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Advisors & Ambassadors

We’re currently looking for advisors with the following expertise:
  • Advocacy
  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion
  • Finance
  • Healthcare
  • Law
  • Leadership
  • Marketing & Communications
  • Nonprofit
  • Strategy
  • Technology 

2023 ADVISORS & AMBASSADORS NETWORK

To complement the Governance Board and provide multiple ways for members of our community to connect and engage with PEPS, we’re building an Advisors & Ambassadors Network. This group is a broad, diverse and fluid group of community members advising staff on specific strategic areas related to fulfilling our mission and strategic direction. Advisors provide subject matter expertise and thought partnership to staff and can participate in Finance Committee or other workgroups including the Benefit Event Strategy Team, Advocacy Workgroup and more. Ambassadors spread the word about PEPS, make connections, build relationships, capture stories, serve as Table Captains for our annual Benefit and more. 

Serving as a PEPS Advisor or Ambassador is a great way to share your lived experience, perspective, subject matter expertise or passion for PEPS mission of connecting parents to strengthen families to build community. As part of our ongoing equity work, we have shifted away from a traditional one-size-fits-all approach. We have a smaller Governance Board, where people can best use their gifts, to be paired with a larger Advisors & Ambassadors Network. Learn more about our experiment with Board structure in a letter from Board leadership.

PEPS values and celebrates the strengths that diversity brings to our organization and is committed to advancing equity through our work. Cultivating a diverse and inclusive Advisors & Ambassadors Network is one of our priorities. Black, Indigenous and People of Color and others with underrepresented identities (including, but not limited to: gender identity, class, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, age, ability and background) are strongly and sincerely encouraged to apply.

To learn more about the Advisors & Ambassadors Network please email PEPS Executive Director Dana Guy at danag@peps.org.


2023 Advisors & Ambassadors Network

Cristina Ciupitu-Plath
Cristina Ciupitu-Plath
Cristina Ciupitu-Plath

Dr. Cristina Ciupitu-Plath serves as an Advisor to the PEPS Program and Operations teams.

Cristina is a sociologist and public health professional with more than ten years of experience in public health research and education. Her main research interests revolve around the health and well-being of young people and their families, quality of life in patients with chronic conditions, social and cultural diversity, as well as social inequity and stigmatization. She approaches this work with humility and a willingness to learn.

As a mother of two, Cristina knows how important support is for both new and more seasoned parents. Our modern reality deprives many of us from having our extended family around to offer guidance and help when needed. Having access to such supports becomes even more critical when we transition into new stages of our lives, like when we become parents for the first time, welcome a new baby to the family, or parent our children through the highs and lows of adolescence. PEPS programs create that sorely needed community around parents to help them feel seen, understood, valued, and supported.

Cristina is excited and grateful to be able to support the important work PEPS is doing to improve the quality of life of parents in the Seattle area.

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Mary Ellen Cunningham 

Mary Ellen Cunningham
Mary Ellen Cunningham
Mary Ellen serves as a PEPS Ambassador for the Parents of Adolescents and Teens (PAT) Program. She has supported PEPS as a strategic advisor, donor, and board member (2016-2020). Mary Ellen is a die-hard supporter of PEPS because she believes that the solution to our greatest societal and public health challenges is intervention and impact in the earliest days and years of peoples' lives.

Mary Ellen has over 25 years of diverse professional and personal experience in experiential education, community development, fundraising and resource mobilization and non-profit consulting. Her primary focus is to unleash the potential of individuals and organizations to create sustainable social change. Through her work, she has developed a keen understanding of how teams work, what it entails to achieve truly mission-driven work, and the importance of partnership as the foundation for almost anything worth doing. She has had the privilege of working with numerous nonprofits, both domestically and internationally, as a founder, executive director, program developer, board member, volunteer, donor and consultant. Her breadth and depth of perspective has honed her skills and sensibilities to support organizations to be strategic, inclusive, fueled by mission and highly effective. Mary Ellen holds a Masters of Public Health from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.S. in Experiential Education from the University of New Hampshire. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and son. 

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Tracy Cutchlow

Tracy Cutchlow
Tracy Cutchlow
Tracy Cutchlow (she/her) is the author of the international bestseller Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science. She believes no new parent should feel alone, which is why she supports PEPS as a Sustainer Circle donor, a board member from 2017 through 2022, and an advisor. Tracy is a freelance writer and editor and award-winning former journalist. As an advisor to PEPS, she consults on communications strategy and participates on the Advocacy Workgroup. Tracy also serves on the advisory board of the Children's Screen Time Action Network. A Seattle-area native, Tracy lives in West Seattle with her husband and their tween daughter. 

