Polis Institute Key Team Members
Bahiyyah Maroon is Chief Executive Officer at Polis Institute. Widely recognized for her contributions to innovation in social good initiatives, Dr. Maroon is a recipient of the United States President’s Volunteer Service Award and has been a National Science Foundation Fellow. In her career, she’s provided research and strategy insights to Intel Corporation, the US Dept. of Justice, US Dept of Education, Harvard University, Columbia University, and the US Dept. of Labor among others. She has an MA and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California Santa Cruz. She is the author of a forthcoming book of essays Black Lives, American Love (Chicago Review Press, 2023). A dedicated public scholar, she is a gifted presenter and is often highlighted in the press for her social science insights (including Women’s Health, Bustle, and Shape). Dr. Maroon is passionate about using scientific insights to create solutions for building a more compassionate and vibrant world benefiting the many.
Andres deploys the power of geographic information systems and data analysis to understand current assets and reveal unseen trends in localized settings. The purpose of his work is to empower strategy and decision making. He holds a Master of Science in Human Geography, and has studied the impact of development programs in a highly vulnerable area of Colombia in South America. He brings experience creating and managing Geographic Information Systems, as well as quantitative and qualitative research experience. He has worked in different facets of the nonprofit arena, including economic development and faith based organizations. Andres’s work and education are grounded in the belief that every single person is deserving of access to the same opportunities. He is married to his high school sweetheart Hannah and they are the proud parents of three beautiful children.
William A. Jefferson, M.P.A is the Director of Community Projects for the Polis Institute. Influenced by his diverse background in both the public and non-profit sectors as an administrative community manager, investigative analyst, financial examiner, behavioral health case manager and grant writer, he is determined to serve and protect disadvantaged and at-risk populations within the communities he lives and works.
A native of West Palm Beach, Florida, William A. Jefferson, M.P.A earned his Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice from Bethune-Cookman University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Central Florida. He has experience in strategic planning, community engagement, financial auditing, fundraising development, DE&I strategies and public speaking. He has worked for the Peace and Justice Institute at Valencia College, Office of Attorney General for the State of Florida, Office of Financial Regulations and has helped promote the advancement of education and adulthood success with Children’s Home Society of Florida. William believes that the work of Peace and Justice can be achieved one life, experience and conversation at a time.
Dr. Katherine Philp is a dynamic leader, researcher, and community advocate with nearly 20 years of diverse, cross-sector experience in education, public health, and nonprofit leadership. Dr. Philp’s expertise includes mixed-methods research designs, program evaluation, educational psychology, and community-based interventions. She is particularly interested in participatory research and evaluation approaches, and in translational efforts that use and generate theory to inform practice. Dr. Philp has experience leading process, impact, and developmental evaluations for non-profits, education programs, and large-scale, multi-stakeholder collaboratives.
She has spent nearly 9 years working to support community-based organizations in the Parramore community of Orlando, FL, securing over $800,000 in funding for local youth organizations, serving as an advisor for grassroots coalitions, and supporting capacity-building efforts for several local non-profits. She received a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University, a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Master of Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Doctor of Education from UCF.
Chris Ramos oversees partnerships with foundations, nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies to build strong networks of dedicated leaders collaborating to build a brighter future for all. He also serves as the lead evaluator of a 100-million dollar community revitalization effort in Central Florida. His previous career as a collegiate basketball coach developed a passion for unifying diverse stakeholders to achieve a common goal. Chris is dedicated to bridging the gap between academic best practices and real-world solutions.
Shawn exercises his gift of communication and event organization to facilitate Polis program offerings conducive to positive change. He has been engaged in community improvement since creating a poetry and life skills program for youth offenders at the 33rd Street Jail in 2006. Shawn is the founder and host of Diverse Word, the longest running, weekly open mic gathering in Orlando. In the past, Shawn has devoted himself to area nonprofits including The Hope Community Center, the Orlando Boys & Girls Club, Frontline Outreach Community Center, and Professional Opportunities Program for Students (POPS), a youth empowerment and internships program. Shawn Welcome is the proud father of four children and husband to his beautiful wife, Jannah
Ron Jones is a founding member of Polis Institute. He currently serves as the Community Engagement Specialist. He thrives in understanding and empowering individuals and communities. Ron has also worked extensively with Orlando’s homeless population and helped found the Steps program at the Coalition for the Homeless in 1999. Ron has two children and four grandchildren.
Christine Hughes is the Operations Project Coordinator at Polis Institute. In her career, she ensures that projects are executed on time and within budget for multiple organizations. She has worked in different facets, including faith-based non-profit organizations and the mortgage industry. Christine’s work is rooted in the belief that regardless of someone’s background or walk of life, every person deserves to be treated with dignity and to be provided with the same opportunities. She is happily married to her husband and is a proud dog mom.
LaQuinta Alexander is the Communications Assistant at Polis Institute. In her career, she ensures that all branches of the institution effectively communicate with one another. LaQuinta is passionate about creating cultures where partners and staff are working together efficiently. She has worked in many different roles for non-profit organizations including United Auto Workers of Canton Mississippi and Organize Florida. LaQuinta takes pride in her work and believes that all people are leaders of their own light. She is a loving mother of two and devoted community member.
Elishyah Harter is the Ground Team Coordinator at Polis Institute. He coordinates the day-to-day activities of Polis Institute Community Research & Engagement Assistants who deliver on top-quality community engagement and survey campaigns. As the Ground Team Coordinator, Elishyah is the central point of communication between the Polis data team and the Polis ground teams to ensure a seamless flow of community data collection and a positive work experience for our community-based workforce.
His prior experiences managing workflows, clients, and payroll at a Black-owned top-tier classic car restoration facility and his hospitality management experience, along with his passion and talent for people management, have equipped him for the work and the dynamic challenges of community development with local workforce training features.
Elishyah aims to “inspire people and organizations to solve pressing problems by better collaboration and to improve how communities and organizations work together.”
A native of New York City, Elishyah has spent the last decade in Orlando, where he lives with his two rescue dogs.