The Poverty Narrative Conference Panelists

The Poverty Narragive logo

← Back to the Conference page


Sarah Alvarez
Founder and executive editor of Outlier Media
Sarah Alvarez started her career in civil rights law in New York, but is much happier as a journalist than she ever was as a lawyer. Before founding Outlier Media, she worked as a senior producer and reporter at Michigan Radio, the statewide NPR affiliate. In that role, she covered issues important to low-income families, child welfare and disability. Her work has been featured on NPR, Marketplace, The Center for Investigative Reporting, Bridge Magazine, The Detroit News, and The New York Times. Sarah believes journalism is a service and should be responsive to the needs of all people. She developed Outlier’s model after years of trying to figure out how journalists could do a better job filling information gaps and increasing accountability to low-income news consumers. She launched Outlier in 2016, during her year as John S. Knight (JSK) Fellow at Stanford University. She lives in northwest Detroit.

Emily Badger
Reporter for The Upshot from the New York Times
Emily Badger writes about cities and urban policy for The Upshot from the Washington bureau. She's particularly interested in housing, transportation and inequality — and how they’re all connected. She joined the Times in 2016 from The Washington Post.

Marisol Bello
Director of Communications for the Community Change and Community Change Action
Marisol Bello is the director of communications for the Community Change and Community Change Action. Prior to her joining the Center, she was a journalist for 23 years, working in newsrooms from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to Detroit and Washington, D.C. She was most recently a national reporter for USA Today, where she spent eight years covering high-profile events such as the recession of the late 2000s and its impact on American families; the death of Nelson Mandela and the future of South Africa without him and the deadly earthquake in Haiti that left an already poverty-stricken nation even further devastated. Her stories focused on the lives of Americans like her immigrant family, who worked hard and still struggled to make ends meet. Her passion to tell those stories continues at the Center.

Lynette Clemetson
Director of Wallace House at the University of Michigan.
Lynette Clemetson '10 is the Charles R. Eisendrath Director of Wallace House, home of the Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists and the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists at the University of Michigan. She is a Knight-Wallace alum and came to the university from National Public Radio where she was Senior Director of Strategy and Content Initiatives, guiding projects across broadcast, digital and events. Lynette spent several years as a magazine and newspaper reporter before moving into media strategy and leadership. In addition to her work as a domestic correspondent for The New York Times and Newsweek magazine, she was also an Asia correspondent for Newsweek based in Hong Kong. A former Director of Content Strategy at Pew Center on the States, she was also founding managing editor of the website Lynette has a passionate interest in sustaining journalism in a variety of forms and supporting journalists in the pursuit of their craft.

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky
Co-executive director of Resolve Philly
Jean Friedman-Rudovsky is a Philadelphia native and is passionate about journalism’s vital role in creating a fair and just society. She founded Resolve Philadelphia in 2018, with the hope that sustained collaborative and solutions-oriented reporting will help bring about a more engaged, informed, and inspired city. During 2017, she was the project editor of The Reentry Project, Resolve’s pilot initiative, which focused on the challenges of–and solutions to–prisoner reentry. Prior to that, Jean was an award-winning freelance journalist, spending more than a decade reporting from the Global South and specializing in longform investigative and solutions pieces. She’s a Vice Magazine contributing editor and has been published in The New York Times, Time Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and Bloomberg Businessweek, among others.

Jonathan Cohn
Senior national correspondent of HuffPost
Jonathan Cohn, Senior National Correspondent at HuffPost, writes about politics and policy with a focus on social welfare. He is also the author of “Sick: The Untold Story of America's Health Care Crisis — and the People Who Pay the Price.” Jonathan worked previously at the New Republic and American Prospect, and has written for the Atlantic, New York Times Magazine, and Self. His journalism has won awards from the Sidney Hillman Foundation, the Association of Health Care Journalists, World Hunger Year, and the National Women's Political Caucus.

Elisabeth Gerber
Associate Dean for Research and Policy Engagement, University of Michigan
Elisabeth R. Gerber is the associate dean for research and policy engagement and the Jack L. Walker, Jr. Professor of Public Policy at the Ford School, with a courtesy appointment in the U-M Department of Political Science. Her current research focuses on regionalism and intergovernmental cooperation, sustainable development, urban climate adaptation, transportation policy, community and economic development, local fiscal capacity, and local political accountability. She is the author of The Populist Paradox: Interest Group Influence and the Promise of Direct Legislation (1999), co-author of Stealing the Initiative: How State Government Responds to Direct Democracy (2000), and co-editor of Voting at the Political Fault Line: California's Experiment with the Blanket Primary (2001) and Michigan at the Millennium (2003). She recently completed a five-year term as vice-chair of the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan. She received her PhD in political science from the University of Michigan.

