At Define American, we’re building an America that belongs to any person who calls this country home. With thousands of supporters across the country, we are building a country that embraces and welcomes all people, giving them an opportunity to practice citizenship regardless of the circumstances of their birth. For us, citizenship is not the possession of papers, or lack thereof; it is belonging to a community that loves, and having the opportunity to realize families’ dreams. And this citizenship cannot be defined by one’s bloodline and or the soil within our borders because it is created every day through the work, ideals, and values and participation of all who seek the American experience.
If you share that vision, we want you to join our team, which has been recognized by Fast Company as one of the most innovate companies in the Film and TV space.
A descendant of nine generations from Appalachia, Rev. Ryan M. Eller is the executive director of Define American, the nation’s leading media and culture organization using the power of story to transcend politics and shift the conversation around immigrants, identity and citizenship. Define American was named one of the most innovative companies in the world by Fast Company in 2019 and called “one of the most effective social justice organizations of our generation” by the Center for Media and Social Impact. Prior to Define American, Ryan was the U.S. campaigns director at Change.org. He is the former executive director of CHANGE – the largest broad-based community organizing group in the southern U.S. Ryan has been widely published across the media, including in Sojourners and Politico, and has appeared on Fox News, CNN, NBC, and more. (He/him.)
Responsible for leading Define American’s capital growth strategy. Prior to Define American, Jacky served as the Director of Individual Giving at the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco. She was formerly the Director of Development for Esperanza Community Housing Corporation where she raised funds to support comprehensive community development and anti-displacement efforts in South Los Angeles. As Grants Manager at the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, she helped to lift working conditions for the nation’s 5 million restaurant workers. Jacky holds a firm commitment to upholding a social justice framework in all of her endeavors.
Responsible for expanding Define American’s impact in television, film and entertainment. Elizabeth comes to Define American from a fifteen-year career in media. As a showrunner and executive producer, she oversaw non-scripted projects for networks such as VH1, OWN, Lifetime Television and Syfy. Elizabeth holds a B.A. in Communications from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Masters Degree in Social Entrepreneurship from Pepperdine University. She is a storyteller at heart and passionate about harnessing the power of media to create positive global and domestic social change.
Khadija Gurnah is the Organizing Director for Define American. Previously, Khadija worked on immigration advocacy at MomsRising. She has worked alongside various governmental departments, on a wide range of projects, including bullying prevention, cultural sensitivity, religious accommodations for youth in the juvenile justice system, and bolstering enrollment for Muslims in the Affordable Care Act. She is a recipient of the White House’s Champion of Change Award, and of the EMAC Special Award in Health Disparities from her alma mater, the Yale School of Public Health. (She/her.)
Kristian Ramos is the Communications Director for Define American who proudly hails from the Southwest. Kristian has work experience in both the House and Senate working most recently for Media Matters For America. Prior to that he worked for the Mayor of Washington DC, he was the communications director for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and began his communications career in the United States Senate for then Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Democratic Communications Center. Kristian began his career working for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy groups in the country. He has a Masters Degree in Governmental Affairs from Johns Hopkins University. He wishes the District of Columbia had better Mexican food.
Alicia Wade comes to Define American with more than ten years of business operations and Human Resources experience in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. She has successfully managed teams, facilities, implemented business improvement systems, fostered fiscal responsibility, developed effective performance management systems, and increased employee morale and motivation through organizational culture development. Alicia obtained dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Sociology from Fisk University in Nashville, TN, and is currently completing a Master of Finance and Accounting degree.
Responsible for coordinating digital campaigns and rapid response on social media. After graduating from New York University with a BFA in dramatic writing, Naftali moved to Chicago to join the Avodah Jewish Service Corps to work with local organizations for racial and economic justice. During his time at Avodah, Naftali discovered his passion for digital organizing through his social media work for IfNotNow, Sunrise Movement Chicago and Never Again Action. (He/him.)
Responsible for pitching media, holding media accountable, and helping demonstrate the power of storytelling to shift public perception. Nathaniel has almost 20 years experience as a journalist, editor and author. He’s written for daily and weekly newspapers in Idaho and California, reported from abroad, and co-authored the book Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love Across America’s Borders (2013). Nathaniel has a B.A. in Africana Studies from Cornell University and an M.A. in Data Journalism from Boise State University. He’s based in Boise, Idaho. (He/him/él.)
Responsible for editing videos by the production team. Born in Connecticut but raised on the Central Coast of California, William Johnston-Carter graduated from Chapman University with a BFA in Film Production and a BS in Physics. While at Chapman he was a member of the selective Filmmaker-in-Residence mentor program with Academy Award winning producer Cathy Schulman (Crash, The Illusionist). After college, William interned for the documentary filmmaker Robert Kenner (Food Inc., War Letters, Two Days in October) before spending two years with AmeriCorps where he served as Media Production Coordinator for the nonprofit organization Impact America. In 2017, he southbound through-hiked the Appalachian Trail, 2,189 miles from Maine to Georgia, and took way too many photos to prove it.
Responsible for managing and executing events for the organization. So Yeon has over 15 years of experience in outreach, program development and management and community organizing, particularly in Asian American communities. She was formerly the Events and Fundraising Manager at National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, where she organized the annual conference and helped to build individual giving efforts. So Yeon holds a Master of Public Administration from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service and a B.A. in International Studies from American University.