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Erika Dowd

Erika Dowd
Erika Dowd
Erika Dowd serves as a PEPS Advisor on the Finance Committee and has been a volunteer Group Leader for Newborn and Second Time Around PEPS Groups, as well as a Table Captain for the PEPS Annual Benefit.

Erika is a former nonprofit leader and fundraiser, with a BA from Grinnell College and a master's in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. She has worked with many small to mid-size nonprofits in the areas of development, strategic planning, program management and operations, and is passionate about helping organizations grow in a sustainable and mission-driven way. She is also a dedicated volunteer for multiple Seattle organizations and her kids' elementary school, leads a Girl Scout troop, and has served on the board of the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra since 2018.

Erika is the mom to two kids and has been living in the Seattle area since moving here from Silicon Valley in 2014. She was introduced to PEPS when she participated in her own Second Time Around group in 2016 with her youngest child and fell in love with the PEPS model of supporting parents and building deep connections. After going through post-partum depression with her first child and finding a lack of information and support in her local community, she felt compelled to volunteer her time with PEPS to help new parents connect with each other and find resources to understand the physical and emotional changes that can come with this time of their lives. In her spare time, Erika loves to read and explore the Pacific Northwest with her family.

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Chrissy Egan

Chrissy Egan
Chrissy Egan

Chrissy Egan supports PEPS as an Advisor and member of the Finance Committee. Chrissy was on the PEPS board from 2017-2020 and served as the secretary, treasurer, and vice president over the duration of her tenure.

Chrissy is a mother of three children and she participated in PEPS and led a newborn group in West Seattle. Chrissy currently works in corporate finance at IBM. She holds an MBA with a specialization in leadership from Seattle University. For 5 years she was a coach and facilitator for emotional intelligence MBA courses at Seattle University both locally and abroad. She has a passion and interest in people — especially the little ones!

Chrissy is inspired to volunteer at PEPS because she knows firsthand the weight of being a parent, especially in these COVID times. She is inspired by the work PEPS is doing around equity and inclusion to ensure equal access to the program so that all parents may feel a sense of belonging and support. She appreciates being part of an organization that values deep learning and reflection.

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Annie Garrett
Annie Garrett
Annie Garrett

Annie Garrett is a PEPS Ambassador who has served as a Group Leader, a Guest Speaker and a Highs and Lows blog contributor since 2018.

Annie holds a Masters in Educational Leadership. Policy Studies and Organizations from the University of Washington and two Washington State Certificates in Early Childhood Education. She is the manager of the Early Childhood Education Bachelor of Applied Science Degree program at North Seattle College, which seeks to maintain the diversity of the field as it professionalizes. Annie also serves as an instructor, teaching in both early childhood education and the parent education program.  She is a freelance writer in parent education, with special interest in the intersection of parenting and feminism.

Annie’s PEPS journey began in 2017, when she and her husband joined the Infant PEPS program with their first child. The program had a lasting impact, cementing the Pacific Northwest as home for her family, which added its newest member in 2021. Annie believes that the very unique PEPS model has an unparalleled ability to positively impact a family’s wellbeing, and is encouraged by the equity work that PEPS is engaged in. 

Outside of PEPS and professional life, Annie is a fan of both local and international travel, with most travel now happening alongside a stroller within one mile walking distance of her home. She is also a fan of exercising and eating, but is better at eating.

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Carla Greenan
Carla Greenan
Carla Greenan

Carla Greenan serves as an Advisor to the Program Team providing expertise on supporting working parents. Carla contributed to curriculum and is leading one of the Working Moms Pilot Group.

Carla started her career as a CPA and eventually found her way to coaching, which she has been doing for 13+ years. Her base of clients is primarily working parents, with a specialty in coaching through personal and professional transitions.

Carla earned her credential as a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation (IFC). In 2016, to pursue her dream of opening her own coaching business, she left her job of 23 years at a Fortune 500 company where she started her career as a CPA. Prior to leaving, she was a founding member of the Internal Executive Coaching Team, serving as an executive coach to leaders in transition throughout the company.

Carla has coached extensively in the professional services environment at all levels. She has expertise in the transitions that working parents face, the complexities of advancing women and the journey through leadership transitions. She has worked with working parents, new partners, direct admit partners, titled leaders, and emerging leaders.

