The SDLA posts profiles of our Fellows at the time they are admitted to the SDLA Institute. After graduation, many Fellows change jobs and advance in their careers, which is not reflected in these bios. Accomplishments of SDLA Institute Alum can be found here.
Johanna S. Schiavoni--Partner, Jacobs & Schlesinger LLP
Johanna S. Schiavoni is the Co-Director of the Board of the San Diego Leadership Alliance. Schiavoni has been involved with SDLA’s benchmark program, the New Leaders Council Institute, since 2010, and is a former Chair of the Institute in San Diego. In her day job as an attorney, Schiavoni is a partner with Jacobs & Schlesinger LLP, a boutique San Diego law firm, where she specializes in appellate litigation and strategic counseling in high stakes litigation matters.
She also is committed to working on pro bono matters to provide legal services to indigent parties, for which she has been recognized by the San Diego County Bar Association and the State Bar of California.
Schiavoni also has been recognized as an outstanding young leader in San Diego’s civic and business life, and is committed to bettering our community through her service on many boards and organizations, and particularly, through the leadership development work of SDLA.
Breanna Zwart--Budget and Finance Committee Consultant, City of San Diego, Councilmember Tony Young
Breanna Zwart has a Masters Degree in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University. She is currently working for the City of San Diego as the Budget and Finance Committee Consultant. Breanna has a diverse background in political science, drama, and education.
Vivian Moreno--Broker Buyer, Industrial Metal Supply
Born and raised in San Diego, Vivian Moreno attended and earned her Bachelor’s Degree at UCSD in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations.
Vivian is a Broker Buyer at Industrial Metal Supply a top leading Metal distribution facility that provides alloy needs for the South Western region of the U.S. She is a certified Internal Auditor for the International Organization for Standardization.
Devoted to her community Ms. Moreno is currently an Assistant Director for Hermanitas, a one-on-one non-profit Latina mentorship program of MANA de San Diego. Vivian also has been mentoring a young lady from San Diego County (15 yrs old) for the past three years in the program. She was awarded 2009 MANA Member of the Year. Vivian was also one of the pull of nominated individuals for best Individual Volunteer Efforts in the 1st Annual Classy Award by Stay Classy San Diego. She is also an active member of the San Diego Young Democrats. Vivian was a volunteer for Council President Benjamin Hueso in his campaign for city councilmember in district 8.
In her leisure time, Vivian finds pleasure in reading, traveling, and giving back to her community. She is very found of the unknown and has a deep appreciation for diversity. Vivian is a passionate sports enthusiast who enjoys running, practices yoga and always cheers for her San Diego Chargers and Padres.
Elizabeth Taylor--Attorney, Brown & Winters
Elizabeth Taylor is an environmental attorney with the firm Brown & Winters where she represents California public entities as well as environmental non-profit organizations. She manages the firm’s pro bono legal program and specializes in coastal resources and Clean Water Act cases. Elizabeth began her legal career as a fellow with the United States Marine Mammal Commission where she worked on domestic and international marine policy issues. Prior to law school she worked as a marine biologist for various NGOs in the Caribbean, Hawaii and Australia. Elizabeth graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a Bachelor of Science in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. She received her law degree from Lewis & Clark Law School, with a certificate in environmental and natural resources law. Elizabeth currently chairs the Encinitas Environmental Advisory Commission.
Alex Hunsucker--Senior Product Manager, Eventful.com
Alex Hunsucker is a Senior Product Manager at Eventful.com. He has worked at Eventful since 2006 developing Internet products, building strategic business relationships and leading a technical team in the event and social media space. In early 2007, he launched Eventful Politics, a unique social media platform enabling voters to discover, share, and create grassroots political events. The end result enabled millions of voters to engage directly with candidates and influence their campaign schedules.
Since the election, Alex has focusing on user engagement and discovery in the event and live entertainment space, most recently developing Eventful Movies. He continues to work at the intersection of politics and technology, consulting for various campaigns and organizations, as well as giving presentations and participating on related panels.
Previously, Alex worked on several state and local political races in Virginia before moving to San Diego in 2006. He holds a B.A. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia, and attended the Graduate Program in International Studies at Old Dominion University.
