The members of MIUSA's International Advisory Committee, launched in 2017, represent diverse fields and experiences. Their expertise and commitment to advancing disability rights and leadership globally will assist MIUSA to continue to reach its goals to:
- offer dynamic, innovative programs
- build the pipeline of leaders with disabilities, especially women and girls, and;
- provide opportunities to strengthen disability rights globally though international exchange and inclusive international development.
Andraéa LaVant is founder and president of LaVant Consulting, Inc. (LCI), a social impact communications firm that offers cutting-edge corporate development and content marketing for brands and nonprofits. LCI’s specialty is helping brands “speak disability with confidence.” As a communications consultant and inclusion specialist, Andraéa has over a decade of experience working with programs that support youth and adults with disabilities and other underserved populations. Her professional roles and personal advocacy have presented her with a variety of notable opportunities to share messages and prompt change for people with disabilities across the globe. She currently serves as the impact producer for Netflix’s feature-length documentary, Crip Camp, where she is charged with leading the campaign’s efforts to promote understanding of disability as a social justice issue and build across lines of difference. Andraéa’s work for both non-profit and private sector organizations has included managing national initiatives that increase and support engagement of people with disabilities in mainstream programs, and coordinating and overseeing multiple federally funded technical assistance and training centers designed to prepare young people with disabilities to transition from school to employment. Prior to establishing LaVant Consulting, Inc., she led disability inclusion efforts for Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital, where she was responsible for increasing and supporting the membership of girls of all abilities and fostering a culture of inclusion among volunteers, staff, and girls. Andraéa is adept at researching, writing, and training on youth development and employer-focused curricula (including briefs, guides and reports). She also has substantial experience developing strategic partnerships and facilitating successful and innovative practices within the disability field, including creating media messaging. Andraéa is a strong advocate for exploring disability from an intersectional lens and offers a unique perspective on the initiatives that she supports. Andraéa is an alum of MIUSA's 2012 Young Women with Disabilities Exchange Program in Amman, Jordan.
Angela is an alum of MIUSA’s Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD) program and has expertise in disabled women’s leadership. As a professional English-Spanish translator in her country of Peru, Angela Marin helps her clients and co-workers solve problems and answer questions. She is a founding member of the Technology and Disability Association of Peru, an organization which promotes the independence and rights of blind women in Peru and also gives training to blind and visually impaired people such as herself to use adaptive computer software for accessing information and communication. During her Community Solutions Program fellowship in the United States, Angela worked with the Nebraska Center for the Blind, receiving mobility and independent living skills, as well as working with the center staff to improve and adapt some of the technology programming. She has worked to advocate for the development of a similar independent living training center in Peru since returning, as well as to offer smaller, independent courses to blind students.
Donald (Don) Steinberg is a Senior Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion at InterAction, where he focuses on advancing diversity and inclusion within the U.S. NGO sector. Don brings more than 40 years of experience in government and non-governmental organizations, and expertise in the fields of international relations, peacebuilding, and development.
He previously served as CEO of World Learning, an international exchange, education, and development nonprofit organization from 2013 to 2017. Prior to World Learning he served as Deputy Administrator at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where he focused on the Middle East and Africa; organizational reforms under the USAID Forward agenda; inclusion of women, people with disabilities, LGBT persons, and other marginalized groups in the development arena; and expanded dialogue with development partners. His prior service includes U.S. Ambassador to Angola, White House Deputy Press Secretary, Special Assistant to President Clinton for African Affairs, Director of the State Department/USAID Joint Policy Council, and Deputy President of the International Crisis Group.
Ms. Dulamsuren Jigjid
Ms. Dulamsuren, an alum of MIUSA’s Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD) exchange program, is an Executive Director of the Culture Centre for Deaf in Mongolia. She has a strong focus on human rights and multicultural affairs and works passionately on building productive relationships between communities and cultures.
