Dr. David Craig (Communications & Media Professor, Producer, Activist)

Dr. Craig is the Clinical Assistant Professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, synthesizing theory and practice, production and management in his courses that consider the massive transformations occurring within the global and US media industries. In addition, Craig has produced numerous career-based initiatives and media conferences, and is an Emmy-nominated veteran media producer and programing executive.  His production company, Media Nation, produced Directors Guild of America Nominee, Girl Fight, and has sold, developed and/or produced scripted and non-scripted series for HBO, ABC, CBS, and History, graphic novels to Hill & Wang Publishers, and web pilots to Sony Digital/  Dr. Craig was previously an executive at A&E Networks where he supervised over 20 movies, mini-series and drama series. He is a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the British Academy of Film and Television. Dr. Craig’s research has been published in the Journal of Popular Film and Television and the International Journal of Communication and presented at the conference for the Society of Media and Cultural Studies. Dr. Craig earned his Masters in Cinema Studies from NYU and his Bachelors in Communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed his Doctorate in Education at UCLA, where his research considers the intersection of popular culture, education and social movements, featuring a critical cultural and production history of LGBT-themed television movies.

John Heffernan (Global Human Rights Expert)

John Heffernan is the President of the Foundation for Systemic Change. Previously, we was the Executive Director for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights where he direction the Speak Truth To Power human rights education program,  Director of the Genocide Prevention Initiative at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum where he established the Genocide Prevention Task Force, Senior Investigator with Physicians for Human Rights,  Chief of Party for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in Guyana, South America, Executive Director and founder of the Coalition for International Justice,  Country Representative for the former Yugoslavia for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and led IRC’s refugee resettlement program in Khartoum, Sudan.  Heffernan served as the Vice President of the Business Council for the United Nations.  He was trained as a community organizer by Fred Ross and has written opinion articles for the New York Times, Washington Post, International Herald-Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, San Diego Union- Tribune and other publications.  His discovery and investigation of a mass grave in Afghanistan is featured in Ronan’s Farrow’s book War on Peace. He was a Coro Fellow, a graduate of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and University of California Santa Barbara. He serves as the board chairs for Disability Rights International and Educators’ for Human Rights and is on the board of Social Documentary Network

Amy Henderson Riley, DrPH (Public Health & Communication Professor)

Amy Henderson Riley, DrPH, is an assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Her research investigates the impact of media on individual and social change. She has specific expertise in the mass media strategy known as entertainment-education. Amy’s goal is to use her research skills to amplify the voices of people impacted by a variety of issues in order to generate community-led solutions. Her media effects research has covered topics including maternal and child health, reproductive health and rights, water and sanitation access, and climate change, among others, in multiple countries around the world. Amy holds a doctorate in public health from Drexel University and she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University. She also holds an MA in health education from Columbia University and a BFA in theater with a film studies concentration from The New School. Amy worked in theater, television, and film in New York City earlier in her career and lives in New Jersey.

Patricia Billings (Publisher, Editor & Writer)

Patricia Billings is a publisher, editor and writer specializing in bilingual and translated literature. She is cowriter of three new progressive children’s books, Friends, Sharing and Love, published in 17 bilingual editions by Milet Publishing. She is editorial director of the Milet Turkish Literature Series, a collection of novels and anthologies translated from Turkish into English. She cofounded Milet and codirected the company for 15 years, in London, Izmir, and Chicago, helping to grow it into a leading multilingual publisher. Prior to this, she worked in Washington, DC, with the International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Jordan Information Bureau; and the North American Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine. Patricia was also an editor at The Jordan Times newspaper in Amman. She has worked in film, with the development and production firm NDF International in London, and with the International Film Festival in Izmir. She helped establish the Human Rights Watch LA Film Club and was a lead organizer of the club for several years. Patricia is a board member of SIMA. A longtime advocate for human rights and social justice, she is currently focused on antiracism and anti-incarceration activism.

