The Advisory Council consists of subject matter experts and advocates for equality who offer their knowledge and expertise to advance the Society’s strategic priorities to pursue equality, enrich LGBTQ student life, empower promising students, and invest in LGBTQ studies at the University of Virginia. They provide important perspectives that are critical to the operations of the Society and its Board of Directors.
Current Council Members
Father of two and husband to one. Andrew teaches US and Middle Eastern History to high schoolers and enjoy swimming and reading when not playing with his kids. Otherwise you will likely encounter him listening to NPR, making a mess in the kitchen, failing to calm his increasingly anxious and dependent dog, assessing contingency plans should any number of things happen in the next few months and/or folding clothes.
Leah lives in Raleigh, NC, with their husband and two children. She spent the first 15 years of her career as a reporter at newspapers in Virginia, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina. (Yes, I started at the Cavalier Daily.) She spent the second half of her career in communications, serving as a communications director for a U.S. Congressman and the North Carolina Senate Minority Leader’s Office, as well as a senior public engagement officer for Duke Energy. Currently, she owns Leah Friedman Consulting, where she partners with clients to share her broad skill set and expertise in communications, public relations, public policy, strategic planning, and government relations. She also owns a professional organizing business, where she partners with clients to promote the benefits of living with less to stay organized.
She loves people. She loves being part of a team. And she has the reputation as the person to go to when you need something done. She has also worked for social justice causes most of her life. Leah grew up as a Jew in the South, so they identify with minorities. Through her Jewish education, she was taught that Jews have a special responsibility to stand up for those being persecuted. When she and her husband lived in Missouri, they worked tirelessly in 2004 to defeat one of the first state constitutional amendments that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. And, now, they stand with Black Lives Matter protesters.
Reggie Jackson currently serves as the Acting Director of Development at the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Before joining the Academies, Mr. Jackson served as a fundraising officer in the Division of Student Affairs at the University of Maryland, College Park. He began his 16-year career in fundraising at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Reggie graduated from the University of Virginia in 1995. He and his husband, Major David Schonberg, US Air Force, live in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
Claire Kaplan brings more than two decades of experience in teaching and student advising in higher education, as well as in the development of mentoring and support programs for college students. She is a skilled coalition builder with a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Claire also is a published author and successful grant writer, having raised over $190,000 through state grants and private foundations.
Sharon M. McGowan is the Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director of Lambda Legal, the country’s largest and oldest legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and individuals living with HIV. Relying on her litigation expertise and her experience in the Obama administration, Sharon leads the Legal Department’s talented team of over thirty attorneys and paraprofessionals who advocate for our community in courtrooms, statehouses, and other venues throughout the country. As Legal Director, Sharon oversees Lambda Legal’s efforts to resist any attempt by the Trump Administration – or any other opponent of LGBTQ equality – to thwart or roll back our community’s progress toward full formal and lived equality.
Kelli E. Palmer is Head of Global Inclusion & Diversity and Corporate Citizenship for CFA Institute. She has also served as the Director of Enrichment Voyages for the Institute for Shipboard Education and as Assistant to the President at the University of Virginia. A scholar of diversity, she wrote “Faculty Service in Black and White,” a quantitative study of the impact of faculty service on tenure attainment, which was the first quantitative analysis of cultural taxation. Kelli is on the board of the Community Climate Collaborative, Peabody School, and the Piedmont Virginia Community College Foundation. She earned a B.A. in Elementary Education from Elon University, an M.A.Ed. in Counseling from Wake Forest University, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Virginia. Kelli and her husband James reside in Charlottesville with their four children.
Marc Paulo Guzman
Marc Paulo Guzman (he/him) is a queer 1.5 generation Filipino-American originally from the New York City/Northern NJ area. He currently works for Bain & Co. in their Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Center of Excellence out of the DC office. Prior to Bain, Marc Paulo spent 9 years at UVA – 6 years as a program coordinator and assistant director with Multicultural Student Services in the Office of the Dean of Students, and 3 years as an associate director of diversity recruitment with the Darden School of Business, focused on recruiting BIPOC and LGBTQ MBA candidates. While at UVA, Marc Paulo served on the UVA LGBT Committee where he planned socials and programming for queer faculty, staff, and graduate students.
Justin graduated from the University of Virginia in 2010 with a degree in Theatre and Dance. In 2011, Justin moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Starting as a receptionist at one of LA’s top law firms, he worked his way up to being an assistant to Nina Shaw of Del Shaw representing A-list writers, directors, and actors in the film and television industry. Since 2013, Justin has been the President of the UVA Entertainment Club of Los Angeles. UVAELA cultivates a strong community of professionals living in Los Angeles seeking to support, collaborate, socialize, and network with other UVA alumni in the entertainment business. Justin continues to learn the ins-and-outs of Hollywood and tries to find ways to bring what he’s learned back to the University community.
In 2016, Justin joined Young Alumni Council which consists of 36 alumni, composed of at least 2 representatives from each of the 12 most recent undergraduate classes. These volunteers generate initiatives and activities in conjunction with their parent organization, UVA’s Alumni Association’s Board of Managers. There are two projects of which he is most proud: creating a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force to connect student leaders and alumni leaders to formulate a response to the events of August 2017 and working to program a Pride Night within UVA Athletics.
When he’s not working or volunteering, he spends his free time doing research (which in Hollywood consists of watching as much tv and film as possible) or hiking with his boyfriend and two dogs, Bodo and Bang.
Thomas Martinez Pilnik grew up in London to Brazilian parents, and obtained his BA in Studio Art and Cognitive Science from the University of Virginia in 2016, and an M.Ed. in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs from the University of Southern California in 2020. In between those two degrees, Pilnik worked for a short moment in New York City, then quickly returned to Charlottesville as a member of staff at the Office of Diversity and Engagement in the School of Engineering. During that time, he organized the Excellence Through Diversity Speaker Series, which occurred partially in response to the white supremacist violence that happened through the summer of 2017 and reached a crescendo on August 12th. Pilnik is now pursuing an MFA in Studio Art from the University of Connecticut.
Jacqueline Schweiger (she/her) is a nonprofit development professional currently consulting on database management for GLSEN. Previously, she managed donor databases for GLAAD in their New York office. She graduated from the College in 2009 with a double major in Art History and French, and received a master’s degree in Art Business from
Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. Now based in Memphis, TN, she enjoys spending time with her two young children, cheering on the Hoos, and eating Memphis BBQ.
Bob Witeck is President of Washington, DC-based Witeck Communications, Inc. (www.witeck.com)
He is a seasoned communications strategist, public affairs counselor, author and speechwriter. For nearly three decades, he also has been a LGBTQ trailblazer crafting communications and business strategies to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) communities. In 2006, he co-authored “Business Inside Out” (Kaplan), considered the first LGBTQ business and marketing book. While at the University of Virginia, Bob Witeck was an Echols Scholar, and the 2001 recipient of the Bernard Mayes award.