2017 IWC Presenters

Keynote Speaker: Cynthia Figge

Cynthia Figge’s expertise is in new venture development, with companies including McCaw Cellular, Weyerhaeuser, and social impact startups.  In 1996, she made a bold shift from pioneering in the wireless industry and dove into the field of consulting on corporate sustainability.  In 2007 she co-founded CSRHub, the world’s largest database on the environmental, social and governance performance of companies. Cynthia is now a thought leader and entrepreneur in the growing corporate social responsibility movement.  She has a BA in Economics from Lawrence University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. 

A focus on compassion was a result of Cynthia’s experience consulting with large corporations on the integration of sustainability.  In 2012 she joined the Board of the Compassionate Action Network (CAN), and now serves as Board Chairwoman. CAN was formed after His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and other leaders gathered for five days in Seattle for a community-wide conversation on compassion. The organization continues to support and sponsor events that support action and dialogue around compassion.

Cynthia believes that making our world more compassionate will also make it more peaceful, and that each of us as individuals acting in our homes, faith communities, and places of service and work must cultivate compassion to survive and thrive.  She believes that each of us is most effective and best equipped to do this when we live in a place where our inward and outward journeys are in harmony.

Cynthia is a frequent national speaker at the leading edge of global corporate social responsibility, and is a TEDx speaker on sustainability and peace.  She is an active member of Spirit of Peace UCC. She lives in Issaquah with her husband and golden retriever, and is the grateful mom of two grown children who live in the Northwest.

alexis-agee-cooperAlexis Agee Cooper

Alexis has worked at Domestic Abuse Women’s Network in King County since 2011.  She started in the Community Advocacy Office as a volunteer.  Quickly she excelled and started working at DAWNS house which is South King County’s emergency shelter for survivors of Domestic Violence.  She began her housing journey locating housing for shelter guests.  Shortly after her shelter work she began working as the housing advocate working with survivors in DAWNS transitional and permanent housing program.  While working at DAWN She proudly served on the Board of Directors for Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) for 2 years.  She now works for Associated Ministries in Tacoma as the Family Permanent Housing Team lead.  She attended Highline Community College where she earned her AAS in Human Services, focusing mainly on Chemical Dependency.   She currently resides in Pierce County Washington with her family.

amanda-e-fellerAmanda E. Feller

Amanda is an associate professor in School of Arts and Communication at Pacific Lutheran University.  Amanda particularly focuses on the method of dialogue in learning and peacebuilding. She works extensively with two peacebuilding organizations: (1) the International Association of Transformative Learning and (2) the Peace and Conflict Division of the National Communication Association. She works with NGOs using dialogue and transformative learning to create community and to build peace. Amanda has led courses and conducted research in and about locations such as Kosovo, Macedonia, Northern Ireland and Norway. Her first teachers were Don and Mary Feller, her parents, with whom she shares passions for travel, education and gardening.

Aneelah Afzali

Aneelah Afzali is the founder and Executive Director of the American Muslim Empowerment
Network (AMEN), a new initiative launched through the Muslim Association of Puget Sound
(MAPS) to provide a strategic and visionary response to the challenges of our times. Aneelah is
also the Director of Legal Clinic with the MAPS Muslim Community Resource Center; board
member of Global Social Business Partners; board member of Bridge to M.O.R.E. (Medical
Outreach, Research and Education); and Community Liaison for the Outdoor Leadership
Program at IslandWood.
Aneelah is an attorney and graduate of Harvard Law School…read rest of her bio Afzali Bio 2017.

betsy-lydle-smithBetsy Lydle Smith

Betsy Lydle Smith, of Bainbridge Island, WA, is a Master Facilitator with The Virtues Project™. As the founder of Virtues Training, she has conducted Virtues Project training for schools, faith communities, organizations, individuals, and families in the United States, Canada, and Japan.

A certificated K-12 teacher with 25 years of experience, Betsy is also an Adjunct Faculty member of Seattle Pacific University Center for Professional Education.  As a mother, grandmother, and wife, Betsy finds Virtues Project™ concepts and strategies invaluable in family, personal and professional relationships. She has a gift of making workshops understandable, usable, personally enriching, and fun.

