This is content from the 2017 Bridge/Work Conference.

Not Your Parents’ Politics:
A Panel Discussion

The Bridge/Work Practitioner Panel is designed to move us from theory to practice – how people are taking the ideas discussed in the first half of the program and applying them in real-world situations.

This year, our panel samples the diverse ways young people are carving their path to political engagement. A mix of Valparaiso alum and other dynamic voices in the region, this discussion proves you don’t have to wait another 20 years for your chance in the arena.


MODERATOR: Dr. Dan Lowery ‘75, President, Calumet College of St. Joseph

Dr. Daniel Lowery is serving in his final semester as President of Calumet College of St. Joseph, will join us as moderator for the Bridge/Work Practitioner Panel, sharing his experience in civic discourse and facilitating conversation between panelists from across the political spectrum working in government, non-profits, media and more.

Dr. Lowery’s distinguished career includes not only decades of distinguished service in higher education, but a five-year tenure as Executive Director of the Northwest Indiana Quality of Life Council. In this capacity, he focused extensively on a broad range of public policy issues pertaining to Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Counties. From 2006 until 2010, he pursued this same interest as the host of Lakeshore Focus, a weekly public affairs program produced by Lakeshore Public Television. Over the years, Dr. Lowery has served as an officer or board member for a number of professional associations and nonprofit organizations, including Campagna Academy, the Race Relationships Council of Northwest Indiana, Lake Area United Way, Catholic Charities, the Heartland Center, Ancilla Systems, Inc., One Region, and the Bridges of Care Initiative in East Chicago.


Ami Gandhi, Director of Voting Rights & Civic Empowerment, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Ami Gandhi is the Director of Voting Rights and Civic Empowerment at Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (CLC), working to reduce barriers to voting and improve civic participation, especially in communities of color and low-income communities.  Ami’s experience includes leading statewide voter protection for the 2016 election, advocating for communities of color during Illinois redistricting, advising local election boards as they implemented the first Hindi ballots in the country, and leading exit poll studies.  She previously worked as the Executive Director of South Asian American Policy & Research Institute (SAAPRI), where she led initiatives in voting rights, immigrants’ rights, and other civil rights and racial justice issues.  Prior to her work at SAAPRI, Ami worked as the Legal Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago and as a commercial litigation attorney at Freeborn & Peters LLP.  Ami serves as the board chair of Common Cause Illinois and also serves on the board of American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.  She received the 2015 Changemaker Award from Chicago Fair Trade for her role in passing anti-sweatshop laws and the 2015 Public Interest Award from South Asian Bar Association of North America.  Ami earned her J.D. from The George Washington University Law School and her B.A. in psychology and cognitive science from Indiana University.


Matt Milcarek, City Commissioner, City of Kalamazoo

Matt’s public service in Kalamazoo began in the Vine Neighborhood, where he served on the Vine Neighborhood Association Board of Directors from 2009-2015, as the Board Secretary, and later Board Chair for 3 years. During this time, he also served as a Building Blocks site supervisor in the Neighborhood for 3 years, working with residents to improve where they live. Through his work with in the Vine Neighborhood, he was appointed to serve on the City of Kalamazoo’s Community Development Act Advisory Committee, where he served from 2009 until his election to the City Commission in 2015.

Matt’s professional background is in community development and the construction industry. Currently, he is the Construction Manager at Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services, where he has worked since 2012. Prior to this position, he worked as the Neighborhood Development Director at the Vine Neighborhood Association. A contractor by trade, Matt was as a self-employed General Contractor from 2005-2011, with a focus on interior home remodeling. Through his work, Matt has had the opportunity to work hand in hand with residents, community organizations, and the City to build and grow community collaborative efforts and innovative solutions to problems we face in Kalamazoo.

Matt’s educational background includes a Bachelor’s Degree from Ashford University, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a dual major in Organizational Management and Government & Political Science in 2013. He also holds certificates in a variety of construction trade specialties and in Non-Profit Leadership, and is licensed by the State of Michigan as a Residential Builder and as a Lead Inspector/Risk Assessor.


Kim Bellware ’06, National Reporter for The Huffington Post

Kim Bellware is a National Reporter for The Huffington Post, covering crime, politics, police and the death penalty.






Nate King ‘15, Field Organizer for International Justice Mission

Nate King serves as a Field Organizer for International Justice Mission (IJM), a global organization working to protect the poor from violence in the developing world. He works to build a growing movement against slavery and other forms of violent oppression by mobilizing concerned Americans to advocate, pray and support IJM’s work. Before joining IJM, Nate worked in external relations at Lutheran World Relief. He previously served an intern with IJM’s Government Relations and Advocacy team, worked in the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence and served as a Public Policy & Advocacy Fellow at Lutheran Services in America. Nate holds a B.A. in Digital Media from Valparaiso University, where he graduated as a Christ College Scholar with minors in Theology and Humanities.  He lives in the Washington, D.C. area.


Kelli Chavez ‘15, Engaged Citizen

Kelli Chavez is a graduate student at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, a 2015 graduate of Valparaiso University, and a CAPS Fellow who served at the Urban League of Northwest Indiana. As an undergraduate student at VU, Kelli participated in various social justice activities, from facilitating focus sessions on MLK Day, to co-organizing demonstrations, to having conversations with people from many different backgrounds. Currently, she is a Research and Analysis intern at Feeding America, the country’s largest domestic anti-hunger organization, where she and the rest of the Research team are finishing the annual update of Feeding America’s food insecurity study Map the Meal Gap. After graduation, Kelli plans to work with communities of color promoting fair housing, workforce development, and educational initiatives in Chicago and Northwest Indiana. Eventually, she wants to run for public office, where working across the aisle is as much an art as it is a science.


Jim Harper, Attorney
Jim Harper was born and raised in Valparaiso, and he is a 2001 graduate of Valparaiso High School. He went on to graduate with highest honors from Indiana University and received his law degree, with high honors, from Georgetown University.  After law school, Jim completed a federal judicial clerkship in Indianapolis.  He now practices law in Porter County.  Jim serves on the board of a non-profit law firm that provides free and reduced-cost legal services to veterans, as well as the Hilltop House, a Valparaiso non-profit that provides early-childhood education and other services to Porter County families.

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