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CELL Staff

Melanie Pearlman

Melanie Pearlman

President & CEO
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Tom Ruppel

Chief Operating Officer
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Elizabeth Cychosz

ELIZABETH C. JOHNSON

Associate Director of Education & Special Projects
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Melanie Pearlman

Melanie Pearlman

President & CEO
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Tom Ruppel

Chief Operating Officer
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Elizabeth Cychosz

Elizabeth C. Johnson

Associate Director of Education & Special Projects
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JACQUELINE GRAHAM

Writing & Communications Specialist
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LESLIE HAMDORF

Manager of Curriculum & Instruction
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James Hippensteel

James Hippensteel

Manager of Education & Programs
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Libby Hodgin

Associate Communications Manager
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BECCI JACOBS

Manager of Community & Organizational Development
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Samantha Jones

Samanatha Jones

Associate Office Manager
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CAITLYN LAUCHNER

Education & Outreach Coordinator
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RUDOLF LEYBA

Education & Special Projects Coordinator
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SAMANTHA NEVILLE

Database & Administrative Associate
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MAGDALENA PEREZ

Education & Special Projects Coordinator
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MEG ROBBINS

Associate Education & Special Projects Manager
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ANDY STANLEY

Database & Administrative Associate
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BAILEY YAMSHAK

Special Projects Coordinator
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Hannah Haebig

Special Projects Intern
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Jacqueline Graham

Writing & Communications Specialist
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Leslie Hamdorf

Manager of Curriculum & Instruction
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James Hippensteel

James Hippensteel

Manager of Education & Programs
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Libby Hodgin

Associate Communications Manager
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Becci Jacobs

Manager of Community & Organizational Development
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Samantha Jones

Samanatha Jones

Associate Office Manager
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Caitlyn lauchner

Education & Outreach Coordinator
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Rudolf Leyba

Education & Special Projects Coordinator
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Samantha Neville

Database & Administrative Associate
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Magdalena Perez

Education & Special Projects Coordinator
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Meg Robbins

Associate Education & Special Projects Manager
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ANDY STANLEY

Database & Administrative Associate
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Bailey Yamshak

Special Projects Coordinator
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Hannah Haebig

Special Projects Intern
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Cailin Shioshita Pickett

Associate Database and Operations Manager
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Stephanie Whitehouse

Digital Marketing Coordinator
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Marketing Associate
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Melanie Pearlman

Melanie Pearlman

President & CEO

Melanie manages the administration, programming, and strategic planning for the Mizel Institute’s two centers – the Mizel Museum and the CELL. She has been with the Institute since 2008. Melanie’s vast accomplishments include receiving the FBI Director’s 2012 Community Leadership Award and being named one of the Denver Business Journal’s Top 40 under 40. Melanie received her M.A. in International Management and Foreign Affairs from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Tom Ruppel

Chief Operating Officer

Tom ensures proper execution of the Mizel Institute’s (including the Mizel Museum and the CELL) strategic plan. He has held various positions with the organization since joining in 2014. Tom received his M.A. in International Security with a Certificate in Homeland Security from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. He received his B.A. in International Relations and Economics from Connecticut College.

Elizabeth Cychosz

Elizabeth Cychosz Johnson

Associate Director of Education & Special Projects

Elizabeth supports the development of new educational initiatives, updates existing programming, and assists in implementing digital and in-person programs. She has been part of the team since 2017. Elizabeth holds an M.A. in Peace and Justice Studies from the University of San Diego and a B.A. in Anthropology and Journalism from Ohio University. She is a Certified Associate in Project Management with the Project Management Institute.

Jacqueline Graham

Writing & Communications Specialist

Jacqueline supports the marketing team’s planning and implementation of educational programs and events. She joined the team in 2022. Jacqueline is a highly passionate writer who believes in telling stories that empower the community. She holds an M.A. in Writing from Edinburgh Napier University and a B.A. in English Literature and Political Science from Denison University.

leslie hamdorf

Manager of Curriculum & Instruction

Leslie supports the organization’s educational programs. Leslie joined the team in 2023. She brings experience implementing various cross-cultural programs, managing K-12 educational programming, and service work with AmeriCorps. Leslie earned her Doctorate in Education in Educational Leadership and Change from Fielding Graduate University, with a special focus on her educational theory, Action Leadership for Adolescents. 