Erin Donahue--Legislative Coordinator, Planned Parenthood of San Diego & Riverside Counties
Erin Donahue is the Legislative Coordinator for Planned Parenthood of San Diego & Riverside Counties. Erin received her Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies with a minor in Middle East Politics from University California-Irvine. To complete her degree she spent a year abroad in Ireland attending University College Dublin studying political science. Upon graduation, Erin moved to Washington, D.C and worked for Republican Youth Majority, a non-profit grassroots organization that supports pro-choice Republicans.
In 2007, Erin moved to San Diego to join Planned Parenthood as their first ever Republicans For Choice Coordinator. Erin is passionate about protecting reproductive rights and hopes one day to run for elected office.
Currently, Erin serves on the Board of the San Diego Chapter of California Women Lead (formerly CEWAR) and on the Board of the Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Carlos Mejia--Political Organizer, AFSCME Council 36 –Local 127
Carlos Mejia is the Political Organizer for AFSCME Council 36 –Local 127, the public employees Union that represents the blue-collar workers of the City of San Diego. Prior to working at AFSCME, Carlos served as an intern at the Bi-National Center for Human Rights in Tijuana, Mexico, investigating and recording human rights violations in the Tijuana Border Region. He is a graduate of San Diego State University, with a dual degree in Political Science & International Security and Conflict Resolution. Carlos is also a State delegate to the California Democratic Party as well as an alternate for the Democratic Party’s 78th Assembly District.
He currently serves as the Vice-Chair of operations for the San Diego Cesar E. Chavez Commemoration Committee, an organization committed to preserving the legacy, principles, and values of Cesar E Chavez through education and civic activism. Carlos is also a co-chair of Fiesta Del Sol a free two-day street festival celebrating the history, diverse cultures, and engagement of the people of San Diego. It is an event focused on creating positive change by empowering our communities. As a co-chair of Fiesta Del Sol, Carlos is a member of the executive board of Justice Overcoming Boundaries, an organization whose mission it is to invest in the development of community leaders so that they may address issues that affect them, their families and their communities.
Carlos is also a proud Brother of Nu Alpha Kappa Fraternity inc. at San Diego State University. He lives in the College Area neighborhood of San Diego.
Tyler Hewes--Executive Director, Orchestra Nova San Diego
Tyler Richards Hewes is the Executive Director of Orchestra Nova San Diego (formerly the San Diego Chamber Orchestra). Mr. Hewes received his bachelors' degree at Eastern Connecticut State University in Theatre, before moving to San Diego in 2002. Mr. Hewes has worked at multiple arts organizations in San Diego including the La Jolla Playhouse, North Cost Repertory Theatre and OnStage Playhouse. From 2003 to 2008 Mr. Hewes was the Production Manager for Mainly Mozart and helped produced their annual Mainly Mozart Festival. Mr. Hewes is dedicated to the progressive movement and its ideals.
Udoka Nwanna, Esq.--Associate, Andrews Lagasse Branch & Bell LLP
Udoka Nwanna received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Emory University and her Juris Doctor degree from California Western, with a concentration in Criminal Prosecution and Defense Practice. After her first year of law school, Ms. Nwanna served as a summer law clerk to the late Honorable Napoleon A. Jones, Jr., United States District Court, Southern District of California. After her second year, she served as a summer law clerk for the Department of the Navy, Office of General Counsel in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Nwanna practices employment law and professional liability defense as an associate at Andrews Lagasse Branch & Bell, LLP. Ms. Nwanna joined their practice after working as a Deputy District Attorney in San Diego. Prior to her work as a prosecutor, Ms. Nwanna was an associate at national law firm focusing her practice on federal class action securities fraud litigation. Before becoming an associate, Ms. Nwanna served as a law clerk to the Honorable John H. Houston, United States District Court, Southern District of California.
Ms. Nwanna is admitted to the California Bar and to practice before all United States District Courts in California. She is also an active member of the San Diego County Bar Association and serves on the boards of the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association, the Lawyers Club of San Diego, and the California Western School of Law Alumni Board. Ms. Nwanna spends her free time as volunteer at Rady Children’s Hospital.
Midori Wong--Attorney, Latham & Watkins LLP
Midori Wong works for The Treadstone Companies, a national real estate development and advisory group specializing in the creation and preservation of affordable rental housing. She previously served as Chief of Staff to the 2010 Redistricting Commission of the City of San Diego and as a regional planner for the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). An alumna of the University of California - San Diego, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in Urban Studies and Planning and Environmental Studies minor. Affiliations include LEAD San Diego, the Junior League of San Diego, and the Urban Land Institute San Diego/Tijuana Chapter. In 2011, she was also named one of Patch.com's "30 Under 30" leaders for San Diego county.
