OpEd Project: Tucson Public Voices Fellowship - Year 7 Cohort

A partnership between The University of Arizona, the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona and The OpEd Project, the Tucson Public Voices Fellowship is a prestigious year-long initiative to accelerate the ideas and impact of 20 new and necessary women thought leaders.



The Public Voices Fellowship is part of an ambitious national initiative to change who writes history. Launched by The OpEd Project in collaboration with a core group of institutional partners, including Yale University, the Ford Foundation and more than a dozen others, we have had extraordinary success accelerating the ideas and impact of new and necessary voices at the highest levels in their fields, including women of all backgrounds.

Read the 2019-2020 Impact Report! See a full list here of all publications from the 7th Cohort and read their testimonials here.

Following a tremendously competitive application process and in the midst of a year full of surprises, the 2019 Tucson Public Voices cohort has done an incredible job. We invite you to read more about their work below.

Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, Professor of Clinical Medicine, University of Arizona. Dr. Alschuler is the Assistant Director of the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine. Dr. Alschuler is also the founding Executive Director of TAP Integrative, a nonprofit webbased educational resource for integrative practitioners. She practices naturopathic oncology out of Naturopathic Specialists, LLC. Dr. Alschuler cohosts a radio show, Five To Thrive Live! and is co-founder of the iTHRIVE Plan, a lifestyle app for cancer survivors. She has been an invited speaker to more than 100 scientific/medical conferences and she is co-author of Definitive Guide to Cancer, now in its 3rd edition, and Definitive Guide to Thriving After Cancer. She is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions.


Melissa Benjamin, MA, Homeless Youth and Family Services Manager, Our Family Services. Melissa is the Homeless Youth and Family Services Manager at Our Family Services. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and a Master’s degree in Human Service Administration, along with eight years of experience working with homeless youth and families. She currently oversees a number of programs, including street outreach, shelter, housing, homeless prevention, services for victims and survivors of sex and labor trafficking, as well as Our Family Services’ coordinated entry system. She is also the board secretary for the Tucson Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness. Ms. Benjamin is a certified Trauma-Informed Care trainer and regularly provides trainings to the community on the impact of trauma on vulnerable populations.


Lauryn Bianco, Vice President of Operations and Philanthropy, Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse. Lauryn is a native New Yorker who has lived and worked in Tucson since 2005. She earned her BA from SUNY Fredonia and a Master’s degree from the University of Arizona’s Gender and Women’s studies department, and an Executive MBA from Eller School of Business. As career nonprofit leader, she currently works as the Vice President of Operations and Philanthropy at Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse. Lauryn serves on multiple nonprofit boards in the community, including the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona (Vice Chair) and Coyote Task Force (Director). In 2012, Lauryn cofounded of the Let’s Get Better Together Conference, the largest conference on LGBTQ healthcare and wellness in the State of Arizona, still presently running.


Theresa Crimmins, PhD, Associate Director, USA National Phenology Network. My interests, both professionally and personally, are in finding creative ways to document and understand how plants and animals are responding to rapidly changing climate conditions. I currently serve as the Associate Director for the USA National Phenology Network, a national-scale program that collects, organizes, and shares information on the timing of seasonal events in plants and animals – phenology – to aid decision-making, scientific discovery, and public understanding. In this role, I grow participation in our volunteer phenology observing program, the use of data and resources curated by the organization, and an appreciation of phenology among scientists and non-scientists alike. I obtained a B.S. in biology and an M.A. in geography from Western Michigan University and a Ph.D. in natural resources from the University of Arizona.


Aileen Dingus, Coordinator for Venture Development, Tech Launch Arizona, University of Arizona. I have a private sector and higher education background, holding varied positions at the University of Kansas, and now am the Coordinator for Venture Development and NSF I-Corps Site Program Manager here at UofA. I’m most proud of organizing the upcoming “Flourish HERE” event focused on connecting women researchers at UofA with women entrepreneurs and mentors within the Tucson ecosystem. The event takes place Oct. 1, 2019. Off-campus, I’ve been Assistant to the President of Callahan Creek Marketing Agency, Acting Executive Assistant to the President of DEVENEY Communications, and Assistant to the President of Mathes Brierre Architects. While at Securitron Magnalock Corporation, I worked with the ASSA ABLOY Racing Team in the Volvo Ocean Race both Miami and in Baltimore. Outside of work, I enjoy cooking and crafting, and am an “at large” member of the NOLA Chorus Girls.


