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Our Team

  • Headshot of John Tomasi

    John Tomasi, D.Phil.

    President

    “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 comes to Heterodox Academy from Brown University, where he held the position of Romeo Elton 1843 Professor of Natural Theology 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 also holds an appointment at the University of Arizona’s Center for the Philosophy of Freedom where he is a University Associate and Research Professor.

    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.

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  • Manon Loustaunau Headshot

    Manon Loustaunau

    Interim Executive Director

    “In order for our country to be resilient, we must be able to engage meaningfully, respectfully, and compassionately with those who occupy moral values even contrary to ours. The HxA Way is a wonderful reminder on how we get there.”

    Manon comes to Heterodox Academy with a background in non-profit administration, community engagement, and design. Prior to joining Team HxA, she managed operations at The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design in Richmond, Virginia, a museum focused on uniting communities through education. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in design from Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • Programs Team

  • headshot of Kyle Vitale

    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 comes to Heterodox Academy with 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)

  • Daniel Koas

    Event Planner

    “Heterodoxy is about embracing our natural curiosity and respectfully encouraging others to embrace theirs. I believe that everything should be analyzed and interrogated; some ideas may turn out to be wrong, but others may be right. How can we be real learners if we don’t question, constructively disagree, and discover?”

    Daniel comes to Heterodox Academy with a background in community engagement and event planning. Prior to joining the HxA team, Daniel was the New York regional director of a Jewish communal organization where he planned and executed conventions, summer camps, trips, and leadership trainings. He also spent a year living and working in Izmir, Turkey as part of a community development fellowship. Daniel earned a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies and History from Brandeis University.

  • headshot of Samantha Hedges

    Samantha Hedges, Ph.D.

    K-12 Program Manager

    “Educating our youth is one of the most important endeavors that we undertake as a society. Whether in a K-12 or college classroom, when there are questions that cannot be asked or lines of inquiry that cannot be pursued, not only are we shortchanging our youth, we risk regressing as a society.”

    Samantha comes to Heterodox Academy with a background in K-12 and higher education and public policy advocacy. Prior to joining the HxA team, Samantha was an elementary school teacher for Chicago Public Schools and public policy advocate for child and youth public health programs, early childhood education, and youth after-school programs in Illinois. While pursuing her Ph.D., she studied how evidence is used in policymaking for K-12 education and taught an undergraduate course that prepared aspiring teachers to enter the profession. Samantha earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in social work, and a doctorate degree in education policy studies.

  • Membership Team

  • headshot of Christine Richards

    Christine Richards

    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 joins Heterodox Academy with nearly 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.

  • headshot of Marin Huver

    Marin Huver

    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.

  • Communications Team

  • Mckenzie Love

    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 joins Heterodox Academy with a background in higher education communications and marketing. 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.

  • headshot of Zach Rausch

    Zach Rausch, M.S.

    Communications Manager

    “I believe in the mission of Heterodox Academy because I believe in the idea of institutionalized disconfirmation. As individuals, we are deeply flawed and our worldview is colored by our biases. But when we consider our point of view as just one among many and create environments where we can engage with others perspectives, we can challenge the limits of our thinking and end up accomplishing, I believe, quite extraordinary things.”

    Zach comes to Heterodox Academy with a background in experimental psychology. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and religious studies, and a Master of Science in psychological science from SUNY New Paltz. In his professional and academic backgrounds, he has worked as a teaching assistant for psychological statistics, a direct-care worker in various psychiatric residential facilities, and as an expedition guide at a wilderness therapy program.

  • Chris Saitta headshot

    Christopher Saitta

    Communications Associate

    “Heterodoxy is essential to truth. If we don’t have heterodox thinkers, we don’t have the ability to reveal and challenge the potential shortcomings of our worldviews. In this process of discovery, we become closer to the truth by either strengthening a viewpoint we already hold or refuting an assumed truth. As someone who holds truth as their highest principle, I find it very important to value heterodoxy, open inquiry, and constructive disagreement as high priorities in our society – and why I feel fulfilled to be a part of HxA’s mission.”

    Chris comes to Heterodox Academy with a background in psychological research. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in psychology with a minor in sociology from the University at Albany, and is finishing up his Master of Science in psychological science at SUNY New Paltz. His work background includes being a teaching assistant for psychological statistics, a personal assistant at a mental health private practice, and an intern at South Nassau Community Hospital. Chris is currently researching the salutary benefits of meditation and has previously helped research mindfulness telehealth interventions as a method to reduce anxiety and stress.

  • Development Team

  • A headshot of Michael Dinsmore

    Michael Dinsmore

    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 comes to Heterodox Academy with a background 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.

  • John Fernandes

    Development Associate

    “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.

  • Research Team

  • Headshot of Shelly Zhou

    Shelly Zhou, Ph.D.

    Researcher

    “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).

  • Mel Stiksma headshot

    Melissa Stiksma, M.A.

    Data Analyst

    “To me, heterodoxy means everyone gets a chance to listen as well as to be heard, both of which can be incredibly powerful tools for a college student. If students approach the conversation with respect for others, then engaging with other students they disagree with will provide them with the widest margin to learn. As a doctoral student in psychology, I am a strong advocate that NOT talking about something almost always makes that something far far worse.”

    Mel is a psychology doctoral candidate at George Mason University studying employee well-being and work-life balance. She loves answering applied research questions and being able to translate messy data into helpful insights. Besides her research and statistical training, she has also completed many years of social, clinical, and industrial-organizational psychology coursework.

  • Operations Team

  • headshot of Shira Harary

    Shira Harary, LMSW

    Operations Manager

    “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.

  • headshot of Amanda McMillon

    Amanda McMillon, LMSW

    Operations Associate

    “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 joins Heterodox Academy as 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.

  • Cynthia Schweighart

    Executive Assistant

    “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 comes to Heterodox Academy with over 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.

  • Headshot of Judy Bigelow

    Judy Bigelow

    Salesforce Administrator

    “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 comes to Heterodox Academy with 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.

To contact our team, please email us at questions@heterodoxacademy.org.

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