Samantha Christiansen has over two decades of social justice work and organizing experience, bridging community work and academic research. She has experience in founding grassroots organizations, community organizing, grant writing, and non-profit evaluation and assessment. She holds a PhD in History and is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Springs specializing in modern South Asian and African history, social movements, and women and gender studies. In her previous institutions she has served as program director for a Women’s Studies department, member of the gender and sexuality studies boards, consulted on and advocated for issues related to Title IX protections, and coordinated trainings related to race and diversity among faculty. She served as the primary program evaluator for the African Sisters Education Cooperative (ASEC), a multi-million dollar grant-funded project connecting African and US based universities in collaborative education for women. As a public scholar, Dr. Christiansen has also published for and spoken to a wide range of audiences on topics of youth activism, student movements, and politics alongside internationally known figures such as Vijay Prashad and Noam Chomsky.
Jay Flesher has been teaching in public schools for at-risk students for 15 years. He has extensive experience with inquiry-driven instruction, co-teaching, program design, data analysis, and master scheduling. He has taught Social Studies, Language Arts, and Computers, and he has received numerous awards and grants for his work, including three Teacher of the Year and two Team of the Year awards. He has served in a variety of school and district leadership roles. He holds a Masters of Education and currently works as a Library Technology Educator in Colorado Springs School District 11. Jay is also co-founder of a local non-profit called GameCon, which puts on the largest non-athletic teen events in the Pikes Peak region and coordinates a network of volunteers to serve middle school and high school students. Jay served as an officer and organizer for the Pikes Peak Education Association and has done considerable work with the Colorado Education Association. He is also involved with political organizing at both the local and national levels. He has edited for labor journals, including the Industrial Worker, and has published essays, interviews, and short stories.
Jonathan Christiansen brings 20 years of experience as an activist and organizer. He is currently a PhD candidate in Sociology at Binghamton University. His academic work focuses on social movements, class and labor, and global political economy. He has extensive experience in the non-profit sector as both an organizer and a researcher and has co-founded three successful grassroots organizations from a student activist group as an undergraduate to a local IWW union branch, and has served in leadership positions in several other organizations. Jon has worked as a community, tenant and labor organizer and is adept at coalition building among diverse populations, as well as doing political advocacy at the local, state and federal level. He also worked at a non-profit education research organization doing formative and summative evaluation on a variety of educational programs. His position as a sociologist and activist has always operated from a commitment to blending these roles.
Jared Benson has taught history and humanities at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak Community College since 2011. His courses aim to foster agency in students to take more active roles in their education, lives, and the world. His work earned him the UCCS Outstanding Teacher Award for the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences in 2017 and the High Impact Teaching Grant in 2018. He’s served on public panels/topics ranging from Climate Change, to the Syrian Refugee Crisis, to Immigration Policy. In 2016, he organized a class to represent UCCS at the 2016 World Social Forum in Montreal, Quebec, Canada to discuss the theme “Another World is Possible” among hundreds of international activist organizations. He’s also recently created, coordinated, and judged the All Pikes Peak Reads program in 2017 at two institutions, authored the questions for the “Debating America” event at PPCC between U.S. House of Representatives hopefuls and served on the Board of Directors for the Coalition for Compassion and Action. He has also been an active participant in numerous Colorado Springs progressive causes and actions for close to ten years. In all aspects of his work, he seeks to bridge gaps, emphasizing points of convergence between the academic world and civil society.
Eric Verlo is an activist and organizer who received a BA from Kettering University and did graduate studies at UCLA. A book and record store owner for many years, Eric has been involved with numerous causes, including anti-war protest, environmentalism, civil rights advocacy, and law enforcement accountability. Eric has been party to two federal lawsuits against law enforcement agencies. He has held leadership roles in several civil rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission. His leadership in non-profit organizations includes managing a local film festival and serving on the boards of the Pike Peak Lavender Film Festival and the Pikes Peak Equality Coalition. Eric has deep-rooted relationships in the local and regional progressive communities, and he works diligently to build opportunities for change locally and nationally.
Amy Gray was born and raised in Colorado. She is a former domestic violence counselor from Fort Collins, CO. She was a former organizer at 350.org. She and her husband reside in Colorado Springs with their two boys. They enjoy camping, hiking and fishing in the Rocky Mountains. She is a dedicated environmental activist who loves to bring art and creativity to her work. She is passionate about the Colorado Springs campaign to decommission the Martin Drake Power Plant, bringing renewable energy to the Pikes Peak Region. She serves on the Moving Beyond Coal committee as chair and serves on the legislative and fundraising committees. Amy has been a long time supporter of climate justice campaigns and began her journey into activism fighting the KXL Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline.
Alexander Archuleta is a native of Colorado Springs with deep family and community ties to the Pikes Peak Region and San Luis Valley. Alex brings with him many years of social justice and political organizing experience specializing in face-to-face citizen mobilization campaigns for political parties, candidates, and advocacy groups such as the ACLU, Democratic National Committee, the Nature Conservancy, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. As a founding member of President Obama’s grassroots team, Organizing for Action, he was responsible for launching and running effective campaign offices throughout multiple states during the 2012 presidential campaign. After leaving the campaign trail Alex returned home to Colorado Springs to complete a master’s degree in history from University of Colorado, Colorado Springs where he also founded the UCCS chapter of College Democrats and became deeply involved with progressive causes affecting the Latino community. Alex currently serves as an adjunct professor at UCCS teaching history, humanities and freshman orientation courses and serves on the board of the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum’s Conejos District Oral History Project.