Our Team

 

SPENCER OVERTON  

Joint Center President

 

Spencer Overton is the President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which was founded in 1970 as the Black think tank. Today, the Joint Center focuses on the impact of innovations like artificial intelligence and automation on the future of work and economic development in places like Detroit, Memphis, and the rural Black Belt of the South. The Joint Center also works to increase diversity among congressional staff.

 

Spencer chaired Government Reform Policy on the 2008 Obama presidential campaign, and on the Obama transition, he served as a lawyer in the General Counsel's office and as a member of the Technology, Innovation, and Government Reform (TIGER) policy team. During the Administration, Spencer served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Policy, the “think tank” of the Department of Justice. After leaving the Department, Spencer held several roles on the 2012 Obama National Finance Committee, including teaching fundraising and chairing a fundraising program that raised $25 million.

 

Spencer is also a tenured Professor of Law at George Washington University, where he teaches race and the law, property law, and election law. He is a co-author of 5G, Smart Cities, and Communities of Color (2017), and the author of the book Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression and several academic and popular articles. Through his work on national election law commissions, Spencer helped shape the contours of the modern voter ID debate and he led an effort that resulted in Iowa restoring voting rights to 98,000 Iowans who had completed their sentences.  

 

Spencer is an honors graduate of both Hampton University and Harvard Law School, he clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Damon J. Keith, and he represented large companies for four years practicing law at the firm Debevoise & Plimpton.

 

  
 
DON BELL

Director, Black Talent Initiative

 

Don Bell, a Connecticut native, is currently the director of the Black Talent Initiative at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Prior to this position, Don spent over three years working on Capitol Hill. In that time, he worked as a legal fellow to Senator Chris Murphy, judiciary staffer to Senator Richard Blumenthal, and associate counsel then counsel to the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Don was elected President of the Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus (SBLSC) in April 2016. During his term, he conducted a groundbreaking census of black Senate staffers that inspired a movement toward greater diversity and inclusion in policymaking on Capitol Hill. 

 

As President, Don oversaw the development of additional employment resources for black Senate staffers, worked with the SBLSC Professional Development Committee to place members, and actively collaborated with House and Senate influencers to break down the barriers people of diverse backgrounds have to work on the Hill. This work, and his current role as director of BTI, has drawn national attention to the pervasive lack of diversity among Congressional staffers and the urgent need to increase representation for all communities. Don is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and University of Connecticut School of Law.

 

 

HARIN CONTRACTOR

Director, Workforce Policy

A self-described data nerd, Harin loves working on problems, looking for creative solutions, and helping people make connections to enhance their goals. Previously, Harin worked at a tech start-up that used government data to empower communities and worked in the Obama Administration at the U.S Department of Labor as the Economic Policy Advisor to the Secretary. Harin is a graduate of the University of Georgia and the University of Chicago. You can follow him @harincontractor.

JESSICA FULTON  

Director, Economic Policy

 

Jessica is currently focused on building the Economic Policy Program at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Prior to joining the Joint Center, she served as External Relations Director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. She is committed to advocating for economic policy that will tear down barriers to success. To this end, 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. You can follow her at @JessicaJFulton.

 

 

VICTORIA JOHNSON

Digital Communications Specialist

 

Victoria joins the Joint Center team as the Digital Communications Specialist. She’s a former journalist with robust newspaper and magazine experience including reportage on policy and arts for New York Daily News, New York Amsterdam News, Mashable, Vulture, and more. She earned her Bachelor's degree in communications at CUNY: 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). She also volunteers for ScholarCHIPS, a program dedicated to helping college-bound teenagers with incarcerated parents.

 

 

LAUREN WILLIAMS

Senior Advisor, Congressional Staff Diversity
 
Lauren Evette Williams, MPA is a seasoned communications and public affairs professional with more than a decade of experience. She has built a strong career in public relations, journalism, politics, and campaigns.
 
Lauren has provided advice and counsel to elected officials, non-profit leaders, high-level executives, and entertainment personalities, served as a spokesperson for a former Interim Chair of the Democratic National Convention, and has had her written work featured in various publications from Blavity to the Afro American Newspapers, to The Washington Post.
 
Before moving to our nation’s capital, Lauren worked in the Atlanta PR and government affairs market for eight years. As Chief of Staff and Communications for an Atlanta City Councilmember, she produced a large-scale television and media production event with Screen Gems studios (over 400 Atlantans in attendance) and introduced a city-wide prescription discount card program with the National League of Cities (NLC). She trained over 100 Georgians as citizen lobbyists as Legislative Coordinator for the Feminist Women’s Health Center and helped thwart several tactics to reduce women’s reproductive rights as a lobbyist during the 2010 Legislative Session. While in the Peach State, Lauren also provided health communications support for various divisions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention including the Division of Reproductive Health and the Office of Public Health Genomics.
 
Lauren received her bachelor’s of arts degree in Communications and Rhetoric from the University of Pittsburgh and her master’s degree in Public Administration from Clark Atlanta University (CAU). 
 
Lauren joins the Joint Center as a Senior Advisor for Congressional Staff Diversity. Using her past experience as a top-level staffer in the office of Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), Lauren will work to ensure that hiring top staff of color and creating a culture of diversity and inclusion is one of Congress's top priorities.

 

DR. ISMAIL WHITE

Director of Survey Research

 

Dr. White is an Associate Professor of political science at George Washington 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 the University of Texas at Austin, The 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-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.