Spencer Overton is the President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which was founded in 1970 and is America’s Black think tank. Spencer and the Joint Center team restructured the organization, and today its research shapes national discussions on the future of work in Black communities and congressional staff diversity. In addition to research, the Joint Center is focused on building systems, scaling, and strategically expanding into other areas that will shape the future of Black communities.
Spencer is also a tenured professor at GW Law School in Washington, DC, and is the author of a book and several academic articles, think tank reports, and popular commentaries on race and public policy. Spencer’s work on election commissions shaped the modern voter ID debate, resulted in Iowa restoring voting rights to 98,000 returning citizens, and moved more diverse states like South Carolina and Nevada to the beginning of the modern Democratic presidential primary process.
Spencer held policy leadership roles on the 2007-2008 Obama presidential campaign and the Obama transition team. During the Obama Administration he served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy (the “think tank” of the Department of Justice), and as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
Spencer has also served on the boards of Dēmos and The American Constitution Society, practiced law at the firm Debevoise & Plimpton, clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Damon J. Keith, and graduated with honors from both Hampton University and Harvard Law School.
Jessica Fulton is the Vice President at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies where she engages in research and analysis to identify policies that advance the socioeconomic status of the Black community. She also manages the Joint Center's Policy Incubator. Prior to joining the Joint Center, she served as External Relations Director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. She has also held positions at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute and the Chicago Urban League. Jessica is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and serves as Board Chair of The Black Swan Academy. Jessica earned a Bachelor's Degree in Economics from the University of Chicago and a Master's Degree in Economic Policy Analysis from the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at Depaul University.
DR. LASHONDA BRENSON
Senior Fellow, Diversity and Inclusion
Dr. LaShonda Brenson is the Senior Fellow of Diversity and Inclusion at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies where she leads its congressional staff diversity efforts. Prior to her current role, she served as a Civil Rights Analyst at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. At the Commission, Dr. Brenson organized national briefings and wrote reports on municipal fines and fees and its impact on minority communities, minority voting rights, and women in prison. Previously, she was the Research Director at Project Vote, a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded on the belief that an organized, diverse electorate is the key to a better America.
Dr. Brenson earned her Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics and Political Science from the University of Rochester, and her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Using qualitative interviews with congressional staffers and quantitative methods, her dissertation research provides evidence that the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), as institutions, matter. One way she demonstrates the added value of the CBC and CHC is by illustrating that when caucus members serve as caucus leaders, they introduce more bills because of their additional staff capacity.
Digital Communications Specialist
Victoria Johnson is the Digital Communications Specialist at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. She’s a former journalist with robust newspaper and magazine experience including reportage on policy and the arts for New York Daily News, New York Amsterdam News, Mashable, Vulture, and more. She earned her Bachelor's degree in communications at The City College of New York and a Master's degree in Urban Reporting at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism (formerly CUNY Graduate School of Journalism).
Aleya Jones is the Research Assistant at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Prior to joining the Joint Center, she was an Education Policy Fellow at Third Way, a Policy Intern at the Lumina Foundation, and a Program Coordinator at America Needs You. Aleya's career focus includes equity-driven policy analysis, advocacy for Black and LGBTQ+ communities, and the economic advancement of first-generation college students. Aleya earned her Bachelor's Degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Colorado State University and a Master's Degree in Cultural and Educational Policy Studies from Loyola University Chicago.
DR. ISMAIL WHITE
Director of Survey Research
Dr. Ismail White is the Survey Research Director at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. He is also a Professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University. He received his B.A. in political science from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan. He previously held positions at George Washington University, the University of Texas at Austin, Ohio State University, and Princeton University’s Center for the Study of Democratic Politics. Dr. White studies American politics with a focus on African-American politics, public opinion, and political participation. His research in these areas has appeared in the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Public Opinion Quarterly, Journal of Black Studies, Race and Social Problems, Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law, and a number of edited book volumes.
He is co-author of the book, Steadfast Democrats: How Social Forces Shape Black Political Behavior, and co-editor of the book African-American Political Psychology: Identity, Opinion, and Action in the Post-Civil Rights Era. He also works on the development of survey and experimental methods for better understanding political and social issues. He has published work in these areas in the American Journal of Political Science and Political Analysis and previously worked on surveys through the Detroit Area Study and as a fellow for the American National Election Study.