Ezequiel Casares (Cinematographer)

Born in Patagonia, Argentina, Ezequiel graduated with an MFA in Cinematography from AFI. He shot Words Into Characters with Brazilian artist Jum Nakao, winning a Gold Clio Award. He was a cinematographer on Minimum Wage, a web series executive produced by Issa Rae and Project Greenlight, and also shot the first season of Macro series Re-Date. He was also a cinematographer for Climbing with Pride, a documentary exploring the largest convention of queer rock climbers in the world and its inception. He is currently working on Adonai— a documentary capturing the wisdom of the now disappearing way of life of Argentine gauchos. Ezequiel believes that genuinely depicting memorable characters, in both documentary and fiction, has the power to transcend language as well as culture, tapping directly into the heart of audiences. He is also working on diverse projects with clients such as Vice, MarvelTV, the Oscars and Great Big Story.

Caroline Heldman Ph.D. (Executive Director & Political Science Professor)

Dr. Caroline Heldman is the Executive Director of The Representation Project and Chair of the Critical Theory and Social Justice department at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Her research specializes in media, the presidency, and systems of power. Dr. Heldman has published six books, including Protest Politics in the Marketplace: Consumer Activism in the Corporate Age (Cornell University Press, 2017), Women, Power, and Politics: The Fight for Gender Equality in the United States (Oxford University Press, 2017), and Madame President? Gender & Politics on the Road to the White House (Lynne Reinner, 2020). Dr. Heldman has been active in “real world” politics as a professional pollster, campaign manager, and commentator for CNN International and Spectrum One. She has also been featured in the popular documentaries Miss RepresentationThe Mask You Live InThe Hunting GroundInformant, Equal Means EqualLiberatedNevertheless, and The Great American Lie. She splits her time between Los Angeles and New Orleans, where she co-founded the New Orleans Women’s Shelter and the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum. Dr. Heldman also co-founded End Rape on Campus (EROC), Faculty Against Rape (FAR), and End Rape Statute of Limitations (ERSOL). She is currently curating with the first Civil Rights museum in New Orleans with Miss Leona Tate, one of the four little girls who desegregated the Deep South in 1960. Dr. Heldman is also the national co-chair of #ERAnow, an organization dedicated to passing the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.

Keely Badger (Human Rights & Impact Media Executive)

Keely Badger is a millennial expert and advocate on international human rights and development issues. She serves as the Executive Director of Neda Nobari Foundation (NNF), a leading philanthropic organization dedicated to championing social and environmental justice through the arts and eduction. Through a bottom-up, community-driven and largely participatory grantmaking practice, the foundation works with over fifty nonprofit groups and leaders each year, pioneering durable solutions for underrepresented voices, communities and causes in alignment with the foundation’s focus areas: Holistic Education, Innovative Arts, Transparent Media, Earth Advocacy and Social Impact Cinema. Keely is also the Founder and CEO of 360 Media Consulting, a full-circle digital marketing agency for storytellers, change-makers, and brands working on the frontlines of social impact and innovation. Previously, Keely worked at internationally acclaimed nonprofit Human Rights Watch (HRW) as Associate of Development and Global Initiatives, documenting and exposing human rights abuses in over 90 countries around the world. She now serves as the youngest member of HRW’s Los Angeles Film Committee and the HRW Los Angeles Network of Young Professionals. Keely is a Next Generation member of the World Affairs Council and was a civil society Youth Observer for the World Programme of Action for Youth at the United Nations (UN). Keely holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego in Cross-Cultural Anthropology & Political Science, an M.A. from Dartmouth College in Globalization Studies, and an MSt./J.D. in International Human Rights Law from University of Oxford.

Beth Karlin, Ph.D. (Research Director, Founder)

Beth Karlin, PhD, is the founder and CEO of See Change Institute, which blends social science with innovative design to address global issues through human solutions. She also founded the Transformational Media Lab at the University of California, Irvine and is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southern California’s Norman Lear Center, which studies the impact of entertainment on society. Beth’s projects investigate a wide range of topics, including science communication, food security, climate change, and virtual reality. Her team is working on a behavior change “playbook” to walk through the building blocks of behavior change – Audience, Behavior, Content, Delivery, and Evaluation – and social science strategies to optimize each one. Before receiving her Ph.D. in Social Ecology, Beth spent nearly a decade working in K-12 education, holding positions as a teacher, counselor, and school administrator. She believes that the role of a researcher is not only to better understand the world but also to improve it and hopes that her work is able to serve both purposes.

