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Convergence Center For Policy Resolution

APRIL 17, 2024

Convergence Leadership Council and Friends

MEETING RESOURCES

SPEAKER BIOS

Mariah Levison Circle headshot

Mariah Levison | Convergence Center for Policy Resolution

Mariah serves as Convergence’s CEO and President after serving as Chief Program Officer. Mariah uses a deep understanding of human relations to build trust and relationships across differences which lead to consensus-based solutions to complex and contentious issues. Her work in consensus building includes assessment, design, facilitation, mediation, collaborative processes, dialogue, public engagement best practices, restorative justice, and program development. Additionally, Mariah has been teaching these skills for twenty years in settings ranging from community trainings to trainings for foreign governments to teaching the mediation clinic at the University of Minnesota Law School. 

Prior to joining Convergence, Mariah helped to create and ran the Minnesota State Office of Collaboration and Dispute Resolution. In that position Mariah used a collaborative problem-solving process very similar to the one used by Convergence to build consensus on state, tribal, and local issues; built the capacity of government to work well across difference; and facilitated the Minnesota Legislative Civility Caucus. Before joining the State of Minnesota, Mariah worked for nonprofit dispute resolution centers in Chicago, New York, and Minneapolis. 

Mariah has a Masters in International Affairs with a focus in conflict management from Washington University in St. Louis. 

When she isn’t working, Mariah can be found biking, cross country skiing or reading books with her two young sons and husband in Minneapolis. 

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Rob Fersh | Convergence Center for Policy Resolution

Rob Fersh is the Founder/Senior Advisor of Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, a non-profit organization founded in 2009 to promote consensus solutions to issues of domestic and international importance. Immediately prior, Rob served as the United States country director for Search for Common Ground, an international conflict resolution organization. While at SFCG, he directed national policy consensus projects on health care coverage for the uninsured and U.S.-Muslim relations. 

In the 1986-98 period, Rob served as president of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a leading NGO working to alleviate hunger in the United States. Rob also served on the staffs of three Congressional committees, working for U.S. Representative Leon Panetta and for Senators Patrick Leahy and Edmund Muskie. While a Congressional staff member and at FRAC, he was deeply involved in shepherding passage of bipartisan legislation to reduce hunger in the United States. 

Rob has held additional positions in the federal executive branch and non-profit sector. He was a 1994 recipient of the Prudential Foundation Prize for Non-Profit Leadership. Rob holds a law degree from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University, where he has served as a guest lecturer and co-instructor of a course on collaborative decision making and public policy. He is married, has four children, and three grandchildren. 

Hon. Mary Jo McGuire

Hon. Mary Jo McGuire | National Association of Counties

Commissioner Mary Jo McGuire became NACo President on July 24, 2023. She has been a Ramsey County Commissioner in Minnesota since 2012. Prior to the county board, Commissioner McGuire served 16 years in the Minnesota State Legislature, serving in both the House and Senate. 

She is also active in her state, serving in leadership at the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC), and is a member of its Public Safety Policy Committee and Education and Research Committee. 

In her own county, Commissioner McGuire chairs the county’s Legislative Committee and Active Living Ramsey Communities, and serves on the Suburban Ramsey Family Collaborative, Extension Committee, and Recycling and Energy Board. She is involved in several community organizations including Rotary International, the Optimist Club, and the Roseville Area Community Foundation. 

 Mary Jo is a lifelong resident of Ramsey County, currently residing in Roseville. She has a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the College of St. Catherine, a law degree from Hamline University School of Law, and a Master’s in Public Administration from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. 

She is an adjunct professor in the Master’s of Organizational Leadership (MAOL) Dept. at St. Catherine University, and was a guest lecturer at West Point Military Academy. 

