Because there's more than one right way to be a family

Advisory Board

Family Story is run by Executive Director Nicole Rodgers and Program Manager Rebekah Spicuglia, with the support of an Advisory Board of creative, innovative luminaries from multiple sectors: Brianna Cayo Cotter, Julie Kohler, Simone L. Ward.


Brianna Cayo Cotter is the Chief of Staff at PL+US: Paid Leave for the US, an organization focused on winning paid family leave for everyone in the US. Prior to PL+US, Brianna co-founded and led’s global communications team, where she helped influencers, non-profits, companies, and news organizations create big impact. For over a decade she has developed creative, effective communications strategies to help advance social change, leading media and communications departments at Avaaz, Rainforest Action Network, and the Energy Action Coalition.


Julie Kohler is the Senior Vice President of the Democracy Alliance, the largest network of donors dedicated to building the progressive movement in the United States. At the Alliance, she oversees the DA’s investment strategy, monitoring the work of the DA’s Investment Portfolio, overseeing the DA’s State POWER Funds, developing content for conferences and other programming, and leading the DA’s inclusive economy and democracy-related work. In her prior roles as Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, she worked closely with the President and the Board to develop and implement the Democracy Alliance’s strategic plan and annual goals. She has over a decade of experience in philanthropy, with deep expertise in civic engagement, state infrastructure, policy/advocacy, and social innovation grant making.

Prior to joining the Alliance, Kohler served as Director for Education & Civic Engagement at NEO Philanthropy, where she managed four funding collaboratives designed to promote stronger participatory democracy and more equitable public schools. She also directed the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s National Venture Fund, which invested $13 million annually in civic engagement and social venture projects, and taught at the University of Maryland.

Kohler holds a M.A. and Ph.D. in family social science from the University of Minnesota. Her articles on issues pertaining to feminism, politics, and family issues regularly appear in the Washington Post, The Nation, The Daily Beast, and HuffPost. Find her at or on Twitter at @juliekkohler1.


Simone L. Ward is the President and the CEO of SLW Strategies, a strategic political, executive coaching, training, facilitation and team development firm. She is the former Executive Director of the Women Effect Fund (WEF) and the Women Effect Action Fund (WEFAF) fighting for economic justice. Most recently served as the Florida State Director for Hillary for America, the largest battleground in the country. Prior to the campaign she served as the National Political Director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

With a strong commitment to electing female candidates, she has served in senior leadership roles for 3 U.S. Senate candidates including Campaign Manager for the historic re-election of U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest serving female member of Congress and first female chair of the Appropriations Committee. Ward, a four-term veteran of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is the former National Constituency Director and Director of Women’s Outreach. She also served as the Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC).

In 2007, Ms. Ward worked as a Senior Regional Political staffer at EMILY’s List. She currently sits on the board of directors for the Higher Heights for America, Democratic/Global GAIN, Family Story, End Citizens United and U.R.G.E. Ms. Ward has served as a guest lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Georgetown, Trinity and American Universities. She was raised in Kansas City, Missouri and currently lives in Washington, D.C.

Follow Simone on Twitter @simonelward.