HADAR HARRIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Hadar Harris, a human rights attorney and non-profit leader with a passion for working with and on behalf of students, joined the SPLC on Sept. 6, 2017. She previously served as the executive director of the Northern California Innocence Project. For 13 years, Harris was executive director of the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law. Earlier in her career, Harris served as executive director of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a bipartisan legislative service organization of the US House of Representatives, under the leadership of the late Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA). Following her graduation from law school, she worked in private practice at the law firm Littler Mendelson. Harris holds a BA in Political Science from Brown University and a Juris Doctor from the University of California, Los Angeles. Read more about Hadar.
MIKE HIESTAND, SENIOR LEGAL COUNSEL
Mike Hiestand has been integral to SPLC’s success since 1989. He was an SPLC intern, its first legal fellow and then served as full-time staff attorney from from 1991-2003. Over the years, he has assisted about 16,000 student journalists and advisers. He currently works from the west coast on the SPLC hotline and related projects. In 2013-14, Hiestand traveled around the country with Mary Beth Tinker, teaching and speaking out on behalf of student press rights and free expression. “Tinker Tour USA” kicked off on Constitution Day at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The bus logged 15,595 miles across the American east coast, midwest and southeast speaking to more than 20,000 students and teachers at 58 stops, including schools, colleges, churches, a youth detention facility, courts and several national conventions. In the spring of 2014, The Tinker Tour moved on to schools and events in the American west, midwest and southwest, as well as a stop in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Vancouver, Canada. Hiestand, who grew up in Alaska, graduated from Bartlett High School in Anchorage and went on to Marquette University’s College of Journalism and Cornell Law School.
SOMMER INGRAM DEAN, STAFF ATTORNEY
Sommer Ingram Dean, who joined the staff in 2018, is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center who has long been an advocate for students’ speech and press rights. Sommer was a student journalist at the Tiger Times at Texas High School and The Baylor Lariat in college. After college, she was a legislative and legal reporter for The Associated Press and Dallas Morning News. She is also a former SPLC intern (2010) and legal fellow (2015-16). Sommer has worked for NPR’s legal affairs correspondent, The Washington Post, and served as a law clerk for a federal judge.
HILLARY DAVIS, NEW VOICES ADVOCACY AND CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER
Hillary Davis joined SPLC in October 2019, after six years lobbying state legislators with the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island. She has advocated for and alongside youth on issues of student’s rights, the First Amendment, racial profiling, and criminal and juvenile justice. She holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Michigan and a BA in sociology from California State University, Northridge.
DANIELLE DIETERICH, DIGITAL STRATEGIST
Danielle Dieterich graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Convergence Journalism in 2016. While in college, she interned for the Student Press Law Center, helping to grow its social media and online presence and working on the Active Voice program launch. After going back to school and graduating, Dieterich spent a year working as an engagement editor for digital news company Newsy before being hired back to the SPLC as a journalism fellow. In 2020 she was promoted to digital strategist.
ALEXIS MASON, OUTREACH AND OPERATIONS MANAGER
Alexis Mason joined the SPLC staff in April 2019 from the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County in Fayetteville, N.C. Mason interned at Action for Children, where she designed and developed a newsletter for the AFC’s community engagement initiative in North Carolina, and lobbied to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 16 to 18. Mason has a paralegal certificate from Meredith College, and volunteered for Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Lawyer on the Line program. A journalism graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Mason was the wires editor of the A&T Register and has written for Carolina Peacemaker, Sophisticate’s Black Hair Styles and Care Guide, and the Urban Call.
ANDREW BENSON, COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH OFFICER
Andrew Benson joined SPLC in April 2021. He started his career interning for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in the office of the CEO/president and as a member of the global digital team. His experience with TNC grew filling the roles of social media coordinator, digital marketing specialist, and a stint acting as director of marketing and communications for TNC’s Connecticut Chapter. In these positions, Benson developed and delivered multi-platform marketing efforts to engage new audiences and activate supporters, members, and partners around using nature to address climate change.
A graduate of Northwest Missouri State University, Benson utilized SPLC’s resources as the digital editor of the Northwest Missourian while studying Mass Media. Outside of work, you may find Benson playing in recreational sports leagues, tending to his garden, hiking, and exploring breweries— always with a camera.
FRANK LOMONTE, SENIOR LEGAL FELLOW
Frank D. LoMonte served as executive director of the Student Press Law Center from 2008-17 and currently heads a First Amendment think-tank in Florida. He has worked in every sector as a lawyer — government, private practice, nonprofit, education — after a career as an investigative reporter and political columnist. LoMonte’s work combines a lifelong dedication to informed citizenship and transparent, accountable government, and developing public-policy solutions to the obstacles that get between the public and prompt access to the information essential for informed, participatory citizenship.