What is a Program Leader?

Program Leaders play a key role in supporting and carrying out UUCSJ’s mission to inspire and sustain spiritually grounded action on issues of local, national and international importance. Program Leaders play various roles in UUCSJ’s programs, including: leading our immersion journeys and youth service-learning programs both domestically and abroad; leading and helping design justice training programs; supporting the development of curricular materials and facilitation practices; leading volunteer programs; and acting as liaisons for summer interns.

Program Leaders share a background and passion for justice work, a deep understanding of global inequality and systems of oppression, experience facilitating group learning processes, and a drive to share their knowledge with others while helping them cross boundaries. They are committed to UU principles and believe in the importance of connecting personal spirituality with work for justice.

Current Program Leaders

Aisha Ansano

Aisha Ansano

Ministerial Intern, First Church in Boston

Chad Beyer

Chad Beyer

Professional Social Justice Educator/Consultant

Rev. Patrice Curtis

Rev. Patrice Curtis

Called Minister for the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater

Rev. Jean-Luc “Djalòki” Dessables

Rev. Jean-Luc “Djalòki” Dessables

Interfaith Minister, Haitian Vodou priest, engineer and much more

Robert Ehler

Robert Ehler

Scientific Glassblower and Active Volunteer

Kristin Famula

Kristin Famula

President of the National Peace Academy

Rev. Tony Fisher

Rev. Tony Fisher

Called Minister for the UU Congregation of Greater Naples

Marissa A. Gutierrez-Vicario

Marissa A. Gutierrez-Vicario

Director of Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE)

Rev. Marshal Hawkins

Rev. Marshal Hawkins

Affiliate minster with First Church in Jamaica Plain

Meagan Henry

Meagan Henry

Director of education ministries at First UU Congregational Society of Brooklyn

Julica Hermann de la Fuente

Julica Hermann de la Fuente

Lay Community Minister Anti-Racism Coach & Consultant

Rev. Kimberly Quinn Johnson

Rev. Kimberly Quinn Johnson

Called Minister of the UU Congregation of South Fork

Rev. Jonipher Kupono Kwong

Rev. Jonipher Kupono Kwong

Congregational Life Staff

Arif Mamdani

Arif Mamdani

Ministerial Intern at Unity Unitarian

 

Tania Márquez

Tania Márquez

Candidate for UU Ministry, Meadville Lombard

Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti

Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti

Senior Minister of The First Parish in Lincoln MA

Emrys Staton

Emrys Staton

Director of Pastoral Care & Justice Ministries at the UU Congregation of Phoenix

 

Nikevia Thomas

Nikevia Thomas

Owner & Vegan Food Alchemist, Simple Vegan

 

Jill Verbeck

Jill Verbeck

Public Health Worker

Sam R. F. Wilson

Sam R. F. Wilson

Director of Youth Ministries, Winchester Unitarian Society

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Aisha Ansano is a candidate for Unitarian Universalist ministry who is currently serving her ministerial internship at First Church in Boston. Born and raised on the Caribbean island of Curacao, Aisha grew up experiencing a wide diversity of cultures and religious traditions, all of which helped shape her as a person and as a minister. She has been lucky enough to travel to, and live in, a number of different places, and knows firsthand the amazing growth opportunities that come from visiting new places. She is excited to share those opportunities with you!

Aisha has recently discovered a passion for working with youth. She currently serves as the RE Evening Assistant at First Parish UU of Arlington, MA, where she helps with the logistics and planning for the high school youth group. This past year, Aisha helped plan and lead a service trip to Pittsburgh with 33 youth and 10 adults. She also served as one of the ministers-in-residence at Summer Seminary 2017. Aisha is in her second year as a co-facilitator for Young Adults@General Assembly, helping craft programming and community for other young adults at our annual gathering. 

Chad has served as a professional social justice educator/consultant in Unitarian Universalist and other progressive congregations and non-profits. He has served as an Executive Committee Member and Conference Chair with the Society for Intercultural Education Training and Research (SIETAR USA). As a Qualified Administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), he brings a developmental lens to his work. He believes that social justice education is the work of planting seeds of love and nurturing curiosity about differences that will one-day flower as Beloved Community.

Patrice Curtis is the called minister for the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater. She has traveled in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. She worked overseas, posted in eastern Europe and east Africa, and been a volunteer in three refugee camps. Curtis received her undergraduate degree in Anthropology, and an MA in International Affairs. Her career includes working with USAID and the UU Justice Ministry of California; running a small market research business; and teaching lower income entrepreneurs.  Her volunteer work includes mentoring the creation of a Unitarian micro-enterprise in Kenya, which provided over 100,000 meals for impoverished children.

Curtis believes strongly in the transformative potential of travel beyond one’s usual borders.  Travel allows us to break out of our lethargy of the day-to-day; to “wake up” to the  travails of injustice and economic struggle; and then to use those experiences to enrich our social justice work at home.

