Staff & Board

Meet The Team

J.R. Jamison

Co-Founder & President

J.R. Jamison is the co-founder and president of The Facing Project, host of The Facing Project Radio Show on NPR, and author of the award-winning memoir Hillbilly Queer (2021). His work has been featured in The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Runner’s World, Writer’s Digest, and in various print literary journals. In addition, his memoir received starred reviews from Library Journal and Foreword Reviews Magazine, and was selected as one of the best audiobooks of 2023 by Library Journal.

Fun fact! I’m a long-distance runner and have competed in (and completed) 10 half-marathons. I also LOVE black licorice.

Braxton Williams

Projects Manager

Braxton Williams is the projects manager for The Facing Project where he oversees editing and book production for Facing Project communities, and he curates the organization’s newsletter and featured stories. He is a graduate of Ball State University with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies. Braxton is the author of The Infinite Horizons (2020), and he hosts Brax Will Let You Know on YouTube.

Fun fact! I’m an EMT.

Diana Angarita

Marketing & Strategy Intern

Diana Angarita is the summer 2023 Intern for The Facing Project. Diana is an international student from Yaracuy, Venezuela, majoring in Marketing with a certification in Leadership Studies at Fort Hays State University. Diana will be working on marketing efforts and alumni outreach that will enhance The Facing Project’s mission.

Fun Fact! I have been a dancer since I was 6 years old! I do Flamenco which is a traditional Spanish Dance, and I take any opportunity to put on a show!

The Facing Project Board of Directors

Lauren Instenes

Chair

Marketing & Communications Manager, Ex Fabula (based in Milwaukee, WI)

Why do I care about The Facing Project? I got involved managing a Facing Project my senior year of undergrad because I was passionate about aiding the local LGBT+ community in their fight for rights within the workplace and housing. I realized that this kind of project was the perfect combination for all of my interests: a little history, a little art, a little activism, and a lot of listening to and connecting with the people in my community. This project is the main reason I decided to pursue oral history as a profession, as I am still very passionate about the difference storytelling can make in a community.

Fun Fact! I have a pretty eccentric style and only shop for clothes at thrift stores, or in my grandma’s closet!

Tina Rabel

Vice-Chair & Treasurer

Credit Risk Professional (based in Muncie, IN)

Why do I care about The Facing Project? I like the idea of creating content that results in a ripple effect of people’s action improving the world.

Fun Fact! I have a strong desire to do things I have never done, and go places I have never been; and I prefer being active outdoors. I would really thrive in 8 to 10 hours of recess daily.

Aimee Robertson-West

Secretary

Executive Director, Anderson Education Foundation (based in Muncie, IN)

Why do I care about The Facing Project? The Facing Project changed my life first as a storyteller, then later as a writer, photographer, and community partner. When my loved one and I were struggling in isolation, trusting the Facing Project with my story meant that I gave myself permission to accept the validation and support I needed to help my loved one survive what we were both facing, together.

I learned: 1) I wasn’t alone, and 2) I had it within me to help others, too!

Becoming a Facing Project writer/photographer and community partner meant that I could help create the same catharsis and path to healing I needed, for others. But out there, “Facing” preserves local truth-telling and empathy during a time they are both needed the most. It unites communities around common causes, helps to put aside our differences to understand one another, and serves as a time capsule to preserve local histories, helping others to learn and know that which we face, right now.

Fun Fact! There is a 21-year age difference between my oldest and youngest child!

Hobbies: Photography, traveling, hiking, poetry, and music.

A.K. Barnes

Past Chair (2021-2022)

Assistant General Counsel, NAACP (based in Washington, D.C.)

Why do I care about The Facing Project? The Facing Project is important to me because it creates an opportunity for communities to address difficult issues through storytelling. I believe in The Facing Project because it relies on making human connections and building empathy to create positive change in the world. The Facing Project is especially important to me as I was the Co-Manager of Facing Sexual Violence in Rockbridge County, Virginia as an undergraduate student.

Fun Fact! I love exploring new places! I traveled to South Africa as part of a Prisoners’ Rights course in law school and hope to return to South Africa within a few years. Also, I traveled to Italy for my honeymoon and it is a dream to someday move there.

