Foundational Community Assistance Associate
Rachel is the Foundational Community Assistance Associate at RISI providing support to both the Broadband and Rural Innovation Initiative consulting teams as they help rural communities expand access to broadband internet and 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.
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.
Amie serves on RISI’s broadband team, supporting connectivity and economic empowerment for rural communities across the country.
Prior to joining RISI, Amie worked for a community and economic development consultant focusing on housing need assessments, economic strategy, and market analyses. She also participated in, then later managed, the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) AmeriCorps Program based out of the University of Oregon. And as a former marketing manager for one of the largest beekeeping supply companies in the country, she brings to RISI a small business and entrepreneurial background.
Amie holds B.A. degrees in Economics and Anthropology from Nazareth College of Rochester and a Master of Community and Regional Planning degree from the University of Oregon.
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.
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.
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.
Kate engages individuals, foundations, and corporations to build and leverage philanthropic support for RISI's mission. An experienced resource and relationship development leader, Kate has raised millions of dollars to support big ideas and the organizations that advance them.
She came to the team from a senior development role at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she led fundraising efforts for the school’s intellectual property and health law centers. With a career spanning the arts, politics, and education, Kate brings broad experience working with donors to achieve their philanthropic goals, as well as a knack for uniting diverse public and private partners around a common mission.
Originally from a small town in western Massachusetts, Kate spent more than a decade in Minneapolis before returning to New England. She holds a B.A. in English from Haverford College and a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Minnesota.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Federal Grant Specialist
Tiffany helps organizations apply for funding to strengthen and grow digital economy ecosystems, and support innovative projects that prepare rural communities for the jobs of tomorrow.
Prior to joining RISI, Tiffany worked closely with industry and civic leaders in 11 counties in rural central Arkansas to strengthen underserved entrepreneurs through comprehensive ecosystem development. Utilizing an asset-based approach, she helped communities identify, link, and leverage local opportunities to increase startup activity. In addition, she led a statewide advocacy coalition to reduce barriers for small business owners and democratize access to innovation resources. She supported this work by securing state, federal, and foundation funding.
Tiffany has a Master of Science degree in psychology from Arkansas Tech University, and holds certificates in Group Facilitation from the Arkansas Public Policy Consortium and Strategic Grant Development Writing from the Institute for Strategic Funding Development.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Catie is a member of the Operations team, helping with scheduling, development, and organization. She has a background in political organizing and policy work, including most recently working as the field director for a statewide gubernatorial campaign.
She holds a B.A. from the University of Vermont with focuses in Latin and political science. She grew up in Vermont and currently resides there today.
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.
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 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.
Geospatial Products Manager
Chris leads the organization’s mapping and data analytics team projects, provides strategy and support to digital tools and websites across the organization, and manages computing infrastructure. He has worked as a product owner, project manager, and digital strategist for over 10 years with a focus on building web-based tools.
In that time, he has worked with a wide range of organizations from small nonprofits to Fortune 50 companies on distributed teams spanning six continents. Collecting, analyzing, and using data have been core to his work throughout the career, including GIS mapping, IoT data logging, server monitoring, and web analytics. Chris is a certified Scrum Product Owner with experience managing agile teams, process improvement, and continuous integration.
Chris holds a B.A. from Hampshire College and an M.Ed. in Educational Technology from University of Texas at Brownsville, with a year at University of Bergen (UiB) in System Dynamics. Chris lives in rural Vermont.
Rural Innovation Initiative Assistant
Sydney grew up in Norwich, Vermont. She loved growing up in a small community and is passionate about learning more about how they work and ways in which they can develop. Sydney is a junior pursuing a B.A. in economics at Wellesley College where she is also involved in environmental activism and is the Organizations Chair on college government.
Regional Economic Data Specialist
Mike works to provide advisory and strategy consulting services to rural communities with data-driven, fact-based research and analysis, and overall program support. Mike joins the team with more than 10 years of professional experience in regional economic development and strategy with prior roles in academia, management consulting, Fortune 500, and in the public sector.
Most recently, Mike was the lead research associate for Professor Michael Porter at the Institute for Strategy & Competitiveness at Harvard Business School, where he supported the Institute’s work in national and global economic development projects in the US, EU, Israel, Peru, and Guyana. Mike has also worked as a Senior Consulting Analyst in McKinsey & Company’s Public & Social Sector Practice serving local, state, and federal clients to provide guidance on regional assets and opportunities to drive long-term growth strategy and implementation processes.
In addition, Mike has experience in corporate site location and global planning in the EU and Asia-Pacific in high-tech with Oracle Corporation. Mike holds a B.A. from The George Washington University in Economics and Political Science and did graduate-level study and research in US policy and government at American University.
Head of Digital Economic Development
Leah leads RISI's Rural Innovation Initiative, providing technical assistance for rural communities to build place-based digital economy ecosystem strategies and obtain the funding and resources needed to create real impact.
Leah’s career has been dedicated to community development through a variety of economic and social change projects with communities across the United States and Canada. As Senior Associate for I DO BUSINESS. Inc., Leah managed the development and implementation of Indigenous youth entrepreneurship programs with First Nations across Canada, as well as supporting Indigenous and far north businesses in developing their capacity to bid on government and corporate procurement opportunities. Her most recent role was with America’s Warrior Partnership, managing a nationwide, community-based veteran suicide study in collaboration with 14 U.S. communities.
Leah grew up on a small farm in rural Canada and immigrated to the United States in 2010, where she now lives in rural Vermont. She has a B.A. in International Development Studies from York University and an M.A. in Globalization Studies from McMaster University.
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.
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.
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.