The University of Arizona


Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, Executive Director, National Institute for Civil Discourse


Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer is the Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, an organization that works to reduce political dysfunction and incivility in our political system. As a leader in the field of deliberative democracy, she works to restore our democracy to reflect the intended vision of our founding fathers. 

Dr. Lukensmeyer previously served as Founder and President of AmericaSpeaks, an award-winning nonprofit organization that promoted nonpartisan initiatives to engage citizens and leaders through the development of innovative public policy tools and strategies. During her tenure, AmericaSpeaks engaged more than 165,000 people and hosted events across all 50 states and throughout the world. Dr. Lukensmeyer formerly served as Consultant to the White House Chief of Staff from 1993-94 and on the National Performance Review where she steered internal management and oversaw government-wide reforms. She was the Chief of Staff to Ohio Governor Richard F. Celeste from 1986-91, becoming the first woman to serve in this capacity. She earned her PhD in Organizational Behavior from Case Western Reserve University and has completed postgraduate training at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland.


Jane Calderwood, Director of Congressional Programs

Jane Calderwood is the Director of Congressional Programs for the National Institute for Civil Discourse.  She manages NICD's congressional initiatives and is working to expand the Institute's work with the members of the House and Senate. 

Jane spent more than 20 years working for members of Congress.  She served as Legislative Director for two members of the House and was Chief of Staff for Senator Olympia Snowe (ME).  She created and executed successful legislative strategies for everything from preserving gender integrated training for the US Marine Corps to getting the additional child care funding needed to pass a welfare reform bill. 

She has also worked in the private sector as a consultant for a number of defense companies working with the US Navy shipbuilding, and served as Vice President of Government Affairs for Airports International-North America, the airports trade association.  She represented the airports before Congress and spoke to outside groups around the country.  She ran a successful social media campaign that captured national attention when the federal government shut down the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Jane is a proud Maine native who holds a BA in Economics from Bates College.  Jane has essentially been in training for this position during her many years working for Congress. She has worked for and with members of both political parties and has always believed the goal is good policy, not good politics.


Ted Celeste, Director of State Programs

Former State Representative Ted Celeste is Director of State Programs. Mr. Celeste leads Next Generation, a project of the National Institute for Civil Discourse. His goal is to inspire and support state legislators who want to promote greater understanding and better decision-making. As part of a bi-partisan team, Celeste has facilitated trainings for the CSG Midwest Regional Conference and the Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington Legislatures. He has also presented at the CSG BILLD leadership program in Madison, the National CSG annual meeting in Kansas City, and NCSL's annual legislative summit in Seattle. 

Celeste served in the Ohio Legislature from 2007-2012. Known for working effectively “across the aisle” whether he was in the majority or the minority, he has lived his belief in respectful dialogue. One of the only candidates for state office who insisted on running a positive campaign, he won each of his 3 races with a comfortable majority in a swing district.  He was recognized for his emphasis on civil dialogue with the John Glenn Public Policy Institute’s Outstanding Public Service Award in 2011. Celeste lives in Columbus, Ohio, is married and has two daughters and 3 grandchildren.


Elise Collins Shields, Director of Development

Dr. Elise Collins Shields is the Director of Development for the National Institute for Civil Discourse. In that capacity, she oversees all aspects the Institute's development functions, including planning, major donor cultivation and solicitation, stewardship, grant applications, event planning, and prospect/donor communication. 
Elise has long been involved in political functioning, serving on advisory committees for national elected officials, Elise sits on the Advisory Board of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona where she chairs the Community Engagement Committee. Previously, she served as Board Chair and Executive Director for the relaunch of Opus Archives and Research Center at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California.  During her tenure she expanded both programs and development capacity of the Center. Elise holds a PhD in Cross Cultural Psychology.
Elise came to the Institute with the intention of building sustainable funding and expanding the donor base from all areas of the Institute's constituencies in support of expanding our programming in deliberative democracy and civil discourse.

Eric Diters, Assistant to the Executive Director

photoEric Diters currently serves as Executive Assistant to Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer at the National Institute for Civil Discourse. Eric was a staff member at AmericaSpeaks for several years, where he served as an assistant to Dr. Lukensmeyer. His duties included managing Carolyn’s schedule and a vast range of other responsibilities, including supporting AmericaSpeaks fundraising efforts.  Eric started in grassroots organizing as a field manager with US PIRG and the Human Rights Campaign. After exploring his interest in history with a stint at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, he returned to fundraising, first interning with a fundraising consultant at the Ashmead Group and later joining Senator Mark Warner’s 2008 campaign. 

Eric grew up in upstate New York. He holds a B.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University and an M.S. in Organization Development from American University.

Raquel Goodrich, Director of Digital Communications

Raquel Goodrich is the Director of Digital Communications for the National Institute for Civil Discourse.  Raquel manages the Institute's digital communication platforms, and seeks to use virtual technologies to strengthen American’s roles in our democracy. Raquel also helps to spearhead the Creating Community Solutions Initiative, part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health. Her work with CCS includes leading the Communications strategy and developing Text, Talk, Act, a text-massaging platform that leads participants through a dialogue on mental health via their cell phones. 

Raquel previously worked at the Udall Foundation's U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, where she worked to integrate collaborative technologies into conflict resolution processes and provided training to conflict resolution practitioners on the use of collaborative technology. She is experienced in meeting facilitation and conflict resolution processes.

