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MEET RISI

Our Team

October Ambrose

October Ambrose

Director of People Operations and Culture

As the Director of People Operations and Culture, October is an advocate for the organization — its staff and its leadership — as well as a sponsor for culture building, values development across the organization as it matures out of the startup phase.

Prior to joining the team, October served in human resources roles for multiple organizations in the private and public sector before, most recently, transitioning to operations as a clinic manager with Ochsner Health. She has also volunteered as a racial justice facilitator with the YWCA of Minneapolis. October earned a bachelor's in human resources management and a master's in human development Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. A curious, lifelong learner, she recently received her diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace certification from the University of South Florida, and and earned her professional project manager certification from the University of St. Thomas.

Originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, October has lived in eight states and currently resides in New Orleans, Louisiana, with daughter, son, and their shorkie. She enjoys travel, live music, and prioritizes self-care.

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Rachel Barra

Community Manager

Rachel is a Community Manager at RISI, working with the Rural Innovation Initiative consulting team as they help rural communities  develop digital tech economies.

During college, Rachel worked as a project manager at an incubator/accelerator called Invent@NMU helping community members, faculty, staff, and students launch their low-tech, physical product ideas. After graduating she joined the team at Innovate Marquette SmartZone, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering awareness of tech-based entrepreneurship and supporting its growth in the Marquette community. In partnership with coworkers and community advocates, Rachel was part of a team in Marquette that received technical assistance from RISI’s Rural Innovation Initiative team in early 2020. She is excited to use this experience to help other rural communities navigate the process of growing their own digital tech economies.

Rachel grew up in a rural community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and received a B.S. in Entrepreneurship from Northern Michigan University.

Camden Blatchly

Camden Blatchly

Data Analyst and Developer

As a member of the Mapping and Data Analytics team, Camden develops software to analyze and communicate data about rural communities. His career has focused on combining data-driven analysis and visualization to help public-interest organizations more effectively understand and convey their data.

Prior to joining the team, Camden worked at Crow Insight, an information design firm based in the Washington, D.C. area, where he created analytic tools and visualizations for public-sector and non-profit clients. Camden holds a B.S. in computer science from Georgetown University and lives in rural New Hampshire.

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Brandon Campbell

Regional Director for the Southeast

As the Regional Director for the Southeast, Brandon leads the organization's overall expansion strategy in the southeastern U.S. His roles consist of building and managing relationships with local and regional leadership and digital economic development stakeholders, identifying opportunities in the Black Belt and Mississippi Delta regions, with an emphasis on BIPOC and underserved communities that would benefit from a technology ecosystem.

Before joining the team, Brandon served as the director of the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance (WBC) in southwest Michigan, and before pursuing opportunities in small-town America, he was the director of small business and diversity and inclusion at the Little Rock Regional Chamber.

As an entrepreneur, Brandon has 20 years of real-world business ownership experience. He founded successful, independent Fashion Weeks in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, including a talent management enterprise that helped book BIPOC models and talent for major ad campaigns and films. His professional career started as a television producer in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and New York for companies such as E! and World Wrestling Entertainment.

Brandon graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor's in journalism and mass communication with an international studies minor and an entrepreneurship certificate. He received a diversity, inclusion, and team culture certificate from the University of Pennsylvania. Brandon is a supporter of the United Way, Goodwill Industries, and Big Brothers Big Sisters, and serves as a board of director for Junior Achievement.

Anderson Clayton

Anderson Clayton

Broadband Analyst

In her role on the broadband team, Anderson assists rural communities in finding pathways for broadband expansion to unserved and underserved communities. She is passionate about broadband’s role in the future of rural economic development, because remote work is what allows her to live in her rural hometown of Roxboro, North Carolina.

Anderson comes to the broadband team after spending time working on national political campaigns. From the cornfields in Iowa to the coal mines of Kentucky, she has experience organizing geographically and economically diverse rural communities. Anderson left the world of political campaigns to return home, back to Person County, to organize and make her community a better place for everyone living in it. Anderson holds a B.S. from Appalachian State University.

In her free time, Anderson chairs the Person County Democratic Party and focuses on increasing civic engagement among young rural people.

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Rebekah Collinsworth

Communications Director

Rebekah Collinsworth is a strategic communicator and storyteller committed to shifting the narrative about rural America and broadening the conversation about what’s possible in small towns and communities across the country.

Before joining the team, Rebekah was the managing director of a strategic growth marketing firm that serves underrepresented founders and rural innovators. In previous roles she has served nonprofit organizations and startups to expand their impact and highlight their work. Rebekah also has worked in the publishing world, where she helped people across the country preserve and share their histories, working with authors and historians to champion the unique experiences and heritage found in every community, from mushroom farming to world fairs.

