Political Director Dan Xie speaks on a panel during a zero waste conference at University of Pennsylvania in October 2019. Photo: Staff

Meet Our Leadership Team

At the Student PIRGs, you’ll work alongside some of the best organizers in the country — people who have been doing this work for more than 30 years. Find out more about some of the people you’ll be working with.



Andy Macdonald

Andy MacDonald
Executive Director

Andy manages our staff who work on 38 campuses in nine states, as well as training, staff development, volunteer programs, campaign strategy and canvassing. Andy has maintained a funding base for the student chapters, built a pipeline for students and staff to become lifelong activists, and been a part of a variety of social change campaigns. He has held numerous positions within the network, including regional director and assistant national summer canvass director for Fund for the Public Interest. Andy lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with his family, and enjoys all outdoor sports, especially running.


Jenn Engstrom

Jenn Engstrom
Deputy Director

Jenn began her career with the Student PIRGs as a student leader with CALPIRG in 2007. In her current role, she manages our training program and helps direct the Student PIRGs chapter students and staff across the country to run effective grassroots campaigns. She directed our California program from 2014 to 2018 and led a team of organizers and student volunteers to build support for Prop 67, which banned single-use plastic grocery bags statewide in California. A California native, Jenn lives in Los Angeles where she enjoys spending time at the beach and visiting the many amazing restaurants in her city.


Leigh-Anne Cole

Leigh-Anne Cole
Deputy Director

Leigh-Anne manages staff and students to expand the Student PIRGs’ political reach by launching new chapter programs across the country. She coordinated the Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project from 2008 to 2012, which registered more than 300,000 people to vote and made more than 1 million “get-out- the-vote” contacts. In her role as Director of Recruitment for The Public Interest Network, she recruited thousands of candidates to apply to join our network, hundreds of whom have found jobs or careers here, while others have gone on to pursue other public interest positions. Leigh-Anne lives in Milton, Massachusetts, where she loves to go hiking with her dog, Aspen, and her daughter, Rosie.


Dan Xie

Dan Xie
Political Director

Dan began her career in college as a student leader with CALPIRG, where she helped to bring high-speed rail to California. In her current role she directs the national political strategy for the Student PIRGs. She advises staff and students on strategic campaign plans and amplifies our work with coalition partners and at conferences. Dan has managed successful campaigns to cap global warming pollution, fight the high cost of higher education, and make voting more accessible for students. Dan lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she is an avid cyclist and climber.


Manny Rin

Manny Rin
New Voters Project Director

Manny began his career in college as a student leader with CALPIRG. Now he works with staff and students to make sure the largest voting block in the country is activated and empowered. Previously the executive director of Change Corps, Manny has extensive experience leading campaigns, including working with MoveOn.org Political Action to get out the vote in swing states in 2014, and with Everytown for Gun Safety to pass gun safety legislation in Oregon. Manny lives in Denver, where he enjoys running, playing pool and trivia with friends.


Shawna Upton

Shawna Upton
Recruitment and Digital Director

Shawna began her career with the Student PIRGs as a student leader with MASSPIRG in 2012. In her current role, she works to identify, empower and recruit students to become full-time organizers after graduation. Shawna also helps amplify the Student PIRGs’ field work in the digital sphere. She has worked on campaigns to help register thousands of students to vote and increase youth voter turnout, and on campaigns to update the Bottle Bill in Massachusetts and promote a zero-waste future. Shawna lives outside Boston, and spends her time following celebrity gossip and going thrift shopping.


Michael Basmajian

Michael Basmajian
National Administrator

As the national administrator for the Student PIRGs, Michael oversees the team’s tracking systems, plans national trainings, and provides administrative and web support for Student PIRGs staff across the country. Michael has worked on a number of successful campaigns including helping to persuade major fast food chains, including McDonald’s and Subway, to protect public health and stop serving meat raised on the routine use of medically important antibiotics. Michael lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he enjoys playing guitar, going to shows and practicing heavy metal yoga.


Meet Some Of This Year's Organizing Class


Sithara Menon

Sithara Menon
Campus Organizer, Florida PIRG

Florida Organizer Sithara Menon got her start freshman year at UCLA working to secure commitments from the state of California and the UC system for 100% clean electricity with CALPIRG Students. This fall, she is taking a semester off to work full time as a campus organizer at Florida State University. In her first week on the ground she took the skills she learned at training to run her own statewide training for over 40 Florida students, teaching them how to organize and run a digital voter registration and turnout drive, and how they could recruit their peers to get involved.


Julia Alexander

Julia Alexander
Campus Organizer, PIRGIM

Michigan Organizer Julia Alexander got her B.A. in Political Science from Oakland University and was the Vice President of the student government, where she organized voter registration drives on campus and was recognized with the school’s prestigious Leadership in Diversity Award. Coming out of training, Julia worked with Lansing Community College and over 10 coalition partners, including the Diversity Officer, the Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Club Soccer Advisor and the League of Women Voters to make sure every student at orientation gets a chance to register to vote.


Jai Williams

Jai Williams
Campus Organizer, NCPIRG

North Carolina Organizer Jai Williams graduated from the University of Cincinnati, where he majored in Political Science and worked on local get out the vote campaigns. Jai will be taking our voter registration and turnout work to the next level by engaging Community Colleges across North Carolina, working with them to use our nonpartisan voter registration tool and student voting information center, StudentVote.org, and help their students register to vote and make a plan to vote this fall.


Juli Geskey

Julia Geskey
Campus Organizer, Georgia PIRG

Georgia Organizer Julia Geskey graduated from the University of Mary Washington, where she majored in Political Science. Julia started with us as a Summer Intern as part of our Democracy Summer program, helping her peers register and make a plan to vote. So far, Julia has put the skills she learned through our internship and training program to the test, hiring over 20 interns within the first three days of school starting.


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