Djalòki is an Interfaith Minister ordained by The New Seminary, an initiated Haitian Vodou priest, an engineer, and a cross-cultural communication facilitator who believes that he is an immortal spirit experiencing the human condition in order to evolve in consciousness. He has lived, studied and worked for 25 years in various countries in the Global South – including Haiti, Nicaragua and Senegal, and in the Global North – including Belgium, France and Canada, where he was adopted as a member of a small tribe of the Micmac nation. He has led hundreds of international learning visits, many of them in Haiti, and has also been part of transformative learning trips within the US as a participant with Faith and Money Network.

His life call is to participate in the co-creation of a sustainable diverse global society showing reverence for the mystery of life and valuing inclusive excellence and collective intelligence among peoples and institutions. He will invite you to reflect on the connection between your activism for social justice and your own healing and growth, notably through the transformative power of “being with”, as opposed to “doing for”.

Djalòki is a regular meditator. He speaks French, Haitian Creole, English, Spanish (and computer…). He lives in Silver Spring, MD, with his wife, Diane, who is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ.

Robert became a program leader after participating in a UUSC trip to Haiti in 2011.  He has since led UUCSJ groups to Haiti, and worked with youth trips to New Orleans through the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal.  Robert has worked for Habitat for Humanity in Texas and Wisconsin, served in many leadership roles with his local UU congregation, and currently tutors math and reading with elementary school students in Milwaukee.

Robert didn't expect the turn life would take from experiential learning, and is grateful to share the opportunity with others. 

Charis Boke is a PhD student in anthropology at Cornell University, and she conducts fieldwork with community organizers and environmental activists in Vermont. Boke considers herself a healer who is also a teacher. Her commitment to engaged and active scholarship is rooted in the recognition that teaching and healing are intertwined.

Boke spends a lot of time thinking about futures: what are people doing right now to reimagine the future they want to live in? Boke thinks of justice as something to be done at every step, not something limited to certain times or experiences. She is always asking herself — and will probably ask you — what justice as a daily practice of love looks like in life.

Kristin Famula has been a religious educator for the past decade – currently serving as the Acting Director of Religious Education at the UU Community of the Mountains in Grass Valley, CA. As an educator and a life-long UU, she works to create and offer opportunities for people of all ages to deepen their commitment to transforming systems of oppression through reflection, learning and relationships.
 
Famula also serves as President of the National Peace Academy (nationalpeaceacademy.us), an educational institute dedicated to holistic peace building. The National Peace Academy focuses on developing and offering learning opportunities for bringing forth the peacebuilder in all of us. 

Rev. Tony Fisher serves the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Naples Florida as their settled minister. This is a second career for Tony who changed course after a successful 35-year career in educational publishing, entered divinity school at the age of 58 and was ordained into the Unitarian Universalist ministry in 2014.

For Tony, the fundamental moral experience is a felt connection with humankind, all the creatures with whom we share this earth, and this beautiful planet itself. Given this connection, he finds it impossible to look the other way when so much is broken and in need of repair. And while he’s not sure if the arc of the universe necessarily bends towards justice, he knows that it won’t get there without our active involvement.

Marissa A. Gutierrez-Vicario has investigated human rights abuses and worked on a documentary film in Mexico, conducted human rights research in India, and volunteered for a women’s rights nonprofit in Guatemala. Domestically, she has planned and organized service-learning trips, coordinated events for and with youth, and worked with community organizers to address violations of human rights. Through her work with Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE), Marissa works to engage young people in human rights education through art. Marissa currently serves as an Adjunct Lecturer in the Art Education department at the City College of New York. 

Rev. Marshall Hawkins lives in Boston and works at the Unitarian Universalist Association. He is also an affiliate minister with First Church in Jamaica Plain, Unitarian Universalist. Originally from Rhode Island, he grew up UU at the First Unitarian Church in Providence. 

Hawkins is inspired by the work of the UU College of Social Justice because he believes that through encountering others and experiencing life situations different from our own, we develop our compassion and become motivated to improve the world.

Meagan Henry has worked in religious education for the past 15 years, fueled by her passion for teaching and community. She currently serves as director of education ministries at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregational Society of Brooklyn.

Henry is called to justice work as a spiritual practice. She adheres to the belief that“we must do good to be good,” and in order to grow spiritually, we must challenge ourselves to live out our values in the world.

Now a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., she grew up in northwest Pennsylvania and spent her summers at Unitarian Universalist camp, where she enjoyed a rich experience of outdoor adventure combined with living in UU community.

Julica Hermann de la Fuente is a recent graduate from Meadville Lombard Theological School with a degree in Lay Community Ministry.  Born and raised in Mexico City, her passion for social justice education began when she first immigrated to the United States in 1994 to attend college. She is especially keen on supporting Unitarian Universalists in their multicultural competency development, and in helping congregations become more actively anti-racist in their organizational practices. Julica currently serves as a retreat leader for the Beloved Conversations program and feels blessed to work with UU congregations and leaders across the country. Prior to her call to ministry, Julica worked in student affairs and nonprofit environments as a social justice educator and trainer. In addition to the degree from Meadville, she also holds an MSW from the University of Michigan and is certified as a master life coach.

When she is not working hard to make the world a more just place, you will find her playing with glue, glitter, feathers, fabric, and frosting. She also enjoys spending time with her husband and two young daughters. She strongly believes that sustainable social change comes from working at the intersection of joy and justice, where our talents and strengths meet a deep need in the world.

