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John Tomasi, D.Phil.
“Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with universities, HxA invites stakeholders into a positive conversation: what kind of place, at their best, should universities and colleges be? What’s more, HxA works organically: it communicates directly with professors and students to help them teach better and learn better. This is what makes HxA unique, and it is what I like best.”
John Tomasi is the inaugural president of Heterodox Academy. Prior to joining HxA, Tomasi held the position of Romeo Elton 1843 Professor of Natural Theology at Brown University and taught and wrote about political theory and public policy. At Brown, Tomasi was twice awarded university prizes for excellence in undergraduate teaching. He founded and directed the Political Theory Project, an independent research center at Brown that supports scholarship and encourages political dialogue on campus.
Tomasi earned his bachelor’s degree from Colby College and did his graduate work in political philosophy at the University of Arizona (M.A.) and Oxford University (B.Phil., D.Phil.). He has held positions at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton, the Department of Philosophy at Stanford, and the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard.
Tomasi is the author of Liberalism Beyond Justice: Citizens, Society and the Boundaries of Political Theory (Princeton University Press, 2001), in which he proposes a reconception of contemporary liberalism that takes the diversity of views more seriously, leading to less emphasis on the public aspect of society and developing a liberal conception of nonpublic life. Tomasi’s latest book, Free Market Fairness (Princeton University Press, 2012), draws simultaneously on moral insights from defenders of economic liberty such as F. A. Hayek and advocates of social justice such as John Rawls. Free market fairness is a new theory of liberal justice, committed to both limited government and the material betterment of the poor.
“There’s no shortage of places to be polarized, closed-minded, and conformist. We need universities to be different: special places to explore, discover, challenge and be challenged. That’s not just better for education, science, and democracy — it’s more interesting and a lot more fun. HxA is lighting the way back to a joyful intellectual adventure, and welcoming students and professors around the world to come along.”
A longtime HxA member and advocate for viewpoint diversity in education, Michael has a background in nonprofit management and public policy. Prior to joining HxA, he co-founded LEEP Dual Language Academy, Brooklyn’s first Spanish immersion charter school, which quickly grew to serve over 400 families across two campuses. Previously, Michael worked as Director of Policy and Research at the New York City Charter School Center. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political theory from Princeton University and his master’s degree in social sciences from the University of Chicago.
Kyle Vitale, Ph.D.
Director of Programs
“To practice heterodoxy is to practice encouragement. After all, we teach, write, and converse because we believe in this miraculous human ability to transform when encountering new things. How awesome that we get to help each other renew our minds and hearts in these ways? Heterodoxy is at the center, inviting us to speak with civil authenticity and encourage others to do the same.”
Kyle has a background in higher education, program management, and learning theory. Prior to joining the HxA team he supported teaching and learning initiatives at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Yale University, and Temple University. He grew to love the higher education mission while reading, writing, and teaching all things Shakespeare. Kyle earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Houghton College and a doctorate degree in English from the University of Delaware. He is co-editor of the book Shakespeare and Digital Pedagogy: Case Studies and Strategies (Bloomsbury, December 2021)
Director of Membership
“I was inspired to join the HxA team because of the values promoted by the organization – humility, open-mindedness, curiosity, respect for all viewpoints, authenticity. I believe all people can benefit from the cultivation of these values – especially students within the academy – which makes working at HxA so rewarding!”
Christine has more than 10 years of experience in non-profit membership and development. Most recently, she spent five years with the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, where she managed a membership program of 7,000 members. Christine earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from Florida State University.
Membership Program Assistant
“Heterodoxy is a beautiful expression of intellectual integrity. By approaching alternative perspectives with openness and humility, we can thoughtfully address systematic biases in the investigative process and ultimately foster rich environments for academic inquiry and discovery.”
Marin comes to Heterodox Academy with experience providing administrative support and personnel services in non-profit settings. She first joined HxA as a Graduate Affiliate while completing her graduate studies in psychology. Marin earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Evangel University and her master’s degree in psychology from Regent University, with a focus on the psychology of religion and spirituality.
Director of Communications
“Exposure to heterodox ideas—in education and in life—strengthens our abilities to think critically, develop creative and effective solutions to society’s problems, and ultimately to grow as humans. The only way we will move beyond our current polarized state is to embrace and practice openness, respect, kindness, and intellectual humility when encountering differing perspectives. I’m immensely proud to be part of an organization that forwards these values.”
Mckenzie is a communications and marketing professional with more than eight years of experience in higher education. Prior to joining HxA, she worked in alumni marketing at Columbia University and student communications at New York University Stern School of Business. Mckenzie graduated summa cum laude from Colby College, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in English and history.
Communications Associate“Heterodoxy is how we have honest conversations. You can’t have honest conversations if others are afraid to say what they really mean. Without opposing view points, solutions to problems that affect everyone will be one sided. It should up to the individuals to sort through ideas, to accept what they believe is right, and to be able to speak their mind.”
Oscar is a marketing and communications student at Idaho State University, expected to graduate in Fall 2022. Following graduation, Oscar hopes to complete his master’s degree in technical communications at Arizona State University. He has a broad interest in marketing, but digital marketing is what he is really passionate about. Previously, Oscar worked as a Public Information Assistant and Marketing Outreach Coordinator at the City of Pocatello where he developed his marketing skills. He has always been interested in overarching social issues and is excited to work for an organization like HxA with a mission he is passionate about.
