Advisory Council

Nationhood Lab benefits from the advice, knowledge and perspectives of its advisory council, a group drawn from across the United States with a diverse range of expertise, perspectives, and professions.

The advisory council consists of the following members:

Dan Abbasi brings to the Nationhood Lab a lifelong commitment to harnessing politics and policy to drive change on the most pressing issues of our time, from arms control to climate change. Abbasi, a longtime investor in the cleantech sector, now runs the Sustainable Equity Strategy at Douglass Winthrop Advisors. Originally trained at Harvard and Stanford in US-Soviet arms control, Abbasi has served as an appointee at the Environmental Protection Agency, on the advisory board of the US National Climate Assessment, as Associate Dean of Yale’s Environment School, and as an advisor and fundraiser on multiple presidential campaigns. He won an Emmy Award as Executive Producer of Showtime’s climate change documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously.” 

Susan Eisenhower is an American political consultant, author, and expert on national security policy. Chair emeritus of the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College, she is president of the Eisenhower Group, a Washington, D.C. consultancy, and a former fellow of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics and at the Center for the National Interest. She has served on Department of Energy blue ribbon commissions on nuclear issues in the Clinton, George W Bush, and Obama administrations and is the author of How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower’s Biggest Decisions.

Theodore R. Johnson is a Senior Advisor at New America, leading its flagship Us@250 initiative marking the nation’s semiquincentennial, and a contributing columnist at The Washington Post. Prior to joining New America, he was a senior fellow and Director of the Fellows Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, where he undertook research on race, politics, and American identity. He is a retired Commander in the United States Navy, serving for twenty years in a variety of positions, including as a White House Fellow in the first Obama administration and as speechwriter to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is the author of When The Stars Begin to Fall: Overcoming Racism and Renewing the Promise of the American Dream and his work on race relations has appeared in prominent national publications across the political spectrum, including the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, The Bulwark, National Review, and others.

Désirée P. Jones-Smith is a senior program manager with the Citizenship and American Identity Program where she leads Who is Us?: A Project on American Identity. She brings over a decade of commitment to work that grows people and organizations so that they can most effectively build their communities. Désirée has shared and honed these skills within several leading organizations, including two land-grant universities, a non-profit management services organization, and two regional chambers of commerce. She is a National Boren Scholar and Lyman T. Johnson Fellow – receiving both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Jasmin Mujanović is a political scientist specializing in the politics of post-authoritarian and post-conflict democratization. He is the author of Hunger and Fury: The Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans, which examines the persistence of authoritarian and illiberal forms of governance in the Western Balkans since the end of the Yugoslav Wars, and numerous articles in peer-reviewed academic journals, edited volumes, and policy reports from Freedom House, the European Council on Foreign Relations, and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. A prominent commentator on social media, international television and radio, his analyses have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and a host of other media. A native of Sarajevo, he earned his PhD from Canada’s York University and is currently serves on the advisory board of the Kulin Initiative. He lives in Southern California.

Farah Pandith is an author, foreign policy strategist, and former diplomat. A world-leading expert and pioneer in countering violent extremism, she is a frequent media commentator and public speaker and the author of How We Win: How Cutting-Edge Entrepreneurs, Political Visionaries, Enlightened Business Leaders, and Social Media Mavens Can Defeat the Extremist Threat. She served as a political appointee under Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, and was the first ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities, serving both Secretaries Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. She has had senior roles on the National Security Council, at the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development and served on the Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Council, chairing its task force on countering violent extremism. She is a senior fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School as well as an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. In fall 2020, the Muhammad Ali Center named Pandith the first-ever Muhammad Ali Global Peace Laureate for her proven track record of and commitment to promoting diversity, cohesion and respect.

Dr. Emily Pears is Assistant Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College. An expert on 19th century U.S. federalism, American political development, American nationalism, and U.S. state-building, she is the author of Cords of Affection: Constructing Constitutional Union in Early American History. A graduate of Claremont McKenna College and the University of Virginia, she has previously worked as a policy advocate for voting rights and redistricting reform in California.  

Juan Sepúlveda is the President’s Special Adviser for Inclusive Excellence at Trinity University in San Antonio where he was previously the Ron Calgaard Distinguished Professor of Practice – Political Science. He is a past senior vice president of station services and system leadership at PBS, where he collaborated with more than 160 PBS stations across the country to strengthen their connections to each other and to their local communities. He has served as senior advisor for Hispanic affairs at the Democratic National Committee, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics in the Obama administration, and founded the Common Enterprise, a strategy consulting agency. Raised in Topeka, Kansas and educated at Harvard, Oxford University’s Queen’s College and Stanford Law School he is the author of The Life and Times of Willie Velasquez—Su Voto Es Su Voz.

David Evans Shaw is managing partner of Black Point Group, with wide-ranging interests in technology companies, impact investing and public service activism. His business creation, leadership, investment and board experience includes IDEXX Laboratories (where he was founder and CEO), Ikaria Pharmaceuticals (founding CEO, chair), Covetrus (co-founder, chair), and many other companies and investment firms. He has also produced numerous short films and served as a strategic consultant to consumer product, food, and agriculture enterprises. He is a fellow and trustee and treasurer emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the founding chair of the Aspen High Seas Initiative and Sargasso Sea Alliance, chair emeritus of The Jackson Laboratory, trustee emeritus of the National Park Foundation and a member of the Explorer’s Club, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Teddy Roosevelt Society, the UNH Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame.

Rajiv Vinnakota is the president of the Institute for Citizens & Scholars (formerly the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation) and a former executive vice president for youth and engagement at the Aspen Institute. He was the co-founder and CEO of The SEED Foundation, the nation’s first network of public, college-preparatory boarding schools for underserved children. Educated at Princeton, he is a recipient of its Woodrow Wilson Award as well as Harvard University’s Innovation in American Government Award, and Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life award. He lives in Maine.

Gleaves Whitney is executive director for the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. He was the longtime director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University, where he established the first sustained and comprehensive common ground initiative in U.S. higher education, hosted major conferences that helped revive the study of Midwestern history, and developed the Peter C. Cook Leadership Academy. Whitney served in Michigan Governor John Engler’s administration as senior writer, chief speechwriter, historian, and assisted in the creation of the Michigan Department of History, Arts, and Libraries. Educated at Colorado State University, Fort Collins and the University of Michigan, he is a past Fulbright Scholar (to West Germany) and received a Doctor of Humane Letters from the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley California. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.