Rebekah grew up in rural New Hampshire and holds a B.A. in English from the University of New Hampshire, where she also studied journalism and linguistics.

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Austin Danforth

Communications Specialist

Austin Danforth is a seasoned storyteller, photographer, and editor who honed his skills over more than a decade as an award-winning journalist.

Prior to joining the team, Austin spent eight years on the staff of the Burlington Free Press. His work there spanned multiple beats and included longform narratives, features, analysis and multimedia content, twice earning him the title of Vermont’s sportswriter of the year from the National Sports Media Association. Austin has also been a writer and photographer for the Bennington Banner, the Alexandria (Va.) Times and Vermont Business Magazine.

Austin holds a B.A. in history from the University of Vermont, where he also ran the student newspaper. A native of the Green Mountain State, he grew up in the small but historic town of Hubbardton, a short walk from the site of the only Revolutionary War battle fought on Vermont soil. He now lives in White River Junction.

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Dani Douglas

Research and Policy Associate

Dani uses qualitative research and policy analysis in her role to better understand the diverse experiences of rural economic development.

Prior to joining the team, Dani worked in research and advocacy for organizations focused on international labor rights, immigrant and refugee integration, and access to social services. She has conducted research on the financial inclusion of refugees in Ecuador, provided support to the families of migrant farmworkers in upstate New York, and taught English as a second language with AmeriCorps in Colorado. She also spent time as a journalist in Morocco, writing on the local impacts of solar energy development projects.

Dani holds an M.A. in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School at Tufts University, and a B.A. in Anthropology and International Relations from the University of Rochester.

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Matt Dunne

Founder and Executive Director

Matt is the founder and executive director of Rural Innovation Strategies, which he launched in 2017 to reverse the nation’s growing rural opportunity gap and create economic prosperity for small town residents across the country.

Prior to founding RISI, Matt began his career by serving 11 years in the Vermont House and Senate, enacting the state’s first broadband grants, brownfields revitalization funding, and downtown redevelopment program. He helped grow a Vermont-based software company to over 100 people and was Associate Director of the Rockefeller Center on Public Policy at Dartmouth College.

In 1999, Matt was appointed director of AmeriCorps*VISTA under President Clinton, where he led PowerUp — one of the first national efforts to bridge the digital divide — and launched an Entrepreneur Corps to focus on micro-finance in high-need communities.

In 2007, he started Google’s Community Affairs division out of a former bread factory in White River Junction, Vermont, where he led all local US philanthropy and engagement, including the Google Fiber rollout and orchestrating educational and development initiatives in Google’s data center communities across rural America. Matt has also held an appointment at the MIT Media Lab.

Matt holds a B.A. from Brown University, and is a lifelong Vermonter who lives on the 100 acre farm where he was raised.

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May Erouart

Community Manager

May helps guide communities participating in RISI's Rural Innovation Initiative through the process of developing strategy for thriving digital economic ecosystems.

Prior to joining RISI, May led school partnerships and professional development trainings around trauma sensitivity across the New York City public school system. She has also worked in systems transformation and service design efforts in healthcare settings.

May holds a Masters in Public Health from Columbia University with a focus on health promotion and multi-level intervention design. She lives in Bethel, Vermont.

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Nora Foote

Interim Head of Digital Economic Development

Nora works directly with communities to help them develop strategies for building thriving digital economy ecosystems. She’s a rural community enthusiast, and loves getting to discover new and diverse communities across the country.

She comes to her role as Community Manager after having spent three years supporting RISI’s operations teams. Before joining RISI, she worked on various local and statewide campaigns, at an environmental planning and consulting firm in the Pacific Northwest, and in the communications department at a political action committee. She also served one year as a City Year Boston Corps Member. A native of Hartland, Nora lives in Windsor, Vermont and holds a B.A. from Lewis & Clark College.

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Thomas Franco

Head of Federal and State Partnerships

Thomas is an experienced public policy professional working at the intersection of economic development, emerging technology, and equity-focused social policy.

A graduate of Case Western Reserve University, Thomas holds a B.A. in Cognitive Science. He completed postgraduate studies at Loyola Marymount University as a 2017 Teach for America corps member, and he currently works on data, research, and technology projects at the Virginia Department of Education. In March 2021, Thomas was elected as one of the youngest, the first openly gay, and the second BIPOC to serve on the Rutland City Board of Aldermen in Vermont. He was later appointed to represent his city’s interests with the Otter Creek Communications Union District (OCCUD).

Thomas is also a Master in Public Policy student at Harvard Kennedy School, where he serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy, the school’s oldest student-run journal. His studies focus on the ethical use of artificial intelligence and big data, and his views have been published domestically and internationally.

