Truman Democracy Fellows

The Truman Democracy Fellows program is for Truman Scholars interested in pursuing electoral politics. Sessions are led by senior figures with experience in electoral politics, primarily Truman Scholars.

2021 Truman Democracy Fellows

Interested in participating in the Democracy Fellows Program?

The program is designed so that participants: (1) develop knowledge of the key issues and challenges associated with the electoral process, (2) build community among one another — Truman Scholars actively planning to pursue electoral politics, and (3) become better prepared to succeed in the electoral arena.

Participants help to decide topics covered, but some subjects discussed include the following: 

  • working with party leaders 
  • cultivating donors and raising money 
  • navigating election law 
  • local versus federal races 
  • building a campaign apparatus 
  • approaches to media – old and new  
  • running a campaign 
  • attracting allies and building coalitions 
  • balancing personal life with public office 

The class of fellows will be small — limited to 15-20 Truman Scholars — and sessions will be off-the-record to encourage candor and an open exchange of ideas. The program is for Truman Scholars of all ages and political stripes. 

Speakers for the inaugural Democracy Fellows Program in 2013 included:  

  • Stacey Abrams (MS, 94), House Minority Leader, Georgia General Assembly 
  • Jules Bailey (OR 00), Oregon State Representative 
  • Chris Coons (DE 83), U.S. Senator for Delaware 
  • Ted Deutch (PA 86), Member of Congress from Florida 
  • Heidi Heitkamp, U.S. Senator for North Dakota 
  • Dayne Walling (MI 95), Mayor of Flint, MI 

Introducing the 2023 Truman Democracy Fellows

The 2023 Truman Democracy Fellowship is made possible by the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation. We are grateful for the Luce Foundation's commitment to fostering democracy and nurturing future leaders via its Democracy, Ethics, and Public Trust program.

Maryam Banikarim

Maryam Banikarim

California 1987

Maryam Banikarim is a recovering chief marketing officer turned community-activist. After leading five major businesses through sweeping transformations and top line growth, Maryam has turned her attention to building community and driving civic participation. During the pandemic, she co-founded NYCNext, a grassroots volunteer movement which produced live pop ups including A Moment for Broadway and a star-studded video rendition of Billy Joel's New York State of Mind which won the One Show Award and an Emmy. The most recent initiative of NYCNext, is The Longest Table, a communal, outdoor, sit-down potluck lunch with the goal of connecting neighbors to build community, eat and have fun. In 2022, Maryam conceived of and launched the WE ❤️NYC campaign, a 21st Century version of the 70’s campaign. The goal of the effort is to remind New Yorkers why they love their city and mobilize civic action and community engagement. Maryam is known as a purpose driven change agent working across a range of industries, from media to hospitality to tech. She’s held C-Suite executive roles at Nextdoor, Hyatt, Gannett, NBCUniversal, and Univision earning a reputation as a bold leader who drove growth, built culture, and created value while inspiring all stakeholders. Currently, Maryam is a Trustee of Barnard College, and an Independent Director of One Spa World. She serves on the boards of two press advocacy groups, The Signals Network and Reporters without Borders. Maryam is an advisor to Brand 50, Strawberry Frog, and Cove Hill Partners. She also serves on Fast Company’s Impact Council and the Time 100 Advisory board.

Kristen Busch

Kristen Busch

Illinois 2020

Kristen is a technology policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service (CRS), specializing in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence. She has worked at both the state and federal level in public policy, including for the Illinois House Majority Leader, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Facebook’s public policy team. Her background is at the policy intersection of technology, economics, and disability justice. She joined CRS after completing her BA and MA at the University of Chicago, where she was a Stamps Scholar and State Department Critical Language Scholar. She received her bachelor’s in economics and her master’s degree in international relations, focusing on international political economy. In her spare time, Kristen enjoys hiking, playing soccer, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and reading sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Jay Cole

Jay Cole

West Virginia 1993

Jay has dedicated his career to education and science policy in his home state of West Virginia.  In state government, he served as deputy secretary of education and the arts and as education policy advisor to the governor.  At West Virginia University (WVU), he served as chief of staff and currently serves as senior advisor to the president.  He also teaches courses in the WVU Honors College.  He earned a BA with honors in political science and history from WVU, MA in the history and philosophy of education from Ohio State, and PhD in public policy in postsecondary education from the University of Michigan.  His dissertation explored the diffusion of science and technology policy innovations among states.  He was a Mirzayan fellow in science and technology policy at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. In addition to his policy work, Jay teaches lifelong learning courses about one of his heroes (and West Virginia native) Pearl S. Buck, writes science fiction short stories and articles, and cheers hopefully every baseball season for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He, his wife, and their orange tabby cat live in Morgantown, West Virginia, in a house that closely resembles a used bookstore.

photo of nathan coulter

Nathan Coulter

Arkansas 2013

A native of Arkansas, Nathan is an attorney at a Little Rock law firm where he has worked since 2019. Nathan became a Truman Scholar while studying economics and political science at the University of Arkansas before graduating in 2014. After graduating, he joined the United States Marine Corps as an officer and was later promoted to the rank of captain. Nathan served as a convoy commander and logistics officer while serving with reserve units based in New York and Texas. While in the reserves, Nathan began law school in Little Rock before eventually graduating in 2019 from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. He and his wife currently reside in Little Rock with their son and two dogs. 