Rhiannon M. Jones, Proactive Strategies Director – The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC)
Rhiannon serves as the Proactive Strategies Director at BISC, where she is responsible for identifying, cultivating and supporting state and national efforts to move the progressive agenda forward through the citizens’ initiative process and catalyzing a national proactive ballot measure strategy.
Prior to BISC, Jones spent 10 years with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of the Pacific Southwest running their legislative, advocacy and electoral campaigns. During that time, she also served as the Regional Field Director for the successful No on Props 73, 85, and 4 campaigns to defeat dangerous parental notification initiatives in California and as the Statewide Campaign Manager and spokesperson for No on 2: Alaskans Against Government Mandates.
Rhiannon began her career organizing on campus for V-Day: Until the Violence Stops and Planned Parenthood at the University of California, San Diego where she studied writing and biological anthropology. Jones splits her time between Washington, DC and San Diego, California. She completed a fellowship in the first New Leaders Council Institute in San Diego in 2012.
Steven Lei--Assistant for Program and Professional Development, Avid Center of San Diego
Steven Lei is an organizational management and public affairs professional, working in program and professional development at the San Diego-based education non-profit AVID Center. He is responsible for managing a national educational leadership training program for the organization, whose mission is to prepare all students for college readiness and success in a global society. Steven has been active in various progressive local and national political campaigns, both domestically and abroad. His experience also includes work for former U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and the One America PAC, the British Council, Americans for Informed Democracy, the New Americans Museum, major research universities and think tanks. His policy interests are foreign relations and international security, economic diplomacy, innovation and global competitiveness, educational equity and civil liberties. Steven received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego and master's degree from the London School of Economics.
Deborah Spindelman--Community Inclusion Coordinator, Community Coaching Center
Deborah graduated magna cum laude from Cal State University, Long Beach in 2005, where she majored in Sociocultural Anthropology and minored in Women’s Studies. As an undergraduate, she performed ethnographic research with members of Costa Rica’s indigenous Cavecar and Bribri communities , and boosted CSULB’s surf team to win their first NSSA National Championships. Following graduation, Deborah returned to her native San Diego to mentor adolescent girls through youth mentorship startup Club Xcite. Promoted to Program Director, she launched a partnership with San Diego Youth Services to provide high-end private mentoring to low income youth at risk.
Now with Community Coaching Center, Deborah develops partnerships with state and local policymakers, autism researchers, area nonprofits, volunteer organizations, and civic clubs on behalf of community inclusion programming for youth with autism. In addition to Community Inclusion Coordinator responsibilities, she has served as a CCC Board Director since July 2008. Recently tackled projects include program expansion and replication, developmental disability policy and law, and participatory photography project Through the Lens of Autism. She currently serves in advisory positions to the International Girls Skateboarding Association and Outside The Lens.
Laura Sheppard--Criminal Defense Attorney, Law Office of Laura Sheppard
Laura Sheppard was raised in Berkeley, and moved to San Diego in 2003 to care for her grandmother in Poway. She has lived in Golden Hills, North Park, Normal Heights, Spring Valley, and the College area. She now owns her first home in City Heights, where she is a dog owner, and the president of her Homeowner’s Association. Her favorite San Diego locales are the Zoo, the local dog parks in Balboa Park and Kearney Mesa, the Ocean Beach volleyball nets, and Tioli’s Crazy Burger. She is a member of North Park Baptist Church and Harbor MidCity Presbyterian Church in City Heights.
In the political arena, Laura is proud to have devoted time to the campaigns of such progressive leaders as Donna Frye, Lorena Gonzalez, Patty Davis and Howard Wayne. She has also advocated for the city’s hardworking paramedics at San Diego Medical Services Enterprise. Laura is a graduate of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, with a major in theatrical design and a minor in fine art. She is also a graduate of the University of San Diego School of Law, and a recent admittee to the California Bar. She plans to practice as a criminal defense attorney for indigent youth, and also work on post-conviction needs such as appeals, and justice in parole and probation decisions.