Carla was part of a newborn PEPS group 17 years ago and recalls the post-meeting feeling that she was not alone in this journey. With PEPS expanding beyond newborn groups, she saw a place she could share what she learned from years of coaching working parents as well as navigating working parenthood in a dual-career household.

Carla lives in Seattle with her husband, Dan, their three kids and their four-legged family member, Luna.

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Jeff Hignite
Jeff Hignite
Jeff Hignite

Jeff Hignite supports PEPS as an Advisor on the Finance Committee and is a former PEPS Board member. Jeff currently serves as Executive Director at Providence. Previously he spent multiple years in management consulting and in other healthcare finance roles. Jeff graduated with Bachelor of Science degrees in Marketing and Finance from the University of Kentucky and a Masters of Science in Finance from Indiana University Kelley School of Business. As a Finance Committee member, Jeff brings his expertise to review monthly financial statements and advise on financial decision making as well as annual budgeting.

Jeff and his wife, Shelby, have two boys and first participated in a newborn group in 2019 where Jeff was inspired by the education and community provided by PEPS groups and then began volunteering with PEPS in 2021.

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Dima Kfouri
Dima Kfouri

Dima Kfouri 

Dima Kfouri serves as a Strategic Marketing Advisor. She is a multiple Cannes Lions awarded strategist, manager, brand builder, product developer and startup founder with 15 years of experience leading marketing initiatives across industries, countries, and channels.

Having started her career at the Leo Burnett advertising agency, Dima later transitioned into digital marketing and ran a fashion tech startup before consulting business clients independently now. She helps organizations in product development and innovation, uncovering customer insights, integrated and digital marketing strategy, brand audits and positioning, workshop facilitation, as well as content strategy.

Dima and her family moved from Ireland to Greater Seattle in 2021 and later joined the Newborn PEPS group where she has built strong connections with like-minded diverse families. She credits these friendships for being a big part of why Seattle feels like home, and why she was inspired to give back by leading a Newborn group one year later. Having also attended the Working Moms group, she hopes to continually find new ways of participating and volunteering with PEPS, helping other families build the long-lasting connections and support system she is grateful to have found in this community.

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Sarah Lawer

Sarah Lawer
Sarah Lawer
Sarah Lawer serves as a PEPS Advisor on Strategy and Operational Planning. She is passionate about creating communities of support, particularly for women and children. Sarah and her husband joined a Newborn Group in 2016, and she continues to support PEPS because of the communities it builds for parents and families and the early intervention opportunities for guidance and education that it affords.

Sarah consults with individuals and businesses to find breakthroughs out of moments of feeling stuck, guiding their investment of time and talent in a meaningful, open way - measuring risk, growing revenue, and considering value-added processes and strategy. She has worked with Fortune 500 organizations for several years to lead compliance initiatives, requiring cross-functional groups to work together and combine their individual capabilities to meet broader operational goals. She is a member of the Washington State Bar, graduated from Seattle University School of Law and has a BA in Economics from the University of Colorado - Boulder. 

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Armina Khwaja Macmillan
Armina Khwaja Macmillan

Armina Khwaja Macmillan

Armina Khwaja Macmillan (she/her) is a Group Leader and Strategic Advisor to PEPS. She calls Atlanta, GA and Seattle, WA "home." She is a former higher education student affairs administrator turned employee experience professional. Armina loves home decor, pop culture, melted cheese dip, and being in community and conversation with others. She and her partner Mike have been mostly DIY renovating their old craftsman home, with their focus significantly shifting onto their kiddo, Noah. Armina volunteers with the One Love Foundation, PEPS, Alpha Chi Omega sorority, and Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, delivering educational workshops on substance use, DEI, and healthy relationships.

Armina lives far from family and knows that social connection is incredibly important to her mental health and well-being. She is inspired by PEPS because it is a unique program, and she is constantly reminded how grateful she is to have started her family in Seattle where such wonderful support systems exist. The avenue to build community with others in similar stages of life was invaluable to her family and her identity exploration into parenthood.

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Sarah McElvaine

Sarah McElvaine
Sarah McElvaine
Sarah McElvaine serves PEPS as an Advisor, supporting with curriculum review.

Sarah works as a clinical social worker at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center supporting patients and families as they receive cancer treatment. She previously worked at Seattle Children’s Hospital and as an adjunct instructor at the UW School of Social Work. Before moving with her husband to the Pacific Northwest in 2017, Sarah worked at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for five years. Her extensive work as a social worker in pediatric and adult healthcare has been the foundation for her volunteer work in the community.

