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. He is also a tenured Professor of Law at George Washington University in Washington, DC.
Spencer is the author of the book Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression (W.W. Norton) and several academic articles and popular commentaries on voting rights, race, and public policy, including State Power to Regulate Social Media Companies to Prevent Voter Suppression, 53 U.C. Davis Law Review 1793 (2020). In 2020, he testified before the Communications and Technology and the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittees of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce on disinformation online and submitted answers to Additional Questions for the Record for that hearing, testified before the Elections Subcommittee of the House Administration Committee and submitted answers to Additional Questions for the Record, and submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission opposing the Trump Administration's petition to prod the FCC to adopt rules that would discourage online platforms from removing disinformation that suppresses Black votes and other objectionable material.
Spencer’s work as a commissioner on the Carter-Baker Election Commission and the Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling shaped the modern voter ID debate, and resulted in Iowa restoring voting rights to 98,000 returning citizens. He was also a part of a group of commissioners that worked to successfully move more diverse states like South Carolina and Nevada to the beginning of the modern Democratic presidential primary process.
Spencer led the 2008 Obama transition team's Election Assistance Commission agency review group, and 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). In that position, he partnered with White House officials to lead the Administration’s policy efforts on democracy issues, including conceptualizing and/or implementing policies related to the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, the National Voter Registration Act, and the Voting Rights Act.
Spencer has also 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.
Vice President of Development
Emily Perkins is the Vice President of Development at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies where she leads the organization’s fundraising efforts and development strategy. Prior to joining the Joint Center, Emily served in several positions at the Brookings Institution, most recently as Senior Director of Development for the Governance Studies program. She has also held program management and business development roles in the private sector and international development. Emily earned a B.A. in Political Science from Boston College and an LL.M from the University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies.
Director of Operations, Black Talent Initiative
Hillary Aguilar is the Director of Operations for the Black Talent Initiative at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Her job involves overseeing the Black Talent Initiative’s daily activities and managing the largest candidate database of Black talent. She has experience in operations and project management, both in a domestic and international setting. Hillary earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Global Affairs with a minor studies in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason 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.
STEPHANIE K. HALL
Special Advisor to the President
Stephanie K. Hall, an established leader, currently serves as the Special Advisor to the President for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Her job involves representing the President at meetings, prioritizing correspondences and meetings, and drafting internal and external communications. In addition, she coordinates special projects for the President.
Stephanie has an extensive background in project management and development along with a specialized focus on issues that affects the Black community. A Louisiana native and graduate of Jackson State University, she has a double master’s in public health and public policy from the University of North Texas Health and George Mason University respectively. Stephanie is a Ph.D. student at Howard University pursuing a degree in Higher Education & Leadership Policy Studies.
DR. DOMINIQUE HARRISON
Director, Technology Policy
Dr. Dominique Harrison is the Director of the Technology Policy Program at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. The program is dedicated to exploring the impact of emerging technologies and developing legislative strategies to improve the lives of Black communities. She focuses on platform accountability, broadband access and adoption, and privacy & algorithmic fairness.
Before her current role, Dr. Harrison served as Project Director in the Aspen Digital Program at the Aspen Institute, where she conceived, developed, and led projects at the intersection of media, technology, and public policy. She also served as the primary thought-leader on efforts related to justice, equity, race, and technology. At the Institute, Dr. Harrison developed the Tech X Talent Project, funded by the Ford Foundation and Schmidt Futures, that seeks to promote greater equity in the technology workforce.
Before joining the Institute, Dr. Harrison worked as a communications fellow at the United Nations Development Program Washington, D.C. office and as a monitoring and evaluation consultant at Internews, where she helped develop a published report on women-focused media development.
Her previous academic appointments include faculty and instructor positions at Howard University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Trinity Washington University.
Dr. Harrison earned her B.S. in Advertising from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Ph.D. in Technology, Policy and Society from Howard University. Her dissertation examines gender awareness among stakeholders of Jamaica’s information and communication technology (ICT) policy.
Victoria Johnson is the Communications Manager at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Victoria joined the Joint Center in 2018 as the Digital Communications Specialist. She is also 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.