James Hippensteel

James Hippensteel

Manager of Education & Programs

James develops and teaches education programs, tours, and curricula. He has been with the team since 2021. With over 20 years of experience in secondary, higher, and public history education, James brings vast expertise to the organization, including international human rights law, diplomatic history, and teaching a college-level History of Terrorism course. James is a proud graduate of the University of Montana-Missoula, where he received both his M.A. and B.A. in History.

Libby Hodgin

Associate Communications Manager

Libby plans, develops, and implements marketing and communications strategies. She joined the organization in 2024 and has a proven track record of making meaningful contributions to the nonprofit sector through marketing, project management, graphic design, and events. Libby holds an M.S. in Applied Economics from Oregon State University, a B.S. in Economics from Washington State University, a certificate in graphic design from Bellevue College, and a certificate in project management from Cornell University.

BECCI JACOBS, MSW

Manager of Community & Organizational Development

Becci supports developing, implementing, and evaluating educational programs. She has been with the team since 2022. Becci brings her experiences in nonprofit management, mental health, K-12 education, and community engagement to the organization to ensure we meet the needs of students, stakeholders, and partners. Becci earned her Masters in Social Work from the University of Denver, specializing in Children and Youth: Risks and Healthy Development.

Samantha Jones

Samantha Jones

Associate & Office Manager

Samantha specializes in fundraising efforts, administrative efficiency, and data collection. They have been with the organization since 2021. Samantha spearheads communication with the Board of Directors, manages fundraising efforts, provides oversight of program and event operations, and executes administrative and personal support for the CEO and other senior leadership. Samantha graduated from Colorado Christian University with a B.A. in English Literature Research.

Caitlyn lauchner

Education & Outreach Coordinator

Caitlyn supports the development and implementation of the organization’s education programming and assists with school and community partner outreach. She joined the team in 2023. Caitlyn brings experience in educational programming, community engagement, and research to support the organization’s efforts. She earned her M.A. in Peace and Justice from the University of San Diego Kroc School and a B.A. in Religious Studies from Linfield University.

rudolf leyba

Education & Special Projects Coordinator

Rudolf assists with the research, development, and implementation of new and existing programs across the organization. Rodolf joined the team 2022. Rudolf received his M.A. in International Security from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of New Mexico.

 

samantha Neville

Database & Administrative Associate

Samantha supports database management and administration of programs and events. She has been with the organization since 2022. Samantha graduated with a B.A. in History from Brigham Young University.

Magdalena perez

Education & Special Projects Coordinator

Magdalena delivers impactful messages to all ages and communities as part of the education team. She has been with the organization since 2022. Magdalena holds an M.A. in International Security, specializing in human security and human rights, from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. She also holds a B.A. in International Studies and Italian from the University of Denver.

MEG ROBBINS

Associate Education & Special Projects Manager

Meg is essential to the education team, providing programming opportunities for elementary and high school-aged students, developing engaging curricula, and building partnerships with fellow educators across the front range. She joined the team in 2019. She is passionate about the work to celebrate diversity, spread messages of equality and equity, and combat hatred in all its forms.

Andy Stanley

Database & Administrative Associate

Andy helps ensure the organization is operating at its best. He has been with the team since 2023. Andy has a passion for helping others and a drive to make change a reality through his roles in the financial, service, and nonprofit sectors. Taking the skills and knowledge gained from his experiences, Andy hopes to help improve the lives of those in his community.

Bailey Yamshak

Special Projects Coordinator

Bailey coordinates various events for the organization, joining the team in 2022. She has years of experience in the security and public safety fields. Bailey holds an M.A. in International Security from the University of Denver, specializing in Intelligence and Counterterrorism. She also has a B.A. in Criminal Sociology and Psychology from Auburn University.

Hannah Haebig

Special Projects Intern

Hannah supports all areas of the organization, joining the team in 2024. She is a first-year graduate student at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. Hannah is working on her Master’s in International Studies, focusing on conflict in the Middle East.

Condoleezza Rice

Sec. Condoleezza Rice

66th U.S. Secretary of State

Dr. Rice was the 66th United States Secretary of State and President George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor during his first term. During the administration of George H.W. Bush, Rice also served as Senior Director of Soviet and East European Affairs. While an International Affairs Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rice served as Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She is the current Tad and Dianne Taube Director and Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution, a professor in Global Business and Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She is a founding partner of Rice, Hadley, Gates & Manuel LLC.

