CFI Student Leadership Conference ’13 - Speakers

CFI Student Leadership Conference '13: Freethought In Action

Speakers

Lauren Becker

Lauren Becker

Lauren Becker, director of marketing and promotions for the Center for Inquiry, is a science and nature interpreter who has taught at museums, parks, and planetariums around the country. Known for her commentaries on Point of Inquiry, the radio show and podcast of CFI, she is an experienced environmental activist and advocate for science literacy and education. She is also an associate editor of Free Inquiry magazine.


Robby Bensinger

Robby Bensinger

Robby Bensinger is an education activist with research interests in rhetoric, consciousness studies, and metametaphysics. He is the former president of the Indiana University Philosophical Society, and has worked with the IU Secular Alliance for five years. Robby is a graduate of Indiana University, where he studied philosophy, religion, and the history of science. He has appeared on HuffPost Live and writes for a number of web outlets, including CFI On Campus and his blog Nothing Is Mere.


Vlad Chituc

Vlad Chituc

Vlad Chituc is a Lab Manager and Research Associate at a social neuroscience lab at Duke University. He graduated with distinction from Yale University in 2012 with a B.S. in psychology. As an undergraduate, he was the president of the Secular Student Alliance at Yale, where he focused on strengthening the relationship between secular and religious students on campus. He is a contributor to the blog NonProphet Status and the Huffington Post Religion section. In August, he will be joining Dan Ariely's Center for Advanced Hindsight as a Research Associate. Independent of his academic and professional research, he is interested in developing and promoting an accurate and responsible picture of religion better informed by the social sciences.


Nick Cooney

Nick Cooney

Nick Cooney is the author of Change of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change. He is the Compassionate Communities Manager for Farm Sanctuary, the country's largest farm animal protection organization, and he is the founder of The Humane League, a farm animal advocacy organization based in Philadelphia, PA, that focuses on farm animal protection issues. He has written for publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer and Z Magazine, and his advocacy work has been featured in hundreds of media outlets includingTime Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and National Public Radio.


James Croft

James Croft

James Croft is a candidate for an Ed.D in Human Development and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a vice-chair of the Humanist Graduate Community at Harvard. In his academic work, James primarily studies how the arts help us learn and grow, and he’s particularly interested in how the arts promote ethical and existential development. James is an Assistant Editor at The New Humanism, a Contributing Scholar for State of Formation (an interfaith community blog), and the creator of Temple of the Future, a project to infuse Humanism with beauty, passion and dynamism. He holds an M.Ed in Arts in Education from HGSE, and an MA in Education with Drama and English from the University of Cambridge, where he graduated with a double first-class degree and won a number of academic awards.


Michael De Dora

Michael De Dora

Michael De Dora is director of the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy and the organization’s representative to the United Nations. Michael received a master’s degree in political theory from Brooklyn College, and a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric and communication from SUNY–Albany. He maintains the blog The Moral Perspective.


Paul Fidalgo

Paul Fidalgo

Paul Fidalgo is communications director of the Center for Inquiry, and previously led communications for the Secular Coalition for America and FairVote: the Center for Voting and Democracy. He holds a master’s degree in political management from George Washington University, where his master’s thesis was on atheists in American politics. Paul is also an actor and musician whose work includes five years performing with the American Shakespeare Center. He lives in Maine with his wife Jessica and children Toby and Phoebe. His personal blog is Near-Earth Object.


Daniel Fincke

Daniel Fincke

Daniel Fincke has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University. He wrote his dissertation on Nietzsche and moral philosophy. He is now an adjunct assistant philosophy professor at both Hofstra University and City College (CUNY). Dan is an APPA (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical practitioner and he teaches non-matriculated philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for and take using video-conferencing technology. His blog Camels With Hammers is hosted on the Patheos blog network. It is a blog about philosophy, ethics, and atheism written for a popular audience. To date it has received around 2 million page views.


Aaron Friel

Aaron Friel

Aaron Friel is a quasi-traditional student in his third year studying mathematics and computer science at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). Before joining the student body at 23, he spent six years working as a consultant, software developer, and system administrator. He came to UNI after hearing about the UNI Freethinkers & Inquirers and attending their open mic discussion forum. He hasn’t stopped coming to nearly every event since. Aaron was then an officer for two years in the UNI Freethinkers & Inquirers (UNIFI) and this year is the Director of Public Relations for the Northern Iowa Democrats. Each group has benefited from effective social media and online resources. He has a passion for progressivism and technology and believes in the power of combining the two.