Celeste Mergens

Celeste is first and foremost a mother, to six children and multiple foster children.  Her non-profit organization, Days For Girls International, was born from an “aha!” moment while helping an orphanage in Africa develop sustainable practices in 2008.  She set about collaborating with others to develop a simple feminine hygiene kit for girls – providing a hygienic solution to the days girls were missing from school and work during their menstrual cycle.  Celeste was named 2014’s American Mother of the Year for Washington State, and spoke recently at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.   Other  awards include the African Seed Award for Gender Equity and Entrepreneurship.  Days for Girls was named by the Huffington Post as a “Next Ten” organization poised to change the world in the next decade.   Now, only seven years after its inception, Days For Girls International has a grassroots network of volunteers in100 countries and has distributed over 400,000 hygiene kits for girls.  Each kit gives girls an extra 180 days in school during its three year life, thus helping girls to be equal participants in education and social change.

cornelia-a-thomasCornelia A. Thomas, M.Ed, LMHC

Cornelia is a Principal and Licensed Mental Health Therapist at Winds of Liberty Hope & Wellness Center in Puyallup, WA.  She is also a Pediatric Social Worker at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, WA. 

Cornelia has tirelessly served children and families in Pierce County and the state of Washington for more than 20 years.  She has been instrumental in bringing hope to many through her unique approach to counseling which includes a blend of faith, experience, solution planning and hard work.  Cornelia specializes in Child & Youth Safety, Crisis Counseling, PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, Women’s Health & Wellness and family issues.

Cornelia has interviewed more than 2,000 children as a Child Forensic Interviewer with the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and Mary Bridge.  She has also facilitated child abuse investigation and safety trainings and seminars for schools, conferences and community-based organizations across the state of Washington.

Cornelia received a B.A. from the University of Washington, a M.Ed. from City University and holds a Certificate in Marriage Counseling through the Association of Christian Counselors. 

Elizabeth Pauli, Interim City Manager

City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli was appointed as the Interim City Manager effective February 6, 2017, until such time as the City Council recruits and selects a City Manager.  As Interim City Manager, Ms. Pauli is the Chief Executive Officer for the City government, overseeing a staff of more than 2,000 and a biennial General Government Budget of over $1.9 billion, which includes a General Fund Budget of $4.6 million.

Prior to her Interim appointment, Ms. Pauli was the City Attorney for the City of Tacoma and was responsible for all legal matters of the City of Tacoma. 

Ms. Pauli joined the City of Tacoma in May 1998, and served as Chief Assistant City Attorney, and was named City Attorney in 2005.  Prior to joining the City, she was a partner at McGavick Graves, a well-established law firm in Tacoma.  Ms. Pauli is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, and has Bachelor of Science degrees in education and social work from the University of Wisconsin‑Madison.

Pauli is a member of the Washington State Bar Association and the Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys.

Pauli is a mother and grandmother and lives in Tacoma with her husband, Dave.  She enjoys tandem bicycling and running the trails near her mountain cabin.  She is an active volunteer with her church and in many local community service activities.

hellenwells-marciblackner-stephaniesmithHelen Wells, Marci Blackner & Stephanie Smith

Helen has spent many years of her life involved with women.  Three of those years were in Australia working with Aussie and Aboriginal women, and four years in Fiji living and working with women in the villages and cities.  She is presently the president of the women in her church organization.  She is a mother of five children, nineteen grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren.  

Marci, Helen’s oldest daughter, resides in Federal Way.  She has been a grade school volunteer for twenty-five years.  She has served in many church leadership positions with women and youth groups, including youth conferences, and girls camps.  Currently, she is an early morning Seminary teacher.  She has six children and thirteen grandchildren.

Stephanie Smith is Marci’s oldest daughter, and lives in Yelm with her husband and five children.  She is the president of her church women’s society.  While her husband was in Dental school in Philadelphia, she was in charge of one hundred African refugees.  She is a volunteer in the Yelm school system, and uses technology every day to teach and strengthen her family.

joanie-levineJoanie Levine

Joanie Levine, MA Dance, is a certified facilitator for the Compassionate Listening Project, P’nai Or of Portland member, an adopted member of Kulakula Tillicum,a Bird People Tribe member and a former Pagan Priestess. She and her husband have facilitated trainings throughout post-genocide Rwanda, and in Uganda for the Abayudaya Jewish villages.  In  November, 2015 they taught these basic skills on the 31st Compassionate Listening Delegation to Israel and Palestine, after which they developed “Conversation Cafes” during 2016 on the conflict, including at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral’s “The Bridge” exhibit, on a panel at George Fox University’s Circle of Peace Seminar and at a Parliament of World Religions event in Portland.  They are just returning from 2 months in Indonesia, after assisting at the Alternatives to Violence Center in Java and studying Joged Amerta in Bali.  Joanie has 2 grandchildren who reside in Tacoma and so frequents these environs.

