Creating a nation unified through sports committed to racial equity and social justice.
We are a national nonprofit that educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations.
Through partnerships and programs, we inspire leaders in sports to create positive change on matters of race and equality.
Explore this map to see where we are and who we've worked with to improve race relations in our country. Want to bring RISE to your community?Take Action Now
After RISE Programming
say they learned something they can start using today
of students say they want to deepen their knowledge of race and diversity issues
of students feel equipped to have difficult conversations about race and diversity.
would intervene to stop racial discrimination.
RISE was founded in 2015 to harness the unifying power of sport to end racism and champion social justice.
With a coalition of major U.S. sports leagues and media outlets, athletes, educators and social justice experts, RISE engages the sports community to advance values of respect, understanding, tolerance and equality. RISE has since grown exponentially, with programming in more than 40 states, educating more than five million people and empowering nearly 500 partners across all sports. RISE's vision is bold: To create a nation unified through sports committed to racial equity and social justice.
Board of Directors
Chair, RISE; Former Commissioner, NFL; Senior of Counsel, Covington & Burling
STEPHEN M. ROSS
Vice Chair and Founder, RISE; Chairman of the Board and Managing General Partner, Miami Dolphins
Secretary of State, Michigan
Kim Davis (Designee)
NBC Sports, President
CEO, SpringHill Entertainment
GEORGE CASEY, JR
U.S. Army (Retired), General
Executive Vice President, Turner Sports Ad Sales
JoAnn Neale (Designee)
Troy Vincent (Designee)
Fox Sports Network Group, EVP
STACY TESSLER LINDAU, MD
University of Chicago, Professor of Ob/Gyn and Medicine
VP of Corporate Citizenship, ESPN
Chairman, CBS Sports
MICHAEL J. MCNULTY III
USTA Chairman of the Board and President
Brandon Thompson (Designee)
Former NFL Executive
NACDA Past President and Georgetown University Director of Athletics
CEO, USA Track & Field
Renee Washington (Designee)
Kathy Behrens (Designee)
PGA of America, CEO
Sandy Cross (Designee)
Diahann Billings-Burford, who has spent her career working in and lifting up diverse communities, is CEO of RISE. During the past decade, Billings-Burford has held senior positions in New York City government and subsequently at Time Warner, serving some five years in each post and handling a challenging mix of responsibilities.
At Time Warner, she served as executive director, cultural investments and vice president of the Time Warner Foundation. She led the company-wide college internship, employee community engagement and community investments programs in New York City. She also managed the grant making and operations of the foundation.
As the city's chief service officer, she headed NYC Service, a division of the mayor's office, engaging more than 1.3 million New Yorkers in a range of volunteer activities. NYC Service worked to help New Yorkers connect to service opportunities more easily, target volunteers to address the city's greatest needs and promote service as a core part of being a New Yorker.
At various stages of her career, Billings-Burford's experiences have been in deeply diverse communities and in executive offices; with government agencies and education initiatives; with youth, elderly and the disadvantaged; in innovative startups; and in both publicly funded nonprofits and privately sponsored for-profits.
Billings-Burford's experience also includes serving as deputy executive director of external affairs for City Year New York, a nonprofit service organization; director of external relations for Achievement First, a charter school management organization; director of leadership development for Prep for Prep, a leadership development organization; and an associate with the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP.
She serves on the National Board of Directors for buildOn, an international organization working to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service learning programs in America's under-served high schools and by building classrooms in some of the world's economically poorest countries. She also serves as Vice Chair of the board of Philanthropy New York and serves on the boards for the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, Strava and Success Academy. In 2021, she was recognized on Crain's Notable Nonprofits and Philanthropy list and in 2019 was named one of Crain's Notable Women in Sports.
Billings-Burford earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Yale University and a law degree from Columbia University School of Law and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Chief of Staff
As Chief of Staff, Lauren works closely with the CEO, Board of Directors and members of the senior leadership team on decision making and alignment of RISE's goals and strategies.