Caitlin Navratil

Special Projects Coordinator

Caitlin Navratil started at the CELL in 2021 and is responsible for supporting CELL marketing and special projects. She is currently finishing her MA in International Studies at the University of Denver, specializing in Intelligence Analysis. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Communications from Bethel University. Caitlin is a 2021 and 2022 Boren Fellow and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.

David Engleberg

David Engleberg

David H. Engleberg has lived in the Denver area since 1992. He was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and attended the University of Utah where he earned his B.A. and M.B.A. degrees. He served in the United States Army Reserve from 1967 – 1973. He also resided in the Los Angeles area for a number of years. He has held senior executive positions in the health care and insurance industries. For the past 20 years he developed numerous residential and commercial real estate projects in the Denver area. Since 2010, Engleberg has been the owner of Capitol Cigars. Engleberg served on public, private and non-profit Boards, including being Chairman of the Board of National Jewish Health. Engleberg is married and has four children, one in Denver, two in Israel, and one in Portland, Oregon. He currently has six grandchildren. His hobbies include tennis, golf, fly fishing and watching football.
Rick Sapkin

Rick Sapkin

Founder and Managing Principal, Edgemark Development

Rick Sapkin is a Founder and Managing Principal of Edgemark Development, with more than 30 years of commercial real estate experience with a strong presence through the Midwest, Rocky Mountains and western United States. Sapkin has been involved in various real estate developments, including several million square feet of retail development and, more recently, high-end self-storage facilities. He has established a proven track record for entrepreneurial business transactions specializing in commercial development, redevelopment, and urban projects. Sapkin received his B.S. in Business Administration in 1983 from the University of Denver.

Blair Richardson

Blair Richardson

Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Bow River Capital Partners

Blair Richardson is Chairman and CEO of Bow River Capital and has held executive positions in international sales and trading of public equity and debt securities for nearly 25 years. In 2011, Richardson was named one of the most influential people in Denver by 5280 Magazine (“The 5280 Fifty”). Richardson was with Morgan Stanley and Company from 1987 to 1995, serving as President of Morgan Stanley Japan in Tokyo, Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia in Hong Kong, and Managing Director of the Equity and Fixed Income Department in New York. Prior to forming Bow River Capital, Richardson was Managing Partner of B.E. Richardson Investments, which invested in a variety of industries and real estate throughout North America. Between 1996 and 2002, his company made over 20 private equity investments. Richardson is the founding partner of Bow River Capital, which today manages over $688 million of AUM and is on their 7th fund.

Michael Pollak

Michael Pollak

Co-Founder, Hyde Park Jewelers

Michael Pollak, co-founder of Hyde Park Jewelers, started by selling turquoise and Native American jewelry after class on the lawn of the University of Denver in 1973, where he graduated with a BSBA. He has spent extensive time in New York, Geneva, Vicenza and Hong Kong, cultivating his skills, knowledge and expertise in gemology, fine jewelry and Swiss timepieces. With more than 40 years in retail management, developing five regional, luxury jewelry stores, Pollak became Chief Executive Officer of Hyde Park Jewelers in 2007. He has received numerous industry awards, including induction into the National Jeweler Retailer Hall of Fame in 2008 and Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year Award” in 1999. Pollack has held board positions with Jewelers of America, Natural Color Diamond Association and the Mizel Institute. He is a co-founder of Diamonds in the Rough, a non-profit organization to support the efforts of youth-based nonprofits and local charities.

Courtney Mizel

Courtney L. Mizel

Director, MDC Holdings, Inc.

Courtney L. Mizel is a Principal at Mizel Consulting, where she has worked for over 20 years. In this role, Mizel advises companies in various industries on matters relating to business management and strategy, including operations, business development, marketing, as well as legal matters. She is also a Founding Director of the CELL. Mizel is involved in a number of non-profit activities, including serving on the Boards of Directors of Zimmer Children’s Museum, Sharsheret National and JQ International. Mizel received her Bachelor of Science in Economics with honors from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and her Juris Doctor from the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law. She is the daughter of the MDC Holdings, Inc., Executive Chairman of the Board Larry A. Mizel, and she joined its Board of Directors in 2017. Her legal and business achievements and diverse-yet-highly-relevant experiences provide the Board with enhanced business, operational, governance and legal perspectives.