Colleen McEdwards Ph.D. (Journalism/Communication Professor; CNNI Anchor/Correspondent)

Colleen McEdwards is an online instructor with the University of Florida’s renowned distance-learning graduate program in communication and media studies (CJC Online). She designs and delivers online courses in video storytelling. After a 30-year career in international media at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and CNN International, Dr. McEdwards transitioned to academia, helping new generations of communicators discover what’s next for digital media. McEdwards has taught at the Sam Nunn School of International affairs (Georgia Tech), Georgia State University, and Kennesaw State University. She served as founding coordinator and online graduate instructor in a new, Social Impact Media Specialization at Saybrook University. She currently sits on the Board of Trustees at Saybrook. McEdwards directed multiple study abroad programs in media entrepreneurship in Hong Kong. She served as director of GSU’s journalism writing center where she more than doubled student participation in her leadership tenure. She piloted measurement and evaluation systems to quantify mastery and learning transfer. A 30-year international media veteran, McEdwards holds a Ph.D. in Education (instructional design and technology management). Named as a Fulbright Specialist in 2018, she is passionate about forging ties with international organizations seeking to better align the media ecosystem with social justice initiatives. Prior to her transition to academia, McEdwards spent almost 20 years as an anchor and correspondent for CNN International. She reported on major stories in news, documentary and digital formats all over the world, particularly in Russia, Europe and Asia. As a political correspondent, she covered multiple election campaigns in Canada and the U.S. From the anchor desk, she played a role in coverage of most of the major international news events of the last two decades. She joined CNN International from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation where she covered Canada’s constitutional crisis, the collapse of Communism, the final pullout of Soviet troops from the former Czechoslovakia, as well as unrest in Haiti. McEdwards has won several awards for her political reporting, including the New York Festival Award, a Worldfest Houston Award and multiple Peabody awards for team coverage of major global events. Passionate about lifelong learning and andragogy, she earned a Ph.D. in Education while working at CNN International, partnering with CNN’s international affiliates throughout the process. McEdwards studied Russian in St. Petersburg and honed her French conversational skills while living in Canada and Europe. Dr. McEdwards is a United States/Canadian citizen, a former competitive athlete and an avid sports fan.

Claudia Flores (Creative Director, Communications Consultant)

She was born and raised in Mexico and has lived in Australia, France, and Switzerland; She is currently living in Mexico City. Claudia is dedicated to her three kids and her social entrepreneurial efforts, focused on research, education, and facilitation of the Human Sustainability Project promoting self-awareness, creativity, responsibility, community building, and service, as the fundamental force, propelling us from within our essential humanity, to create sustainable change and transformation, individually and collectively.

Amongst other organizations Claudia has been active for many years with: Social Impact Media Awards, Freedom to Choose Project, and Innovando la Tradicion.

Claudia has been on the Board of the ICA/LA since 2019 and president since March 2023.

Shawn Humphrey (Innovator, Development Consultant, Educator)

Shawn is the founder of the Two Dollar Challenge, La Ceiba Microfinance, the Month of Microfinance and the Poverty Action Conference. He is also on the Board of Directors of “Students Helping Honduras,” a former mentor at the Clinton Global Initiative University, Opportunity Collaboration alum, and IMAGINE Social Good’s 1st Social Good Fellow. He is currently an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Mary Washington (since 2005), where he practices his personal pedagogy of Tribal Teaching.

Anders Hjemdahl (Creative Director, Creative Technology)