Before joining RISE, Lauren was a Senior Associate at Impact for Education, a philanthropic advising firm. In this position, Lauren worked with high net-worth individuals advising them on strategic projects and grant making in the Education space as well as supporting internal processes and protocols.
Prior to joining Impact for Education, she was Chief of Staff at America Achieves and Education Prospects where she played a key role in developing strategy and process for internal systems and relations. Previously, Lauren spent eight years working in the New York City Mayor's Office for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, most recently as the Chief of Staff at NYC Service reporting to the nation's first Chief Service Officer. Lauren helped NYC Service facilitate the launch of 40 mayoral initiatives during its inaugural year in 2009, and led a team of 16 full-time staff. Lauren also assisted in managing corporate partnerships that supported NYC Service education initiatives. Prior to this, Lauren served as a Special Assistant and Project Manager for the Chief of Staff to the First Deputy Mayor, coordinating special projects and events for NYC Mayor's Office, City Hall, and Gracie Mansion.
Vice President, Strategic Alliances & Development
As Vice President, Strategic Alliances & Development, Zoe drives revenue partnerships with corporations, private foundations and individual donors to ensure the funding of mission-critical work. She works with RISE's leadership team to set development strategies aligned with our vision and values.
Prior to joining RISE, Zoe held roles in fundraising/resource development at Boys & Girls Clubs of America and March of Dimes. There, she was able to create and oversee award-winning corporate partnership and cause marketing programs, raising millions of dollars of funding for the organizations. Before bringing her partnership skills to the non-profit space, Zoe held partnership marketing roles in the magazine publishing industry; most notably at Hearst Integrated Media, MORE, Seventeen and SELF, where she created custom marketing and promotional programs in conjunction with a team of advertising sales reps.
Zoe holds a BA from Connecticut College and lives in Westchester, NY with her two children. Her passion for sports (and the communities built through them) was developed at an early age, attending NY-based sporting events with her family. She is a lifelong Jets and Rangers fan.
Andrew Mac Intosh, Ph.D.
Chief Program Officer
As Chief Program Officer, Dr. Andrew Mac Intosh leads the translation of RISE's mission to educate and empower the sports community into programs for varying audiences and contexts.
He has worked in the business sector for over 10 years leading the implementation of organizational development initiatives and developing performance management along with training and development strategies. More recently, due to his keen interest in sport and youth development, Andrew has worked both within the United States as well as internationally helping various organizations to design and implement sport initiatives that build life skills and character. Before RISE, he worked at Michigan State University's Institute for the Study of Youth Sport as a Research and Teaching Assistant. Andrew has also spent time working in Detroit assisting with the development of evaluation systems for youth sport programs and with the design and facilitation of training programs for coaches and mentors.
One of Andrew's passions is understanding and enhancing the role that coaches can play as mentors for the youth with whom they engage. Another is the sport of soccer, which he cherishes for the friendships, life lessons, skills and opportunities that it has provided.
Vice President, Strategic Partnerships
As Vice President for Strategic Partnerships, David leads RISE's efforts to expand and deepen relationships with external stakeholders including teams, leagues, colleges, community partners and athletes at every level.
Prior to joining RISE, David managed philanthropic partnerships for Bloomberg LP's hurricane recovery efforts in the United States Virgin Islands. Previously, he served as a Senior Advisor at New York City Emergency Management, working to strengthen and align the agency's intergovernmental, community engagement and communications strategies. He also served in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration as Deputy Commissioner for Community Affairs, where he managed a team responsible for establishing and maintaining elected official and community relationships, developing outreach and engagement strategies, and advising the Mayor on issues of community concern.
David is a graduate of Georgetown University with a degree in Government and Sociology, and holds a Masters in Public Administration from New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He lives in Greenwich Village with his wife and young daughter.
As Sr. Director, Communications, Ian crafts RISE communication strategy and efforts to connect communications, programming and partnerships work into promoting RISE's mission. He tells the stories of RISE's impact and its work empowering the sports community to address racism, champion social justice and effect change. Ian also helps manage the organization's digital channels and media relations, and advises on program strategy and development. Ian hosts and produces Champions of Change: The RISE Podcast.