Her career began to take off in 2007 when she started working for the Mongolian National Federation of Disability People’s Organisation (MNFDPO). After obtaining her Master's degree in Cultural Studies from the Mongolian University of Science and Technology in 2012, Ms. Dulamsuren has been strongly focusing on the development of people with disabilities, with a specific focus on women’s development. She founded Culture Centre for the Deaf in 2014 and since then she has been implementing a wide range of projects including the Women’s Health, Wellness and Safety program. Through this program and many other programs like it, she aims to support young people, especially young women and girls, to develop independence.
As a leader who holds leading positions in the organization of persons with disabilities, Ms. Dulamsuren is actively engaging in policy advocacy on behalf of deaf people nationally and internationally.
She was a Joint Coordinate Committee Member of "The project for Promoting Social Participation of Persons with Disabilities in Ulaanbaatar City" of the Ministry of Social Welfare and Labor (MSWL) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Ms. Dulamsuren is also served as a Vice President of the Mongolian National Association of the Deaf (MNAD) and a Member of the Board of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), an international non-governmental organization representing approximately 70 million Deaf people worldwide.
Ekaete Judith Umoh, an alum of MIUSA’s Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD), is an international disability rights activist committed to inclusive development for people with disabilities; especially of women and girls with disabilities. She is the founder and Executive Director –FACICP Disability Plus (Family Centered Initiative for Challenged Persons -FACICP), a non-governmental organization founded in 2000 which works to promote inclusive development for women and girls with disabilities in gender and development programs in Nigeria.
In 2015 she was elected Executive Council Member at African Disability Forum-ADF, representing women with disabilities in Africa on the board and currently, Vice chairperson 1; Gender and Development at West Africa Federation of the Disabled- WAFOD. Between 2010-2012 she served on the International Planning Committee of the Association of Women’s Rights in Development-AWID representing women with disabilities globally and in 2014 she became the first elected Female National President of the Joint National Association of Persons with disabilities, an umbrella organization of all DPOs in Nigeria and also elected first woman with a disability to lead a mainstream women’s network (Global Fund for Women Grantee's Network) Nigeria.
Ekaete is an expert in social inclusion, with a focus on disability inclusion across diverse thematic areas, such as sexual and reproductive health, community mobilization, civic education, political participation and women’s empowerment. Her works includes advocacy, research, reporting and documentation, counseling, training, facilitating, and organizing support group activities. She has served as a disability and social development consultant to international development agencies, helping these agencies include the issues of people with disabilities in their programs and project.
Eliana Vera retired in 2016 after more than 35 years’ experience leading programs with foundations and non-governmental organizations in the international development sector. Her last position was with SNV USA, as Project Manager for the Procurement Governance for Home Grown School Feeding project, funded by the Gates Foundation. The project worked with smallholder farmers in Ghana, Kenya, and Mali, to build their capacity to access the market represented by national school meals programs. Previously she served as Managing Director for Global Philanthropy at the Council on Foundations and Principal Partnerships Officer within the Office of Outreach and Partnerships at the Inter-American Development Bank. Eliana has also worked at the International Youth Foundation, the National Center for Nonprofit Boards, the Synergos Institute, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Partners of the Americas. Eliana holds a MA in International Studies from The American University in Washington, DC, and a BA in International Relations from the University of Maryland.
John L. Wodatch is a civil rights attorney with over 30 years of experience with the Federal Government, specializing in the rights of persons with disabilities. He provides advice and information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and Other Disability Rights Laws and Regulations. He served with the U.S. Department of Justice for 21 years as the Chief of the Disability Rights Section in the Civil Rights Division and currently serves as the president and board member of the National Association of ADA Coordinators.
Judith (Judy) Heumann is a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people. She contracted polio in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York and began to use a wheelchair for her mobility. She was denied the right to attend school because she was considered a "fire hazard" at the age of five. Her parents played a strong role in fighting for her rights as a child, but Judy soon determined that she, working in collaboration with other disabled people, had to play an advocacy role due to continuous discrimination.