Kimberly Quinn Johnson serves as minister of the Unitarian Universalist congregation of the South Fork in Bridgehampton, Long Island. She serves our faith on an number of local and national UU committees, including as VP for her local UUMA Chapter, on the Central Eastern Region Congregational Life Advisory Council, on the UUA Appointments Committee, and the Steering Committee for UU Class Conversations. Kimberly received a Master of Divinity degree from Meadville Lombard Theological School.

Before ministry, Kimberly worked as a union organizer with the United Auto Workers. She continues to teach Women’s and Gender Studies at New Jersey City University, where she teaches classes that challenge students to think critically about intersections of gender, race, class, sexuality and ability—their impact on personal identity, human relationships, through policy and practice.

Kimberly has a strong commitment to Youth Ministry and Social Justice. In addition to being a UUCSJ program leader, she has served as GA Youth Caucus chaplain, Minister-in-Residence for UU Summer Seminary, and as a facilitator for UU Youth of Color events. 

The Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kūpono Kwong has served as Congregational Life Staff in the Pacific Western Region since 2015. He is also a Program Leader for the UU College of Social Justice and a member of the Design Team of LeaderLab. Jonipher is the Regional Specialist for Leadership Development and Multicultural Transformation (including LGBTQ+ Welcome & Inclusion and Dismantling White Supremacy Culture). He currently resides in Los Angeles, California with his husband of 21 years and their 10 year old cat Swipher.

Born and raised in the Philippines, most of Jonipher's adult life was spent in California and Hawai'i. He served as the Minister of the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu—where President Barack Obama went to Sunday School as a child. Jonipher founded ‘Ohana Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in Honolulu, served as interim minister at Resurrection Beach MCC, and consulting minister at Sepulveda Unitarian Universalist Society and the Temecula Valley Unitarian Universalist Community. His nonprofit experience included serving as Executive Director of the Counseling & Spiritual Care Center of Hawai‘i and API Equality-LA.

Raised in an ecumenical background, Dr. Kwong values his pluralistic upbringing—from Evangelical to United Methodist, Episcopalian to Calvary Chapel. He was christened at a Gospel church and baptized as a Chinese Mennonite. In Hawai‘i, Jonipher was a member of the Honolulu Mindfulness Community, a sangha influenced by Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn. ​Dr. Kwong obtained his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Claremont School of Theology. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Film Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Prior to getting “the call,” Jonipher worked in the film industry for three years, followed by two years as a Graphics Specialist at McKinsey & Company in Los Angeles.

Tania Márquez serves as an Assistant Minister for the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, focusing and leading the South Bay Campus. She grew up in Tijuana where her family migrated to from Jalisco, Mexico. Through the years, Tania has volunteered with many pro-migrant organizations on both sides of the border and has a deep understanding of some of the social justice issue faced by those along the Mexico-US border.

She strongly believes in the transformational power of experiential learning and on the work of social justice rooted deeply in a person’s faith. She currently lives in San Diego with her husband and two children.

Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti has over twenty years of professional experience, encompassing the fields of ministry, diplomacy, and education. In addition, he’s an accomplished student of psychology. Manish has served six Unitarian Universalist congregations in varying forms of ministry, and before that was an active lay leader and Board member at one of the denomination’s most historic churches. He is currently the Senior Minister of The First Parish in Lincoln, MA.

Having traveled extensively throughout the world, Manish has lived in India, Oman, Finland, and for brief periods in Switzerland. This international exposure gave him the opportunity to live in countries where Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity have helped define the cultures. He brings this multi-religious appreciation to his ministry, drawing on a variety of faith traditions and other sources of inspiration in his preaching and leadership of worship.

As an educator, Manish has a deep sense of appreciation of how spiritual growth and development are lifelong processes for all of us. As a former diplomat, he is an accomplished preacher and an effective public spokesperson. Serving in the career that speaks most deeply to his heart, Manish brings to UUCSJ spiritual leadership that is dynamic, thought-provoking, and inspiring.

Originally from Arizona, Jill Verbeck is a recent transplant to Portland, Oregon where she works in Public Health. Jill’s passion for social justice work has been shaped by her experiences working with immigrants, refugees and other communities working to increase peace and justice for themselves, their families, their communities, and the world we share. For Verbeck, serving as a Program Leader is an opportunity to continue to grow and challenge herself to deepen her commitment to personal, political and spiritual growth. More than this, Verbeck hopes that her service with the UUCSJ supports the growth of each program participant as they find their own path and purpose in the struggles to increase social justice and promote human rights.

Sam R. F. Wilson has been passionate about social justice since he was a high school student, and he concentrated in human rights in college. Born in London, England, he has lived in the Philadelphia, Pa., area since age three. While he took UU religious education classes as a child, he really began identifying as UU when he returned to church in his 20s as a youth advisor.

Wilson cites his mother’s career in social work as a key motivator behind his justice work. He envisions a world wherein no person is denied basic human rights, resources are fairly shared and distributed, children are always loved and encouraged, and both war and hatred are seen as things of the past.