by volume including the KWAOR Circle of Sales Excellence awards 2010-2022, Rhode Island Monthly’s Peer Reviewed Professional Excellence Award winner 2017 – 2022, Real Trends top 1000 agents in the US 2022 (ranking in the top 1.5% of all agents), and the Five Star Professional Award 2015-2022. A Founding Agent at the new Compass Providence office, Stephanie is incredibly proud and excited to have formed The Stephanie Basile Group. Working alongside her team of agents, transaction coordinators and support staff, Stephanie and her Group are dedicated to customer service. The mission statement for the SB Group is to improve the lives of our clients, family, and friends by delivering top notch real-estate expertise and customer service, regardless of price point. Simply put: we want to exceed your expectations. If she’s not busy planning her next client party, you’ll probably find her on a soccer field somewhere in New England. She loves everything about Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Leaving the Ocean State after high school gave her an even heightened sense of appreciation for all it has to offer and a strong desire to move back. If you’re ready to make your move, give her and her team a call at 401-465-3975 and they will make it a fun, creative and exciting process.
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.
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, Community Volunteer
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.
Jaffa Davies, Psychoeducational Specialist, Delta Consultants
Jaffa Kessler Davies grew up and was educated in Providence, graduating from Classical High School and Brown University prior to earning her graduate degree at Syracuse University. She is a psychoeducational specialist and is a founding partner of Delta Consultants, a clinical practice providing therapeutic, evaluation, and consulting services to the greater Rhode Island Community. In her professional life, Jaffa has administered psychoeducational evaluations, mentored first year teachers, served as an educational consultant to numerous charter and independent/parochial schools, provided educational guidance for therapeutic foster care teams, and served as an adult literacy coach. Jaffa has also served on various community boards including Temple Beth El, Dunn Institute, Highlander School, and JCC Preschool.
Antonia Noori Farzan, Journalist
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.
Emily McHugh, Director of Strategic Initiatives, SQA
Emily McHugh lives in Warwick, Rhode Island, with her partner and two cats. She is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at SQA Group, a Providence-based tech and advisory services firm, where she is responsible for marketing and all things cross-functional. Before working in tech, Emily spent six years working in nonprofit development at a statewide college access organization, where she was responsible for grant writing and reporting, donor cultivation, and fundraising event planning and execution. She currently serves on the Providence Animal Rescue League board as the Development Committee Chair. Emily earned a BA in political science from Rhode Island College and a MA in legislative affairs from George Washington University. She also holds a graduate certificate in nonprofit leadership from Rhode Island College. Outside of work, you’ll find Emily reading with her cats, gardening in her backyard, or fixing something in her 110-year-old house.
Jorge Mejia, Treasurer, Business Affairs & Budget Director for Auxiliary Services, RISD
Jorge H. Mejia is the Business Affairs & Budget Director for Auxiliary Services at Rhode Island School of Design, where he provides effective oversight of administrative functions, data analysis, planning, budgeting, and financial management within the Auxiliary services department. 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. In 2016 he joined the International Charter School as a Director of Finance. He was responsible for the financial integrity and accounting practices of the school, including financial planning and budgeting. He became a great resource for the school not just in the area of finances but also in the area of facilities and operations. He is married and the father of three children.
Doug Popovich, 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, Retired
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.
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.”
Eric Sung, Professor, Providence College
Eric Sung is an artist scholar and cultural worker. His innovative and creative vision has materialized multiple interdisciplinary ideas into action with a diverse group of stakeholders. Sung’s experiential scholarship and companion works have appeared internationally in peer-reviewed and juried conferences and venues, including the Society for Photographic Education (SPE), International Visual Literacy Association (IVLA), Imagining America (IA), International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement International Conference (IARSLCE), and Global University Network for Innovation International Conference (GUNI).
Sung’s artworks have been showcased in internationally renowned exhibition venues and public spaces. His art, research, and community empowerment projects were supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities (RICH), Providence Department of Art, Culture, and Tourism (ACT), and Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA).
Sung is a Professor at Providence College and was appointed as the founding director of a cutting-edge program in Business and Innovation in 2018. Currently, he is a member of the WARP Collective Artists Group and serves on the Board of Directors of the Society for Photographic Education.
Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, Author
Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie is the author of the award winning children’s book Layla’s Happiness (Enchanted Lion Books). She has authored two books of poetry: Strut (Agape Editions) & Karma’s Footsteps (Flipped Eye) & Dear Continuum: Letters to A Poet Crafting Liberation. Mariahadessa is a PhD Candidate in Theatre Arts & Performance Studies at Brown University. She is the mother of three galaxies who look like daughters.
Christopher Joseph Westgate, Professor, Johnson & Wales University
Christopher Joseph Westgate is a media scholar whose research program includes Latine media, popular music, and social identities. His articles have been published in Popular Music & Society; Media, Culture & Society; and 12 other peer-reviewed books and journals. In addition, Chris has presented at 30 international conferences. He is currently a Media & Communication Studies professor and a program co-director at Johnson & Wales University in Providence. Prior to this position, Chris taught at SUNY Oneonta and Texas A&M University. He holds a BS from Cornell University, an MA from Columbia University, and a PhD from Texas A&M University. Chris has more than a decade of experience in the radio industry, having served as a vice president, news director, training director, production director, and disc jockey for six nonprofit and commercial stations. He also sits on the board of the Rhode Island Black Film Festival, the Center for Spiritual Living Southcoastal Massachusetts Teaching Chapter, and the Holmes Institute. On the weekends, Chris enjoys reading, writing, cooking, hiking, kayaking, cycling, swimming, working out, meditating, practicing yoga, traveling, attending music concerts, watching films, and spending time with family & friends.
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.