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VA Civics Advisory Council

VA Civics is guided in its programming and substance by a team of content experts and practitioners who generously give their time and advice.

Sean Arthurs

Seán Arthurs is an educator, non-profit leader, and lawyer with a passion for conceptualizing, developing, and implementing impactful civic education programming at scale. Arthurs holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a B.B.A. (University of Notre Dame), a J.D. (University of Cincinnati), a Master of Arts in Teaching (University of Portland), and an L.L.M. in Advocacy (Georgetown University Law Center). 

Dr. Arthurs has worked as a Clinical Teaching Fellow and Adjunct Professor of Law, judicial clerk, Legal Aid attorney, human rights volunteer, litigation associate, and high school teacher. When he is not attending school or thinking about the potential of civic education to shape a more equitable and inclusive America, Arthurs is learning and laughing with his two lively and inquisitive children who remind him frequently about how little he knows.
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Christonya Brown

For three decades Christonya Brown has worked in Education in the Commonwealth of Virginia. She began as a GED tutor and a library assistant for Norfolk Public Schools. Upon graduation from Old Dominion University, she began her classroom experience teaching freshmen Ancient World History. After surviving a summer of history, heat, and hormonal teenagers, she spent the next seven years teaching middle school history and social science: US History, Geography, Civics, and Economics. 

Within that time period, Ms. Brown was promoted to Department Chair leading the history department and supervising history and social science teachers. In 2003, Brown moved to the Central Office as the division teacher specialist, training teachers across division and by 2006, she was promoted to Senior Coordinator for History and Social Science for Norfolk Public Schools. In 2013, Ms. Brown moved to the Virginia Department of Education to take on the job of Coordinator for History and Social Science. Today, she is responsible for history and social science education, training, and programming for the students, teachers, parents, and communities of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
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Hank Chambers

Professor Henry L. Chambers, Jr., is Austin E. Owen Research Scholar & Professor of Law at the University of Richmond.  He teaches and writes primarily in the areas of constitutional law, employment discrimination, criminal law, and law and religion.  His recent work includes essays on technological change and voting rights; the regulation of campus speakers; the President’s pardon power; the scope of the President’s power to guide prosecutorial discretion; and presidential signing statements.  

Professor Chambers has been a member of the American Law Institute since 2002, and served as Special Assistant Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2011-2013. He also frequently lectures on constitutional law through the We The People program, which provides civic education instruction to school teachers and the public and at the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville.
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Lelia Grinnan

Lelia Grinnan currently serves as the Director of Accreditation for the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS), the leader in advancing and advocating for independent school education in Virginia. In this role, Lelia capitalizes on a growth mindset to promote innovation, communication, and collaboration among VAIS’s 96 member schools. 

VAIS membership is diverse–comprised of day schools, boarding schools, military schools, schools focused on learning differences, tuition-free schools, and coed and single-sex schools serving students in grades PreKindergarten through Post Graduate. Since her arrival to VAIS in 2017, Lelia has worked to streamline the accreditation process, to support schools’ advancement as they fulfill their unique missions, and to enhance the professional development experience. Working closely with heads of school, business officers, admissions directors, division heads, teachers, and other school constituents, Lelia promotes understanding, self-reflection, and best practices to encourage ongoing improvement. She also routinely collaborates with accreditation colleagues through the International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation (ICAISA) to identify current trends, shared pressure points, and solutions for independent schools across the country and abroad.
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Meg Heubeck

Meg Heubeck  is currently the Director of the Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI) at the UVA Center for Politics where she develops programs for civics educators across the United States and for the Center’s Global Perspectives on Democracy programs. Prior to her work at UVA she was a teacher in the Baltimore area.  

Meg works passionately to promote lifelong civic engagement both in her professional and private life.
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Alissa Kharkar

Alissa Kharkar is the 7th and 8th grade History teacher at Browne Academy, teaching both World and U.S. History, and a first year We The People coach. She earned a Master of Education degree from Boston College and had the privilege of teaching at Natick High School in Massachusetts before moving to Alexandria, VA. 