Susan Gerbic

Susan Gerbic

Susan Gerbic began the “Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia” project in 2011, and the project now has 80 volunteers editing in 17 languages. Gerbic is a co-founder of the Monterey County Skeptics and a steering member of the Independent Investigations Group.


Debbie Goddard

Debbie Goddard

Debbie Goddard is the director of outreach at the Center for Inquiry and the director of African Americans for Humanism, a program of the Council for Secular Humanism. Before working for CFI, she participated in local freethought groups in the greater Philadelphia region and helped organize and support campus groups internationally as a volunteer. She has also been involved with LGBTQ issues and progressive activism.


Joel Guttormson

Joel Guttorm­son

Joel Guttormson is the outreach and event coordinator at The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Joel graduated from Metro State University with two BAs, Theoretical Mathematics and Linguistics. While at Metro State he got his start in the movement as a campus leader of the Metro State Atheists. In 2009 the Metro State Atheists was awarded Student Organization of the Year, and in 2011 hosted a Pseudoscience Fair judged by James Randi. Joel also spearheaded a service project called Food for Freethought to help promote Banned Books Week. Joel is from Denver, Colorado.


Monica Harmsen

Monica Harmsen

Monica Harmsen is a 2013 summer Outreach intern at Center for Inquiry. She is on the executive board for the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Michigan and was president of the group from 2012-2013. She became involved in the secular movement through the YouTube atheist community, vlogging under the handle LittleKropotkin. She still writes about atheism and her experiences in the movement on her blog The Humble Empiricist.


Cody Hashman

Cody Hashman

Cody Hashman is a campus and community organizer at the Center for Inquiry. Before working for CFI, he was founder and president of the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers and Inquirers. As UNIFI president, he organized the first ever Darwin Week, participated in and helped organize a monthly interfaith dialogue event called “Grab a Brew, Share Your View,” and coordinated an extensive set of intellectual and social events that helped UNIFI establish itself as a very successful group on campus.


Mark Hatcher

Mark Hatcher

Mark D. Hatcher is a PhD candidate of Neurophysiology at Howard University and CFO of Black Atheists of America. He started Secular Students of Howard University (SSHU), the first officially recognized secular organization at a historically black college or university. Mark has given talks for the Center for Inquiry, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, Howard University College of Medicine, Washington Area Secular Humanists and more.


Harrison Hopkins

Harrison Hopkins

Harrison Hopkins is a current Center for Inquiry Outreach intern and the president and founder of Secular Student Alliance at Presbyterian College. In his time as president, he lead SSAPC in fundraising for Light the Night where the group raised over $3,200 (before the Foundation Beyond Belief match!), worked to allowing condoms to be distributed on his campus, as well as working with the school’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life to help the school to better understand the needs of the nonreligious community.


Sikivu Hutchinson

Sikivu Hutchin­son

Sikivu Hutchinson is a senior intergroup specialist for the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission. She received a Ph.D. from New York University and has taught women’s studies, cultural studies, urban studies, and education at UCLA, the California Institute of the Arts, and Western Washington University. She is the author of Godless Americana: Race and Religious RebelsImagining Transit: Race, Gender, and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles, and Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars . She is also the founder of Black Skeptics Los Angeles and a senior fellow for the Institute for Humanist Studies.


Sarah Kaiser

Sarah Kaiser

Sarah Kaiser is a campus and community organizer at the Center for Inquiry. Before working for CFI, she was founder and president of the Secular Alliance at Indiana University, an organization which continued to thrive after she left. She was a core member of the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign, a group that raised over $11,000 in donations to place ads saying "You can be good without God" and "In the beginning, man created God" on buses in Chicago, Bloomington, and South Bend.


Hassan A. Khalifeh

Hassan A. Khalifeh

Hassan A. Khalifeh is the group leader of the Secular Student Alliance at Wayne State University. He works at The AutoHarvest Foundation, and is a Business management major at WSU. He is an amateur blogger, artist, writer, and documentary maker. He also writes about Secularism and Atheism in the university newspaper.