She is now an internationally recognized leader in the disability rights community. Her memoir, authored with Kristen Joiner, of Being Heumann “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist,” published by Beacon Press and audio recorded by Ali Stroker, who is the first wheelchair actor to perform on Broadway. Judy was featured on the Trevor Noah show. Judy is featured in Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution is a 2020 American award winning documentary film, directed by James LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham, produced by the Obama Higher Ground Production and is available on Netflix. She has been featured in numerous documentaries including on the history of the disability rights movement, including Lives Worth Living and the Power of 504 and delivered a TED talk in the fall of 2016, “Our Fight for Disability Rights- and Why We’re Not Done Yet”. Her story was also told on Comedy Central’s Drunk History in early 2018, in which she was portrayed by Ali Stroker. As Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation (2017-2019), she wrote “Road Map for Inclusion: Changing the Face of Disability in Media”. She also currently serves on a number of non-profit boards, including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Humanity and Inclusion, as well as the Human Rights Watch board. From 1993 to 2001, Judy served in the Clinton Administration as the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the Department of Education. During his presidency, President Obama appointed Judy as the first Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State, where she served from 2010-2017. Mayor Fenty of D.C. appointed her as the first Director for the Department on Disability Services, where she was responsible for the Developmental Disability Administration and the Rehabilitation Services Administration.
Karen Johnson Lassner has 35 years of international experience developing, managing, implementing, and evaluating community health services. Her experience is particularly broad, having worked early in her career for ten years for a Brazilian civil society organization, followed by ten years as an independent consultant for UN and US Government Agencies, and for the last fifteen years for Management Sciences for Health. Karen’s technical areas of expertise include planning, implementation and evaluation of primary health care, reproductive health services, prevention of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and building the leadership, management, and governance capacity of organizations to deliver health services. Her specific skills include strategic and operational planning, management needs assessments, monitoring and evaluation, leading and managing organizational change, governance strengthening of civil society organizations and multi-sector bodies and management of community health programs. She is also a seasoned face-to-face and virtual facilitator and trainer. Fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese, her years of experience in Latin America and the Caribbean include work in Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Guyana. She has also worked in Angola, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Japan and Viet Nam. Karen holds MA/MPH degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a BA degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Laurie Winthrop, Principal of Winthrop Coaching and Consulting, provides development solutions and resources for companies needing targeted expertise in leadership and organizational effectiveness. A respected business leader and coach, her areas of focus include leadership agility, emotional and cultural intelligence, relationship management, navigating networks, team building and collaboration. Laurie also has deep experience in all aspects of employee relations, developing company culture and communications solutions. In her career Laurie has worked in every aspect of the retail/fashion industry and spent several years on international assignment, as Senior Vice President, Human Resources for Ralph Lauren – Europe and Middle East.
Laurie also has a passion for supporting non-profit organizations, especially those focusing upon services for children, women, and AIDS research and education. She has provided fund raising and event support for The Contra Costa AIDS Project and the Bay Area Big Sisters & Brothers. In addition, she has served on the Board of Directors for Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), providing job training and placement services for women and immigrants. Laurie also organized events for the Oakland Children’s Hospital Library and reading programs in New York City.
Kevin Boling is a retired administrator of the 4J school district in Oregon and principal, most recently at Bertha Holt Elementary School. He is a passionate advocate for inclusion of students with disabilities in mainstream schools and has spoken to many international groups, utilizing his lens as a principal, teacher and activist.
Maegan Shanks an alumna of a MIUSA exchange program bringing young deaf and disabled leaders to Costa Rica. Currently, she is an Adjunct Faculty and Program Assistant for the International Development M.A. Program at Gallaudet University, the world's leading bilingual university designed for deaf and hard of hearing students. Prior to this, she worked as the Disability Inclusive Development Learning Coordinator at CBM International. Maegan is passionate about equal access to education for the deaf community and youth with disabilities, gender equity and intersectionalities.
Marcie Roth is a global disability rights leader and an expert on whole community inclusive emergency and disaster management. She has served in senior and executive leadership roles for national and global disability advocacy organizations since 1995. Ms. Roth is the CEO of the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies and President of Inclusive Emergency Management Strategies LLC, providing local, national and global disability inclusive solutions through a variety of contracted and collaborative projects committed to a shared mission of equal access and full inclusion for the whole community before, during and after disasters. Her primary focus is on capacity building for community leaders and emergency management stakeholders working together to prepare for emergencies and recover from disasters by providing tools, resources, training and technical assistance to prepare for, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards, optimizing accessibility as a critical lifesaving and life sustaining foundation for building and sustaining community-wide resilience. She is currently leading two legislative initiatives with a focus on disability, poverty and healthcare in disasters.
