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. An expert on issues at the intersection of race and economic policy, Jessica’s work focuses on identifying and promoting policies to advance the socioeconomic status of the Black community. In her current role, she oversees the Joint Center’s research, policy, and operations teams, and identifies opportunities to advance the organization's mission through strategic planning and management.
Before joining the Joint Center, she served as External Relations Director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, where she worked with scholars to advance policymaker understanding of the connection between economic inequality and economic growth. She has also held positions in local research and advocacy at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute and the Chicago Urban League. Jessica is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and serves on the Board of The Black Swan Academy and the Advisory Board of the Sadie Collective. She 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.
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.
DR. ALEX CAMARDELLE
Director, Workforce Policy
Dr. Alex Camardelle is the Director of the Workforce Policy program at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, where he leads a program that centers Black workers in policy debates concerning the future of work, workforce development, and access to good jobs.
Prior to joining the Joint Center, Dr. Camardelle served as the Senior Policy Analyst for Economic Mobility at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute where his research and advocacy supported policy reforms shaping workforce development, worker justice, and access to core safety net programs for individuals and families with low incomes. He also worked at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where he was responsible for strengthening economic opportunity through research, grantmaking, and partnerships.
He serves on the board of directors for Foreverfamily, Inc., a national nonprofit dedicated to supporting youth with incarcerated parents. The Georgia Center for Nonprofits recognized Alex as one of its 2017 30 Under 30, a distinction for professionals who are making a powerful impact in Atlanta by exhibiting outstanding leadership, innovation, and commitment to their community work. He is also part of Georgia State University’s 40 under 40 alumni class.
Dr. Camardelle holds a B.A. in political science from the University of Alabama. He is also a graduate of Georgia State University, where he earned his Master’s of Public Administration degree in policy analysis and evaluation and Doctor of Philosophy degree in educational policy studies. Alex’s scholarship focuses on race, workforce development, and political economy. He is also a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated.
DR. DOMINIQUE HARRISON
Director, Technology Policy
Dr. Dominique Harrison is the Director of Technology Policy at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, where she leads a program dedicated to exploring the impact of emerging technologies and developing policy solutions to improve the lives of Black communities. The program highlights urgent issues on platform accountability, broadband access and adoption, and privacy & algorithmic fairness.
Prior to joining the Joint Center, 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 equity, technology, and public policy. She also worked at the United Nations Development Program Washington, D.C. office and at Internews. Her previous academic appointments include faculty and instructor positions at Howard University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Trinity Washington University.
Dr. Harrison serves as a member of the Federal Communications Commission’s Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment (ACDDE) and PolicyLink’s Tech Equity Framework Initiative. She is an advisory council member for the Center for Democracy and Technology, and she serves as a member of the Rock Health Summit Innovation council.
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 scholarship focuses on race, multistakeholder governance, and communications 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.