Zack Kopplin

Zack Kopplin

Zack Kopplin is a young political activist, organizer, and college student from Louisiana, currently attending Rice University in Houston, TX. Kopplin has campaigned to keep creationism out of public school science classrooms and been involved with other separation of church and state causes. As a high school student, he organized dozens of Nobel laureate scientists in a campaign against the Louisiana Science Education Act, a creationism law. Kopplin is the youngest guest to ever appear on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, and is a columnist for The Guardian.


Ronald Lindsay

Ronald Lindsay

Ronald A. Lindsay, J.D., Ph.D. is by training and experience both a lawyer and a philosopher. An honors graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, he practiced for twenty-six years with the national law firm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP prior to joining the Center for Inquiry, where he has been president and CEO since June 2008. Dr. Lindsay has spoken before numerous audiences and has appeared on radio and television to discuss issues in bioethics and constitutional law controversies.


Stef McGraw

Stef McGraw

Stef McGraw is a fifth year philosophy and Spanish student at the University of Northern Iowa, and former CFI Outreach intern. She has been on the executive team of the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers for four years, which in that time has become one of the most successful and active groups on campus. She currently serves as president of the organization. In addition, Stef serves as the Speaker of the Senate for the Northern Iowa Student Government, and stays active in LGBT rights and other progressive causes.


Derek Miller

Derek Miller

Derek Miller is beginning his second year as President of the Illini Secular Student Alliance. He first became active in the organization in the position of Outreach Chair, where his efforts earned the group the 2012 "Best Service" award from their national affiliate. Derek is currently pursuing a double major in Political Science and History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His musings on the intersection of politics, religion, and society can be found at illinissa.com, along with other pieces by ISSA Officers.


Ali A. Rizvi

Ali A. Rizvi

Ali A. Rizvi is a Canadian writer, musician, and physician who grew up in Libya, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Canada, and the United States. He is from a progressive Pakistani Shia Muslim family that is religious, yet values science and skepticism. He is currently writing his first book, The Atheist Muslim.


Desiree Schell

Desiree Schell

Desiree Schell is the host of Skeptically Speaking, a live radio show and podcast that explores the connections between popular culture, history, and science, and promotes critical thinking beyond the ranks of current skeptics. In her work as a labor organizer, she creates and implements diverse campaigns and develops curricula and teaches courses on effective activism.


Edward Tabash

Edward Tabash

Edward Tabash is the chair of the board of directors for the Center for Inquiry. He is a Constitutional Lawyer and Chair of the National Legal Committee for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, as well as the Honorary Chair of CFI–Los Angeles, and Chair of the First Amendment Task Force of the Council for Secular Humanism. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Council for Secular Humanism. He has filed amicus briefs arguing for the preservation of the separation of church and state with the United States Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court.


Garrett Thomas

Garrett Thomas

Garrett Thomas is an alluring personality, inventor and charismatic artist. Garrett Thomas is a world renowned magician–but not in the way you may be used to. Most magicians you see today are just tricksters, only performing standard tricks. If you look at the word magic, it’s root is magi, or "wise man." A real magician is a renaissance man who studies science, math, physics, and psychology. They can be artists or jugglers, doing some tricks and puzzles, but also creating illusions, and conjuring the impossible. Magicians study all patterns of life, and can affect and change our perception of the world around us. All of this is Garrett Thomas. He is an inventor of many magical concepts and new ideas sought after by magicians all over the world, including the performance artist David Blaine.


Alishba Zarmeen

Alishba Zarmeen

Alishba Zarmeen is a Pakistani citizen currently completing her undergraduate studies in Politics and Human Development & Social Relations at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. She first left Pakistan at the age of 17 to attend the United World College in Victoria, BC, Canada. Coming from an incredibly small but extremely liberal and progressive sect of Islam, skepticism & scientific inquiry were the foundations she was given by her community and her parents, who are both teachers in Pakistan. She has been a very vocal proponent of secularism in Pakistan since her teen years and hopes to make an impact in the international & foreign policy aspect, bridging the gap between the East and the West so that both can benefit from each other and grow collectively in an increasingly insecure world, torn apart by religious and nationalistic loyalties.