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Elisabeth Jacobs | Urban Institute

Elisabeth Jacobs is a senior fellow in the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute, focusing on issues related to family economic security and economic mobility. Her previous roles include founding senior director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, fellow at the Brookings Institution, and senior policy adviser positions with the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and the US Joint Economic Committee. Jacobs is a nationally recognized expert on family income and earnings instability, low-wage employment and job quality, and intergenerational mobility and opportunity, as well as a wide range of related policies including social insurance, labor market regulations, and safety net policies. She is a go-to source for media and policymakers looking for clear, concise, and relevant explanations of how research can inform policy debates and agenda setting. Jacobs is an elected member of the National Academy for Social Insurance and a founding member of the American Enterprise Institute–Brookings Paid Family Leave Working Group. 

Jacobs holds a BA from Yale University, where she served on the board of trustees for the Dwight Hall Center for Public Service and Social Justice, and a PhD from Harvard University, where she was a fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy. 

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Aparna Mathur | Amazon

Aparna Mathur is a senior research manager in economics at Amazon. In this role, she tracks and conducts research to help identify labor and employment related challenges faced by Amazon’s domestic and global workforce, with a view to informing best policy. She is also a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center, where she is researching safety net issues, and a visiting fellow at The Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity. Prior to joining Amazon, she spent a year as a senior economist at the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). She joined CEA as part of the COVID-19 response task force at the peak of the crisis in April 2020 and worked with epidemiologists on the health aspects of the crisis, while also tracking the economic downturn that came with the lockdowns. Prior to joining CEA, she was a resident scholar in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). At AEI, she directed the AEI-Brookings Project on Paid Family and Medical Leave, building bipartisan momentum on paid leave, for which she was recognized in the POLITICO 50 list for 2017. 

Her academic research has focused on income inequality and mobility, tax policy, labor markets and small businesses. She has published in several top scholarly journals including the Journal of Public Economics, the National Tax Journal, and the Journal of Health Economics, testified several times before Congress, and published numerous articles in the popular press on issues of policy relevance, including on her own blog at Forbes. Her work has been cited in leading news magazines such as the Economist, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. She has regularly provided commentary on prominent radio and television shows such as NPR’s Marketplace and the Diane Rehm Show, as well as CNBC and C-SPAN.  She has been an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. She received her doctorate in economics from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2005, and is currently serving on the University of Maryland Economics Leadership Council. She is also on the boards of the National Academy of Social Insurance, Simply Green, and the National Economists Club. 

Katharine Stevens | Center on Child and Family Policy

Katharine Stevens is the founder and president of the Center on Child and Family Policy (CCFP). Prior to launching CCFP, she served for more than six years as a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), leading AEI’s early-childhood program.  

Dr. Stevens’s analyses and commentary have been published in Early Learning Nation, Education Week, The Hill, HuffPost, Institute for Family Studies, Los Angeles Times, National Review, New York Daily News, New York Post, USA Today, US News & World Report, and The Wall Street Journal. Her publications include Renewing Childhood’s Promise: The History and Future of Federal Early Care and Education Policy; Does Pre-K Work?: The Research on Ten Early Childhood Programs—And What It Tells Us; and Still Left Behind: How America’s Schools Keep Failing Our Children. 

 Before joining AEI, Dr. Stevens founded and led Teachers for Tomorrow, one of the first teacher-apprenticeship programs in the United States, which recruited and trained teachers for New York City’s lowest-performing schools. She began her career in public education as a preschool teacher in New Haven, Connecticut, and St. Louis, Missouri.  

She has a Ph.D. in education policy from Columbia University, an M.Ed. from Teachers College, an MBA from Columbia Business School, and a B.A. in US history from the University of Chicago. 

Stuart Butler Circle Headshot

Stuart Butler | Convergence Center for Policy Resolution

Stuart Butler is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at The Brookings Institution and a Convergence Board Member. Prior to joining Brookings, Butler spent 35 years at The Heritage Foundation as director of the Center for Policy Innovation and earlier as Vice President for Domestic and Economic Policy Studies. 