She and her husband welcomed their first child, a daughter, in 2022 and found PEPS to be a true source of camaraderie, humor and community. The focus on connecting new parents with helpful information, having candid conversations about mental health, and normalizing the nuances of parenthood are some of the reasons Sarah wanted to continue her involvement with the program. She is inspired by the work PEPS is doing regarding equity and inclusion and having this reflected in the program curriculum so that all parents may have access to the information and support they need to thrive.

In her free time, Sarah enjoys going to the Seattle Children’s Museum and Woodland Park Zoo with her daughter and husband, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

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Cyrus Phansalkar
Cyrus Phansalkar
Cyrus Phansalkar

Cyrus serves as a Technology Advisor to PEPS, providing thought partnership and advice to PEPS staff on technology strategy and planning.

Cyrus is a Senior Product Manager at Microsoft with experience ranging from software startups and non profits to Multinational Corporations. He is experienced in analyzing data, market trends and current processes to create customer centric products with proven market success.

As a solutions architect at Logic2020, Cyrus was introduced to PEPS in 2015 and served as the Project Manager when the organization embarked on a digital transformation. He supported PEPS in moving from an antiquated, clunky, manual system to an integrated registration and CRM system that improved processes for parents signing up for PEPS Groups, PEPS Staff and so much more.

Through this journey Cyrus made both professional and personal connections at PEPS. He was touched and inspired by the passion and growth mindset of the PEPS staff as well as the amazing impact this organization has on our community of parents. He's stayed connected with PEPS long after the project completion and is now excited to volunteer his time as a Technology Adviser as PEPS continues to leverage technology to expand its positive impact across the community.

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Jane Quach

Jane Quach
Jane Quach
Dr. Jane Quach, DPT, CSCS, CAPP-OB has 17+ years of clinical experience in physical therapy, specializing in perinatal health/women’s health, orofacial pain/ TMJ disorders, and orthopedics. She advises the PEPS Program Team on curriculum and content related to women’s health.

Jane graduated with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Northwestern University in 2006. Jane has worked as a Physical Therapist and Clinic Director in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Before moving to Seattle, she worked as an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of California San Francisco. Jane also operates her own clinic, Jane Quach Physical Therapy, which is now located in Seattle in the wonderfully eclectic neighborhood of Fremont.

Jane is a mother of two energetic young boys and participated in PEPS Newborn and Second Time Around programs. She felt it was invaluable to have community support through a shared journey, in a friendly and encouraging environment, particularly being new to the area and new to motherhood. Jane is passionate about education and empowering women to take ownership of their health and well-being.

“Seeing mothers thrive inspires me. That's why I dedicate myself to building bridges between knowledge and well-being through education and care.”

Outside of the clinic, Jane can be found enjoying the beautiful nature, arts and culture of the PNW with her family. She’s always had a love for travel, delicious food, and a good-themed party.

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Julianna Rigg-Hillard
Julianna Rigg Hillard
Julianna Rigg-Hillard

Julianna Rigg-Hillard serves as an Advisor on the Advocacy Workgroup and is a PEPS Ambassador and Table Captain for our Annual Benefit Event.

She is motivated by seeking to understand what are the causal factors which lead to equitable outcomes in education and health. She received her PhD in Political Science from the University of Washington in 2011; during that time, she completed her fieldwork in rural Zambia, researching what explains different outcomes in malaria prevention protocols. From her work in graduate school to consulting with global health research groups to teaching at Bellevue College, she has seen the power of community. The more connected we are, the better off our children become -- from successful malaria eradication campaigns to understanding issues of educational equity. Community drives and changes outcomes.

Julianna’s family has felt the sustaining impact of community through PEPS. The connections she has made through PEPS have helped to normalize her parenting experiences and create a lasting bond with other parents and families. Julianna believes that PEPS inoculates families; it helps create safe spaces that maintain physical, social, and emotional health.

When Julianna is not volunteering with PEPS, she is connecting with her community. She and her husband, Dustin, have three children. She is active in each of her children’s school communities, serving on the Phinney Neighborhood Preschool Cooperative board and the West Woodland Race and Equity Committee. Her family loves to be outside, exploring and learning together.