karen-olesonKaren Oleson

Karen Oleson earned a Bachelor of Music at the University of Idaho and a Masters of Music at the University of Washington. She started her professional career in the performing arts, opera and musical theatre. She has performed with the Seattle Opera, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, as well as many other symphonies, opera and theatre companies,  Twenty years later, she founded VoiceTech, a studio for training the speaking and singing voice. She has published books and CD’s to assist the developing speaker/singer. She developed a series of vocal warm ups that were featured on the national broadcast of NPR’s Morning edition. This unique series was then given air on TV and featured in Newsprint. They can be found online at www.vocalizing.com.

She now enjoys some leisure time, volunteering for worthy organizations like Associated Ministries and making music with her pianist husband, Tim Strong. Tim and Karen are pleased to brag about their eight grandchildren. They are members of the Baha’i Faith.

kate-fontanaKate Fontana

Kate Fontana is a Queer Catholic yogi, interspiritual midwife, and activist.  Kate is deeply informed by Catholic social teaching; rhythms of liturgy, bodies and nature; Sacred Feminine traditions of Christianity and Yoga; and an unexpected friendship with Jesus.  She co-directs the social-profit studio in Tacoma, Samdhana-Karana Yoga (www.skytacoma.org), and runs spirituality circles and seasonal retreats for women (www.katefontana.com).

kirsten-m-christensenKirsten M. Christensen

Kirsten M. Christensen is associate Professor of German and director of the program in Holocaust and Genocides Studies at Pacific Lutheran University. She has worked in Rwanda the past two summers while developing a study away course on the Rwandan genocide that will take place in 2018.

Outside of the classroom her research focuses on mystical writings by women’s religious communities in Germany and the Netherlands. She has also published numerous articles on labor issues in higher education.

Kirsten is a sixth-generation member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who looks often to her foremothers for strength and inspiration. She served a mission for the LDS church in central Germany and currently teaches Sunday School. Kirsten and her husband Ted Warren have three teenage sons.

Manal Jmaileh

Manal was born in Klamath Falls, OR to Lebanese immigrants. Due to obstacles confronting the US immigration system, she lived in Canada for 5 years with her mother as her immigration status was being sorted out, while her father remained in the US to support the family. Upon returning to the US, she found the Tacoma Muslim community and got involved in organizing interfaith panels and multicultural events at TCC. She has a strong interest in efforts towards understanding and collaboration between faiths. She attended Curtis High school, graduated from the University of Washington in 2015, & currently works at Harborview in surgery and gun violence research.



Linda Bird

Linda is a retired teacher and librarian who is constantly involved in her community.  She served for 14 years as a City Council Member in University Place, and served two terms as mayor.  She worked tirelessly as a manager of the “Cityhood for University Place Committee, and was Chairman of the Playground by the Sound “community built” playground committee.  This means she organized dozens of volunteers and donors to make the playground area at Chambers Bay Park a reality.   She has served on many committees, including the UP Planning Advisory Commission Chairwoman, Puget Sound Regional Council Executive Board and the Transportation Policy Board.  Linda has been married to her husband Albert for 48 years, and they have five adult children and seven beautiful grandchildren. 

lucyhannigan-ewingLucy Hannigan-Ewing

Lucy Hannigan-Ewing is a native of Washington–born and raised in Olympia. Shortly after their first child was born, she and her husband, Al, headed north to Anchorage, Alaska. Lucy had agreed to go to Alaska for 2-3 years, but they stayed for a glorious 23 years. She is the mother of 4 sons, step-mother to 5, and a foster mother to 3.

Lucy earned her Bachelor of Arts at The Evergreen State College and her Masters in Education at the University of Washington. She worked for the Olympia School District as a Special Education Preschool teacher, for the Anchorage School District as a substitute teacher, and traveled across Alaska as a trainer with the Alaska Transition Training Initiative. She has served in her church in a variety of positions including Primary president (children’s organization) and Relief Society president (women’s organization), Cub Scout Den Leader, and Sunday School teacher. She and her husband recently served as directors of the Institute of Religion at Western New Mexico University.

mahnaz-jahvidMahnaz Javid

Mahnaz Javid has a doctorate in Educational Leadership. She has taught as an adjunct faculty at the University of Washington Computer and software systems, worked for several years at Microsoft and is currently Sr. Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Avanade, a high tech consultancy in Seattle, Washington.