Sarah Connolly

Director

Sarah Connolly is a NYC-based theater director with a mission to cultivate creative environments rooted in listening, experimentation, and generosity. With a focus on new play development, she seeks to empower audiences to ask new questions, rather than provide them with easy answers. Sarah was an intern for The Facing Project in 2018 and is excited to return to this incredible organization!

Fun Fact! I lived in Germany in 2013 and South Africa in 2018!

Dr. Peggy Fisher

Director

Honoratus Associate Teaching Professor of Communication Studies, Ball State University (based in Muncie, IN)

Why do I care about The Facing Project? I was first involved with The Facing Project years ago when my story was told in Facing Cancer. I believe in the value of Facing Project narratives.

Fun Fact! I have two wonderful grandbabies and one more on the way.

Dr. Kathy Rowell

Director

Professor of Sociology, Sinclair Community College (based in Dayton, OH)

Dr. Rowell is a sociologist, professor, and past board chair of the International Peace Museum, and strives to infuse peace literacy into all of her work. She has traveled with college students for over ten years to the U.S. – Mexican Border to learn about border issues, and has also traveled to over 40 countries— including Costa Rica where she participated in a faculty development project about peace, and most recently to Mongolia to participate in the North Asian Regional Peace Institute.

Fun Fact! Dr. Rowell edited Facing Eviction and Housing Insecurity: Listening to Community Voices (2023) and co-edited Facing Gun Violence: It’s Always Close to Home for Someone (2020).

Rob Williford

Director

Rob Williford is an educator, storyteller, and entrepreneur from Flint, Michigan. He currently serves as the Associate Dean of Students at the University of Indianapolis, is a Co-Founder of Brave The Cycle, and is a PhD student in Global Leadership at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. In his free time, Rob enjoys farmers markets, coffeeshops, reading and writing poetry, local histories, and tinkering on various projects. Ask him what one he’s working on this week!

Fun Fact! Rob has a deep interest in old books, stamps, coins, maps, and prints.

The Facing Project Advisory Council

Kelsey Timmerman

Co-Founder & Senior Advisor

Kelsey Timmerman is the co-founder of The Facing Project and a New York Times bestselling author of the Where Am I (Wearing, Eating, Giving)? series.

Kelsey’s writing has appeared in publications such as the Christian Science Monitor, Condé Nast Portfolio, TIME magazine, and has aired on NPR. Wearing and Eating have been adopted as a common reader by over 150 high schools, colleges, and universities.

Fun Fact! Sometimes when I’m stressed or bored, I imagine the room or the world filling with water and swimming through rooms, up stairs, and over buildings.

Jane Friedman

Publishing Industry Expert

Writer and reporter on the publishing industry (based in Cincinnati, OH)

Why do I care about The Facing Project? I believe in the power of stories to bridge differences and bring greater understanding between individuals and among communities. I also care about the careers and publishing goals of the organization’s founders.

Fun Fact! I worked for two summers at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio, where I lived right on park grounds.

Shantanu Suman

Cover Design & Brand Identity

Associate Professor of Art & Graphic Design and Faculty Mentor to Studio 165+, Ball State University (based in Muncie, IN)

Why do I care about The Facing Project? I think The Facing Project connects a diverse group of people and provides a platform for them to share their stories. Learning about other’s stories helps people in ways that they might not have realized until now.

Fun Fact! I made a documentary film about the history and evolution of truck art in India called Horn Please.

Dr. Lori Kniffin

Strategy & Leadership Advisor

Dr. Lori Kniffin is a strategy and leadership advisor for The Facing Project, and formerly served as a member of the Board from 2018-2023 (two years as Board Chair). Her initial involvement in The Facing Project was as a project manager of Facing Hunger in Manhattan, KS.

Lori is an assistant professor of leadership at Fort Hays State University in Hays, KS. She holds a Ph.D. in Educational and Cultural Studies and brings expertise in organizational leadership, leadership education, and community engagement. Lori is a co-author of Introduction to Research in Leadership (2023).

Fun Fact! Since moving to Hays, I have taken up horseback riding and love to be out in the open plains.

Peter Kageyama

Facing Project Ambassador

Peter Kageyama is an urbanist and bestselling author of four books on cities and placemaking. His first book, For the Love of Cities, was recognized as a Top 10 Book in Urban Planning and Development. He speaks all over the world about better placemaking that emphasizes small, inexpensive, and fun approaches to community building.

Fun Fact! Peter was a professional dancer (a long time ago!).