Barbara Eiswerth, Executive Director, Iskashitaa Refugee Network. After 10 years as a research geologist with the USGS, Eiswerth relocated to Tucson in 1992. Barbara worked in geospatial technology transfer to Latin America, before pursuing a career as an environmental scientist with the Arizona Remote Sensing Center (USAID and NSF projects in Africa). In 2003, she earned her doctorate degree at the UA in agriculture. She founded Iskashitaa Refugee Network, a non-profit that creates opportunities for integrating immigrants into the community. Iskashitaa annually harvests ~150,000 pounds of unused produce from backyards and farms which is then donated to food banks, soup kitchens, and hundreds of food-insecure families. Eiswerth serves on the Linking Edible AZ Forest and the International Gleaning Association steering committees. With USDA funding, her gleaning is extending into So AZ. Eiswerth’s Tucson work has been recognized inter/nationally.


Bryna Koch, MPH, Special Projects Coordinator, Arizona Center for Rural Health, University of Arizona. Bryna has over 10 years experience in public health program and policy evaluation at the local and national level. She currently works at the Arizona Center for Rural Health, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. In her role at the Center she provides evaluation expertise to inform policy in the area of health workforce, health insurance coverage, and access to health care. Bryna is a doctoral candidate at the College of Public Health at the University of Arizona. Bryna’s educational interest is how health policy shapes what is possible for individuals, families, and communities. She studies the intersection of health policy and immigration, specifically how health policy is used to exclude and restrict access to public health insurance programs, thus negatively influencing access to care for immigrants. Bryna has lived and worked in Tucson, Arizona since 2007.



Kerri Lopez-Howell, Executive Director, Sunnyside Unified School District Foundation. Kerri is the Executive Director of the Sunnyside Unified School District Foundation. Her past work includes lead grant writing for YWCA Southern Arizona, and Director of YWCA’S South Tucson Campus, where she was a 2016 Social Venture Partner ‘Fast Pitch’ finalist and winner. She currently sits on the board for FCA Tucson, HOPE Intl. (Southwest Region), and Citizen’s Diplomacy Alliance. She is a U of A Graduate with a BA in Creative Writing (so her grammar isn’t great), with a Master’s in Theology, from Fuller Theological Seminary. A former choreographer and dancer, she holds various choreographic awards and has years of donated time to Gaslight’s Youth Theater and Christian Youth Theater. An avid Tucson Meet Yourself fan; she will attempt to eat and drink all 64 vendors at the 2019 festival.


Abra McAndrew, Assistant Vice President, Student Engagement & Career Development, University of Arizona. As Assistant Vice President for Access, Engagement & Opportunity, Abra McAndrew leads initiatives that expand the University of Arizona’s capacity to offer learning experiences that connect people to opportunity across the human lifecycle. In this role, she oversees Student Engagement & Career Development, Continuing & Professional Education, Early Academic Outreach programs, and UA’s Testing Service. Her work focuses on transitional learning experiences that impact equitable educational attainment and employment outcomes. She believes experiential learning to be an inclusive practice that can play a critical role in realizing the promise of higher education as a pathway to equity and social mobility. As a first-generation college student from a rural Arizona, Abra earned a Bachelor’s degree from Smith College followed by an M.A. and an MBA from the University of Arizona.


Heather Mace, Beginning Teachers Mentor, Tucson Unified School District. For all my adult life, I have worked in the field of education. I began my career through the Teach for America program, teaching fifth grade in Phoenix for three years. After moving to Tucson, I took a position assisting first-generation college-bound students and their families as they navigated the transition from high school to university. I continued my path in education as the lead teacher of a public alternative school for students ages 17-21, who took high school and community college courses concurrently. I also taught a remedial writing course at PCC, where I served many adult learners who were returning to school after a long hiatus. I currently work as a beginning teacher mentor in TUSD, coaching and supporting teachers in their first or second years in the classroom. During my career, I have also served on numerous site councils, PTOs, foundations, and advisory committees.