Before joining RISE in May 2017, Ian served as director of media affairs for the Consulate General of Israel in New York. In that role, he worked with national and regional media outlets on stories that promoted issue-based campaigns and events, as well as the works of senior politicians and social entrepreneurs.
Previously, he was a sports journalist with Newsday, covering professional, collegiate and high school sports throughout New York.
He is a graduate of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where he earned a bachelor's degree in politics and journalism and served as play-by-play radio broadcaster for the men's and women's basketball teams.
Ian is a proud native New Yorker.
As Director, Program-Marketing, Peyton supports the development and execution of fan engagement events and helps maintain RISE's brand identity on all channels. She also supports the management of digital and social content, sharing RISE's stories and impact with our audience of athletes, coaches, and fans.
She previously spent time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as community relations coordinator where she led many of the community outreach events for the team. Peyton also has experience interning with the Special Events department at Walt Disney Studios and the Atlanta Falcons.
Originally from South Carolina, Peyton earned a bachelor's degree in Marketing with a minor in Sports Communication from Clemson University. While on campus, she spent most of her time working in player development and recruiting for the Clemson University Football Team and wears her National Championship ring with pride!
Senior Director, Programs
As a Senior Director, Programs, Scott Koenning works to plan, execute and expand RISE's education and leadership programs, including oversight of day-to-day management for flagship programs such as Building Bridges Through Basketball. He contributes to the development of program content, collaborating with partners to identify training needs and strategies. Scott takes on a lead role in the development and management of the RISE Internship Program and is responsible for translation of RISE content from English to Spanish.
Previously, Scott served as assistant director of career enhancement and employer relations with NU for Life at Northwestern University, overseeing student-facing elements of a program dedicated to the professional development of Northwestern's more than 500 NCAA Division I athletes. Prior to Northwestern, Scott was a postgraduate intern of leadership development at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and worked at a Boston nonprofit organization, Bottom Line, and with the Schuler Scholar Program in the Chicago area.
An Oberlin, Ohio native, Scott attended Grinnell College, where he completed Mentored Advanced Project research focused on Argentine immigration policy as part of the Race, Immigration and Citizenship in America project and played football while completing bachelor's degrees in Spanish and sociology. He holds a master of science in learning & organizational change from Northwestern University.
As a Group1001 fellow at RISE, Nishaad works with various departments including (not limited to) Strategic Alliances & Development, Partnerships, Programs & Fundraising.
Prior to joining RISE, he worked in Mumbai, India with a sports management company that worked directly with schools to enhance the sporting experience for students. He then moved to New York to pursue a Masters in Sports Management at Columbia University. While in New York, Nishaad interned with Rugby United New York, the Major League Rugby team, as their Sponsorship Coordinator.
Nishaad is from Mumbai and is a former member of the Indian National Table Tennis team. He is a firm believer in giving back to the community and leveraging his platform as an athlete to advocate for change. His hobbies include Chess, Soccer, Pool, Table Tennis and watching sports.
Sr. Director, Partnerships
Jerrell Price joined RISE in August 2020 as the Director of Partnerships. As a contributor within the Partnerships team, Jerrell is responsible for supporting RISE's strategic partnership development and engagement with external stakeholders including athletes, teams and conferences at the high school, collegiate and professional levels.
Before arriving at RISE, Jerrell served as the Director of Partnership and Operations within the Executive Office at UNICEF USA. In this role, he supported the President and CEO and managed the operations and strategic management of the Executive Office, Senior Management Team, Board of Directors and other key constituents in order to raise vital financial and public support in which enables UNICEF to provide life-saving programs to children in 190 countries. Working in sports has always been a passion for Jerrell and can be shown through his experience at George Mason University, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Big Ten Conference, where he oversaw key components of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship and Final Four, Big Ten Men's and Women's Basketball Tournaments, Big Ten Football Championship Game and Big Ten Softball Tournament.