Three years ago, she became part of the Browne Academy community, where she continues to create an interactive and engaging curriculum that challenges students and encourages growth for all.
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Tylik McMillan

Tylik M. McMillan serves as a Policy Advisor for National Action Network which is one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations in the Nation with chapters throughout the entire United States under the leadership of Reverend Al Sharpton. In his current capacity, Tylik works alongside the DC Bureau Chief serving a conduit for information about what is happening in the halls of Congress, in the office and administration of the President and in the chamber of the United States Supreme Court. 

Moreover, he works to educate lawmakers, stakeholders and community members on the challenges and opportunities facing communities, by advocating for more resources and policies that help invest and advance economic and social equality and mobility in Black and Brown communities. Tylik’s government affairs portfolio includes criminal justice, federal sentencing reform, immigration, access to quality education, women’s rights, environmental justice, voting rights protection, among other various issues that impact social and economic status, mobility, prosperity and empowerment of urban and underserved communities.
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Schuyler VanValkenburg

Schuyler VanValkenburg received a B.A. in history from the University of Richmond in 2004, going on to complete his M.A. in history at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2009 while, at the same time, launching his teaching career in Henrico County Public Schools. He spent five years teaching at Short Pump Middle School before spending the last eight years at Glen Allen High, where he teaches government and history classes and leads a We the People team. 

Schuyler continues to teach while representing the 72nd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He was elected to the 72nd in Western Henrico County in 2017 on a platform centered around investment in public education and equal and affordable access to healthcare. For the last 13 years, Schuyler has lived in Henrico, where he is raising three adorable children.
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Allison Wickens

K. Allison Wickens, Vice President for Education, joined George Washington’s Mount Vernon in the summer of 2014. She currently leads the Education and Guest Services division and oversees the learning goals for the institution for onsite, offsite, and digital outreach programs.  She represents Mount Vernon in national discussions about museums, historic sites and how they relate to history and civics education today.  

Before arriving at Mount Vernon, she had been at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum, serving as their Director or Education and Visitor Services. She received her Master’s Degree in History at the University of Colorado, Boulder where she got a certificate in Museum Studies. Between her undergraduate work at Grinnell College and graduate school, she lived and worked in Washington D.C. at a wide variety of Smithsonian museums and offices.
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Emily Voss

Emily Voss comes to civic education from the museum world, where she was passionate about making museums relevant to the modern world. She currently serves as the Manager of National Programs for the Center for Civic Education. Prior to that, she served as the Education Director at the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier where she spent the past decade developing programs for adult professionals that invited engagement with America’s founding documents. She served as the Virginia State Coordinator of the We the People program for 10 years and is a co-founder of Virginia Civics. Emily holds a BA in History from Gettysburg College, and an MA in Museum Education from the Cooperstown Graduate Program (SUNY). She and her family currently reside in central Virginia.

Co-Executive Director & Chief Programs Officer

Jen Patja

Jen Patja has dedicated her career to strengthening constitutional self-government through her work with Virginia Civics, the Center for Civic Education, and Montpelier’s Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution, where she served as Deputy Director. Jen is a co-founder of Virginia Civics, and serves as a House of Delegates-appointed member of the Virginia Commission on Civic Education, a state legislative commission. She is the producer and editor of “Rational Security,” a weekly foreign policy and national security roundup, and “The Lawfare Podcast,” a daily audio production in cooperation with the Brookings Institution. Jen has held teaching and research positions at the University of Virginia, most notably in Criminology and the school’s University Internship Program with the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. She received her master’s in Sociology from the University of Virginia, and a bachelor’s in English from the University of California, Berkeley.

Co-Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer

Amelia Bochain

Amelia Bochain has devoted her professional life to effective social studies education that fosters civil discourse. As a classroom teacher for nine years, she implemented project-based learning that focused on civic engagement and encouraging effective discussion skills. She is particularly passionate about the We the People program, where she coached teams that placed in regional, state, and national competitions.

State Coordinator