Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA)
First elected to public office at the age of 25, Rep. Smith serves as the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee and represents Washington’s 9th district. With previous posts on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Intelligence Committee, the Congressman traveled throughout Africa and visited Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Rep. Smith believes that “we must execute a national security strategy that counters violent religious extremism and anti-American sentiment, builds partnerships around the world, work closely with friends and allies, and advances programs to create a more just, peaceful, and stable world.” As the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Effective Foreign Assistance, he has focused on improving the efficacy and transparency of U.S. foreign aid. Rep. Smith is also a strong proponent of organizations such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). He led a letter asking for $1 billion in funding for the MCC, which uses innovative and effective models to reduce poverty and build sustained economic growth. The Congressman has also aggressively pursued strong funding for programs that support global health initiatives including maternal & child health, the Global Vaccine Initiative (GAVI) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, vaccines for HIV and malaria as well as tuberculosis funding. Rep. Smith has served as an Honorary Board Member of The Borgen Project since 2011.
Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX)
Rep. Michael McCaul is the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The committee considers legislation that impacts the diplomatic community, which includes the Department of State, the Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, the United Nations, and the enforcement of the Arms Export Control Act. McCaul previously served as the Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Rep. McCaul has been a vocal supporter of making smart investments in solutions to improve the lives of millions of people while projecting U.S. global leadership around the world. To that end, he has also introduced legislation to tackle some of the most pressing global development issues from addressing childhood cancer to ending global hunger and promoting women’s rights. In 2019, Congress passed Rep. McCaul’s Global Fragility Act which requires the administration to coordinate diplomatic, development, and defense efforts with the goal of stabilizing conflict areas and addressing the root causes of fragility. Rep. McCaul introduced his most recent poverty-fighting initiative in the 117th Congress — the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act, aimed at curbing world hunger and malnutrition, especially for women and children.
Don Girskis is the former head of Boost Mobile. Girskis had previously been Senior Vice President of World Wide Sales at ShoreTel, a publicly-traded global telecommunications company. During his four year tenure at ShoreTel, Girskis also served as interim CEO. Prior to ShoreTel, he spent 5 years at Boost Mobile, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nextel Communications. He joined Boost Mobile as Chief Operating Officer when it was just forming. He was promoted to run the entire operation as Senior Vice President and General Manager of Boost Mobile after one year and developed the business from an idea to $1.8 billion in revenue in just 5 years.
Chuck Cooper is the Managing Director of Government Affairs at Vulcan Inc., where he oversees the Government and Community Relations (GCR) team and manages the development and implementation of government relations and public policy strategies for the company. Before coming to Vulcan, Cooper served as Assistant Administrator for Legislative and Public Affairs at the USAID, where he led the Agency’s government affairs, communications and media relations efforts, a portfolio that included work on global health, food security, humanitarian assistance, wildlife conservation, ocean health and climate. He also served as Vice President of Congressional and Public Affairs at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. Government agency that promotes economic growth in developing countries. Prior to joining the Executive Branch, Cooper worked as Director of the United States Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) from 2000 to 2010, where he managed the DPC staff and served as an advisor to the Democratic Leadership and Senators on domestic and foreign policy issues. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Miami University, a law degree from Case Western Reserve University, and a master’s degree from New York University.
Andy Taylor is the Corporate Privacy Officer for a multibillion-dollar financial services company in the Twin Cities area. Previously, he spent nearly a decade as a congressional staffer, most recently as the Chief Economic Advisor on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he covered international economic policy. During his tenure in Congress, Taylor was instrumental in passing several anti-poverty and financial inclusion measures into law. Such efforts include the BUILD Act, which established a $60 billion U.S. International Development Finance Corporation to mobilize private capital in emerging markets and advance U.S. foreign policy interests; and the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act, which provides financing to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises owned, managed and controlled by women in the developing world. Taylor is also the co-founder of Childcare Compare Inc., a startup company that empowers families to search for, compare and apply for childcare in the Washington, D.C. area. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Portland and is currently pursuing a Juris Doctor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
Natalie Gill-Mensah has led global teams in executing complex multi-year programs in twelve countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. She is currently the Director of Programming and Training for Peace Corps Ethiopia where she manages a team of program managers and training professionals and provides oversight for a volunteer population of 100-150 volunteers. Prior to the Peace Corps, Gill-Mensah was Senior Manager for Tuberculosis Access at the Clinton Health Access Initiative where she led a team focused on supporting ministries of health in translating policy to practice and increasing access to TB treatment and diagnostics in low and middle-income countries across Africa and Southeast Asia. She also has past management consulting experience advising hospitals, health systems, health insurance, pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies across the United States. Gill-Mensah is from Boston, Massachusetts, and currently has a home base in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with her husband and son. She attained a Bachelor of Arts from Wellesley College in International Relations and Africana Studies and went on for graduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill earning a dual graduate degree, Master of Science and Public Health in Health Policy & Management and Master of Business Administration. Natalie enjoys international travel (38 countries visited and counting), dancing, singing and playing with her toddler.
Kristina Pecora is a licensed clinical psychologist with over a decade of experience in treatment, advocacy, and research, and an advocate for mental health access and understanding, both internationally and abroad. Pecora is a graduate of The University of Chicago-Harris School of Public Policy (MAPP, 2019), The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (PsyD, 2008), The Catholic University of America (MA, 2003), and Hope College (BA, 2000). She holds certificates in Global Mental Health with a specialization in Trauma and Recovery (Harvard Medical School, 2016), Mediation (Center for Conflict Resolution, 2019) and Health Coaching (National Society of Health Coaches, 2017). She is a member of the American Psychological Association as Chair of their International Task Force, and an active member of the Illinois Psychological Association as co-Chair of the Legislative Committee and Federal Advocacy Coordinator. Pecora previously served as a volunteer with The Borgen Project between 2018 and 2020, participating in Congressional meetings and actively lobbying for support in the fight against global poverty.
Miata Koroma Ekanem
Miata Koroma Ekanem is currently a Senior Director of Health Policy, Clinical and Practice Affairs at the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR). Within her current role, she is the strategic and leadership arm for government and regulatory affairs, economics and reimbursement, clinical quality improvement and practice guidelines, practice development and operations, and workforce research and development. Before her time at SIR, Koroma Ekanem worked as a director of operations at Davita, Inc. In that capacity, she managed four outpatient dialysis centers and was the regional program lead for 12 home hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. While in Davita, Koroma Ekanem used her years as a kidney, liver and pancreatic transplant nurse to educate and advocate on Capitol Hill for appropriate resources and funding for chronic kidney patients. Personally, Koroma Ekanem started her volunteerism as a patient advocate and community volunteer at National Kidney Foundation. She also volunteered at the University of Maryland, a graduate student organization known as the Nurses for Global Health program. She had opportunities to work in South America serving patients predisposed or already diagnosed with HIV and cervical cancer. Additionally, for over 15 years, Koroma Ekanem worked as a volunteer nurse for different nonprofits specifically geared toward health care, poverty and humanitarian efforts in her home country of Sierra Leone.