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John Hall

Software Developer

John has been coding professionally and personally for over a decade. Although he has specialized in web mapping and visualization for most of that time, his skills range from scripting simple utilities to crafting fullstack applications to spec.

Originally from Santa Monica on the California coast, John has lived in both large cities and small towns throughout his life, fostering a unique perspective on urban and rural social environments. He earned his B.S. in information technology from Western Governors University, settling on the IT field after many years of studying different disciplines, including music theory and cognitive psychology.

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Veronique Husser

Finance Manager

Veronique manages the finances, payroll, and accounting for the RISI teams and strives for her work to empower all team members to become positive contributors to the organizational mission.

She has years of experience in financial management and reporting with organizations from small start-ups to multinational corporations. Prior to joining the team, she spent almost two decades as a translation consultant and corporate accountant. She is fluent in French and German.

Veronique lives on her beloved farm in Springfield, Vermont, with her husband, daughter, and many animals. She holds a university degree in Economics from Université Louis Pasteur in her native France.

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Myles Kamisher-Koch

Broadband Consultant

As a member of RISI's broadband team, Myles actively engages with public and private stakeholders in the development of broadband solutions to serve rural communities across the country.

Prior to joining RISI, he worked as a project manager in the design and construction industry, and has a professional background in worlds food, agriculture, and sustainability. Myles holds a B.A. from Middlebury College and is based in Hardwick, Vermont.

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Alex Kelley

Head of Broadband Consulting

Alex leads RISI's efforts to help communities plan new fiber networks by building feasibility models, creating business plans with capital stacks that take advantage of state and federal subsidies, and devising partnership structures that align the incentives of public and private entities.

Previously at RISI, he has worked on mapping and data consulting projects as well as “future of work” and workforce development activities. Alex’s career before joining RISI was split between professional services in Silicon Valley and rural organizing and political strategy. He served as a Project Manager and then Creative Manager at the global branding firm Catchword, based in Oakland, California, where he worked with Fortune 500 companies in the food and beverage, e-commerce, and automotive sectors, among others.

Alex has also served as senior staff in various capacities on four political campaigns in New England and upstate New York. Alex holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University.

Robin Kilfeather-Mackey

Robin Kilfeather-Mackey

Director of Finance and Operations

Robin oversees the financial infrastructure and organizational strategy of CORI and RISI, a role that includes the design and management of finance practices, prioritizing and evaluating business development new opportunities, and setting future goals and objectives.

Prior to joining the team, Robin served northern New England nonprofits in various financial and management leadership roles for more than three decades. She spent nearly seven years as the Chief Financial Officer of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, the largest private employer in the state of New Hampshire, during which time she established and chaired the system-wide environmental sustainability council that recognized human health and the health of our natural environment are fundamentally interconnected. Most recently, Robin was the vice president of operations and finance for the Upper Valley Land Trust, helping rural communities permanently protect forests, wildlife habitat, water resources, trails and scenic landscapes.

Robin holds a B.S. from Bentley University, an MBA from the University System of New Hampshire, a master’s in healthcare delivery science from Dartmouth College, and a master’s in environmental sciences from Antioch University New England. She is also a graduate of the Leadership New Hampshire Program and Certified Public Accountant licensed in New Hampshire.

Robin currently lives with her wife and daughter in Cornish, New Hampshire. She enjoys the inspiration of the natural world, traveling, watercolor painting, and photography.

Kaitlin Klaustermeier

Kaitlin Klaustermeier

Directory of Community Impact

Kaitlin leads all strategy, assessment, and capacity building for rural communities ready to build digital economy ecosystems.

Based in Washington state, Kaitlin spent five years at Boston Consulting Group leading public sector and social impact projects across a wide range of sectors. Previously, Kaitlin spent time at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as part of a team assessing a strategic expansion into international education, and as a strategy officer on an international development project focused on primary healthcare in Ethiopia.

Raised on a dairy farm in western Wisconsin, Kaitlin has a B.A. from the University of Minnesota, a Masters in Public Policy from the Kennedy School at Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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Dolley MacDermot

Research Associate

As a Research Associate, Dolley supports web development, mapping and data visualization efforts, along with general IT infrastructure. Dolley has years of experience working with web based technologies and social impact organizations.

Before joining the team, Dolley worked on various projects with Singularity University, an organization dedicated to anticipating how AI and machine learning will shape our lives. Previously, she provided software consulting support and customer service management for social impact oriented organizations.

Dolley holds a B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. She was also a licensed EMT for nine-plus years operating in both Connecticut and New Hampshire.

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Zack Nolan

Director of Strategic Operations

Zack leads special projects related to finance, operations and organizational strategy. Zack’s prior experience spans both the nonprofit and private sectors. Most recently, Zack worked at EY-Parthenon as a strategy consultant.