Jason Everitt--Research and Policy Analyst for the Center on Policy Initiatives
A native San Diegan, Jason Everitt works as a Research and Policy Analyst for the Center on Policy Initiatives. Previously, he served as an organizer for San Diego Coastkeeper and the Sierra Club. Jason earned a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from the UC Santa Barbara. He has also finished Master's coursework in International Relations and Public Administration at the University of Southern California, with a focus on water and immigration policy. Jason currently resides in Escondido.
Aaron Frieberg--Associate, Latham & Watkins
Aaron is an attorney for the firm of Latham & Watkins LLP with a practice focusing on financing in the gaming/hospitality and alternative energy sectors. Aaron serves on the board of the San Diego County Young Democrats and as an appointed representative on the Consolidated Plan Advisory Board. Previously, he worked as the field director for the David Alvarez for City Council 2010 campaign. Aaron lives with his wife and 1 year old child in downtown San Diego.
Jared Quient--Director of Project Development, AMSOLAR Corporation
Jared Quient currently serves as the Director of Project Development with AMSOLAR Corporation – a solar energy in Solana Beach company focused on providing innovate solar solutions to educational institutions and select commercial enterprises.
Prior to joining AMSOLAR, Jared was with Kirkland & Ellis, LLP’s New York office, working as a litigator focused on general corporate matters. In 2008, Jared took a leave of absence from Kirkland to join Obama for America as the statewide Deputy Voter Protection Director in Florida. Jared managed a staff of 20 full-time volunteer lawyers and oversaw the largest Voter Protection program in the country, which deployed over 4000 lawyers statewide to monitor the election. Jared was the youngest member of the five-person executive committee that directed the coordination between the Obama campaign and the Florida Democratic Lawyers Council. Mr. Quient began his career working for Congresswoman Susan Davis of San Diego. He served as a fundraiser for the Presidential campaign of Senator Joe Lieberman. Jared is a graduate of San Diego State University, and graduated cum laude from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
Sarah Boot--Associate, Cooley Godward Kronish, LLP
Sarah Boot is an associate at the law firm of Cooley Godward Kronish, LLP. She primarily represents Internet and technology companies, and her legal practice focuses on complex civil litigation and intellectual property litigation.
Boot currently serves as a member of the Advisory Board for Run Women Run, a non-profit organization dedicated to identifying, mentoring, and financially supporting pro-choice, women candidates for elected office. She also serves on the Board of Directors and as Chair of the Public Relations Committee for the Lawyers Club, a specialty bar association dedicated to advancing the status of women in the legal profession and in society.
Boot received her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School where she was an Articles Editor for the Michigan Technology and Telecommunications Law Review. During law school, she interned for a federal district court judge, a state court appellate judge, and the Detroit prosecutor’s office. She also spent a semester studying international law at Hong Kong University.
Prior to law school, Boot was Finance Director for the re-election campaign of a Washington D.C. City Councilmember At-Large. She also served as a Regional Field Coordinator for a New Hampshire Presidential Primary campaign.
Boot graduated from the University of Michigan with an honors degree in Political Science and a minor in Spanish. While at Michigan, she was elected Student Body President, representing over 38,000 students.
Katherine Field-- District Director, U.S. Senator Feinstein
Katherine currently serves as the District Director for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, managing the daily operations of the Senator's San Diego Regional Office. In this capacity she works on a number of issues including border infrastructure, homeland security, environment, and education policy. She has worked for the Senator since 2006.
Katherine holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from San Diego State University where she was selected as a member of Mortar Board, the premier national honor society recognizing college seniors for superior achievement in scholarship, leadership and service. She successfully completed the New Leaders Council Institute in 2010.
Elizabeth Newman--Labor to Neighbor Field Organizer, San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council
Elizabeth Newman is the Labor to Neighbor Field Organizer for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. She is from both Minnesota and Colorado, where she grew up snowboarding and singing. She graduated with her B.A. from Macalester College, in St. Paul, MN in 2007, majoring in Sociology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. There she developed her real passion for social justice and equal rights. Her first major political action was when she joined 50 other students and activists on a 24-hour bus to Washington, D.C. to join the 2004 March for Women’s Lives. After college, she worked to elect Senator Al Franken as the Volunteer Coordinator and then the Political Coordinator for his campaign; among the many things she learned, she was thrilled to find out that both she and Al love the Minnesota State Fair. Outside of the office, Elizabeth enjoys cooking and hiking with her dog.