MEET
OUR TEAM

Leadership

Lindsay Owens

Lindsay Owens, Ph.D.

Interim Executive Director

(she/her)

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Our Team

Sammi Aibinder

Special Assistant to the Executive Director

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Azza Altiraifi

Senior Program Manager

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Cindy Banh

Program Associate

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Hugo Castro

Director of Operations

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Stacy Cervantes

Event Manager

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Q Chaghtai

Digital Manager

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Thomas Cox

Program Manager

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Claire Guzdar

Director of Campaigns and Partnerships

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Heather Henriquez

Program Associate

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Omar Joyce

Operations Associate

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Sabina Lee

Communications Associate

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Sam Sanders

Director of Program and Strategy

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Marokey Sawo

Data Analyst

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Kate Taylor Mighty

Senior Program Manager

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Grace Western

Policy Analyst

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Dani Zessoules

Policy Analyst

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Lindsay Owens

Interim Executive Director

Lindsay Owens, Ph.D.

Lindsay Owens is the interim Executive Director of the Groundwork Collaborative. Lindsay has worked in academia, government, and the non-profit sector for nearly 15 years. Most recently, she served as a senior economic policy adviser to Senator Elizabeth Warren and as deputy chief of staff and legislative director to Reps. Keith Ellison and Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal. In these roles, Lindsay was instrumental in crafting and passing legislation to expand the social safety net, increase power for workers, and build a more inclusive economy for all. She has also served as a policy adviser to candidates for state, local, and national office, including several presidential campaigns. 

Lindsay is a highly-cited sociologist with deep expertise in economic inequality, poverty, housing policy, and recessions. Her work is published in leading social science journals including Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and Social Forces. Her award-winning dissertation examined the federal policy response to the housing crash of the Great Recession. She teaches a popular undergraduate course on poverty and inequality at Georgetown University and is the co-creator and co-instructor of America’s Poverty Course online at Stanford University.

Lindsay is a frequent author of opinion-editorials and white papers. Her recent writing and policy proposals have appeared in outlets including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, CNN.com, and The San Jose Mercury News.

Lindsay holds Ph.D. and Master’s degrees in sociology from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently resides in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C., with her partner Jay.

Special Assistant to the Executive Director

Sammi Aibinder

Sammi Aibinder is the Special Assistant to the Executive Director at the Groundwork Collaborative.

Before joining the team, Sammi was a member of the 2018-2019 Avodah Jewish Service Corps. She worked at N Street Village, the largest provider of housing and supportive services for women experiencing homelessness in DC, where she had the opportunity to learn about key issues in housing justice, health equity, and community building.

Originally from Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, Sammi graduated from Wesleyan University with a BA in the College of Social Studies. In her free time, Sammi loves cooking, going to trivia, and taking long walks with her noise-cancelling headphones.

Senior Program Manager

Azza Altiraifi

Azza Altiraifi is the Senior Program Manager for the Campaigns and Partnerships team at the Groundwork Collaborative.

Prior to joining Groundwork, Azza was a research and advocacy manager at the Center for American Progress’ disability policy initiative. In that role, Azza spearheaded advocacy campaigns as well as researched and published articles on mental health policy, surveillance, and advancing economic security for disabled people. Azza holds a bachelor’s degree in law and society from American University.

Outside of work, Azza enjoys hiking, traveling, playing with her dog, and photographing weddings with her husband Haithem.

Program Associate

Cindy Banh

Cindy is a Program Associate at the Groundwork Collaborative. 

Prior to joining the team, Cindy was the Research and Policy Intern at the Hub Project, where she provided research support on healthcare, unemployment, and tax policy issues. She fell in love with Washington D.C. after working as a Field Manager for Grassroots Campaigns, where she helped lead canvassing efforts for the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood Action Fund in 2017. 

Cindy is from San Jose, California, and graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Whittier College. Outside of work, Cindy enjoys traveling, and it is her goal to visit all seven continents. She also spends her time watching The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Bob’s Burgers.

