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Real Reason Leadership
Real Reason draws on experts in language and cognition at the University of California, Berkeley — a premier institution for work on cognitive linguistics. Linguists who have contributed to this work include Alyssa Wulf, Jason Patent, Jenny Lederer, Nancy Urban, Sarah Berson, and the members of Real Reason's Panel on Language and Politics. Today, Real Reason is led by:
President and Director of Programs
As President and Director of Programs, Alyssa manages the core intellectual work of the organization, ensuring that it draws from the best of the fields of cognitive science and linguistics, and that it is conducted in partnership with social change activists and advocates.
Alyssa has worked in the fields of cognitive linguistics and sociolinguistics for over a decade — conducting and publishing original research, applying language data analysis to political problems, and teaching in both university and community education settings. Previously, as a senior linguist at the Rockridge Institute, she managed the primary client engagements and research projects, leading efforts to develop new applications of cognitive linguistics to political issues. At Real Reason, Alyssa has directed strategic analysis for partners including the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, the Longview Institute, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
For 15 years Alyssa has been active in Deaf advocacy, partnering with Deaf communities in three states. This involved work at a number of nonprofit organizations, where she provided support for people seeking assistance under the Americans with Disabilities Act, promoted student arts initiatives, and developed community awareness workshops. Alyssa is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and is a trained interpreter. Through her academic work on ASL, Alyssa has developed particular expertise in the physical and visual dimensions of communication.
Alyssa holds an M.A. in Linguistics from Gallaudet University, a B.A. in Psychology from Wesleyan University, and has completed work toward a Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley.
Erik guides Real Reason's organizational development, working closely with the Board of Directors and consulting with experts in the nonprofit community. His areas of responsibility include managing legal matters, personnel policies, information technology systems, financial administration, and long-term strategic planning. Erik also participates in project management, and applies his analytical skills and political experience to the intellectual work of the organization.
Previously, Erik served as Managing Director of the Rockridge Institute, where he drew on his graduate-level training in business management and nonprofit fundraising, as well as his expertise in politics, history and language. He developed the Institute's operations and finances, facilitated the creation of research plans, and supervised and supported all full-time personnel.
Erik has 15 years of experience designing and executing research projects on political movements, in particular analyzing the relationship between technological change and political change in China, and has taught American and Chinese history and politics at the university level. Erik's background includes involvement in local politics in rural Minnesota, work in state government as an aide to the Minnesota House Redistricting Committee, and participation in youth leadership development programs.
Erik lived and studied in Taiwan and China for three years and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He holds a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, an M.A. in East Asian Studies from Stanford University, and has completed work toward a Ph.D. in History at the University of California, Berkeley.
As Chair of Real Reason's Board of Directors, Karin oversees the organization's governance — ensuring that it maintains legal compliance, remains consistent with its mission and values in serving the public good, and continually strives to realize its potential.
Karin has over a decade of experience working for and with nonprofit organizations, and most recently worked as a fundraising and management consultant, serving nonprofits across the country.
In her doctoral studies, Karin's primary research interests are examining value versus information-based decision making as they relate to policy-making and voting; the political impact of advocacy organizations and think tanks; and the institutional framework of policy creation. Her Master's thesis was "The Model State Policy for the Treatment of the Wrongfully Convicted." She is currently a Graduate Student Instructor for Robert Reich's course on "Leadership & Social Change." She is also conducting research on the impact of race on the willingness of jurors to convict a defendant and on drug policy in the United States.
Karin holds an A.B. degree in Psychology from Stanford University, and a Master of Public Policy degree from the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is now completing a doctoral program.
Real Reason was launched in 2006 through a year-long volunteer effort by its four founders: Alyssa Wulf, Anat Shenker-Osorio, Erik Sahlin, and Nancy Urban.