Appointed by President Obama to the U.S Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from 2009 to 2017, she served as Senior Advisor to the Administrator and as the congressionally mandated Disability Coordinator for the agency. While at FEMA, she established the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (ODIC), serving as its Director. Under her leadership, ODIC led national transformation towards integrating the access and functional needs of the whole community throughout emergency preparedness and disaster response, recovery and mitigation.
Dr. Maritheresa Frain
Dr. Maritheresa Frain is the Vice President of Academic Programs and The Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA). With over 25 years of experience in study abroad, Maritheresa is committed to developing innovative programming designed to break down barriers of cost, curriculum and culture to ensure all students had access to international learning experiences. She previously worked as the Director of Study Abroad at The George Washington University and as the Executive Vice President of Study Abroad for CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchanges). She has lived and worked abroad for 25 years in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Russia and Switzerland. Maritheresa has taught at St. Louis, George Washington and Syracuse Universities in Madrid, Universidad Lusíada in Lisbon (Portugal), Moscow State University (Russian Federation) and Universidad Pablo de Olavide (Seville, Spain). Dr. Frain served as the Consular Agent of the United States Embassy in Seville, Spain.
Originally from Philadelphia, Maritheresa completed her undergraduate work in International Politics at The Pennsylvania State University and received her M.A. and Ph.D. in International Relations at Georgetown University. Maritheresa has published on political parties, transitions to democracy and NATO defense strategies in the Mediterranean. She is fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese with proficiency in French and Russian. Dr. Frain worked for the International Monetary Fund in DC and was a visiting professor at Georgetown University. Maritheresa lives in Seville, Spain.
Marshall Peter served as CEO of Direction Service, Inc., a multi-program family support agency, for thirty-six years and for seventeen years as the founding Director of CADRE, The National Center on Dispute Resolution in Special Education. After receiving an M.S. in Special Education from the University of Oregon, Peter began working as a parent advocate in 1976 at Direction Service, where he provided ongoing support and advocacy services to more than 500 families who have children with disabilities. Peter's early work as an aggressive advocate evolved into an interest in developing methods for facilitating home school partnerships that are respectful, considerate and yield equally powerful results for children and families. Peter has delivered presentations, training and consultation throughout the United States on appropriate dispute resolution, strategic planning, facilitative advocacy, consumer empowerment, wraparound services and conflict resolution system design. Peter served on the City of Eugene Human Rights Commission, the Oregon State Advisory Council for Special Education, the Oregon Disabilities Commission and as Chair of the Eugene School District Equity Committee.
Martha Lee Walters was an attorney who represented individuals in employment and civil rights matters for 30 years before she became an Associate Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court. She became the first female justice on the state's highest court in three years when she was appointed in 2006. A native of Michigan, she worked on the Casey Martin lawsuit against the PGA Tour, which went to the Supreme Court.
Megan Smith is a disability rights activist who has worked over the last 14 years for grassroot organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) globally. Her work has focused on the rights of landmine survivors and women with disabilities in Australia, Afghanistan, and Cambodia. Most recently she has worked advocating for persons with disabilities within the United Nations system through her position as the Gender and Development Officer with the International Disability Alliance (IDA) in New York, and previously at UNICEF Cambodia. Megan is a former International Programmes Coordinator at Mobility International USA where she coordinated leadership programmes for youth and women with disabilities. She holds a M.A in Peace and Conflict Resolution from the University of Queensland, and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Iceland funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under a Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant. Her research is focused on the bioethical and disability rights implications of pre-natal testing and fetal impairment in Iceland and Ireland.