Anders Hjemdahl’s passion for digital art and visualization has lead him to design, develop and produce interactive media for over 25 years, starting with digital design, 3D and visualization in the early 1990s, before becoming a cross media producer at pioneering Swedish interactive production house Hanser & Co in 1993, working on numerous interactive titles and exhbitions as well as early web solutions. Anders co-founded production company Hypnosis in 1996, working for clients like Ericsson and Nokia (developing web, mobile solutions and business strategy) as well as e.g. Virgin Records, Sony, Universal Music Group, Kinetix, Media Evolution, BMG, the Swedish Post Office, Expressen, Dagens Nyheter, the Regional Government of Scania, the Atlas Foundation, Stanford University and many others. He co-founded in 1999, selling the world’s first digital music file online, as well as developing the world’s first online video solutions for short films and live concerts. He has also worked as executive producer and lead creative director of interactive at Sweden’s leading TV production house, Jarowskij. A passionate historian, Anders has also been instrumental in several cultural/historical projects, and is a founding member of the international Platform for European Memory and Conscience with 41 member organizations from 21 countries, headquartered in Prague and Brussels. He has received numerous awards for his international work, including the Order of Terra Mariana by the President of Estonia and the Templeton Freedom Award. He is mentioned for his digital art in e.g. “200 Years of Swedish Design”. A proponent of Virtual Reality ever since its first wave in the 1990s, after moving to Los Angeles in 2013, Anders has increasingly focused on VR ideation and development, producing VR content in a wide range of projects, from experimental to art, to commercial and documentary work.

Karyn Benkendorfer

Karyn has over twenty-five years of solid experience in the entertainment industry. She has held positions at Film Studios and Directed, Written and Produced TV Shows, Docu Series and Documentaries.  She cut her teeth on music videos, game shows and Network specials.  Karyn has worked in creative advertising, international distribution and sales, publicity, programming, acquisitions and promotions.  She also had the opportunity to further her international experience working with international networks BSkyB in the UK, Foxtel in Australia, Star TV and Channel [V] in Hong Kong and Vox in Germany. Karyn has also produced live events and covered film premieres and award shows.  She has interviewed prominent filmmakers for programs aired on the Sundance Channel and has experience working with entertainment lawyers, contracts, casting, editing and shooting second camera.  Currently, she is Executive Producer on “The War Less Travelled” a radio documentary that explores the history of the post-Vietnam War through interviews with Vietnamese American boat refugees.  An active member of The Producers Guild of America she was also very involved as a Co-Chair and Mentor for the Diversity Workshop for fifteen years. Karyn has been invited twice by the Royal Film Commission of Jordan to teach the Diversity Workshop in Amman.  Also, Karyn volunteered for Lumiere a’ Zaatari and is currently an active member of Human Rights Watch – LA Film Committee. Karyn is passionate about producing and telling socially conscious stories.

Vincent DeLuca (Filmmaker, Co-Founder BIG PUP FILM)

Vincent DeLuca is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who has made films on a variety of pressing global topics. His work has screened at festivals worldwide, including Austin Film Festival, Big Sky, MountainFilm, Rhode Island, and Slamdance, and has been employed by non-profit and global organizations to cultivate deeper understanding around critical humanitarian issues. Brand clients include ABC, JetBlue, Verizon. Non-profit work includes projects with the UNHCR, Habitat for Humanity, The Juilliard School, and BAFTA. He is a programmer and head of industry relations for the Salute Your Shorts Film Festival. Vincent has a law degree and a Masters in Latin American politics from Duke University as well as a PhD from the University of Amsterdam’s School for Cultural Analysis on the history and philosophy of political cinema. Vincent teaches film production at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Dr. Liani Maasdorp (Senior lecturer: Film and TV studies, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town)

Dr Liani Maasdorp is a senior lecturer in UCT’s Centre for Film & Media Studies. She convenes the MA: Documentary Arts and the Impact Facilitator online short course. She was one of the producers of Strike a Rock (2017), which screened at Sheffield DocFest and IDFA. She has served as a judge for the International Emmy Awards and the South African Film and Television Awards. Her research and public engagement are focussed on impact producing. She is co-director of Climate Story Lab Southern Africa.

Emilio Diez Barroso

Emilio has been exposed to Social Impact Media Awards since its origins, informing his passion for Social change and transformation through storytelling. Emilio is a Mexican American 16-year-old living in Los Angeles, he plays varsity tennis in high school and enjoys spending time with family and friends. Emilio is developing a podcast where he shares and interviews peers reflecting on diverse pieces of content. “SIMA’s documentaries have taught me about responsibility, effort, and solidarity.” Being part of the SIMA jury makes me very proud and excited! It´s fantastic that they give value to young voices”. – Emilio.