Mahnaz is one of the founding members of Mona Foundation, a non profit supporting grassroots educational initiatives, and raising the status of women and girls in the US and abroad.. She is committed to education for all and has been involved in social and economic development projects around the world for the past twenty years. Mahnaz is married to Shannon and is the proud mother of Paul and Patrick.

miriambarnettMiriam Barnett

Miriam Barnett has served in the non-profit world since 1987 when, after being a full-time craft artist for twelve years, she became the Executive Director of Allied Arts of Whatcom County in Bellingham, WA.  In 2000, she moved to Tacoma to work for the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts where she was the Development Director for 2 years. Following her work at the BCPA, she became the Director of the Fund for Women and Girls at The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation. While working there, she was asked to take the position of CEO of the YWCA.   In addition to her work at the YWCA, she teaches in the Fundraising Management Certification Program at UWT.

In January 2011, she was honored to receive the Weyerhaeuser Companies “Martin Luther King Living the Dream award” and in 2014 the “Redeeming the Prophetic Vision Social Justice Award”. She was also named a “Woman of Influence” by the Business Examiner.

 Miriam is passionate about making the world a better place for all people.  Her work at the YWCA is a perfect fit to achieve her personal mission of making a difference, one step at a time.

nj-lemboJo and Nick Lembo

Jo Lembo has worked with Shared Hope International for nearly nine years.  As the Outreach Manager over nearly 1000 Ambassadors nationwide, her passion is sharing with audiences the HOPE they can have to make a difference in the world we live in.  Making a difference herself personally in the lives of several survivors of prostitution, Jo and her husband firmly believe that knowing the signs of trafficking will make the world much smaller for those who buy and sell our children in the sex trade.

Nick Lembo currently sits on the Board of Shared Hope International and is Co-Chairman of Defenders USA, the men of Shared Hope International, is Co-Chairman of the Defenders USA, the Men of Shared Hope, and chairs and consults with other boards for survivor organizations. For the past three years he has presented for Shared Hope International at state and national conferences, and has spoken at community forums throughout the state of Washington.   

Using Shared Hope’s arsenal of training tools, and especially the film ‘CHOSEN’, the Lembos teach communities how to protect their youth, and motivate communities to take action.  Education is a defense and they are committed to reaching as many people as possible with education on recognizing trafficker’s tactics and what to do about it.

ninakingmedlamNina King-Madlem

Nina King-Madlem is currently the interim Religious Education Director for Temple Beth El.  She is a board certified chaplain.  She has been a member of Temple Beth El for more than 15 years, and has been very active in the religious school. She lives in Tacoma with her family.


farishtalindsayRev. Farishta Karen Lindsay

Dances of Universal Peace (DUP) are a world-wide spiritual practice connected to Sufis from the lineage of Hazrat Inayat Khan (who brought the message of the Unity of Religious Ideals to the West in 1910). Farishta stumbled upon them at Conference in Portland in 1992 and her life has not been the same! Song, prayer/chant, movement, connection with others in the sacred circle leads to feelings of joy, peace and often connection with the Oneness in which we live and move and have our being. The founder of the dances, Murshid Samuel Lewis, said that if the peoples were to “eat dance and pray” together—using chants from other’s traditions—this might go a long way to effecting inner and outer peace.

Farishta’s spiritual journey includes a foundation in the Episcopal tradition, through a period of Agnosticism, then spiritual exploration which led her to Unitarian Universalism and Western Sufism.

Being involved in interfaith work since the early ‘90’s has been a focus for Farishta.  She recently retired from Group Health Cooperative where she was a Hospice Chaplain.   Farishta is ever a mom, a grandma; she loves to read, garden and travel.

evetteRev. Evette L. Jackson

Reverend Evette L. Jackson grew up in a military family and traveled the United States; however, University Place, Washington, is where she calls home.  She is proud of her family, Rev. Dr. Eric D. Jackson, Sr., and their two sons, Omari and Eric, II.

Rev. Evette, as she’s affectionately called, has worked many years in the customer service industry, account management, and project management, all of which ultimately led her to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management in 2002.  Prior to her call to ministry, she was the Director of Professional Services for a software development company. 

In 2002, she accepted her call to ministry, and after serving for several years, she was licensed and ordained at Greater Heights Christian Church in Snellville, Georgia, where she served as Assistant Pastor and Executive Assistant.

In 2007, Rev. Evette earned a Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in Psychology of Religion and Pastoral Care and Counseling from Morehouse School of Religion at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta.  Upon graduation, she completed 6 units (over 3,000 hours) of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), where she worked as a chaplain in the Emergency Department and Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. 