As a native of Kansas City, Jerrell graduated from Missouri State University in Springfield, earning a bachelor's in Physical Education and master's in Sports Management. While at Missouri State, Jerrell assisted the Lady Bears women's basketball program as a student-manager. In his free time, Jerrell mentor's LGBTQ+ student-athletes and sport professionals and serves as a Board of Director for the We Cancerve Movement, which is a non-profit led by children that brings happiness to some of society's most vulnerable youth: children experiencing homeless, illness and who are in foster care.
Director, Communications & Digital Media
As Director, Communications & Digital Media, Jared relies on more than a decade of experience as a journalist and communications professional to support RISE's mission through dynamic storytelling that aims to inform, inspire and initiate change. He helps develop RISE's digital channels and works with external media to strengthen RISE's efforts to engineer social change.
As a sports journalist, Jared has covered youth leagues to pro sports and everything in between. During his nearly seven years as a college football reporter at ESPN.com, he covered some of the sport's biggest on- and off-field stories, appearing digitally and on camera. He also worked as a principal communications manager for adidas US Sports' agency of record, developing narratives for the brand's top sports, events and athletes. Additionally, he's helped elevate brands in entertainment, technology, medicine and more.
A New Jersey native, Jared – along with his dog, Tito – bounced around a handful of states. He graduated Penn State with two degrees and spent four years volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Florida before recently returning to the Garden State.
Collin Williams Jr., Ph.D.
Senior Director, Curriculum
Dr. Collin Williams Jr. is an educator, author and researcher addressing race and other diverse issues through the lens of sports. As a Senior Director, Curriculum, Collin develops, executes and expands RISE's education and leadership programs throughout the country, collaborating with internal and external partners to identify training needs and strategies.
Previously, he worked in social responsibility and player programs for the NBA and as assistant director of player engagement for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens.
As a doctoral student of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education, Collin served as a research associate and campus climate consultant at the Center for the Study of Race & Equity in Education, as well as an instructor of a graduate-level interactive seminar course on issues of diversity in the United States.
Featured in more than 300 national and local media outlets, his research explores how undergraduates' social experiences influence engagement, academic performance, campus climate and post-college outcomes, especially for students and athletes of color from low-income, first-generation college and other underrepresented backgrounds. A co-author of The Miseducation of the Student-Athlete: How to Fix College Sports Collin earned his bachelor's degree in sociology and Africana studies and his doctorate in higher education from the University of Pennsylvania.
As Director of Data, Will drives strategy and organizes team efforts through the management, analysis, and communication of data. Through identification and tracking of key metrics, he helps to systematize and make meaning of our work.
Prior to joining RISE, Will spent six years in Atlanta as a high school math teacher where he leveraged his passions for education, advocacy, and math on behalf of his students and their stakeholders. During that time, he also trained new and incoming teachers on excellent math instruction and culturally responsive pedagogy. He then was a Recruitment Manager with Teach For America, recruiting the next generation of leaders to fight educational inequity and leveraging data to drive strategy and identify diverse, high-fit, and competitive candidates.
Will is currently based in Brooklyn, NY and holds a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University. He is ecstatic to combine his affinities for sports, data, and equity work to provide insight into our work and further RISE’s mission.
Executive Assistant and Special Projects Manager
As Executive Assistant and Manager, Special Projects, Ashanti provides administrative support to the CEO, and supports the development of RISE’s internal and external initiatives.
Before her current position, Ashanti served as Partnerships Manger at RISE, where she supported RISE’s strategic partnership development and engagement with external stakeholders, including athletes, teams, and conferences at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. Previously, Ashanti worked as a freelance event strategist in Los Angeles and Houston, where she contributed to the launches of fashion lines and new artist single-release events.
A Brooklyn native, Ashanti attended Georgetown University, where she double-majored in International Business (Latin America) and Marketing. Her coursework allowed her to discover how she can use creative measures to increase engagement when educating others on socio-economic disparities.
Manager, Program Operations
As Program Operations Manager, Kathleen is responsible for the daily coordination and administration of RISE’s programs.
Prior to joining RISE, Kathleen worked with Major League Baseball and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in the Community Affairs & Events departments. At MLB, Kathleen worked on programs such as Breaking Barriers and RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities). She is also an adjunct professor within the Sports Management program at William Paterson University.
Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Kathleen has spent time in Orlando, FL where she worked at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex with the Double A baseball team Orlando Rays. She has a master’s degree in Sport Administration from Canisius College and a bachelor’s degree in Human Relations from Pace University. She is currently a volunteer for WISE (Women in Sports & Events) on the Partnerships Committee. Having always worked within the sports industry, Kathleen is very passionate about giving back through sports.
Whitney Szmodis, Ph.D.
Senior Director, Curriculum and Programs
As Senior Director of Curriculum and Programs, Dr. Whitney Szmodis guides RISE’s curriculum development and implementation efforts, along with creating and planning programs with RISE partners.
Prior to joining RISE, Whitney worked at Lehigh University as a research scientist, professor, and director of global citizenship. Most recently, she served as a representative to the United Nations on behalf of the university, working with UN partners and NGOs on five continents to develop programs and support advocacy efforts related to social justice, empowerment and gender equity. She has also worked extensively in Southeast Asia, with an emphasis on gender equity, community engagement and the co-decolonization of education in Cambodia. Whitney continues her advocacy work at the UN with NGOCSW in New York and Nor Luyce Mentoring Center for Youth in Armenia.
Born and raised outside of Seattle, Whitney is a lifelong Mariners and Seahawks fan — much to the disappointment of her children who are equally invested in the Phillies and Eagles.
As a Group1001 fellow at RISE, Sebastian works with various departments including Strategic Alliances & Development, Partnerships.
Prior to joining RISE, he worked in Santiago, Chile at the Chile Rugby Union as a Project Manager. In January 2020, he began his Masters in Sports Management at Columbia University and during his time, he has interned with FC Bayern Munich in their New York City offices working with the Business Development team and at Columbia University/Career Design Lab as their Project Intern.
Sebastian is originally from Chile, where he obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree from Universidad de Los Andes in Santiago. He has represented Chile with the national rugby team participating in two Junior World Championships, and South American Championships with the Rugby seven a side team. In addition, he enjoys travelling, running and coaching rugby. At RISE he is passionate about being part of an organization that creates unique and impactful moments through sports.
Senior Manager, Partnerships
As a member of RISE's Partnerships team, Joe supports efforts to develop and expand relationships with external stakeholders including athletes, teams, leagues and conferences at the high school, collegiate and professional levels.
Prior to joining RISE, Joe worked in community relations and engagement for professional sports teams in the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL. Most recently he served for five seasons as community relations manager with the New York Yankees and for two seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, where he developed and ran programs that focused on outreach and engagement in the areas of youth education, youth wellness and sports participation.
Joe is a native Minnesotan and earned his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of North Dakota and his master’s degree in Sports Business Administration from Seattle University. With a background focused on professional sports community impact and development, he is excited to lean on that experience to further the important work that RISE continues to do throughout the world of sports.
As programs coordinator, Mickhael is responsible for the daily coordination, administration, operations, and logistics of RISE’s Programs. He also assists with data management for the Programs team and communicates across the organization to ensure all departments have the programmatic information they need.
Prior to working at RISE, Mickhael served as the Program Specialist and District Associate at the Boy Scouts of America, Northern New Jersey Council. In this role, he created and presented after-school programs that focused on Scouting and STEM programs in the underserved communities in Paterson, Newark, Jersey City, Union City, and Hackensack. His goal was to provide new experiences to the youth in these communities.
Originally from Rockland County, N.Y., Mickhael earned a bachelor's degree in Finance from the University at Buffalo. On campus, he spent most of his time volunteering and fundraising with his fraternity and set up an annual basketball tournament fundraiser to raise funds for the homeless community in Buffalo. After college, he started in the finance industry and realized that his passion was community service and working with youth. In his free time, Mickhael is a youth basketball coach, where he teaches and mentors his players not just on the court but off the court. His future goal is to build basketball courts and programs in his home country, the Philippines. He wants to showcase the hidden talents in the Philippines by giving them a better opportunity to hone their skills. Mickhael is excited to be working at RISE and believes this is the perfect home to bring his passions for sports and helping the community.