Shara Smith, she/her/hers
Shara is the new executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. She brings over 10 years of nonprofit management experience to Interfaith, including advancing interfaith initiatives in Delaware, managing money in politics programming in California, and overseeing national affiliates for cancer research. Shara began her career in academia, overseeing programs at institutions like MIT, Boston University, and a teaching affiliate for Harvard Medical School. She later began her own consultancy aimed at helping social justice oriented nonprofits enhance their operations, programmatic work, communications, and fundraising. Shara also brings solid media experience to Interfaith, having managed various communications initiatives across multiple organizations, as well as having previously run one of the fastest-growing independent media companies in the US. Shara is an animal lover and self-described March Madness fanatic. She can be reached at shara(at)interfaithallianceco(dot)org.
Alisa Axtell, she/her/hers
Director of Operations
Alisa is from Pueblo, Colorado, and a recent graduate of Colorado State University. Alisa received her bachelor’s in human resource management with a specialization in nonprofit development. Prior to joining the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Alisa worked to support the Department of Extended Learning and Community Schools through Denver Public Schools which provides equitable before and after school programs for the community. During her time there, she helped manage the financial assistance programs and to ensure all families had an equal opportunity to experience quality out-of-school time.
Rev. Tamara Boynton, she/her/hers
Director of Strategic Engagement
Rev. Tamara Boynton brings deep experience in relational ministry. She is a life-long member of an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She is also adjunct faculty and an Associate University Minister at Regis University. Since her graduation from Iliff School of Theology (2002) and ordination (2004), her professional ministry has taken her across college campuses, the local church, non-profits, outdoor ministry, and the three-state Rocky Mountain Conference. In all these settings, she has cultivated a welcoming space for collaborative faith formation, interfaith dialogue, LGBTQ equity and inclusion, human sexuality/body autonomy, and Holy Spirit moments. She carries a deep faith that our power for social change lies in our interconnectedness. She and her husband, Jeff, are the lucky parents of two inspiring teenagers and two ebullient golden dogs. Tamara is eager to hear from you as, together, we engage the revolutionary vision of a just world.
Sam Carwyn, she/her/hers
Reproductive Health Rights and Justice Educator Advocate
Sam is grateful to include advocacy in her day-to-day work, which was previously solely education-focused. She began her social services career responding to child abuse and neglect cases, then addressed behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse needs. For twelve years, she worked part-time assisting survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. She earned a B.S. in child youth and family studies from the University of Nebraska Omaha. She later obtained an MA in teaching from the College of Saint Mary. She taught primarily within the special education department. She is a Master’s in Divinity student with social transformation as her concentration at the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Sam has enjoyed volunteering to support youth in foster care, the African American community, and LGBTQIA+ youth and adults. She believes sharing our narratives have the power to promote authenticity, dispel myths, and reject shame. She likes dystopian content, baking, and analyzing diverse representation in pop culture.
Rich Forney, he/him/his
Rich is a graduate of the University of Delaware with a BA in Sociology and holds a Master of Social work from the University of Denver with an Organizational Leadership and Policy Practice concentration. He has worked with kids in a variety of capacities including bereaved children, HIV impacted youth, neurodiverse children, and children in the foster care system. He also worked with older adults in a skilled nursing facility. He has done political organizing in the 2019 municipal elections in Aurora and in the 2020 general election in Montgomery County Pennsylvania. He is humbled by the privilege of being able to facilitate space for others to express themselves, be it in a clinical setting or in a community setting. In his spare time, he enjoys: creating community, reading, writing, singing karaoke, yoga, cooking, hiking, and skiing.
Carl Gibson, he/him/his
Director of Communications
Carl is a journalist with more than a decade of professional experience, and the managing partner of Hampton Long, a worker-owned communications firm. In early 2011, Gibson co-founded US Uncut, a nationwide grassroots anti-austerity campaign that eventually spread to more than 100 cities. US Uncut was featured in the documentary We’re Not Broke, which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and streamed on Netflix. US Uncut eventually transitioned into a digital media company that garnered as many as 40 million monthly page views and ranked among the top 25 mobile websites in the United States in July of 2016. Gibson’s work has since been published in CNN, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Barron’s, Business Insider, The Independent, and NPR, among others. When he’s not working, Carl enjoys playing drums, going on long walks, and catching Pokemon.
Emma Hudson, she/her/hers
Emma Hudson is the Owner and Principal of Emma Hudson Consulting, LLC, a mission-focused communications and public affairs firm, and serves as Interfaith Alliance of Colorado’s contract lobbyist. Emma’s background spans nonprofit and government experience as an advocate and a government relations strategist with specialization in business, health care, and social justice policy arenas. Emma holds a Master’s of Public Health from the University of Wisconsin-School of Medicine & Public Health and a Master’s of Public Affairs from the La Follette School of Public Affairs, with a graduate certificate in consumer health advocacy. When Emma isn’t advancing meaningful policy solutions at the State Capitol, she spends her time teaching yoga at a local domestic violence shelter, hiking in the mountains with her dogs, and gardening in her yard alongside her chickens and bees.