Andy Miller

Andy Miller

Managing Principal, Miller Frishman

Following graduation from the University of Denver with an accounting degree, Andy Miller worked as a CPA for the international accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand. In 1980, he joined with four other partners as Loup-Miller Development Company, which designed and developed shopping centers, apartment communities, office buildings and warehouses across the United States. After the real estate debacle of the 1980s, Miller co-founded Sevo Miller, Inc., in 1990. Sevo Miller built, managed, marketed, leased and sold commercial real estate for many institutions and third-party owners across the country. In 1993, Miller and David Frishman co-founded Realty Funding Group, a mortgage and finance company that has acted as a mortgage broker and mortgage banker for numerous commercial real estate projects across the U.S. In 2009, Miller and David Frishman founded Miller Frishman Group, which specializes in multi-family apartments and retail shopping centers.

David Mandarich

David D. Mandarich

President and Chief Executive Officer, MDC Holdings, Inc.

David D. Mandarich has been associated with the MDC Holdings, Inc., since 1977 and has served as President and Chief Executive Officer since October 2020. In 1999, he was elected President and Chief Operating Officer, a title he also held in 1996. Mandarich was previously elected Co-Chief Operating Officer in 1994 and Executive Vice President of Real Estate in 1993. He was a Director from 1980 until 1989 and has been a Director continuously since 1994. 

James A. Lustig

Jimmy Lustig

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, United Capital Management

A seasoned leader in business, Jimmy Lustig has executive experience at various companies. He has proven himself to have the entrepreneurial spirit that drives new ideas to success while working within the established frameworks of highly regulated industries. Lustig was previously a shareholder and employee of a commercial bank headquartered in Denver, of which his family members were the majority shareholders and which was later sold to Zions Bank. He also founded GEA Entertainment, a music publishing industry consolidator. Lustig balances his professional career with a variety of charitable endeavors. He and his wife run the Lustig Family Foundation, through which they contribute to numerous organizations and institutions that embody their values. Lustig is proud to do his part in supporting educational, cultural, and social endeavors that will shape generations to come.

Walter Isenberg

Walter Isenberg

Co-Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer, Sage Hospitality

Walter Isenberg started Sage more than 30 years ago with partner Zack Neumeyer. As CEO of Sage Hospitality Group, he directs all company operations including management, real estate investment and brand development, with an emphasis on community giving and teaching the next generation of great leaders. Results-driven and creative, Isenberg is a member of the Union Station Alliance, the group responsible for revitalizing Denver Union Station and creating the high-performing Crawford Hotel. He created Sage’s art program which provides locally curated art in newly built or renovated hotels. Isenberg is a member of Marriott International’s Owner Advisory Board and the American Hotel Lodging Association Government Affairs Committee, as well as a board member of Visit Denver, which inducted him into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame in 2010.

John Ikard

John A. Ikard

Chairman of the Board, Firstbank Holding Company & Chairman of the Board, National Western Center

John A. Ikard stepped down as CEO of FirstBank in March 2017, after a 36-year career with the bank including serving the last 17 years as CEO of FirstBank Holding Company. He served as Chairman of the American Bankers Association, the largest financial trade association in the country representing more than 3,500 institutions. In 2010, Ikard was honored with the prestigious “Community Banker of the Year” by American Banker magazine. On a local level, he has served as Chairman of the Denver Metro Economic Development Corporation, Chairman of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Denver Area Boy Scout Council, and Chairman of Colorado Concern, one of the State’s most influential political/business organizations. Ikard previously served on the Board of Governors for the Colorado State University and was awarded CSU’s Harry Morgan Award as an outstanding alumnus in 2012.

Arlene Hirschfeld

Arlene Hirschfeld

Born and raised in Denver, Arlene Hirschfeld has been making significant and enduring contributions to the community for 35 years. After working as a teacher at Abraham Lincoln High School, Hirschfeld made a career of working nearly full-time for various causes. She has volunteered for nonprofits, including JEWISHcolorado (where she served as the third female president in the organization’s 57-year history), the Denver Art Museum, Rose Community Foundation (where she was the first female board chair) and the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. Hirschfeld currently serves on the boards of the Children’s Diabetes Foundation and the Denver Art Museum. She is a member of Rose Community Foundation’s Philanthropic Services Committee. She is also an honorary trustee of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. Her belief in the importance of volunteerism to enhance the quality of life of individuals and the community has fueled her work.

Anne Hillary

Anne M. Hillary

Anne M. Hillary is a community activist and philanthropist, serving on several local boards in arts and education. She and her husband Jim Hillary have lived in Colorado since 1998 with their three children. Hillary’s professional history includes leadership positions in arts management at American Ballet Theatre and the Martha Graham Dance Company in New York.