Responsible for media outreach and communications strategy for Define American. In addition to working in the U.S. House of Representatives, Noelle has held positions at top lifestyle & entertainment companies like BET Networks, Inc. and Baltz & Company. She now couples her political experience with her knowledge of the media landscape to provide energized and engaging media strategies and inspire people to ask thoughtful questions. Noelle is also the co-founder of Women II Watch, a quarterly event series and social platform that unities rising female leaders across various industries.
Responsible for research and audience development strategies for Define American. Sarah has over twenty years of experience crafting cross-platform media campaigns for The Walt Disney Company, Nintendo, Cigna, PBS and Discovery Channel. She has also been at the forefront of launching large-scale netroots movements in conjunction with arts-based nonprofits including American Promise, Question Bridge: Black Males and Land of Opportunity. Sarah holds a B.A. in English from Wittenberg University, a master’s in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Health Promotion and Policy at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst with a focus on Global Migration and Community Building in the Digital Age. (She/her.)
Responsible for creating video content at Define American. In her previous work, she was Associate Producer at #EmergingUS, the production arm of Define American and a production assistant at the Los Angeles Times. In addition to video production, she has worked in entertainment media and music at SpinMedia, VIBE and REVOLT TV. Monica is passionate about telling stories that reflect the true diversity of our country. She holds a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oregon.
Ana is responsible for supporting Define American’s capital growth strategy, primarily through foundation partnerships. Previously, Ana was the Grants Associate at Fresh Lifelines for Youth in the San Francisco Bay Area. She also served as the Princeton in Latin America Fellow at Cojolya Association of Maya Women Weavers in Guatemala where Ana worked to increase revenue to support preserving the art of the back-strap loom and economically empowering indigenous Tz’utujil women. Ana has a B.A. in Political Science and French from Columbia University. As an immigrant, Ana is proud to support Define American’s efforts to uplift positive and true narratives of immigrants in the United States. (She/her.)
After working in the corporate world for tech and e-commerce companies, Sonya worked for University Advancement at the University of Louisville. Taking on the task of social media coordinator for the Denny Crum Scholarship Fund at University of Louisville gave her the opportunity to meet with students from all walks of life and learn true dedication and a great work ethic from an NCAA Hall of Fame coach up close and personal. With her organization abilities and slight case of OCD, herding cats is her forte. (She/her.)
Responsible for managing TV and film development for Define American. Previously, DJ worked as the manager of development at 11th Street Productions. He was also a production coordinator at MTV. He received his B.S. in broadcast journalism from the HBCU Morgan State University and earned his M.A. in media arts from The New School. He has a passion for film and storytelling, especially stories concerning identity, adversity, and the black and brown experience.
Responsible for coordinating Define American Chapters. Valeria holds a B.A. in Spanish and Political Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she was the founder of the Define American Chapter @ UNL, which was named 2016 Chapter of the Year. During her time at UNL, Valeria established the Dr. Juan Franco Legacy Scholarship to help undocumented and DACAmented students. She interned with Nebraska Appleseed for four years, serving as the Women Empowered to Lead program coordinator and field organizer for the Immigrants and Communities program. (She/her.)
Responsible for oversight of Define American’s video content production. In her previous work, she was an Assistant Editor at MeetingHouse Productions and Tommie Copper Productions, a Senior Production Assistant at Zero Point Zero Productions, a Coordinating Producer at Hot Air Productions and a Senior Associate Producer & Casting lead for the Emmy-Nominated MTV special “White People.” Shauna has been leading production at #EmergingUS, the production arm of Define American, for the past two years. She holds of Bachelors of Arts from Oberlin College. As a storyteller, she’s dedicated to exploring the complexity of our American identity.
Responsible for analyzing and organizing data and database workflows for Define American. Previously, Liz served as the Technology Manager at a nonprofit advocating for public sector worker retirement security. Prior to that, she worked for a nonprofit that brings the power of storytelling to underserved populations through the art of playwriting. She graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a B.A. in both Psychology and Theatre, and she has additional training in website development from San Diego Continuing Education.
Responsible for overseeing the new Undocumented Artist Fellowship and the Ambassadors program. Bethany is passionate about the global power of art and storytelling to foster empathy and connect people from different backgrounds. She has worked building collaborations with various organizations including Sundance Institute and the USC Pacific Asia Museum to support storytellers and artists in their creative endeavors while also cultivating engaging conversations and interactions between artists and audiences. Bethany grew up in five different countries and has made Los Angeles home for the last 15 years. (She/her.)
Responsible for assisting Jose Antonio Vargas and the Define American team. Jon graduated from UCLA, line produced Define American’s film Documented, and previously managed operations for HyperShop. He probably should’ve majored in computer science.
Patricia Hyland, Chair
Maria Gabriela “Gaby” Pacheco, Secretary
Suzette Brooks Masters, Treasurer
Peter Perl, Board Member
Monona Yin, Board Member
Michelle O’Grady, Board Member
Jose Antonio Vargas, Founder (Ex Officio)
Bich Ngoc Cao