Rev. Evette has a no-nonsense approach to ministry, and although there are many things to know about her, the most important point to note is that she loves God and her family and has a heart for people.

sherrybernklauSherry Bernklau

I am a single mother of a teenage son still living at home, and three adult daughters living outside of the home. I am a Human Services student at Tacoma Community College and also work as an intern at Associated Ministries. Prior to returning to school, I worked thirteen years in the real estate industry as a Junior Escrow Closer, and a contract manager. Towards the end of housing market crash in 2012, I was laid off. In the four years since, my son and I have experienced both sheltered and unsheltered homelessness three times. My experiences as a student, an intern, and a mother have provided me an understanding of homelessness from the perspectives of program development, service delivery, and its impact on families and communities. As an unsheltered homeless woman, I experienced the significant toll homelessness takes, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  I learned a great deal about needs within the homeless population and am happy to share my experience, as well as what helped and what did not.

tammyborosTammy Boros

Tammy Boros graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelors in Psychology.  She worked at Greater Lakes Mental Healthcare for 12 years, with a primary focus on crisis work and discharge planning from hospitals.  She has been with Associated Ministries since 2011 as a Housing Program Manager with Access Point for Housing, which is a program helping those who are homeless find access to secure housing and other needed services.

karinvanvlackKarin Van Vlack

Karin Van Vlack is energized by the stories and transformation that can emerge when folks reflect and engage in small group dialogue. She is a graduate of the Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, NM, and is an ordained lay Buddhist minister in the Zen Peacemaker tradition. Her ministry of presence spans both traditional and alternative chaplaincy settings. In addition to her commitment to Associated Ministries’ interfaith efforts, she volunteers with Franciscan Hospice and the Humane Society for Tacoma-Pierce County. She is a member of the Tahoma Unitarian Universalist Congregation where she serves as a worship associate and facilitates an annual workshop cycle on living fully in the face of one’s inevitable death.

victoriawoodardsVictoria Woodards

Council Member Victoria Woodards was elected to the Tacoma City Council in 2010 and served as the deputy mayor in 2014. She began her professional career by serving as a member of the U.S. Army and is a proud veteran.   She spent time in the private, non-profit and public sectors with organizations such as Boise Cascade, Airborne Express, Pierce County Council and Pierce College. She was elected to Tacoma’s Metropolitan Parks Board of Commissioners in 2004 where she served until 2009 as its president. Currently, she serves as president and chief executive officer of the Tacoma Urban League.  She was raised in Tacoma and is a proud graduate of Lincoln High School. She lives in the South End of Tacoma and, in her free time, serves as choir director of Allen AME Church.

lindasreevesLinda S. Reeves

Linda S. Reeves was born and raised in Southern California, where she met her husband, Mel. They both attended Brigham Young University, where she graduated with a BS degree in special education, taught school in Salt Lake City, then returned to California with her husband to raise a family. They are the parents of 13 wonderful children and 33 grandchildren. Linda has had many years of PTA involvement, running election poles, and co-founded the United Women’s Forum, a women’s political action group that supports moral government. She enjoys art, genealogy, photography and traveling with Mel, who is an insurance and financial planner. After a move to Utah, Brother and Sister Reeves were called back to California to preside over the California Riverside Mission of the LDS Church. She currently serves as 2nd counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society women’s organization.

ericamartinErica Martin

Erica Martin is a graduate from the PhD program in Hebrew Bible at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. Previously, she studied at Pacific Lutheran University, earning a BA in Classics, Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, obtaining an MA in Pastoral Studies, and at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, receiving an MA in Religious Studies. Her primary research interests lie in scriptural traditions, transformation, and inter-canonical analysis, or seeing the ways in which biblical stories find new life and new meaning for communities over time, and the effect of the canonization of these stories in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), New Testament and the Qur’an.

vaniakentharberVania Kent-Harber

Vania Kent-Harber is a yogi, contemplative, and writer exploring the intersection of yoga, new monasticism, feminism, and social change.

She is a co-founder and co-director of Samdhana-Karana Yoga, a nonprofit healing arts center, and has over 1,000 hours of teaching experience focused on underserved populations for whom yoga is not readily accessible.

She is also the spiritual director for Hab Community an ecumenical and inter-spiritual new monastic community established in NYC by Adam Bucko, which offers formation in radical spirituality and sacred activism.

V.K. lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with a couple of big people, a couple of little people, three amazing felines, a dog, and a fish named Gustav.