Butler is a member of the editorial board of Health Affairs and the board of Mary’s Center, a group of Washington, D.C.-area community health centers. He also serves on several advisory councils, including for the Peterson Center on Healthcare. He served as a member of the Advisory Group for the Culture of Health Program and as member of the Board on Health Care Services of the National Academy of Medicine. He also served on the panel of health advisers for the Congressional Budget Office. For over 10 years he was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and in 2002 he was an Institute of Politics Fellow at Harvard University. 

Butler has played a prominent role in the debate over health care equity and reform, focusing on social determinants of health and the use of market approaches and state innovation. He has also researched and written on a wide range of other issues, including budget process reform, the future of higher education, economic mobility, and federal entitlement reform. 

Stuart Butler was born in Shrewsbury, England, and emigrated to the United States in 1975, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1995. He was educated at St. Andrews University in Scotland, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and mathematics, a Master of Arts degree in economics and history, and a Ph.D. in American economic history. He is married with two daughters and resides in Washington, DC. 

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Brian Corbin | Catholic Charities USA

Brian is the Executive Vice President of Member Services at Catholic Charities USA. He facilitates an inter-disciplinary team of experts in programs and services, disaster operations, Catholic identity, government relations and membership benefits. This team provides support to the 168 diocesan member agencies of the Catholic Charities network in program and ministry design and evaluation, disaster planning and response, leadership formation, social policy, governance training, data analysis and ethical review. The Member Services Team assists member agencies with efforts involving services, advocacy and convening. He also serves on the Institutional Development Committee for Caritas Internationalis. Brian previously spent 27 years in the field as a diocesan director of Catholic Charities. 

Sue Pechilio Polis | Lutheran Services in America

Sue Pechilio Polis is Vice President of Public Relations and Government Affairs at Lutheran Services in America. Prior to joining Lutheran Services in America, Sue was the Director of Health and Well-being for the National League of Cities (NLC) Institute for Youth, Education, & Families. Sue founded and developed Cities of Opportunity, a multi-year effort to engage mayors and city leaders in addressing the root causes of poor health (social determinants of health). 

With expertise in health policy, Sue’s work spans the connection to housing, economic opportunity, mental health, substance use disorders, obesity, trauma, systems alignment, and data for well-being. Prior to NLC, Sue led the development and management of the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) external relations and strategic partnership efforts in support of the organization’s public policy goals. Sue’s background includes work with AARP on health and financial security-related issues with an emphasis on advancing policy to address the needs of vulnerable 50+ populations. She was also the founding National Director of Advocacy for the American Heart Association. 

Ipyana Spencer | Meals on Wheels America

Ipyana is the Chief Health Officer with Meals on Wheels America. In her role, she oversees the development and growth of Meals on Wheels Health, a newly created division of Meals on Wheels America that partners with health care payors and health systems to expand the impact and scope of local Meals on Wheels services to seniors and vulnerable adults who are managing multiple chronic conditions or recovering from recent hospitalizations. 

Ipyana comes to Meals on Wheels America with more than 20 years of diverse, cross industry experience across the legislative, public policy, health care and data analytics arenas. 

Ipyana’s experience in the healthcare sector includes eight years at the country’s largest health and wellness company, UnitedHealth Group. Ipyana worked as the Vice President of Industry Outreach and External Affairs, where she was responsible to cultivating relationships with key external advocacy and consumer organizations to promote policy and regulatory priorities of UnitedHealth Group. She also served as the Vice President of Community and Strategic Engagement of UnitedHealthcare Community and State, where she established and managed a team to lead and support strategic initiatives that aligned with the Medicaid division’s business development and growth priorities. 

Prior to joining UnitedHealth Group, Ipyana worked in the legislative, political, and public policy sectors for almost a decade.  She served as a senior legislative staffer to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and U.S. Congresswoman Nita Lowey, both of New York. She also was the Deputy Finance Director on the U.S. Senate and 2004 Presidential Campaign for U.S. Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. Ipyana also worked as a Government Affairs Consultant where she advised, crafted and executed legislative and regulatory outreach strategies for her clients. 