Jonna Mastropasqua, Middle and High School Teacher, Pima County Jail. Jonna is a middle and high school teacher to juveniles housed at the Pima County Jail in Tucson, Arizona. Working daily to inspire and support justice system involved youth has given her a unique perspective on topics relating to criminal justice reform, rehabilitation, drug decriminalization and more. With a focus on trauma informed classrooms, Jonna has helped transform the lives of incarcerated young people, encouraged them to see their penitential and empowered them to use their own voices in their quest for freedom and justice for themselves and the community.



Orhon Myadar, Assistant Professor, School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona. As a political geographer, I study geographical implications of politics at various scales. I am especially interested in questions of power, ideology, mobility and identity within the context of shifting political landscapes. I study how borders of belonging or exclusion shift as political regimes change and how these fluid borders shape everyday struggles of underserved and marginalized individuals and communities. Within this conceptual framework, I study expressions of national identity through symbolic landscapes, counter-narratives, and acts of resistance. My current research examines forced mobility in the context of political turmoil. I am particularly interested in the ways narratives are told by, for, and about persons who have been forced to move and how these narratives shape the production and dissemination of knowledge about these persons.


Amita Nathwani, Practitioner of Ayurvedic Medicine, Surya Health and Wellness, Faculty, Phoenix Institute for Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture, Adjunct Faculty, Family Medicine Integrative Medicine Fellowship Banner, University of Arizona. Amita is the owner of Surya Health and Wellness, where she practices Ayurvedic medicine. Of Indian origin, she received her Ayurvedic education in both India and North America, an experience that has given her a unique perspective and allowed her to remain true to the purity of Ayurvedic knowledge while deeply understanding its application in the Western world. She received her Masters degree in Ayurvedic Medicine from the Maharishi School of Vedic Medicine and has been practicing Ayurveda since 2004.


Michelle Renzetti, Elementary School Teacher, Tucson Unified School District. I have been teaching elementary school on and off for 30 years. I have turned away three times, only to be called back to it. I began my career in the classroom and have meandered my way through English as a Second Language, Special Education, and Reading. I feel valued as support staff and my niche is navigating relationships between teacher, parent, student, and myself in a positive way. I am passionate in exploring how to support kids who struggle in the classroom. I have turned away from teaching 3 times. The first time, I took time to travel and volunteer in Costa Rica, while completing a master’s degree. The second time, I became a massage therapist. The third time I turned away, was a silent protest to receiving the same exact paycheck the first day I started in TUSD, and the last day. Now, I am standing in solidarity with teachers and students who deserve more.


Maria Rodriguez, Community and Family Engagement Manager, Planned Parenthood Arizona Inc. You may have seen Maria facilitating community workshops focused on increasing adult-youth communication around sexuality, dating and healthy relationships. She is also working on a grant with community partners to mobilize Southern Pima Co. towards recognizing, supporting and taking responsibility for valuing adolescent sexual health as an integral part of young people’s quality of life. That includes institutionalizing delivery of sex ed to students in the Sunnyside Unified School District that works and respects all youth. She’s passionate about systemic change through community building, equity in education and connecting people to resources that support them in living their best life. And when she is not working, you will often find her wandering through the desert or elevating women of color owned accounts & businesses on social media, because #RepresentationMatters.


Jennifer Roth-Gordon, Associate Professor, School of Anthropology, University of Arizona. Jennifer is an Associate Professor in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. A cultural and linguistic anthropologist who focuses on critical race theory and whiteness studies, she has conducted ethnographic research on race and class inequality in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil since 1995. Her first book, Race and the Brazilian Body: Blackness, Whiteness, and Everyday Language in Rio de Janeiro (University of California Press, 2017) demonstrates how embedded structural racism that privileges whiteness exists alongside a deeply held pride in Brazil’s history of racial mixture and lack of overt racial conflict. At the University of Arizona, she has been recognized through a Dean’s Magellan Award for Excellence in Instruction for her innovative methods in teaching racial and social justice to thousands of undergraduates.