Melanie Kesner, she/her/hers
Director of Public Policy
Melanie comes to policy work with roots in community organizing and community building. She was a statewide community organizer for passing health policy, a field organizer in the 2016 election, and worked with Jews United for Justice to pass the D.C. Paid Family Leave bill. Throughout these roles, Melanie worked to get impacted communities a seat at the table during the policy process. Melanie got her start in policy when she served as a legislative aide at the Colorado State Capitol for Senator Dominick Moreno. She earned a BA in international studies and a BA in religious studies with distinction from the University of Denver. Her thesis was on interfaith work and the importance of religious literacy which sparked her early passion for Interfaith Alliance of Colorado’s work in the issue areas of racial equity and religious liberty. She loves to cook, play with her pup, and stay active by enjoying all that the mountains have to offer, including hiking, camping, and mountain biking.
Rev. Dr. Troy Mack, he/him/his
Director of Research and Development
Troy Mack is an Urban Leaders Fellow and recognized leader in community-based solutions. With an executive level grasp of organizational development and extensive experience designing, launching, and directing diverse agencies and initiatives, Troy’s past efforts earned honors from the National League of Cities, the New Jersey League of Municipalities, and more. Most recently prior to his current position, Troy served as a leader in health and human services while building capacities across multiple echelons of government to better care for underserved communities. He now brings to the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado his expertise in trauma-informed care, a record of legislative accomplishments, and lessons learned from successes in academia, government, and parish settings. A U.S. Army veteran, AmeriCorps VISTA alum, and published author, Troy holds Ph.D. and M.Phil. degrees from Drew University, a M.Div. degree from Emory University, and he remains a proud Rattler of Florida A&M University.
Logan Robertson, he/him/his
Alternative Solutions Advocacy Project Organizer
Logan works to create a place for homeless folks in Denver, Colorado through advocacy, engaged conversation, and contemplative prayer. Since graduating from Vanderbilt University Divinity School, he has worked with and for Denverites experiencing homelessness in various organizations, including Network Ministries Coffee House where he serves as Shift Director and Utility Infielder.
Board of Directors
Jennifer Carty, Esq., she/her/hers
Jennifer Carty is an Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Appeals Section of the Colorado Office of the Attorney General handling felony convictions for crimes against persons and property, crimes of violence, fraud, computer crimes, wrongs to children, domestic violence, drug offenses, and organized crime, as well as sentencing appeals on behalf of the State of Colorado. Prior to becoming an AAG, she worked as a family law attorney at Robinson & Henry, P.C., as well as a law clerk for the Honorable Steven Bernard on the Colorado Court of Appeals. In her pre-law school life, Jen spent five years as an active duty maritime inspections officer for the United States Coast Guard conducting regulatory compliance on the shipping industry, overseeing search and rescue operations, and responding to maritime disasters. Jennifer continues to serve as a JAG Officer in the Coast Guard Reserve. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, the Board of Governors for the Colorado Bar Association, and as a member of the LGBT Bar Association. Jennifer is excited to start working on a Masters of Divinity in the near future.
Dr. Nabeeh Abdurrahim Hasan, he/him/his
Dr. Hasan is the director of the Colorado Muslim Speakers Bureau (CMSB), an affiliate of the Islamic Networks Group (ING). Nabeeh also serves on the Colorado Muslim Leadership Council and on the Steering Committee of Muslims Intent on Learning and Activism (MILA). He is active in speaking at and facilitating interfaith efforts, youth development and training speakers. These include speaking about Islam and answering audience questions at “Open Mosque” events, speaking in classroom settings to enhance student learning with regards to learning about Islam and Muslims, training and improving public speaking abilities of Muslims and non-Muslims, and discussing the relationships between science and religion for clergy and laypersons alike. Nabeeh is also a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Council and a biomedical researcher at National Jewish Health, specializing in genomics of infectious lung diseases. Through speaking about Islam, health and science, Nabeeh has given cultural competency training and hundreds of presentations to primary schools, universities, churches, hospitals and professional societies. In his spare time, he enjoys amateur automobile racing, cooking and traveling with his family.
Rev. Dr. Brian Henderson, he/him/his
Rev. Dr. Henderson has been serving as minister of the historic First Baptist Church of Denver since 2012. Prior to moving to Colorado, Brian served for 13 years, the closest American Baptist Churches, USA (ABC) congregation to the denomination’s national offices in Valley Forge, PA. Along with ABC regional committee work, Brian also volunteers with a number of nonprofit boards. In addition to his current ministerial responsibilities, he serves as the National Coordinator for the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling and quality time with his three children.
