PLS Scholars at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Photo by Grant Miller

Fourth annual class comprised of 59 Scholars including veterans, educators, doctors, public servants, and corporate professionals; program begins on February 6 in Washington, D.C.

January 30, 2018 – Today, the Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS) program announced the 59 Scholars who will form the program’s fourth annual class. PLS serves as a catalyst for a diverse network of leaders brought together to collaborate and make a difference in the world as they learn about leadership through the lens of the presidential experiences of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson.

The fourth class was selected after a rigorous application and review process. Scholars were selected based on their leadership growth potential and the strength of their personal leadership projects aimed at improving the civic or social good by addressing a problem or need in a community, profession, or organization.

Over the course of several months, Scholars will travel to each participating presidential center to learn from former presidents, key former administration officials, and leading academics. They will study and put into practice varying approaches to leadership, develop a network of peers, and exchange ideas with mentors and others who can help them make an impact in their communities. The program kicks off in Washington, D.C. on February 6.

The latest class joins an active network of 181 Scholars who are applying lessons learned through the program to make a difference in their communities in the U.S. and around the world. Examples of these Scholar-led efforts include providing employment opportunity and mentorship to veterans, combating the opioid epidemic through doctor training and patient care, empowering women with economic opportunity through clean energy in Africa, and deploying much needed resources in the wake of natural disasters.

2018 Scholars:

  • Emily Baker, Founder and Managing Partner, Portman Square Group, Boise, Idaho;
  • Antoinette Balta, President and Co-Founder, Veterans Legal Institute, Orange, Calif.;
  • Matthew Banks, CEO, Davis Regional Medical Center, Mooresville, N.C.;
  • Richard Bengel, Managing Partner, Bengel Hospitality, New Bern, N.C.;
  • Jon Bennion, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Montana Department of Justice, Clancy, Mont.;
  • Tynesia Boyea-Robinson, President and CEO, Reliance Methods, Dallas, Texas;
  • Julissa Carielo, President, Tejas Premier Building Contractor, Inc., San Antonio, Texas;
  • Quyen Chu, Professor of Surgery, LSU Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, La.;
  • John Coleman, Managing Director and CAO, Alternatives and Institutional, Invesco, Brookhaven, Ga.;
  • Collin Cox, Partner, Yetter Coleman LLP, Houston, Texas;
  • Ben de Bont, Vice President and CISO, IBM Watson & IBM Cloud, IBM, Seattle, Wash.;
  • James Ferguson, CEO and Founder, Warrior Reunion Foundation, Cockeysville, Md.;
  • Joseph Forney, CEO, Cold Chain, LLC, Boise, Idaho;
  • Conor French, General Counsel, Funding Circle USA, Inc., San Francisco, Calif.;
  • Pritesh Gandhi, Associate Chief Medical Officer, People’s Community Clinic, Austin, Texas;
  • Isabel Gonzalez Whitaker, Editor and Content Strategist, Self Employed, Memphis, Tenn.;
  • Robert Gore, Attending Physician, Founder, and Executive Director of KAVI, SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Kings County Hospital Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.;
  • Christina Grant, Assistant Superintendent, Innovation and Opportunity, The School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa.;
  • Dionne Gumbs, Founder, Blue Willow LLC, Plymouth, Minn.;
  • Lisa Hallett, CEO, Wear Blue: Run to Remember, Dupont, Wash.;
  • Tara Henderson, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.;
  • Jeffrey Hom, Policy Advisor, Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Philadelphia, Pa.;
  • Lauren Hughes, Deputy Secretary for Health Innovation, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Philadelphia, Pa.;
  • Risha Irvin, Assistant Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases and Director, Generation Tomorrow, Center for AIDS Research, John Hopkins School of Medicine, Elkridge, Md.;
  • Lenore Jarvis, Pediatric Emergency Medicine Attending and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Children’s National Health System, Washington, D.C.;
  • Sunny Jha, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology, University of Southern California, Tustin, Calif.;
  • Lilly Kan, Senior Director, Infectious Disease & Informatics, National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO), Silver Spring, Md.;
  • Benjamin Kohlmann, Associate, McKinsey & Co, Dallas, Texas;
  • Lauren Leader-Chivee, CEO, All In Together Campaign, Harrison, N.Y.;
  • Chequan Lewis, Senior Director, Legal, Pizza Hut LLC, Dallas, Texas;
  • Steven Llanes, Attorney and Associate, Lowenstein Sandler, LLP, Upper Montclair, N.J.;
  • Jared Lyon, President and CEO, Student Veterans of America, Washington, D.C.;
  • Victoria McCausland, Instructor, The Pennsylvania State University, Virginia Beach, Va.;
  • Cori Meltzer, Principal Mediator, CFM Mediation, Hollywood, Fla.;
  • Samuel Newman, Executive Director, Brighter Bites, Houston, Texas;
  • Alanah Odoms, Director, Division of Children and Families, Louisiana Supreme Court, New Orleans, La.;
  • Christopher Palombo, CEO, Dispensary of Hope, Nashville, Tenn.;
  • Erik Pickering, President, Tracers Information Specialists, San Anselmo, Calif.;
  • Benjamin Porritt, President, Outside Eyes, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.;
  • Ann Ratnayake, Managing Director, National Center for Child Abuse Statistics and Policy, Washington, D.C.;
  • Mary Reding, Associate Director, Executive Councils, Office of Shared Solutions and Performance Improvement, U.S. Government, Alexandria, Va.;
  • Loren Robinson, Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Philadelphia, Pa.;
  • Miguel Romano, President, Foundations, Seton/Ascension Texas, Austin, Texas;
  • Megan Sims, Garden Manager, Magnolia, Waco, Texas;
  • Ruben Salinas, President and CEO, Parsagen Diagnostics, Inc., Andover, Mass.;
  • Shamina Singh, Executive Vice President, Sustainability at Mastercard and President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, New York, N.Y.;
  • Davis Smith, CEO, Cotopaxi, Sandy, Utah;
  • Jamie Statter, Vice President, Strategic Relationships, U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C.;
  • Erin Stevens, Deputy Comptroller for Intergovernmental and Community Affairs, Office of the State Comptroller, State of New York, Brooklyn, N.Y.;
  • Yanev Suissa, Managing General Partner, SineWave Ventures, Washington, D.C.;
  • Hunter Taylor, Clinical Assistant Professor and Recruiter for the Mississippi Teacher Corps, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, Miss.;
  • Tina Tran, Head of Educational VR Content, Facebook, San Francisco, Calif.;
  • Ezinne Uzo-Okoro, Chief Software Engineer, NASA Ames, Palo Alto, Calif.;
  • Tony Vargas, State Senator, Nebraska Legislature, Omaha, Neb.;
  • Asha Varghese, Director, Global Health, GE, Chicago, Ill.;
  • Michael Webber, Professor, Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas;
  • J. Eric Wilson, CEO, Noble Impact, Little Rock, Ark.;
  • Kelly Wolfe, Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy, Children’s MN, Roseville, Minn.;
  • Brian Wolff, Executive Vice President of Policy and External Affairs, EEI, Washington, D.C.

Presidential Leadership Scholars is a partnership among the presidential centers of George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson. To learn more, visit For updates about the Presidential Leadership Scholars, use #PLScholars and follow @PLSprogram on Twitter and Medium.


Contact: Sarah Gibbons, 214-200-4346,
Contact: Sara Horowitz, 212-710-4475,