The Data Institute

Meet the Class of 2024

We’re thrilled to announce the 14 outstanding journalists who will be joining us for the Data Institute.

Ethan Bakuli is a freelance reporter based in Detroit. He was a K-12 education reporter for Chalkbeat, and a staff writer at the Burlington Free Press. He studied Afro-American Studies and Journalism at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Katherine Burgess is the government accountability reporter at MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. She has previously worked as a government reporter at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, covered health care and faith for The Wichita Eagle in Kansas, and covered education for The Jackson Sun in Jackson, Tennessee.

Shannon Chaffers is a gun violence reporter for the New York Amsterdam News’ Blacklight Investigative Unit. Prior to joining the Amsterdam News as a 2023 Report for America Corps Member, she spent a year in Germany as a Fulbright Young Professional Journalist. Shannon is originally from Wellesley, Massachusetts, and graduated from Princeton University in 2022 with a degree in Sociology.

Jared Council is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience covering business news. He’s currently on a hiatus to help raise his family, and he previously covered Black America at Forbes and artificial intelligence at The Wall Street Journal. He’s a Hampton University graduate and recently spent the past semester there as a guest lecturer.

Farah Eltohamy is an investigative reporter for Cascade PBS, where she covers housing issues, workers' rights, and immigration in Washington state. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Reveal, NPR, Texas Tribune, and more. She graduated from Arizona State University with both her master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism.

Ariana Figueroa covers the nation’s capital as a reporter for States Newsroom, a state-focused nonprofit newsroom. Her coverage areas include congressional policy, national politics, and the Supreme Court with a focus on immigration, voting, guns, agriculture, and labor. As a Florida native, she's worked for the Miami Herald and her hometown paper, the Tampa Bay Times.

Kristen Griffith is a reporter at The Baltimore Banner, a nonprofit newsroom that launched two years ago. As an education reporter, Kristen's coverage mostly focuses on K-12 schools in Baltimore County, Maryland. She holds a master's degree from American University.

Jewél Jackson is a multimedia journalist and storyteller. She currently is an investigative reporter for the Illinois Answers Project, and focuses on K-12 education. Previously, she covered higher education for El Paso Matters in El Paso, Texas, and various social justice movements in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Jackson’s reporting has been featured throughout various national newsletters, podcasts, and television appearances. She has been awarded by the Society of Professional Journalists, contributed to a Edward R. Murrow Regional newsroom win, and was most recently nominated by the Chicago Journalist Association for her education reporting. Jackson has produced numerous radio segments for local National Public Radio stations and is an alumna of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Melissa Pérez Carrillo is the breaking news and public safety reporter for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, where they focus on law enforcement accountability stories. A Miami native, Melissa has a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Central Florida, where they studied computational sciences, communication, and women’s and gender studies.

Luna Reyna is a writer and broadcaster whose work has centered the voices of the systematically excluded in service of liberation and advancing justice. Before coming to Underscore News and ICT as the Seattle-based Northwest Bureau Chief, Luna was Crosscut’s Indigenous Affairs Reporter, and her work has appeared in the South Seattle Emerald, Prism Reports, Talk Poverty, and more. Luna is proud of her Little Shell Chippewa heritage and is passionate about reporting that sheds light on colonial white supremacist systems of power.

David Squires teaches writing and editing at NC A&T and writes freelance stories mainly focusing on sports and HBCUs. He has been an editor at McClatchy, Sporting News, the New York Times, Newsday, and the Detroit Free Press, and a writer at ESPN’s Andscape and the St. Petersburg Times. He is a native North Carolinian and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the UNC School of Journalism.

Heather Tirado Gilligan is managing editor of El Tímpano, a nonprofit journalism organization that informs, engages, and amplifies the voices of the Bay Area’s Latino and Mayan immigrant communities. She has written for publications including Slate, The Nation, CNN, the Washington Post, and USA Today. She’s also worked as executive editor of the California Health Report, a news nonprofit covering disparities in health and access to health care.

Aria Velasquez is an independent journalist based in Chicago. She writes a newsletter about unions, organized labor, and work called Labor Pains. Aria has bachelor's degrees in political science and international affairs from the University of Georgia.

Tiana Woodard covers Black communities for The Boston Globe. Through her storytelling, she aims to push against the monolithic perception of Black Boston by amplifying its joys and its struggles. She grew up in Tennessee and Texas and in 2021 graduated from The University of Texas at Austin, where she co-founded the school’s sole Black-interest publication.

Meet the instructors

Lena Groeger Lena Groeger is the Graphics Director at ProPublica and one of the co-founders of the Data Institute. She loves visual journalism that combines design, data, and code, and has worked in that venn diagram for the last decade. She lives in the Bay Area and when not thinking about charts is probably running after one of her two toddlers.

Brittany Mayes is a data visualization engineer at Netflix. Previously, she worked at The Washington Post for over five years, where she held newsroom positions in graphics and local before moving to the engineering department to work on elections. She calls herself a romance novel connoisseur—her qualifications include reading about 100 of them a year—and when she's not reading, she's probably at her local climbing gym or doing projects around her home.

Angelica McKinley is a creative leader who thrives at the intersection of storytelling and technology. At the end of 2023 just ahead of the 2024 Election, Angelica has returned to her expertise in visual journalism as the Product Design Director for News at The Walt Disney Company. Prior to this role, she managed content, visual, and motion design teams as a Director of Creative who focused on bringing delight and Disney magic into digital products across the company’s varid Studio, Sports, and News brands. Before Disney, Angelica expanded art direction and visual expression on one of the world’s most visited websites, She did this through highly impactful, emotionally resonant iterations of Google’s logo that centered globally diverse artists, cultural nuance and nostalgia. Angelica has also crafted visually engaging designs at Apple News, Slack, and The New York Times.

Katie Park is a developer and data journalist who creates data visualizations and digital features at The Marshall Project. They were part of a team awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting for an investigative series on the brutal injuries inflicted by police dogs. Katie is based in Washington, D.C., and previously worked at NPR and The Washington Post.

Agnel Philip is a data reporter for ProPublica. He previously worked as a data reporter at The Arizona Republic.

Ellis Simani is a data reporter at ProPublica, where he pairs quantitative analysis with traditional investigative reporting techniques to expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust. He previously worked at the Los Angeles Times and participated in the Data Institute in 2017.

Andrea Suozzo is a news apps developer at ProPublica, where she runs Nonprofit Explorer, builds databases and does reporting. She's a former local reporter who taught herself scraping, data analysis, and web development over many years, with lots of trial and error! In her spare time, she runs, reads, plays the fiddle, sews and knits.

Sisi Wei is the Chief Impact Officer of CalMatters and The Markup and one of the co-founders of the Data Institute. She started her journalism career as a graphics editor, who told visually striking stories using data and code.

Derek Willis teaches and does data journalism at the University of Maryland, where he teaches students how to interview data and tell stories with it. He has worked at ProPublica, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other news organizations. Derek grew up in Pennsylvania and have lived in the DC area for 25 years. Also, I love cricket (the sport).

Lylla Younes is an investigative reporter and writer based in Brooklyn.