Join Columbia College Women at Offsite NYC 6:30–8:30 p.m. on Friday, May 10, for an inspiring conversation with three alumnae who are powering tangible change in communities by advocating for reproductive, social and economic justice.
Melissa Mark-Viverito CC’91, former speaker of the New York City Council, interim president of the Latino Victory Project
Melissa Mark-Viverito CC’91 currently serves as interim president of the Latino Victory Project. She previously served as VP of strategic engagement.
Prior to LVF, Mark-Viverito served as speaker of the New York City Council, was the first Puerto Rican and Latina to hold citywide office, and represented the 8th District, which includes El Barrio/East Harlem and the South Bronx. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, she worked for over a decade in local activism, nonprofit organizations and grassroots labor organizing before being elected to the City Council in 2005.
Mark-Viverito was unanimously elected to serve as New York City Council speaker in January 2014. As speaker, she focused on transparency in government and policies that generate socioeconomic opportunity and combat systemic inequality.
In 2014, Mark-Viverito implemented sweeping rules reforms that increased transparency in city government and streamlined the legislative process to better serve New Yorkers. She also established budget reforms to ensure City Council resources are more equitably distributed across districts based on poverty levels.
Thanks to the speaker’s leadership, New York City emerged as a national leader in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. In 2014, Mark-Viverito announced a groundbreaking public -private partnership to fund legal representation for unaccompanied immigrant children facing deportation in New York City. Mark-Viverito and the Council passed legislation in 2014 limiting the city’s compliance with detention requests issued by United States immigration authorities without a warrant from a federal judge. In 2015, New York City launched the IDNYC municipal identification card open to any resident of the City regardless of immigration status. Mark-Viverito proudly supported the New York Family Unity Project, the nation’s first government-funded legal representation program for detained immigrants which provides high-quality, holistic representation to New Yorkers detained and facing deportation who cannot afford an attorney.
Mark-Viverito is also an outspoken advocate for local and national criminal justice reform. Under her leadership, the New York City Council initiated a citywide bail fund that assists low-income individuals in qualifying cases to post bail rather than spend needless time in jail while awaiting trial. Mark-Viverito sponsored and passed the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA) which provided the framework for the use of summonses instead of arrests for certain low-level, non-violent offenses, a policy shift that has decreased the volume of individuals detained and jailed unnecessarily.
As the first person (and woman) of color to serve as speaker of the City Council, Mark-Viverito focused on increasing opportunity and equality for young women across New York City. In 2015, she launched the Young Women’s Initiative to address disparities faced by women in such areas as education, workforce development, healthcare, and the criminal justice system. In 2011, she was one of four Council Members to pioneer the first-ever Participatory Budgeting process in New York City.
Andrea Miller CC’89, president, National Institute for Reproductive Health
Andrea Miller CC’89 is the president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) and its Action Fund, which build power at the state and local level to change public policy, galvanize public support, and normalize women’s decisions about abortion and contraception. A nationally recognized expert in reproductive rights and women’s health, Miller has served for more than two decades in the leadership of and as a consultant to a host of non-profit, advocacy, and philanthropic organizations.
Since becoming president of NIRH in 2011, Miller has spearheaded the growth of the organization’s state and local strategies portfolio, which annually provides advocates in at least 20 states and more than a dozen localities with strategic guidance, hands-on support, and funding to create national change from the ground up. By forming strategic partnerships with a wide range of organizations to directly impact the reproductive health and lives of women across the country, in the last decade NIRH has had the opportunity to engage with more than 150 reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations in 39 states and 56 localities nationwide.
NIRH’s communications and messaging initiatives have also expanded under Miller’s leadership. NIRH conducts ground-breaking public opinion research that has provided a new framework for talking affirmatively about abortion and mobilizing voters to take action in support of a proactive agenda. Finally, Miller has also overseen the growth of the organization’s political and advocacy work, building from its historic focus on New York State to establish the NIRH Action Fund, which does non-partisan issue advocacy and electoral engagement to advance reproductive health, rights and justice in states and cities across the country. Just as NIRH invests in localities and states, the NIRH Action Fund is interested in building political power at the local and state level to advance reproductive freedom.
Miller previously served for nearly four years as executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, where she was instrumental in securing no copay for contraception under state health reform (a critical proof point for adoption of this policy nationwide through the Affordable Care Act) and helped reduce barriers to affordable abortion care for low-income women. Prior to that, she was a principal and co-owner for nearly a decade at Public Interest Media Group (PIMG), a national communications and public affairs firm whose portfolio included the Back Up Your Birth Control campaign and served as the communications hub for securing over-the-counter Plan B.
Miller’s leadership in reproductive health and rights stretches back to helping to found the Center for Reproductive Rights. She started her professional career at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. Miller has a master of public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a bachelor of arts in political science. She is a native of Minnesota.
Sheena Wright, CC’90, LAW’94, president of the United Way of New York City
Sheena Wright CC’90, LAW’94 is the first woman to lead United Way of New York City (UWNYC) in its nearly 80-year history. Part of the United Way worldwide network, UWNYC is a trusted partner to more than 300 community-based organizations, foundations, corporations, and city and state government agencies and aligns and activates them around a shared agenda to tackle the complex challenges of low-income New Yorkers.
Wright took the reins at UWNYC the day that Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. She met that challenge, raising $11 million in disaster relief. In her tenure as president and CEO, Wright has lead a transformation of the organization—actualizing a Collective Impact strategy, and refocusing UWNYC’s support of low-income New Yorkers towards self-sufficiency. In 2013, Wright spearheaded ReadNYC, the flagship initiative of UWNYC to strengthen families and improve grade-level reading by third grade in our city’s most-challenged communities.
Prior to joining UWNYC, she served as president and CEO of the Abyssinian Development Corp. She was born and raised in the South Bronx and now lives in Harlem, New York with her three sons and daughter.
Mila Atmos CC’96, SIPA’05, founder and executive producer, "Future Hindsight"
Mila Atmos CC’96, SIPA’05 is the founder and executive producer of "Future Hindsight," a new podcast that uses a modern interview format to promote empowered citizenship by introducing a broad range of policy, public affairs, and political change makers who are engaged in improving civil society and strengthening the social contract.
Future Hindsight’s aim is to both uncover key learnings from each compelling interviewee and also to share Atmos’s personal insights on how each of us can become better and more engaged citizens. She believes that the very act of listening to “Future Hindsight” is a compelling act of citizenship, and that the quintessential American democracy is a living, breathing mechanism whose wellbeing needs to be cultivated and protected. Future Hindsight is a unique initiative that proves that every citizen has a voice, a voice that can carry ideas and effect change, locally, nationally and beyond.
Atmos serves as the Vice President of the Board of Directors of The Kitchen, and is also on the boards of the Columbia College Alumni Association (CCAA), and Lincoln Center Theater. She is currently the Co-Chair of the Alumnae Legacy Circle, an alumnae leadership giving society that supports the Columbia College Fund.
Originally from Indonesia, Atmos now lives in New York with her husband and their two sons.