Director of Operations

Hugo Castro

Hugo Castro is the Director of Operations at the Groundwork Collaborative. He oversees and manages our day-to-day operations, process improvements, and operational support for all of our teams.

Before joining the team, Hugo was the Operations Manager at the Democracy Fund where he was responsible for improving and coordinating major operational systems during their growth, including financial management, human resources, information systems, contract management, and office administration, as well as managing the ongoing day-to-day operations of the organization.

Hugo was born in Colombia and moved to the US when he was a teenager. When he’s not traveling and taking photos around DC, you can find him enjoying a book at a local coffee shop.

Event Manager

Stacy Cervantes

Stacy Cervantes is the Event Manager at Groundwork Collaborative. Stacy manages all Groundwork events, including webinars and online event productions, virtual and in-person convenings and community gatherings. Stacy brings more than 15 years of experience in public relations and event management, primarily in academia and the non-profit sector, to the Groundwork team.  

Originally from Southern California and growing up all over North America, Stacy is a power reader, eternal learner, master knitter and avid traveler to the Carribean and Bermuda. Stacy has a Bachelor of Journalism degree in advertising & public relations  from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Master of Tourism Administration degree in Sustainable Tourism and Event Management from The George Washington University.

Digital Manager

Q Chaghtai

Q Chaghtai is a Digital Manager at the Groundwork Collaborative.

Before joining Groundwork, Q worked as a Digital Brand Manager at the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), where he led outgoing communications, branding, and graphic design for both digital communications and out-of-home spaces. With a penchant for strong design, Q’s work has been featured on billboards across the country and notably on the iconic digital billboards in Times Square NYC. Prior to OAAA, Q worked at a boutique advertising agency.

Q originally hails from Virginia and has a B.A in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. Typically, you can catch Q talking about his latest fitness obsession, making obscure television references, or perfecting a charcuterie board.

Program Manager

Thomas Cox

Thomas Cox III is a Program Manager for the Groundwork Collaborative and a newcomer to Washington, D.C.

Prior to joining the team, Thomas was an Associate Engagement Manager at Moody’s Analytics in New York City. In this role, he helped oversee the strategy and implementation of marketing initiatives and sales campaigns for Moody’s content. A Morehouse College graduate and Atlanta native, Thomas is a fitness and yoga enthusiast and runs his own pop-up fitness events brand.

In his free time, he loves traveling and exploring new restaurants that he reviews on Yelp first.

Director of Campaigns and Partnerships

Claire Guzdar

Claire Guzdar is the Director of Campaigns and Partnerships, working to advance a cross-cutting economic narrative for the progressive movement.

Prior to joining Groundwork in 2019, Claire was Associate Director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress, where she designed and executed advocacy and communications strategies to ensure progressive victories on economic justice, healthcare, religious liberty, and other issues. Previously, Claire was Field Associate and minimum wage lobbyist at NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice.

Before discovering a passion for progressive public policy, Claire was a high school teacher and college campus minister. She earned degrees in Theology from Boston College and Catholic Theological Union, where she was a Bernardin Scholar.

Program Associate

Heather Henriquez

Heather Henriquez is the Program Associate for the Campaigns and Partnerships team at the Groundwork Collaborative.

Prior to joining Groundwork, Heather served as a Program Assistant at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants for the Trafficking Victim Assistance Program. In this role, she created a social media campaign to better inform the public regarding anti-trafficking related issues and conducted outreach to build the capacity of the network.

Though Heather is originally from Howard County, Maryland, she attended school at Boston University where she received a BA from the Pardee School of Global Studies in International Relations and a Minor in Public Health. Outside of work, Heather loves traveling, hiking, and hanging out with her dog.

Operations Associate

Omar Joyce

Omar Joyce is the Operations Associate at the Groundwork Collaborative.

Prior to joining the team, Omar was an Operations Intern at The Hub Project where he was responsible for working with partner organizations to implement best operational methods for executing programs, reviewing and processing contracts and payments, and assisting with daily operational needs of the organization.