Ipyana received a Master’s in Public Policy, with a Non Profit Management concentration, from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and her BA in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania. 

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Monika Glowacki | Convergence Center for Policy Resolution

Monika is the Senior Director of Programs. Earlier, she served as Director of Convergence Collaborative on Digital Discourse For A Thriving Democracy And Resilient Communities, where she brought together people across differences to explore the root causes of problems with online information and media systems, and pathways toward a more equitable vision for the future of the internet. 

Monika has worked in research and analysis exploring the intersection of technology, people, politics and power. She is interested in critical analysis of the impact of technology on our lives, societies and economies, as well as how technology can be reimagined to serve the public interest and our wellbeing. 

Monika received her masters from the University of Oxford and her bachelors from Harvard University, both in the social sciences. She has previously worked at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the Oxford Internet Institute in the United Kingdom and the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Originally from New York, Monika is passionate about social justice, especially abolitionist and climate justice organizing. She enjoys playing volleyball, swimming and cross-country skiing, reading about politics and history, cooking vegan dishes and learning new languages. 

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Gideon Cohn-Postar | Issue One

Gideon is a Legislative Director at Issue One. Prior to joining Issue One in 2022, he served as a Policy Advisor to Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, focusing on voting rights, gun violence, and immigration issues. He has also worked for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Philadelphia Committee of Seventy. Gideon earned his PhD in American History from Northwestern University with a focus on voter intimidation and election reform in the 19th Century. He greatly enjoys teaching and writing about the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. 

John Wood Jr. | Braver Angels

John Wood Jr. is a former nominee for congress, a former vice-chairman of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, National Ambassador for Braver Angels, host of the Uniting America Podcast, The Reconstruction Project on KBLA 1580 in Los Angeles, and an opinion columnist at USA Today. A noted writer and speaker on the subjects of political and racial reconciliation, Wood’s work in depolarization spans parties, communities and institutions. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.

WATCH THE EVENT RECORDING

12:00 | Lunch

12:30 | State of Convergence with Convergence CEO Mariah Levison and including remarks from:

  • Rob Fersh, Convergence Founder and Senior Advisor
  • The Honorable Mary Jo McGuire, President of the National Association of Counties

1:00 | Convergence Collaborative on Supports for Working Families Discussion and Q&A Session facilitated by Mariah Levison and featuring Collaborative participants:

  • Elisabeth Jacobs, Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute
  • Aparna Mathur, Senior Manager of Economics at Amazon and former Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School
  • Katharine Stevens, Founder and CEO of the Center on Child and Family Policy

1:45 | Convergence Collaborative on Social Factors of Health Discussion and Q&A Session facilitated by Stuart Butler, Convergence Board Member and Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution, and featuring Collaborative participants:

  • Brian Corbin, Executive Vice President of Catholic Charities USA
  • Sue Pechilio Polis, Vice President of Public Relations and Government Affairs at Lutheran Services in America
  • Ipyana Spencer, Chief Health Officer at Meals on Wheels America

2:30 | Break — move tables!

2:35 | Democracy 250 (a partnership project with Issue One and More Perfect to build a democracy-strengthening framework for legislative action on the national and state level) Presentation and Table Discussions with Monika Glowacki, Senior Program Director at Convergence, and Gideon Cohn-Postar, Legislative Director at Issue One

3:15 | Keynote by John Wood Jr., National Ambassador for Braver Angels: A refreshing take on the subjects of political and racial reconciliation in an election year

4:00 | From Conflict to Convergence: A Preview of the Convergence Book with authors Rob Fersh and Mariah Levison

4:45 | Closing Remarks

5:00 | Convergence 15th Anniversary Reception

LEARN MORE ABOUT CONVERGENCE

SUPPORTS FOR WORKING FAMILIES CALLS TO ACTION

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Please contact Convergence Executive Vice President, Beth Miller at [email protected] with additional questions about this form!

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