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Panelists and Moderators

Jessica James

Ms. Jessica James is an enrolled member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall, Idaho. She currently is the Tribal Education Program Manager for the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. She is also affiliated with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and Washoe Tribe. Ms. James is a graduate of Shoshone-Bannock Jr./Sr. High School and obtained an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts (2003) and a Bachelor’s of Arts degree (2004) in American Indian Studies from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. She also obtained a Master’s Degree (2008) in Indigenous Nations Studies with emphases in Cultural Preservation Management and Indigenous Museum Studies from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.

In May of 2022, Ms. James was appointed to serve on the Board of Regents at Haskell Indian Nations University. She also serves as a Tribal Education Department Representative on the Idaho Indian Education Committee for the state of Idaho. For four years (2010-2014) Ms. James served as a council member on the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Native American Employment and Training Council appointed by Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

Ms. James’s occupational duties include: writing grants, implementing and coordinating programming services, and collaborating with business, education other organizations to create educational opportunities for Native American community members and tribal members. Ms. James mentors and advises youth and adults on multiple levels of education and empowers them to become educated leaders through encouraging cultural values and achieving academic and employment success.

Stephanie Witt - Moderator

Dr. Stephanie Witt is Director of Training for the School of Public Service. She is also a Professor in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Political Science programs. Her research interests include intergovernmental relations and human resource management. She is the former Editor of the Social Science Journal, and has served as Department Chair, Associate Dean, and the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs

Chris Mathias

Chris Mathias represents District 19 in the Idaho House of Representatives, and is the first ever Black man elected to the Idaho legislature. Rep. Mathias served in the U.S. Coast Guard before enrolling at Boise State where he graduated prior to earning a JD and PhD in Law and Public Policy.

Since leaving the military, Rep. Mathias has maintained a life-long commitment to public service. He is a former U.S. Senate law clerk and served as the Chief Academic Officer for the Idaho State Board of Education. In addition to his legislative service, he currently serves on the Andrus Center Board of Governors and the Boise State School of Public Service Advisory Board.

Rep. Mathias lives in Boise with his wife and two young children.

Betsy McBride

McBride is an Idaho native who returned in 2011. Her professional background includes Executive Director of the Hampton Roads Center for Civic Engagement, Media Coordinator for the City of Virginia Beach, government relations for The Pillsbury Company and staff for D.C.-based Search for Common Ground. She worked extensively with the Kettering Foundation on issues of sustainable democracy and won state and international awards for community engagement projects. McBride is currently the state president of the League of Women Voters of Idaho and on the board of City Club. Her longtime advocacy focus has been on environmental public policy.

Ben Ysursa

Ben Ysursa was born in Boise, Idaho in 1949. A graduate of Gonzaga University and St. Louis University College of Law, Ben was elected Idaho’s 26th Secretary of State in 2002. Ysursa was re-elected in 2006 and 2010 and retired from elective office 2015. Ben started his professional career serving first as Deputy Secretary of State from 1974 to 1976 and then as Chief Deputy from 1976-2002. Ysursa worked for more than 40 years in the office of secretary of state and acquired a reputation for fair, non-partisan administration of elections, campaign finance and lobbying disclosure, and corporation registration.

Ysursa also served on the State Land Board, Executive Board Member of the National Association of Secretary of States, board member for various state and city committees and as a volunteer for youth athletic organizations. Ben currently serves as a board member on the State Deferred Compensation Committee and Idahoans for Openness in Government.

Ben was the recipient of the “Boyd Martin Award” presented by the Association of Idaho Cities, the 1992 Recipient for Outstanding Administrator for the Idaho Republican Party and the Edward and Dottie Stimpson Award for Civic Engagement for the City Club of Boise for his commitment to openness and transparency in government. He recently was honored as an Icon by the Idaho Business Review. He and his wife Penny have three children, Shawn Del, Matthew and Andrew and two grandchildren Benjamin and Thomas.

Shiva Rajbhandari

Shiva Rajbhandari is a climate activist and youth leader from Boise, Idaho. An avid outdoorsman, he is the Director of the Youth Salmon Protectors, leading a coalition of students across the Northwest working to breach the 4 lower Snake River dams and save wild salmon and steelhead. In that role, he has grown the organization to over 2000 members, lobbied extensively among Idaho’s Congressional delegation, and built strong relationships with indigenous communities across the region. Shiva’s passion for environmental justice is not limited to the Snake River Basin, however. As a part of the Idaho Climate Justice League, he is a leader in the fight for a fossil-free future and played a key role in the passage of the Boise School District’s “Collective Commitment on Clean Energy”. Recognizing that voting rights are essential for youth empowerment, Shiva serves as the Youth Director for BABE VOTE and has registered over 2500 new voters and organized against voter suppression in the Idaho legislature.

