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 & Principal
For well over a decade, Alyssa has been a leader in efforts to apply the field of cognitive linguistics to social change advocacy. She came out of UC Berkeley’s world-renowned Ph.D. program in cognitive linguistics to direct pioneering work at the Rockridge Institute. Then, as a founder of Real Reason, she developed new applications for this work in issues spanning reproductive rights, health, and justice; human rights; social and environmental standards; sexuality education; and public health in partnership with organizations such as American Civil Liberties Union; OHSU’s Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness; the Pacific Institute; the Ford Foundation; and the Reproductive Health Technologies Project.
As Real Reason’s principal cognitive linguist, Alyssa sets and upholds the standards for all of the analytical work. This includes providing training and mentorship for others who join Real Reason, whether as research staff or volunteer contributors drawn from the San Francisco Bay Area’s larger community of linguists. She is also a partner at Real Language LLC.
Alyssa completed an M.A. in Linguistics from Gallaudet University, a B.A. in Psychology from Wesleyan University, and work toward a Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley.
Erik has been developing strategies to leverage cognitive linguistics for progressive politics for over 10 years. As a social scientist with additional training in cognitive linguistics, Erik helps Real Reason translate technical aspects of cognitive linguistics to practical applications for advocacy. Prior to co-founding Real Reason, Erik served as Managing Director of the Rockridge Institute, where he handled nonprofit operations and applied his expertise in politics, history and language.
Before moving into nonprofit advocacy work, Erik had 15 years of experience designing and executing research projects on political movements, and taught American and Chinese history and politics at Stanford University and UC Berkeley.
Erik lived and studied in Taiwan and China for three years and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He is also a partner at Real Language LLC. 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.