Zoe Greenberg
Reporter at The Boston Globe
Zoe Greenberg is a general assignment reporter for The Boston Globe, which she joined in 2019. Previously she worked as a researcher at The New York Times and as an investigative reporter at Rewire News. She has covered #MeToo scandals, women’s healthcare in prison, the booming blood plasma industry, and a fiery court battle over an herbalist brew.

Sarah Gustavus
Economic mobility manager for Solutions Journalism Network
Sarah Gustavus came to the Solutions Journalism Network after more than a decade in public radio and television. She’s passionate about collaborative journalism and has led projects that included print, radio and online partners. Before joining SJN, she was a senior multimedia producer at New Mexico PBS and produced stories for the State of Change and Small Towns, Big Change collaborative projects that used solutions reporting to examine resilience in rural communities. Sarah also has extensive experience covering Indigenous issues and was previously the executive producer of national programs at Koahnic Broadcast Corporation, a Native American-owned company. In 2017, as a national fellow with the Center for Reporting on Health, she worked with National Native News to produce the multimedia series “Reconnecting With A Healthy Lifestyle.” Sarah lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Darrick Hamilton
Executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University
Darrick Hamilton is a pioneer and internationally recognized scholar in the field of stratification economics, which fuses social science methods to examine the causes, consequences and remedies of racial, gender, ethnic, tribal, nativity, etc. inequality in education, economic and health outcomes. This work involves crafting and implementing innovative routes and policies that break down social hierarchy, empower people, and move society towards greater equity, inclusion, and civic participation. Professor Hamilton’s scholarship and practice aligns closely with the work and objectives of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs and Ohio State University's Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. In addition to serving as Kirwan's executive director, Professor Hamilton holds a primary faculty appointment in the Glenn College of Public Affairs, with courtesy appointments in the departments of economics and sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

David Jesse
Higher education reporter for the Detroit Free Press
David Jesse has covered higher education in Michigan for more than a decade. He spent a summer in rural Michigan reporting on higher education deserts. He's written extensively on sexual assault on college campuses, higher education finance and college access. He was recently named as a 2020-21 Spencer Fellow in Education Reporting at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. The Education Writers Association named him the top education reporter in the nation in 2018.

Marisa Kwiatkowski
Investigative reporter at USA Today
Marisa Kwiatkowski is an investigative reporter for USA Today. She handles investigations relating to social services and welfare issues, including child abuse and neglect, poverty, elder abuse, human trafficking, domestic violence and access to mental health services.

Scott Levin
Data journalist at MLive
Scott Levin has been a journalist for more than 20 years, with stops at the Indianapolis Star, Anchorage Daily News, a collection of newspapers in North Carolina, and currently, Additionally, with the advent of the internet and online news in the late ‘90s, Scott moved to San Francisco to participate in a content-driven start-up company, for what would be the only period of his career not involved in newspapers. In 2012, Scott moved from his role as online editor for the Anchorage Daily News in Anchorage, Alaska, to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for a job at, where he now reports and creates interactive content with a focus on data to tell stories. For Scott has made more than 2,000 interactive maps and databases for a variety of stories. Scott lives in Vicksburg, Michigan, a tiny village just south of Kalamazoo with his wife Veronica and son Whitman.

Christine MacDonald
Investigative / data reporter at The Detroit News
Christine MacDonald is an investigative reporter at The Detroit News with a concentration on data and computer-assisted reporting. Her work has saved Detroit homeowners thousands of dollars by forcing the city to retool its broken tax assessment system and prompted crackdowns on landlords abusing the tax foreclosure auctions for profit. In her 17 years at The Detroit News, Christine also covered city hall and education. She previously worked for the Lansing State Journal and Jackson Citizen Patriot / MLive. She has a journalism degree from Michigan State University.

Roshanak Mehdipanah
Assistant professor at University of Michigan
Roshanak Mehdipanah is an assistant professor in the department of health behavior and health education in U-M’s School of Public Health. She has led several projects on housing and health including health evaluations of housing policies on affordability and discrimination in the U.S. Prior to joining the faculty in health behavior and health education, Dr. Mehdipanah was an investigator with the SOPHIE project (Evaluating the Impact of Structural Policies on Health Inequalities) funded by the European Union. Within this project, she led a four-year evaluation of an urban renewal policy and its effects on the health and health inequalities in some of Barcelona's neighborhoods. Dr. Mehdipanah's current research portfolio focuses on aspects of urban health including urban renewal, planning, housing and gentrification. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain and her master’s of science from the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo in Canada. She specializes in innovative research methods including realist evaluations and concept mapping to develop conceptual frameworks linking complex interventions to health.