Shiva got his start in local politics in 9th grade as the founder of Extinction Rebellion Youth Boise and his school’s Green Club. By organizing climate strikes, involving students in government, and sowing seeds of resistance, he has helped to build the strong youth climate presence that is visible in Boise today. In 2021, he won the Idaho Conservation League’s Alex Frizzell Award for Youth Activism. He now works as the Youth Engagement Coordinator for that organization. 

As a Senior at Boise High, Shiva led an entirely grassroots campaign to become the first student to ever be elected to the Boise School District Board of Trustees in September. He believes that inclusion of youth voices is crucial to maintain a well-functioning civil society, and he is honored to serve on this panel alongside three of Idaho’s greatest leaders. In his spare time, Shiva enjoys running cross country and track, skiing, and fly fishing.

Luke Mayville

Luke Mayville grew up in Sandpoint, Idaho. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Yale University and recently taught civics and political philosophy at Columbia University, American University, and Boise State University Honors College. He has published extensive writings on the ideas of America’s Founding Fathers, including a book on President John Adams. In 2017, he co-founded Reclaim Idaho, a grassroots organization that spearheaded Idaho’s ballot initiative to expand Medicaid coverage to over 120,000 Idahoans. In 2021, Reclaim Idaho won a landmark case in the Idaho Supreme Court that enshrined the ballot-initiative process as a fundamental right in the state of Idaho. Luke was listed by Idaho Business Review among the “Power 25” leaders in Idaho’s healthcare sector and he received the 2019 Advocacy Award from the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians. Most recently, he directed Reclaim Idaho’s campaign for investment in public schools that was credited with forcing the Idaho Legislature to increase public school funding by $410 million a year–the largest investment Idaho has seen in decades

Dr. Angie Bos - Moderator

Dr. Angie Bos is Professor and Dean of the School of Public Service at Boise State University. She was previously Professor of Political Science at the College of Wooster where she also served as Associate Dean for Experiential Learning and as Chair of the Department of Political Science. Her career has centered on creating transformative learning experiences for students and helping prepare them for careers in public service.

Dr. Bos has a strong record of publishing research on gender and political leadership and creating public-facing scholarship to improve women’s representation in our public institutions. Her research is published in journals such as theAmerican Political Science Review, Political Psychology, andPolitical Communication. Bos earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University of Minnesota-Morris and her M.A. and PhD degrees in Political Science at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Nisha Bellinger

Nisha Bellinger is an Associate Professor of Political Science in the School of Public Service at Boise State University. She completed her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Missouri in 2012 and has M.A. and B.A. degrees from India. Her research focuses on political economic themes with a regional interest in South Asia. In particular, her research explores the causes and consequences of human well-being outcomes such as health and education.

She is the author of Governing Human Well-Being: Domestic and International Determinants (Palgrave Macmillan 2018) and her research appears in journals such as European Political Science Review, International Political Science Review, and Journal of Politics, among others.

She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses such as The Politics of Inequality, Oil, Development and Democracy, and International Political Economy, among others

Zac Gershberg

Zac Gershberg is an associate professor of journalism and media studies at Idaho State University. He is the co-author of a new book, The Paradox of Democracy: Free Speech, Open Media, and Perilous Persuasion, published by the University of Chicago Press.

Zac worked as a journalist in Hawaii before going into academics and earning a Ph.D. in Communication from Louisiana State University. Other works he has written can be found in collected volumes such as Global Journalism: Understanding World Media Systems and The Rhetoric of Fascism. At ISU, Zac teaches a range of courses from Media Literacy and Business Reporting to Political Communication, Screenwriting, and Mass Media History, Law, and Ethics.

Luke Wenz

Luke Wenz currently serves as the Deputy National Outreach Director, Western Region for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a broad-based coalition of over 500 businesses and nonprofit organization that works in Washington, D.C., and around the country to strengthen America’s civilian-led tools of development and diplomacy, alongside defense. Luke oversees USGLC’s work across the Western Region of the United States. Prior to joining the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, Luke served as Deputy District Director for U.S. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska and served as his Campaign Manager. Alongside his work domestically on federal public policy and political work, Luke has lived, worked, and studied in Amman, Jordan, and Beirut, Lebanon. Luke attended Nebraska Wesleyan University, where he studied political theory and the philosophy of religion. Though he travels extensively across the United States for work, Luke is based in Phoenix.