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Provided panel and moderator biographies:
Cristóbal Joshua Alex
Open Society Institute, Democracy and Power Fund
Cristóbal works with the Open Society Institute's Democracy and Power Fund. In his role as program officer, Cristóbal manages the fund's civic engagement portfolio and supports a range of strategies to inspire public participation from underrepresented communities, develop new leaders, and generate innovate solutions to address threats to democracy and advance social justice and a more open society.
Prior to joining OSI, Cristóbal served as the Director of the National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights. In that role, he led a coalition of more than 100 organizations to raise awareness of the civil rights rollback and worked to ensure that the courts protect and preserve justice, fairness, and opportunity for everyone. Cristóbal has successfully advocated before the United Nations Human Rights Commission and various federal and state governmental bodies, including the United States Supreme Court. He also practiced law with MacDonald Hoague & Bayless, the leading civil rights firm in the Pacific Northwest. During that time he focused his practice on police and governmental misconduct, including important cases dealing with prisoner rights.
Cristóbal was the student body president at the University of Washington School of Law, and led rallies and marches opposing Anti-Affirmative Action initiatives. While a student he helped organize successful legislative campaigns to give undocumented students access to higher education, and fund an unprecedented $40 million in farm-worker housing. Following law school Cristóbal served as the youngest president in the history of the Latina/o Bar Association, and brought attention to standardized testing systems that disproportionately impact people of color, and led voter registration drives. He developed the Pathways to Law mentorship program that pairs community college students of color with attorneys of color — the first of its kind in the country — and also co-founded and chaired the Farm Worker Justice Project, and the Latino Political Action Committee.
Cristóbal, the son of immigrants and a Texas native, co-chairs the Civil Rights Section of the Hispanic National Bar Association, has received the Outstanding Young Lawyer Award, El Centro de la Raza's Leadership Award, UW's Recent Alumni of the Year Award, was a recipient of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund Scholarship and is consistently named "rising star" in the area of constitutional law by Washington Law and Politics. He is a guest contributor for the Huffington Post and has appeared on various news programs.
Dr. Richard Heinzl, Founder
Doctors Without Borders
In 1988, only recently out of medical school, Dr. Heinzl founded Doctors Without Borders, Canada, and in 1990 became the organization's first field volunteer. Since that time hundreds of other Canadian volunteers have followed in his footsteps, bringing their healing skills to the world's most vulnerable people. Along the way, Dr. Heinzl has received numerous awards and citations, including being named to Report on Business Magazine's prestigious Top 40 Under 40 List.
Dr. Heinzl is the former CEO of Toronto-based CardioView Inc., an information technology company in the field of cardiology. He is also the vice president of Vivid Health Solutions which creates motion picture and new media solutions for the health sciences. Dr. Heinzl's presentations are a life-affirming celebration of the ability we all have to make a difference in this world, and a how-to guide for organizations that want to inject more energy and commitment into their culture, and become more global in their outlook. Filled with inspiring anecdotes of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, his speeches move audiences to a renewed optimism in the human capacity to create positive change in the midst of daunting challenges.
April Pedersen, Executive Director
Democracy In Action
April Pedersen is the executive director of DemocracyInAction (DIA), an organization she co-founded in 2003 with the belief that technology has a critical role to play in building a progressive infrastructure both in the U.S. and abroad. Since its inception, DIA has grown to be a key player in the online engagement service industry and is confirming in practice that the resources leveraged in its operations are capable of bringing decisive force to the myriad social movements they support.
April is also a founder and principle of Wired for Change, a mission-oriented company providing online engagement tools to political campaigns, PACs, the DSCC and State Democratic parties. For the past 10 years, April has worked in the nonprofit sector as an online campaign strategist, writer, organizer and now social entreprenuer. She launched several new innovative projects for organizing online, created vibrant online communities and managed online communications and grassroots lobbying for a coalition of 20 national environmental advocacy organizations.
April is a devoted human rights and social justice advocate and organizer and also served as the acting executive director of CIVIC, an organization that seeks to mitigate the impact of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and its aftermath by ensuring that timely and effective assistance is provided to unintended victims of conflict. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of CIVIC. April is a graduate Friends World College of Long Island University and has lived and worked in several countries in Latin America and Morocco.
Julie Segal, Founder
Civic Action Strategies
Civic Action Strategies was founded by Julie Segal, an attorney who specializes in strategic planning and mobilizing citizen political action. Prior to launching Civic Action Strategies, Julie worked for two years in Kosovo where she directed civic participation and democracy development programs for U.S. and European organizations.
Previously, Julie served as a public policy and political advocate for ten years based in the United States. Her work included two years as a strategy and policy consultant for nongovernmental organizations, assisting them with their legislative and advocacy strategies and helping them more effectively influence the public policy process. She also worked for the United States Congress and served for five years as the legislative counsel for a national nonprofit organization where she built and led a coalition of more than sixty partner organizations.
Julie is fluent in Spanish, has taught courses in nongovernmental organizations and lobbying as an Adjunct Professor at American University in Washington, D.C., has appeared as a commentator on religion and politics on programs such as NPR's Talk of the Nation, Court TV, C-Span, and Univision, and has been profiled in The Indianapolis Star.
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