Donor Relations Manager“Every new idea starts out as a minority viewpoint. By approaching minority viewpoints with humility and charity, we can improve our understanding of the world and ensure that we identify important and groundbreaking ideas when they appear.”
Michael’s background is in donor relations and fundraising for education-related organizations. He received a Bachelor of Arts in economics and a Master of Arts in religion from the University of Chicago, 2018 winner of HxA’s Institutional Excellence Award. In his professional and academic backgrounds, Michael has seen firsthand the potential for teaching and research to improve lives and change society for the better, as well as the necessary conditions for it to do so.
“Fundamentally, heterodoxy is an exploration of ideas and perspectives outside the status quo. Heterodox thinking was the catalyst to so many movements and the foundation to incredible breakthroughs throughout our history. To me, the beauty of open inquiry and constructive disagreement are the countless opportunities for growth and understanding.”
John’s passion for nonprofit organizations, appreciation for relationship building, and database management experience guided him to HxA as the Development Associate. With experience in organizations focused on LGBTQ+ advocacy, humanitarian aid, and higher education, he comes with the skills necessary to best support and serve HxA’s mission. Prior to joining HxA part-time, John was the Family Engagement Manager at Family Equality and is currently the full-time Systems Associate at Doctors Without Borders USA. John earned both a Master of Public Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science from Seton Hall University. Some of his favorite things are exploring NYC, watching scary movies, and enjoying a large iced coffee no matter the season.
Shelly Zhou, Ph.D.
“Heterodoxy is true diversity. Diversity of people without open, respectful, and constructive discourse about the things that differentiate them is not much more than a diverse co-existence. Only with such discourse can diverse people learn from each other’s divergent perspectives to grow as individual people and as a group.”
Shelly joined Heterodox Academy after completing her doctorate degree in social psychology at the University of Toronto. She studies social interactions among diverse groups of people, and the benefits that these interactions have for reducing prejudice (e.g., “isms” like racism and sexism).
Steven Zhou, SHRM-CP, M.A.
“As a graduate student, my job is to seek answers to important research questions. I strongly believe that the only way to effectively discover new knowledge is through open inquiry, respectful disagreement, and a diversity of viewpoints working together towards the same goal.”
Steven Zhou is a Ph.D. student in psychology at George Mason University. His research is in leadership, teams, psychometrics and multivariate statistics, and higher ed policy and pedagogy. As a Data Analyst for Heterodox Academy, he seeks to find effective ways to collect, analyze, and visualize data in a way that generates accurate insights into the state of higher education and viewpoint diversity.
Shira Harary, LMSW
“At the heart of it, I see constructive disagreement as a way to frame active listening. When we employ active listening, our relationships grow stronger and our minds grow bigger.”
Shira always finds herself in awe of organizational mechanics, which is why she is excited to be in a position that helps keep HxA’s gears turning each day. With experience in both public and private sectors, Shira has honed skills such as organizational management, professional development, and relationship-building. Her previous work includes school admissions and operations, hospital administration, media production, and youth summer camps. While these environments may seem wildly different, Shira made space in each to encourage heterodox thinking and conversation with coworkers, students, clients, and campers. Shira brings a unique perspective to Heterodox Academy with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and educational studies from Brandeis University, as well as a master’s degree in social work with a concentration in non-profit management and administration from Columbia University. She also holds a certificate in human services management from the Network for Social Work Administration.
Amanda McMillon, LMSW
“Heterodoxy means envisioning the world as it could be rather than as it currently is. Critical thinking and strategic questioning are key to innovation and progress; I’m honored to play a role in teaching learners these crucial skills.”
Amanda is a social worker with a background in nonprofit operations and development. Amanda has experience working with learners of all ages, of all abilities, and is thrilled to bring their passion for empathy across difference to the HxA team. You can find Amanda either walking around NYC with their dog, Dakota, or kicking back with a jigsaw puzzle.
“In today’s polarized world, Heterodox Academy is a much-needed breath of fresh air, reminding us that we all need to consider and value differing viewpoints. This is especially true on college campuses, where our future leaders are being prepared for the working world. Diversity of thought, the courage to express different opinions, and the willingness to listen to them, are more important now than ever before.”
Cynthia has more than 15 years of experience in administrative operations. She is a seasoned C-level executive assistant with a diverse background in the private sector, having supported executives at a variety of enterprises, ranging from a startup IT company, to a prominent university in California, to a government contractor specializing in helping Marines transition to civilian life. Cynthia is a native Spanish speaker and a graduate of San Diego State University.
“We are in an ever changing world and have to keep an open mind, be respectful and provide acceptance to all individuals. Each of us has a part to play by being open to discussions, seeing different viewpoints, having constructive disagreements all the while being respectful. Education and research are must-haves to make these changes. This is why Heterodox Academy is so important.”
Judy has more than 25 years of experience in business and Salesforce administration across a variety of industries including non-profit, industrial and consulting. With her eye for detail and data management, Judy works with Team HxA to implement, maintain and update the ever growing database.