Define American

Using the power of story to transcend politics and shift the conversation around citizenship

Our Team

Define American was founded in April 2011 by Jose Antonio Vargas with Jake Brewer, Jehmu Greene, and Alicia Menendez.

Today, Define American is led by Vargas and Brewer.

Board Members

Jose Antonio Vargas, Founder and Co-Chair
Jake Brewer, Co-Founder and Co-Chair
Patricia Hyland
Shervin Pishevar
Afshin Pishevar, General Counsel

 

Staff

Rev. Ryan M. Eller, Executive Director
Responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations of Define American. Eller holds a B.S. in Political Science from Appalachian State University, a Masters Degree in Divinity from Wake Forest University, and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Penn State University. Prior to joining Define American, he was the U.S. Campaigns Director at Change.org. For four years prior to that, he was the Executive Director of CHANGE in North Carolina—the largest broad-based community organizing group in the southern United States (a 501c3). He has extensive experience in the campaign arena as well, having managed political campaigns at both the local and federal level.

Lara Drasin, Director of Media and Partnerships
Responsible for seeking out and implementing creative ways to accomplish Define American’s goals. Prior to joining Define American, Drasin was an account executive at Hiltzik Strategies, a New York City-based boutique public relations and crisis management firm handling a range of corporate and individual clients in the areas of media, technology, entertainment, and advocacy. While at Hiltzik, she was involved in orchestrating both national and international media campaigns, and has managed stories ranging from the New York Times to the cover of Forbes magazine. She graduated with honors from New York University with a dual B.A. in Journalism and Sociology.

Maria Cruz Lee, Director of Engagement
Responsible for Define American's communication strategy and implementation with partners across America. Lee holds a B.A. in Media from CUNY Hunter College and served as Special Assistant to former Commissioner Fatima Shama at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs during the Bloomberg administration. She joined MOIA as its first social media intern in 2010, created and implemented the agency's social media strategy on multiple campaigns, including the Blueprints for Immigrant Integration, which are being used in 50+ municipalities and have been internationally awarded as a model. Born in the Philippines, she aims to continually connect, support and celebrate immigrants in all her efforts.

Julissa Arce, Director of Development
Responsible for Define American's long-term sustainability. Prior to joining Define American, Arce spent nearly 10 years on Wall Street as a vice president at Goldman Sachs and a director at Merrill Lynch focused on derivative structuring, marketing, and product development. She graduated cum laude with a degree in Finance from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, and is chairman of the Ascend Educational Fund, a scholarship and mentorship program for New York City immigrant students.  

Jonathan Yu, Operations Manager
Responsible for supporting the staff of Define American and founder Jose Antonio Vargas.

To reach our staff, please use our Contact Us form.

For all media inquiries, please contact
Brenda Arredondo
Desk: (202) 587-4945
Cell: (915) 373-1483
barredondo@rabengroup.com
 

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