David P. Cohen

David P. Cohen

Shareholder, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck

David P. Cohen leverages his business experience and understanding of Congress and each unique federal agency to gather the political intelligence his clients at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck need most. He has the legal prowess to advocate before consumer-focused regulators at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the political savviness to engage appointees at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the legislative experience to propose sensible solutions to senior members and staff on the House Financial Services Committee. Before returning to Brownstein, Cohen served as Chief Administrative Officer for CLEAR, a leading biometric technology company. Earlier, he served as Chief of Staff to three U.S. Customs Service Commissioners, was involved in the initial policy discussions surrounding the formation of DHS, and served as professional staff on the House Financial Services Committee.

Michael Burg

Michael Burg

Founder/Shareholder Burg Simpson Personal Injury Lawyers

Michael Burg was admitted to the Colorado Bar in May, 1976 and founded Burg Simpson in 1977. Today, Burg Simpson comprises more than 50 attorneys with offices in four states. Burg has tried over 185 trials and obtained over 15 verdicts in excess of $1M. In total, his clients have received settlements, judgments and verdicts in excess of $500M. Burg has annually been named among America’s 50 Leading Trial Lawyers by the U.S. Legal 500 since 2012, and the U.S. Legal 500 also acknowledged him as a Leading Lawyer nationally in representing individuals in Pharmaceutical Mass Tort and Class Action Litigation. Burg was inducted to the Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame in 2016, joining such legendary trial lawyers as John Adams, Clarence Darrow, and Johnny Cochran. Additionally, he was named by Best Lawyers® in America as the 2016 Denver Lawyer of the Year for Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs.

Herbert T Buchwald

Herbert T. Buchwald

President and Chairman of the Board, BPR Management Corporation Principal, Herbert T. Buchwald, P.A. Lead Independent Director, MDC Holdings, Inc.

Herbert T. Buchwald is a principal in the law firm of Herbert T. Buchwald, P.A. and President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of BPR Management Corporation, a property management company located in Denver, Colorado, positions he has held for more than the past five years. Buchwald has been engaged in the acquisition, development and management of residential and commercial real estate in Florida, New Jersey and Colorado, through both publicly and privately held ventures for more than forty years. As an attorney, he has been admitted to practice before federal and state trial and appellate courts in Florida and Colorado. In addition, he holds an accounting degree and formerly was a practicing Certified Public Accountant.

Larry A Mizel

Larry A. Mizel

Founder, Mizel Institute & Executive Chairman of the Board, MDC Holdings, Inc.

Larry A. Mizel founded MDC Holdings in 1972 and has served as a Director and Chairman of the Board since its inception. He was appointed Chief Executive Officer of MDC Holdings in 1988, a position he held until he assumed the role of Executive Chairman of the Board in October 2020. In his various roles, Mizel has provided MDC Holdings with leadership and judgment, while advancing the long-term interests of its shareholders. 

Tom O'Connor

Principal Consultant, FEDSquared Consulting; former FBI Special Agent

Tom O’Connor is a Principal Consultant at FEDSquared Consulting, providing security solutions for both government and non-government organizations. He specializes in Domestic Extremist issues and the insider threat posed by followers of extremist ideologies. O’Connor is a frequent speaker at Law Enforcement conferences and webinars on counterterrorism and evidence collection topics including Domestic Extremism, Lone Offender shootings, and Suicide Bombings. He is a retired FBI Special Agent, with 23 years of experience working domestic and international extremism. He has extensive experience at major crime scenes around the globe and has worked for fifteen years as a local police officer. O’Connor is a Certified FBI Academy Adjunct Faculty and FBI Master Police Instructor.

Christian Picciolini

Counter-Extremism Specialist

Christian Picciolini is an award-winning television producer, a public speaker, author, peace advocate, and a former violent extremist. After leaving the hate movement he helped create during his youth in the 1980s and 90s, he began the painstaking process of making amends and rebuilding his life. Picciolini went on to earn a degree in international relations from DePaul University and launched Goldmill Group, a counter‑extremism consulting and digital media firm. In 2016, he won an Emmy Award for producing an anti‑hate advertising campaign aimed at helping people disengage from extremism. Since leaving the white-power movement over two decades ago, Picciolini has helped hundreds of individuals leave hate behind, and he leads the FREE RADICALS PROJECT, a global extremism prevention network.

Jenny Presswalla

Acting Director of the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships, DHS

Jenny Presswalla is the Acting Deputy Director for Field Operations