Omar is from Baltimore City, Maryland and attended the University of Maryland, College Park, where he studied Communications. Outside of work, Omar enjoys reading science fiction books, running, taking dance classes, and engaging in thought-provoking conversations on any topic except sports.

Communications Associate

Sabina Lee

Sabina Lee is the Communications Associate for Groundwork Collaborative.

Prior to joining Groundwork in 2019, Sabina was a paralegal at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP in New York, where she worked on a variety of cases ranging from sexual assault, medical malpractice, dangerous device failure, and other public health related issues.

Sabina was born and raised in the greater Boston area to immigrant parents. As a first-generation college student, she studied English Literature at Yale University, focusing on disjointed communities and loneliness among marginalized people.

Outside of work, Sabina can be found browsing used book stores, hunting for plants, and sampling cheese.

Director of Program and Strategy

Sam Sanders

Sam Sanders is the Director of Program and Strategy.

Prior to joining the team in 2018, Sam managed congressional affairs at the Economic Policy Institute, advancing research on labor and workers’ rights, the federal budget, taxes, trade, and economic inequality. Prior to that, Sam served as a policy advisor in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, working on issues including labor standards regulations and the future of work.

Sam hails from Southern Maryland, and attended Yale University, where she focused on Chinese language/cultural studies.

Outside of work, she can be found rehearsing with SongRise or the 18th Street Singers, trying to pet other people’s dogs on the sidewalk, or leaving a DC library with an impractical number of books.

Data Analyst

Marokey Sawo

Marokey Sawo joined Groundwork Collaborative as a data analyst in June 2020. Marokey previously worked at Futures and Options under several roles. As a project manager, she spearheaded an organization-wide project to build a robust new Salesforce CRM database and develop processes to increase efficiency and capacity. As a data associate, she worked closely with the Program Director to audit Future and Options’ data evaluation systems to better capture the organization’s impact in providing internship and career-readiness opportunities. She also mined a novel large-scale alumni survey, which secured respondents spanning two decades of program participation years, as well as evaluated assessment surveys for the two preceding program semesters. 

Marokey earned an MSc in economic theory and policy from the Levy Economics Institute and a BA in economics from Vassar College. She lived her childhood across The Gambia and The Bronx, proudly deeming both as home.

Senior Program Manager

Kate Taylor Mighty

Kate Taylor Mighty is a Senior Program Manager for the Groundwork Collaborative.

Before joining our team, Kate worked in a rotational program at a software company called HubSpot, cycling through different marketing roles in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Dublin, Ireland. Previously, Kate helped develop communication strategies to encourage state policymakers to implement clean energy policy, and worked as a marketing intern at a DC-area edtech company called 2U.

Originally from Boston, Kate attended Yale University and majored in political science. Outside of work, Kate’s passions include live music, arguing about TV, and exploring the great indoors.

Policy Analyst

Grace Western

Grace Western is a Policy Analyst at the Groundwork Collaborative, where she provides research support on a variety of economic justice issues.

Previously, Grace was a Policy and Research Manager at The Hub Project, where she provided policy analysis and research support for various issue advocacy campaigns, notably for health care and economic issues. She also worked in the Office of Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand and on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.Grace has a B.A. in Political Science and Women’s Studies from Colgate University. Originally from Syracuse, New York, Grace is a lover of reading nooks and dancing to live music in the park.

Policy Analyst

Dani Zessoules

Dani Zessoules is a Policy Analyst at the Groundwork Collaborative, where she provides research support on a variety of issues related to economic justice.

Before joining the team, Dani was a Research Assistant at the Center for American Progress, where she researched and published articles on issues related to economic inequality, the labor market and international trade. Prior to that she was a federal legislative affairs intern at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities following a domestic policy internship at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 

Outside of work you can find Dani discovering new bike paths, playing guitar on her porch and stressing out about what fun facts to include in her bio page.

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