Bill Nichols
Director of Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity
Bill Nichols is a vice president at Freedman Consulting, LLC, where he uses his significant experience in journalism to advise clients on innovative and proven strategies for success. Freedman Consulting and The Hatcher Group manage Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, which was selected to be one of the 2019 participants in the Media Transformation Challenge at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center. Mr. Nichols joined the firm after a 35-year career in journalism, most recently as the founding managing editor of POLITICO. He brings decades of experience in covering Washington and national politics and a successful track record guiding two innovative media startups: the launch of POLITICO in 2007 and POLITICO Europe in 2015.
Before joining POLITICO, where he served as managing editor from 2007-2012 and editor-at-large from 2012-2015, Mr. Nichols spent more than 20 years at USA Today. He covered the Clinton White House from 1993-1999, the State Department from 1999-2004 and was a senior correspondent in the newspaper’s Washington bureau. As a reporter and editor, Mr. Nichols covered eight presidential campaigns, 16 national conventions and traveled to more than three dozen countries. Mr. Nichols has been a frequent speaker on the media’s digital transformation both nationally and internationally and has been part of the Bosch Foundation’s Journalism Program for German and American Journalists since 2010. Mr. Nichols was a juror for the Pulitzer Prizes in 2009 and chaired the National Reporting jury in 2010. He also is a past secretary/treasurer of the Executive Committee of the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press. He graduated from Indiana University.

Kristin Seefeldt
Associate Director for Educational Programs
As associate faculty director at Poverty Solutions, Kristin Seefeldt oversees educational programs and promotes student engagement, with an emphasis on involving doctoral students in research opportunities. She also is an associate professor of social work and public policy.
Seefeldt’s primary research interests lie in exploring how low-income individuals understand their situations, particularly around issues related to work and economic well-being. Her most recent book, “Abandoned Families: Social Isolation in the 21st Century” examines the ways in which political and economic changes have altered the pathways of opportunity for low-income families. Through in-depth interviews over a six-year period with women in Detroit, Seefeldt charts the increasing social isolation of many low-income workers, particularly African Americans, and analyzes how economic and residential segregation keep them from achieving the American Dream of upward mobility. In addition to numerous journal articles, she also is the author of “Working After Welfare,” which discusses employment and work-family balance challenges among former welfare recipients, and a co-author of “America’s Poor and the Great Recession.”
Seefeldt has a PhD in sociology and public policy and an MPP from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University.

Melissa Sanchez
Reporter at ProPublica Illinois
Melissa Sanchez is a reporter at ProPublica Illinois who is focused on immigrants and low-wage workers. Her work here examining Chicago’s punitive ticketing and debt collection system helped prompt major city reforms, including the end of driver’s license suspensions for unpaid parking tickets and debt relief. She previously reported on topics ranging from education to absentee ballot fraud for The Chicago Reporter, Catalyst Chicago, el Nuevo Herald in Miami and the Yakima (Washington) Herald-Republic. She lives in a 1926 brick bungalow on Chicago’s Northwest Side with her husband, their toddler son, and two cats.

H. Luke Shaefer
Director of Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan
Luke Shaefer is the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and a Professor of Social Work at the University of Michigan. He serves as the inaugural director of Poverty Solutions, an interdisciplinary, presidential initiative at U-M that seeks to partner communities and policymakers to find new ways to prevent and alleviate poverty.
Shaefer’s research on poverty and social welfare policy in the United States has been published in top peer-reviewed academic journals in the fields of public policy, social work, public health, health services research, and history, and his work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Census Bureau among other sources. He has presented his research at the White House and before numerous federal agencies, has testified before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, and has advised a number of the nation’s largest human service providers. His work has been cited in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Economist, The Atlantic, and Los Angeles Times, among other media outlets, and he has been featured on such programs as Marketplace and CNBC’s Nightly Business Report. His book with Kathryn Edin, “$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America,” was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2015 by the New York Times Book Review and won the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism among other awards. Shaefer also acts as a special counselor to the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. He received his B.A. in politics from Oberlin College and A.M. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration.

Lauren Slagter
Communications Specialist, Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan
Lauren Slagter is a communications specialist at Poverty Solutions, sharing the impact of the initiative’s research with members of the media and the public. Previously, Slagter spent eight years as a daily news reporter, primarily covering education and housing at MLive, Kokomo Tribune in Indiana, and Big Rapids Pioneer. Her work examined how Michigan’s school choice policy and school funding model contributes to inequity, the impact of poverty on students’ learning, how the housing voucher system contributes to segregation in Washtenaw County, and other issues related to poverty. Slagter’s reporting received numerous awards from the Associated Press, Michigan Press Association, and Hoosier State Press Association. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Grand Valley State University.

Glennon Sweeney
Senior research associate at Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University
Glennon Sweeney is a senior research associate at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in the Community Assessment and Metropolitan Change unit. She joined Kirwan in 2011 and in 2014 began leading the Institute’s food justice work. Her work focuses on issues related to food security and access, metropolitan neighborhood change, housing, civic engagement, equity and the intersection of jurisdictional fragmentation and social service delivery. A member of the Franklin County Local Food Council and the Worthington Community Relations Commission, Glennon holds a bachelor’s in geography and political science, a master’s in city and regional planning, and is currently working on her Ph.D. in city and regional planning.

← Back to the Conference page