Raquel came to the Institute to help provide online platforms where Americans can engage in civil discourse around the issues that are most important to them. Recognizing a lack of safe spaces in the online environment, she utilizes technology and best practices to encourage people to take responsibility for their democracy.
Raquel holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Maine and a Bachelor of Social Sciences from Unity College.

Makayla Meachem, Program Coordinator, Next Generation

Makayla Meachem is the Program Coordinator for Next Generation, a program of the National Institute for Civil Discourse.  She helps to coordinate Next Generation’s “Building Trust through Civil Discourse” workshops as well as facilitator trainings by serving as the contact person for legislators, their staff, alumni, and other interested groups. She assists in planning and travel arrangements for events as well as workshops being held across the country.

Prior to joining the Institute, Makayla served in the office of Ohio State Senator Charleta B. Tavares as a Legislative Service Commission (LSC) Fellow. An Ohio native, Makayla attended Bowling Green State University prior to participating in the LSC Fellowship Program. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Studies focusing in American Foreign Policy.

Makayla came to the Institute seeking to work collaboratively with state legislators who want to recreate America’s political culture and take back policy for people instead of parties.


Peter Michaels, Communications Director

Peter Michaels is the Communications Director for the National Institute for Civil Discourse. With 30-plus years of news management and programming experience, his career includes writing, producing, creating, long-form programming and management of producers, reporters and writers at National Public Radio in Washington, D.C. and at NBC in New York. He holds a BA in English from St. Bernard College in Cullman, Alabama.


Timothy J. Shaffer, Manager of Special Projects

Timothy J. Shaffer, PhD is Manager of Special Projects for the National Institute for Civil Discourse and is Affiliated Faculty with the School of Government & Public Policy at the University of Arizona. He primarily supports the interdisciplinary research network exploring issues of political incivility and political dysfunction. Additionally, because of his interests in and background with deliberative democracy and higher education's civic engagement movement, he also focuses on NICD initiatives connected to higher education. 

Previously, Tim served as Director of the Center for Leadership and Engagement at Wagner College and as Research Associate at the Kettering Foundation where he engaged in research focusing on deliberative democracy and citizen-centered politics. He came to NICD to help build the research network and to support efforts that are explicitly connected to democratic and political engagement. He earned a BA from St. Bonaventure University, MA and MPA from the University of Dayton, and Ph.D. from Cornell University.


Robin Stryker, Research Director

Robin is Professor of Sociology, Affiliated Professor of Law and Affiliated Professor of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona. She received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she attended Yale Law School.  She came to the UA in 2008 from the University of Minnesota.  Robin is a previous recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, has been a Visiting Professor at the EHESS (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) in Paris, and a Jean Monnet Fellow at the Robert Schumann Center of the European University Institute, in Florence. In her almost 30 year academic career, she has won many awards for research and teaching, has received numerous grants from the National Science Foundation, and regularly publishes in leading social science journals, among them the American Sociological Review and the American Journal of Sociology, Sociological Methods and Research, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, and Law & Social Inquiry.  In addition to her work on politics, media and civility for the NICD, Robin writes on theory and methods, and conducts research on organizations and institutional change, comparative social policy, law, politics and inequality, and human rights.   


Tracey Todd, Social Media Associate

Tracey Todd is the Social Media Associate for the National Institute for Civil Discourse, having joined the Institute in February 2014. He handles the Institute’s social media channels while also working to implement emerging social media platforms that assist with the overall communications strategy.  He came from Gannett Digital and USA Today where he worked in Advertising Operations and collaborated on social media initiatives. He has experience in digital communications and social media management with The Hill Newspaper and USA Today. Tracey holds a B.A. in Mass Communication from Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Tracey came to the National Institute for Civil Discourse to help build a social media environment where Americans could connect to have civil dialogue about the issues that affect us all. Tracey utilizes social media and emergent technologies to help strengthen the quality and effectiveness of conversation in the online spaces today.


Basant Virdee, Communications Coordinator

Basant Virdee is the Communications Coordinator for the National Institute for Civil Discourse. She manages the  Creating Community Solutions social media platforms and blogs for Creating Community Solutions and Text, Talk, Act, two NICD programs. She also creates material for the Institute's websites, sends out NICD email newsletters, and drafts reports about the Institute's programs.
Basant taught for many years specializing in high school math and physics, private tutoring for standardized tests, and Indian languages.
Basant holds a Bachelor's in Microbiology and is a Master's of Public Health candidate at the University of Arizona. Basant came to the Institute to help foster constructive dialogue and engage the public in critical thinking and civic decision making. 


Arika Wells, Manager of Operations and Finance

Arika Wells is the Manager of Operations and Finance for the National Institute for Civil Discourse, and new to the staff as of October 2014. With more than 10 years of business and non-profit experience leading administrative operations, fiscal and event management duties, Arika brings a wealth of knowledge and a passion for the work and mission of NICD. She performs all business, finance, and operations functions for current and future programs.

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Arika  holds a  Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of San Diego, and a Master's Degree in Public Administration from National University. During her undergraduate studies, Arika discovered a passion for community service and public policy. She is an active school district volunteer, and also serves as an Alumni Association Board Member for the University of San Diego.  She has received recognition from the University of San Diego for her work to support and celebrate underrepresented students on campus, as well has completed  LEAD San Diego IMPACT, a year-long leadership and civic development training program.