Rev. Dr. Valerie L. Jackson, she/her/hers
Pastor Jackson is an unapologetic, visionary faith and community leader, womanist, homiletician, author, and advocate for the sacred worth and potential of all human beings. She was ordained an elder in full connection in the United Methodist Church in 2018 in Ogden, Utah. On January 1, 2020, Dr. Jackson became the first African American and out queer lead pastor of Cameron UMC in Denver and congregational resource minister for the Mile High Metro District of the Mountain Sky Conference. She is also adjunct faculty at the Iliff School of Theology. Rev. Dr. Jackson has lived in Denver since 2009.
Arash Jahanian, Esq., he/him/his
Arash serves as Director of Policy and Civil Rights Litigation at the Meyer Law Office in Denver. He uses legal advocacy to protect and advance the civil rights of Coloradans, including immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community, and other victims of discrimination and police abuse. Arash has also worked as a staff attorney at the ACLU of Colorado, an attorney for the Denver civil rights firm Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, a judicial clerk for the Honorable Wiley Y. Daniel of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, and a middle school teacher in Chicago through Teach For America. Arash has served as president of the Colorado LGBT Bar Association and chair of the Denver LGBTQ Commission. He is a Kansas City native who enjoys music, sports, and running.
Gulsum Katmer, she/her/hers
Gulsum Katmer was born and raised in The neighborhoods of Cappadocia, Turkey. In 2007 she moved to the United States to pursue her higher education. She is currently working as an IT at Firstbank in Colorado. Gulsum is a passionate advocate for interfaith dialogue. She has given many talks on Islam and women in Islam at various different institutions in Colorado. She is a proud member of Multi-cultural Mosaic foundation where she served as Community Outreach Director, Executive Director and board member. She is a cofounder of Shalom and Salam Sisterhood and founder of Empowering Muslim Women of Colorado. Gulsum and her husband Ahmet have two children and have been living in Colorado since 2013.
Rev. Gilbert McKenzie, he/him/his
For over forty years, Rev. McKenzie has had the honor of serving the Presbyterian Church in three regions of the world: the Caribbean, Ireland and the United States. This provided him the opportunity to embrace peoples of diverse cultures, ethnicities, socioeconomic classes and religious persuasions. In Jamaica, Reverend McKenzie served on regional and national medical and societal boards, was national chaplain of the Third Jamaica Regiment (Reserve), and worked with Rastafarians in his community. In Ireland during the “Troubles,” when Catholics and Protestants were slaughtering each other daily, Rev. McKenzie reached out to Catholics in that systemic tribal divide. In the U.S.A., the Reverend served as pastor to three MAJORITY congregations—one being the first English speaking congregation (founded 1749) in Duchess County, New York. He has also served the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. at all its levels and participated in several global/international convocations.
Hal Simmons, he/him/his
Hal started with the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado as a volunteer fundraiser in December 2014, became a board member in 2016, and board treasurer in 2018. Hal has served on non-profit boards including Knitting4Peace as treasurer, Chautauqua United Church of Christ Society (an organization that offers moderately priced accommodations during the Chautauqua Institution’s summer season), moderator of Park Hill Congregational UCC, and a founding member of the Abrahamic Initiative which works for understanding among the Abrahamic Faiths through dialogue, education and service. Hal retired from a merchandising career with a variety of high-end retail organizations, serving as General Merchandise Manager, Vice President of Merchandising, and Vice President of Store Operations. Together with his wife, Susan McKee, Hal spends his summers in Chautauqua, New York, enjoying the stimulation of the Institution’s nine-week annual programs devoted to life-long learning.
Jill Wildenberg, she/her/hers
Jill Wildenberg started working on campaigns in 1972 on the George McGovern presidential race, and continues helping campaigns. In addition to being an elementary school teacher and professional artist, Jill was the Neighborhood Team Leader for downtown Denver for the Obama 2012 campaign, then worked as Chief of Staff to Colorado State Representative Crisanta Duran (Joint Budget Committee Chair) from 2013 – 2014. In 2016 she led Colorado Faith Leaders for the Clinton campaign and was also the Co-Captain of House District 5A Democrats. The former Education Director of Congregation Beth Evergreen, Jill led the congregation for 22 years. She was the first Public Policy Director of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and now serves on the boards of Cobalt (Pro-Choice Advocates), The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, J Street Colorado’s Executive Board, and Faith 2020. With a passion for “Tikkun Olam” (Hebrew for repairing the world), she’s fulfilling her dreams of making the world a better place for all.
Thomas Wolfe, he/him/his
Thomas Wolfe is President and CEO of the Iliff School of Theology His previous positions include, Senior Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs, Syracuse University; Dean of Hendricks Chapel, Syracuse University; Interdenominational Protestant Chaplain, Syracuse University. He has served as pastor of United Methodist parishes in Moravia and Ithaca, in upstate New York. His community service includes, Appointment to Colorado Governor Hickenlooper’s Commission on the Sand Creek Massacre Commemoration, President of the board of InterFaith Works of Central New York, President of the Vera House Board of Directors in Syracuse, NY. He is currently President of the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges, and Universities (IAMSCU).