Monterey Institute of International Studies

Instructor Profiles

Dr. Reza Aslan

Author and Founder of Aslan Media and BoomGen Studios

Dr. Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is the founder of AslanMedia.com, an online journal for news and entertainment about the Middle East and the world. Reza Aslan has degrees in Religions from Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, as well as a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors of several organizations including the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues, Abraham's Vision, an educational, conflict transformation organization for Israeli and Palestinian youths, PEN USA, which champions the rights of writers under siege around the world, and the Levantine Cultural Center, which builds bridges between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world through the arts.

Aslan's first book is the international bestseller, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, which has been translated into thirteen languages, and named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade. He is also the author of How to Win a Cosmic War (published in paperback as Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age), as well as editor of two volumes: Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, and Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalities, Contentions, and Complexities.

Reza Aslan is Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of BoomGen Studios, the premier entertainment brand for creative content from and about the Greater Middle East and President of AppOvation Labs, a mobile applications company. Born in Iran, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife, author and entrepreneur Jessica Jackley. He is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside.

Expertise

New Media, International Affairs, Middle East Studies, World Religions

Jessica Jackley

Co-Founder of Kiva and Profounder

Prior to ProFounder, Jessica cofounded and served as CMO of Kiva, the world's first peer-to-peer microlending platform. Since its launch in 2005, Kiva has facilitated over $200M in loans, connecting lenders and entrepreneurs in 209 countries.

Jessica is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a 2011 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and serves as an active board member on several organizations including Opportunity International, the International Museum of Women, and Allowance for Good. Currently a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, Jessica has also taught Global Entrepreneurship at the Marshall School of Business at USC.

Jessica holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business with Certificates in Global Management and Public Management, and a BA in Philosophy and Political Science from Bucknell University.

Expertise

Social entrepreneurship, micro-philanthropy, microfinance, women in business

Jessica is a trained yoga instructor, avid surfer, and believes in never checking luggage at the airport. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, author Reza Aslan and their twins.

Austin Heap

Technology Activist

Austin Heap is a technology activist and entrepreneur whose work centers on developing Internet based technologies for establishing rapid transfer of knowledge between people, groups, and organizations. He holds a B.S. from Bentley College.

Expertise

Innovation, Internet based technology

He is currently working on designing and developing Internet- based technologies that simultaneously optimize users’ networking and personalization within and between online communities and organizations.

Good, Inc

Integrated Media Platform For Those Who Want To Do Good

GOOD is the integrated media platform for people who want to live well and do good. GOOD views itself as a company and community for the people, businesses, and NGOs moving the world forward. The company's mission is to provide content, experiences, and utilities to serve this community.

GOOD currently produces a website, videos, live events, and a print magazine. Launched in September 2006, the company has garnered praise for its unique editorial perspective and fresh visual aesthetic and is quickly positioning itself as a significant new voice in our culture.

Expertise

GOOD is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward. Since 2006 the company has been producing a magazine, videos, and events for people who give a damn.

In a world where things too often don’t work, GOOD seeks a path that does. Left, right. In, out. Greed, altruism. Us, them. These are the defaults and they are broken. GOOD offers the alternative model.

They view themselves as the reasonable people who give a damn. No dogma. No party lines. No borders. They care about what works--what is sustainable, prosperous, productive, creative, and just--for all of us and each of us. This isn’t easy, but GOOD is not afraid to fail. They'll figure it out as they go.

Call it a new party, call it a 21st century collaboration, call it an army, call it your new home. Or just call it GOOD.

We are people, businesses, moms, kids, artists, organizations, policymakers, students, teachers, and engineers. All united in one simple idea, each elevated by being connected. Let’s do what works and never default to what doesn’t. Join us, and together we’ll power what works.

AVAAZ

Online Community Dedicated to Citizens

Avaaz—meaning "voice" in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—launched in 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.

Avaaz empowers millions of people from all walks of life to take action on pressing global, regional and national issues, from corruption and poverty to conflict and climate change. Their model of internet organizing allows thousands of individual efforts, however small, to be rapidly combined into a powerful collective force.

Expertise

The Avaaz community campaigns in 15 languages, served by a core team on 6 continents and thousands of volunteers. They take action -- signing petitions, funding media campaigns and direct actions, emailing, calling and lobbying governments, and organizing "offline" protests and events -- to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform the decisions that affect us all.

The Avaaz Way

Previous international citizens' groups and social movements have had to build a constituency for each separate issue, year by year and country by country, in order to reach a scale that could make a difference.

Today, thanks to new technology and a rising ethic of global interdependence, that constraint no longer applies. Where other global civil society groups are composed of issue-specific networks of national chapters, each with its own staff, budget, and decision-making structure, Avaaz has a single, global team with a mandate to work on any issue of public concern--allowing campaigns of extraordinary nimbleness, flexibility, focus, and scale.

Avaaz's online community can act like a megaphone to call attention to new issues; a lightning rod to channel broad public concern into a specific, targeted campaign; a fire truck to rush an effective response to a sudden, urgent emergency; and a stem cell that grows into whatever form of advocacy or work is best suited to meet an urgent need.

Avaaz's priorities and power come from members

Each year, Avaaz sets overall priorities through all-member polls, and campaign ideas are polled and tested weekly to 10,000-member random samples—and only initiatives that find a strong response are taken to scale. Campaigns that do reach the full membership are then super-charged by, often, hundreds of thousands of Avaaz members taking part within days or even hours.