Erin Russ, Director of Programs, Southern Arizona Gender Alliance. A transgender advocate and educator with nearly forty years as a military, corporate and community trainer/educator, Erin is Director of Programs for the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance. She has trained and consulted with corporate managers and Human Resources staff; medical, mental health and community service providers; law enforcement; government agencies; and churches, schools and community organizations to support trans youth and adults in their organizations. Significant among them are the Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Health Care System and the University of Arizona Police department and Human Resources department. Erin served as an Army Infantry officer for 12 years, has been pastor of a local church and is working with the Boy Scouts in southern Arizona to increase trans inclusion in that organization.


Arianna Sholes-Douglas, MD, FACOG, Tula Wellness & Aesthetics. Dr. Sholes-Douglas is double boarded in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) and has been practicing medicine for over two decades. Dr. Arianna attended Washington University in St. Louis where she majored and minored in Biology, African-American Studies and Spanish, respectively. She attended Meharry Medical College and returned home to Los Angeles to complete her OB/Gyn residency at MLK Hospital and MFM fellowship at UCLA Medical Center. After her fellowship she founded and directed the High Risk Pregnancy Center at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Arianna moved to Tucson in 2007 to join the Obstetrix Medical group at TMC Hospital. She graduated from U of A’s Integrative Medicine fellowship in 2011 and opened her medical practice, Tula Wellness and Aesthetics in 2013. Her first book, The Menopause Myth, was released August 2019.


Elizabeth Slater, Chief Executive Officer, Youth On Their Own. Elizabeth is a youth advocate living in Tucson, Arizona. She currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer for Youth On Their Own, a nonprofit organization that supports the high school graduation and continued success of teens experiencing homelessness. Over the past two decades, Elizabeth has worked with teens in professional and volunteer capacities that have included education coach, health advocate, and safe housing proponent. Elizabeth completed a decade of service with AmeriCorps, developing and evaluating dropout prevention programs in urban public schools. She is also a professional fundraiser and has secured over $900M in funding for education programs and health services for low-income youth and families. Elizabeth has a degree in Nonprofit Administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has been a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) since 2009.


Maggie Trinkle, Chief Financial Officer, Sky Island Alliance. After receiving my BSBA from Eller College in MIS/Operations Management, I set off for the Bay Area to begin my career in manufacturing with Sierra Monitor Company (SMC). There, I led our quality program and honed my collaborative approach to management which relies heavily on my ability to effectively communicate with all levels of the company. After SMC, I did my time as a successful small business owner, but ultimately broke away from what was easy and comfortable to pursue an opportunity in the nonprofit world where sharing my business acumen has had the most impact. As CFO of Sky Island Alliance I steadily led the organization in building a solid financial reserve. Conservation work has been my fulfilling professional experience at a time when the world needs it most. It’s now time for me to step out from behind my spreadsheets and speak up in new ways.


Over the past six years, 117 Fellows published over 275 op-eds, as well as 50+ TV/radio appearances, keynote speeches and awards. Fellows have published in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, CNN, the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, ESPN, Al Jazeera America, The Hill, Stanford Social Innovation Review, The Huffington Post and The Root. They have launched new research studies, leveraged new funding streams, and shaped local and national debate and policy. Recognizing the need to change the public discourse, in the fall of 2013, the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona, in partnership with the University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and local philanthropists, brought this national initiative – called the Public Voices Fellowship – to Tucson.

Congratulations to the Twenty (20) women (listed below) that completed the 2018-2019 Fellowship in early June 2019. Check out their accomplishments, as well as those of prior years’ Fellows, by clicking the Read OpEds and Search Archives button below.

Questions? Please check out the FAQs or contact the Women’s Foundation to learn more.


Read Op Eds and Search Archives

The views and opinions expressed in Op-Eds published by participants in the Tucson Public Voices Fellowship are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona or our partners.