Thomas Dowling

Thomas Dowling

Illinois 2017

Tom co-founded and is currently the CEO of TaxProper, an enterprise SaaS start-up acquired by Opendoor (NYSE: OPEN) in 2022. TaxProper is the leading provider of property tax software and provides compliance solutions for 115,000 properties worth more than $35 billion across the United States. Before the acquisition, TaxProper raised more than $2 million in venture capital from leading firms such as YCombinator and Khosla Ventures. Tom is also an active advisor to state and municipal elected officials in Illinois on municipal finance issues and early-stage technology. He was appointed by Governor JB Pritzker and currently serves as commissioner for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, the fourth-largest student tuition assistance program in the country tasked with providing tuition financial assistance to low-income Illinois college students. During Tom’s tenure as commissioner, ISAC increased its annual student assistance award from $450M+ to $600M+ and increased the per-student total allowable MAP award from $5,496 to $7,200. Tom was previously an advisor to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and was responsible for municipal finance, gaming, and pension issues. Tom received an MSc from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar and a BA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Ulcca Hansen

Ulcca Joshi Hansen

New Jersey 1997

Ulcca is chief program officer at Grantmakers for Education and an at-large school board candidate for Denver Public Schools. Whether working as a non-profit leader, advocate or researcher, her career has focused on ensuring that education systems reflect what we know about human development, the science of learning, and the realities of a changing world and workforce. Ulcca is a first-generation American who began school as an English-language learner and was the first in her family to complete college. Her experiences have fueled her desire to interrogate and advocate for an expanded vision of what it means to ensure every child has access to a high-quality education in America. She began her career as an elementary school teacher in Newark, NJ, and believes that building strong educational ecosystems requires educators, students, families, civic and business leaders to work together to leverage the assets of communities. An internationally-recognized expert on educational transformation, Ulcca is a two-time TEDx speaker and author of the award-winning book, The Future of Smart. She holds a BA from Drew University, earned her PhD from Oxford University and a JD from Harvard Law School. She has been recognized nationally for her public service leadership as a Truman Scholar; a British Marshall Scholar; and a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow.

Armando Montero

Armando Montero

Arizona 2022

Armando is a recent graduate of Arizona State University with degrees in political science, economics, and mathematics (statistics) who now works as a senior planning analyst in the Office of the Senior Vice President, Educational Outreach and Student Services. In 2020, Armando was elected to the Tempe Union High School District Governing Board, becoming the youngest person to sit on the board in district history at 19 years old. He currently serves as the President. In this role, he has worked to pass wide-reaching policies on mental health, LGBTQ+ rights, school safety, equitable access, student outcome-focused governance, and more. As a result of his leadership on the board, he was elected to represent Maricopa County on the board of directors of the Arizona School Boards Association. Armando also works as an affiliate post-baccalaureate fellow with the American Council on Education, working on key issues related to the future of higher education. Previously, he has worked as a policy analyst with ASU as well as several local and statewide organizations, including the Arizona Students’ Association, Arizona AFL-CIO, March for Our Lives AZ, and other local and statewide campaigns.

Tere Riera Carrion

Tere Riera-Carrion

Puerto Rico 1991

Currently, Tere serves as a senior advisor at the Government of Puerto Rico's Office of Management and Budget. A Harvard University alumna (1992) with a concentration in government, Tere received the Harvard Foundation's Award for Excellence and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Affairs Certificate. Since the early '90s, Tere's roles have spanned writer, consultant, public speaking coach, and high school instructor across various disciplines. Before ChatGPT came onto the scene, Tere was a go-to ghostwriter that people turned to for crafting content. Tere's civic contributions include serving on several cultural and educational boards, and as a PR-selection cycle interviewer for the Truman Scholarship Foundation and the Harvard Alumni Association. To deepen her grasp of entrepreneurship and project management, Tere has completed coursework through Cornell University's Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship, Georgia Tech's VentureLab/I-Corps II, and the Project Management Institute. Outside work, Tere is a mother to three sons pursuing PhD, Masters, and BA degrees. She has had the privilege of assisting in the rescuing, fostering, and rehoming of stray animals. A fervent advocate for Puerto Rico's statehood, Tere's drive is to amplify the island's political rights and economic prosperity.

Coleman Warren

Coleman Warren

Arkansas 2021

Coleman is a native Arkansan from Farmington. He is currently studying for an MPhil in comparative social policy at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes and Truman Scholar. His research focuses on attitudes towards redistribution, more specifically stigmatization of government welfare, in rural communities in the American south. He earned a BS in industrial engineering and a BA in political science from the University of Arkansas where he served as student body president. He is an entrepreneur and founded Simple + Sweet Creamery, a small-batch ice cream store in Northwest Arkansas that donated its profits to combat child hunger in the region. Additionally, he is using the profits from the business to pilot a program supporting low-income, rural Arkansas students in finding pathways to higher education. As a seventh-generation Arkansan, he is devoted to Arkansas and addressing the challenges faced by rural communities including high rates of poverty, hunger, and inequity. Upon graduation from Oxford, Warren will return to Fayetteville, Arkansas to begin a career in public service and start a family with his wife, Bailee King.