Paul Hippolitus is formerly the Director of World Institute on Disability (WID’s) Employment and Benefits Disability Initiative and continues to work with WID on special projects. Before that he was the Director of the Disabled Students’ Program, University of California, Berkeley where he oversaw a program supporting the education and employment of 2,000 students with disabilities. He also created and taught an innovative course entitled “Professional Development and Disability,” a course designed to develop the self-confidence and skill of people with disabilities to competitively seek employment. Previously, he was a Senior Employment Advisor with the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) U.S. Dept. of Labor, where he supervised their disability programs, as well as supported all their innovative disability grant efforts. Prior to ODEP, he was the Director of Programs for the U.S. President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
Precious Ncube is a Projects and Disability Advocacy officer and a Counsellor by profession at King George VI Centre in Zimbabwe. The center provides education, rehabilitation and independent-living training for physically disabled and deaf children from all over Zimbabwe. Precious also holds a managerial advisory position at her organization and works with the Rotary Interact Club, where she mentors young people to be future leaders. Her work also involves counselling families and communities about sending their children to school.
As a woman with a disability who has enjoyed the right to education and a livelihood, Precious is motivated to advocate for the younger disabled generation to enjoy the same rights, if not more. Being born in a rural area of Zimbabwe, Precious has challenged negative or superstitious views of disability and is now regarded by her community as a role model.
Precious is an alumna of the 2019 Women's Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD) and is passionate about advocating for access to health care, education, sexual and reproductive rights, and justice for women and girls with disabilities in her country and in the Southern African Region. In partnership with Zimbabwe Women’s Lawyers Association (ZWLA) she assisted women with disabilities to access free legal services and also get free representation in courts.
Precious has also worked with organisations like World Vision, Plan international, Organization of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP), Zimbabwe Women’s Lawyers Association (ZWLA), Musasa Project and Population Services International (PSI), among others, in disability mainstreaming programs. She worked closely with the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Ministry of Health and Department of Social Services in helping women with disabilities to access services and resources that enable them to live full and productive lifestyles, eliminating any barriers to their human rights.
Rabbi Yitzhak Husbands-Hankin
Rabbi Yitzhak Husbands-Hankin became Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth Israel in July of 2015. Prior to this, he served as Senior Rabbi from 2003 until 2015 and served as TBI's Rabbi since 1995. Rabbi Yitzhak is the past chair of the Committee for Ethical Kashrut of OHALA: The Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal, an affiliate member of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, a member of TRUAH (formerly Rabbis For Human Rights -North America) an associate of CLAL-National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and is a member of the rabbinic cabinet of J-Street as well as a member of the Oregon Board of Rabbis. He has had a lifelong interest and commitment to Disability Rights advocacy and formerly served as the Program Director of Independent Living Programs in Eugene, Oregon. He was a member of the Developmental Disabilities Committee of Lane County and several other advocacy and service organizations. Rabbi Yitzhak has a strong interest in social activism, interfaith dialogue, and disability rights.
Dr. Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh
In August of 2012, Dr. Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh joined the University of Oregon as Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, with the responsibility for collaboratively leading the University of Oregon’s efforts to embed inclusion, equity and diversity in its institutional practices, policies, and norms. Her portfolio reaches broadly across many aspects of campus life, supporting the academic mission of the institution to ensure that students, faculty and staff from all backgrounds have an equal opportunity to access, as well as to thrive and, ultimately, to succeed at the University.
The Vice-President’s responsibility also includes engaging with a wide variety of communities external to the university, facilitating partnerships with the office toward those ends. As part of her portfolio, Yvette leads the university’s strategic diversity planning efforts, development of institutional policies, coordination of research and evaluation infrastructure for diversity work, coordination of pipeline programs and providing organizational leadership for the following campus entities: the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI), the Center on Diversity and Community (CoDaC), and the Center on Multicultural Academic Excellence (CMAE).
Prior to joining the University of Oregon in her current position, Yvette served as a tenured Professor of Political Science and a Dean at Indiana University in Bloomington. While there, she won outstanding research awards, secured national funding for her research projects, served as a Fulbright Scholar at University of Zagreb in Croatia and also led national committees focusing on issues of equity, diversity, teaching excellence and ethics. She is the author/co-author of five books, dozens of scholarly essays and numerous journalistic/trade essays. She is a consultant on diversity/gender issues. Yvette, who is a trained lawyer and registered mediator, is a member of the Indiana State Bar.