While based in New York, Zack primarily led growth strategy and commercial due-diligence projects in EY-Parthenon’s technology practice. Previously, Zack was a teaching fellow at African Leadership Academy (ALA), a two-year, pre-university program for aspiring leaders from across Africa. After teaching at ALA’s campus in Johannesburg, South Africa, Zack transitioned to African Leadership Foundation, ALA’s sister organization based in San Francisco, to manage support programs for graduates of ALA studying at U.S. universities.

Zack has a B.A. in Economics and International Studies from Northwestern University and an MBA from Yale School of Management. Zack lives in rural New Hampshire.

Molly Pyle

Molly Pyle

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development Lead

Molly supports rural communities as they develop and grow strong entrepreneurial ecosystems, creating scalable tech startups in rural America. Prior to joining RISI, she worked with social impact startups at MIT Solve, worked with international women leaders in STEM and entrepreneurship with the State Department, led the Incubator and Accelerator programming at Singularity University.

She also co-created and led Singularity’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and contributed to the design and execution of International Summits for executive and startup audiences of 2,000-plus attendees per event across 15 countries.

Molly holds an M.S. In Social Work from Columbia University focusing on Social Enterprise Administration, International Social Welfare, and Services to Immigrants and Refugees, along with B.S. degrees in Social Work and International Affairs from Florida State University. She grew up in the historic small town of Saint Augustine, Florida.

Matt Rogers

Matt Rogers

Data Engineer

Matt is a Data Engineer who develops tools and infrastructure to make high-quality data available across the organization. His career has centered on helping companies of all sizes leverage open-source tools and custom technical solutions to solve business problems.

A lifelong resident of rural New England, Matt is passionate about rural living and small town issues. He holds a B.A. degree in Sociology from Saint Michael’s College and an M.A. degree in Sociology from the University of Connecticut.

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Drew Rosebush

Data Analyst

As a member of the mapping and data analytics team, Drew develops data tools to help define and execute analytics for the organization.

Before joining RISI, Drew worked as a pricing analyst for an aerospace manufacturing company. Drew was encouraged to pursue business improvement projects through the use of data analytics. This resulted in designing and implementing processes to generate high-quality data for decision-makers and stakeholders.

Growing up in the White Mountains, Drew developed an understanding and appreciation for rural communities. He holds a B.S. from Portland State University and an M.S. in resource economics and policy, and a Graduate Certificate in geographic information systems from the University of Maine. Drew currently lives in New Hampshire with his wife and animals.

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Alex Tenenbaum

Director, Technology and Data Analytics

Alex is a data scientist whose career has focused on renewable energy and entrepreneurship. He provides guidance to enhance data utilization, collaborates with critical stakeholders to operationalize data, and oversees the development and implementation of data-driven solutions to meet strategic objectives of the organization and its partners.

Before joining the team, Alex served as a Senior Analyst for a variety of energy and environmental clients. His prior roles include co-founding a technology start-up that created, designed, and developed low-energy environmental sensors for everyday use, and serving as a quantitative analyst for The Brattle Group, where he contributed to software and economic analyses that informed integral energy decisions across the country.

Alex holds a B.A. from Connecticut College and spent two years at the Yale School of Management and School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Born and raised in rural Vermont, he currently lives in the Green Mountain State with his wife and two dogs.

Rose Vieland

Rose Vieland

Entrepreneurship Programs Specialist

Rose designs and implements programs and content to instigate rural tech startup creation and scale. Prior to joining RISI, Rose supported translation of federally-funded science and engineering research to commercialization through entrepreneurship accelerator programs. Rose has produced policy briefs on health and climate innovation policy for parliamentary bodies, and performed consultations with underserved communities to secure significant community development grants.

Rose has a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Edinburgh focused on Carbon Innovation and Climate Change Policy. She also holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Economics and Social History from the University of Edinburgh, concluding with a dissertation on the Historical Economics of the Global Pharmaceutical Industry. Rose lives in the town of Leverett, Massachusetts.

Nathan Willingham

Nathan Willingham

Federal Grant Writing Lead

Nathan is a Federal Grant Writing Lead for RISI. He is an experienced planner, a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), and has worked in rural community planning and economic development since 2004. He has a guiding belief in asset-based, purpose-driven development.

Before he joined the team, Nathan spent time in regional and community planning and as Sponsored Programs Director at the University of North Alabama. He has worked with communities to plan and execute all phases of community and economic development programs, bringing a range of experiences writing and managing grants.

Nathan earned a B.S. degree in political science and history from the University of North Alabama and an MPA from Troy University. He is a student in the Doctor of Public Administration Program at Valdosta State University, where he is preparing a dissertation on collaboration asking how people with little authority over one another can work together to innovate and accomplish great things.