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Judy Russell

Judy Russell
Judy Russell

Judy Russell is an Advisor and Group Leader of Connecting the Expecting, Working Moms, and Newborn PEPS Groups. Volunteering with PEPS has been a great fit as she has had the opportunity to meet and support families before and during their journey. Judy loves watching the connections forged between the parents and the confidence gained as they navigate parenthood.

Before moving with her husband to the Pacific Northwest three years ago, Judy worked in health care for more than 40 years, with the majority spent as an administrator at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

“Whether a new or seasoned parent, the favorite part of my job has always been supporting families and their children as they move through their stays and back home.”

She has also been a consultant to free and charitable clinics providing care to medically underserved and marginalized populations. Judy supports these organizations’ efforts to establish best practices in patient and family-centered care to meet the specific needs and concerns of the patient population. 

Judy is married, with two adult children, and is a grandparent to her daughter and son-in-law’s toddler boy and baby twins, whom they adore. In her free time, she and her husband enjoy watching their grandchildren, gardening, traveling, and being with friends and family.

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Veronica Smith
Veronica Smith
Veronica Smith 

Veronica S. Smith is a strategic advisor to PEPS. She is a leadership coach whose mission is to guide others to continually learn, improve, find fulfillment, and increase equity while achieving desired results.  Her approach is a result of 30+ years of working for and with government, education, non-profit organizations, and mission-driven companies across sectors in operations, measurement and evaluation, human resources, recruiting, marketing, business development, and project management.

Veronica’s education and training in architecture, engineering, equitable data and evaluation science, and multicultural organizational development enables her to bring design and systems thinking, evidence-informed practice, an intersectional equity lens to her work. Her lived experience as a queer cis-gender woman informs her belief that creating cultures of belonging at home, work, and in our communities is the key to all people and planet not only surviving, but also thriving.

Veronica is inspired by PEPS staff and programs and is honored to be an active member of the PEPS community. As someone who had adverse childhood experiences because of the abusive family system growing up, Veronica knows firsthand the harm done to children who do not benefit from healthy parenting. As an aunt to 8 niblings and 3 great niblings, her greatest joy is helping them grow into the best version of themselves with the love and support of the adults in their lives. She has also witnessed how challenging parenting can be, especially for parents of LGBTQIA+ youth.

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Beth Trakimas
Beth Trakimas
Beth Trakimas

Beths Trakimas serves as an Advisor to PEPS staff around HR, People & Culture and Change Management.

Beth is a people-centric leader most recently focused on Human Resources Mergers & Acquisitions (HRM&A) in technology. For over a decade, she was responsible for the end-to-end aspects of M&A transactions as it relates to the people impacted by the change. She has a Master’s in Business Administration from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and a BA in International Affairs from George Washington University.

Beth became aware of PEPS through friends that lived in Seattle who had become new parents. When she moved here from Portland, she signed up to facilitate a PEPS group as part of her interest and pursuit to become certified as a postpartum doula. Through the training and facilitation process with PEPS, Beth was impressed with the quality of support from the organization and pursued joining the Board to further contribute her skills and passion to this important work - something that dovetailed nicely with her early career interest and work in family planning and reproductive rights. She served on the board from 2019-2021.

Hailing from Arizona, Beth deeply appreciates the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest (it’s much greener here!) and can be found most often outside hiking, camping, and taking in the elements with her family and friends. When not adventuring locally, she is known to be looking forward to traveling somewhere new and is always up for pro-tip recommendations on people, places and food often overlooked.

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Chezik Tsunoda
Chezik Tsunoda
Chezik Tsunoda

Chezik Tsunoda serves as an Advisor to PEPS and enthusiastic supporter of the PEPS Annual Benefit event. She participates in the Benefit Event Strategy Team and supports Staff with her incredible storytelling and filmmaking skills.

Chezik is a mother of four boys, a documentary filmmaker and the founder of No More Under. Since her 3-year-old son Yori drowned in a friend’s backyard pool, Tsunoda has been driven to promote the conversation about and raise awareness around drowning prevention and water safety.

Chezik is an accomplished director and producer whose work spans across movies, television and advertising.

Chezik has been a part of the PEPS family since 2011 when she joined a Newborn Group with her first of four sons. She has since participated in a Second Time Around group, volunteered as a Leader for both Newborn and Second Time Around groups, has been a Table Captain at the annual PEPS Benefit event more than 5 times and served on the PEPS Board in 2019 and 2020.

She is grateful that her life has been so enriched by being part of the PEPS support system. She is relentlessly passionate about racial equity, education, and advocacy with the goal of empowering all parents.

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