Meet the Staff

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Kirk Jowers, JD: Director

Kirk L. Jowers is the Director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.  He also is University of Utah’s  Director of Federal Relations, Chief Advisor to the Office of Global Engagement, and an Associate Professor of Political Science. In addition, he is a partner in the Washington, DC, law firm of Caplin & Drysdale’s Political Law practice. Mr. Jowers currently serves on more than a dozen boards and committees, including as a member of Governor Herbert’s Advisory Team and founding member, and Executive Committee member, of Count My Vote. He previously served as Chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Strengthening Utah’s Democracy, a Member of the Utah Constitutional Revision Commission, and Chairman and General Counsel of Governor Mitt Romney’s Commonwealth PACs. Mr. Jowers has provided legal and political advice to state and national political parties, more than 30 congressional and gubernatorial candidates, Fortune 500 corporations, non-profit organizations, and five presidential campaigns. Described by the Salt Lake Tribune as the “most quoted man in Utah,” he is a frequent media commentator and lecturer on politics, policy matters, campaign finance laws, government ethics, and the First Amendment, and is the author of several publications. He is a graduate of the University of Utah and Harvard Law School and is the 2007 recipient of the University of Utah’s Par Excellence Award.  Mr. Jowers is married to Kristen Jowers and has five children. 

. Email:


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Jayne Nelson: Associate Director

Jayne Nelson is the Associate Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics where she manages the Hinckley Institute office, the Hinckley Forums program, the Huntsman Seminar, and the finances of the institute. She has worked at the Hinckley Institute since 1988. Some of Ms. Nelson’s major responsibilities include coordinating all political speakers for the Hinckley Forums, organizing the Huntsman Seminar in Constitutional Government for Teachers, administering scholarships offered through the Hinckley Institute, and managing the operations of the administrative office. Email:


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Courtney H. McBeth, MS: Associate Director, Hinckley Institute & Director of Global Internships for the Office for Global Engagement

Courtney H. McBeth is Assistant Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, and oversees the Global Internship program and the academics of the HIP. She also serves as the Director for Global Internships for the University of Utah with the U’s Office of Global Engagement. She is also a Clinical Instructor for Political Science and oversees the Hinckley’s internship courses. She also teaches a course in global community-based research for the College of Social Work. She has worked at the HIP since 2002 and has managed all aspects of the state, local and national internship programs. Ms. McBeth graduated summa cum laude with an Master of Science in Education from the University of Utah with a thesis titled, “Civic Engagement: The Impact of Internships on Political Participation.”She also graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Political Science and interned for University of Utah President Bernie Machen. Ms. McBeth was a member and captain of the University of Utah Women’s Soccer Team and was named to the Freshman All-American team and Academic All-West Region. Courtney is married to Mitch and has three boys. Email:


Gina Shipley: National Program Manager

Gina has worked for six years as the Director of the Office of Advising and Inclusion within the College of Social and Behavioral Science. She has extensive experience with the Hinckley Institute’s programs, both as a Hinckley student and during her time as a University of Utah student advocate. Gina secured an MPA from the University of Utah; her thesis explored the importance of internships and how they catalyze classroom knowledge. Gina has three children, two of which graduated from the University of Utah this year. Her youngest will be completing a Washington, DC, internship this summer with Congressman Chaffetz’s office. Email:


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Morgan Lyon Cotti, Ph.D.: Local Program Manager

Morgan joined the Hinckley Institute in May 2012 as Local Program Manager, after serving as Research Director for the Utah Foundation. She has worked as a Policy and Research Analyst at the Utah State Office of Planning and Budget, and as a Research Analyst for the Utah Office of Legislative Research and General Council. Morgan served as a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee intern, and as a Page in the U.S. Senate. She has led humanitarian expeditions to Puca Cruz, Ecuador and Keeraru, Ethiopia. Morgan graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelors degree in Political Science, from Brigham Young University with a Master’s of Public Policy, and received her PhD in Political Science from George Washington. She is married to Geoff Cotti and has two children. Email:

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Ellesse S. Balli, MA: Communications and Academic Coordinator

Ellesse Balli is the Communications and Academic Coordinator for the Hinckley Institute of Politics.  She develops and oversees all media for the Institute including the website. She also writes and edits for the Institute’s various publications, coordinates media outreach, and is the teaching assistant for the Political Forum Series and Resident Scholar symposiums. Ellesse graduated from the University of Utah summa cum laude with an Honors Degree and a Bachelor of Arts in English. She is now pursuing a Master of Education at the University of Utah in the Department of Instructional Design and Education Technology, where she is studying innovative pedagogy. Formerly, Ellesse was Art Director for the Diplomatic Courier for which she served a Hinckley internship in 2009. She is married to Nathan Balli. Email:


Rochelle M. Parker, MA: Communication and Outreach Coordinator

Rochelle McConkie Parker works remotely for the Hinckley Institute as the Communication and Outreach Coordinator.  She oversees and carries out writing and editing for the Institute’s various publications and is a teaching assistant for the Political Forum Series class.  Rochelle graduated from the University of Utah magna cum laude with an Honors Degree and a Bachelor of Arts in English and then secured her master’s degree in education at University of Utah in the Department of Education, Culture, and Society. She currently teaches Rhetoric at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. Formerly, Rochelle was News Editor of the Daily Utah Chronicle and was a Hinckley intern for Senator Harry Reid (D-NV).  She grew up in Annapolis, Maryland and is married to Dwight Parker. Email:

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Kendahl Melvin: Student Staffer

Kendahl Melvin is a senior pursuing an honors degree in political science, as well as degrees in international studies and economics. She has served several Hinckley internships; her most recent was in the European Parliament, in Brussels, Belgium working in human rights, security and defense, and foreign affairs. She is particularly interested in foreign diplomacy, international trade, and increasing women’s participation in politics.  Kendahl is the current University of Utah Senior Class President, and also an 800 meter runner for the women’s track and field team. Email:

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Lisa Hawkins: Student Staffer

Lisa Hawkins is a senior pursuing an honors degree in political science as well as in communication with an emphasis on journalism and a bachelor of science in economics. Her political interest was piqued during a summer internship in the Governor’s Office. Lisa’s growing passion for politics and writing were furthered by her experience in both Resident Scholar symposiums. Formerly, Lisa has directed the political segment on the University’s cable broadcast, Newsbreak, and recently returned from an internship in New Delhi, India with the Maitri NGO.  Her goals after graduation are to attend a graduate program of international policy and affairs and enter the field of global development. Email:

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Leo Masic: Student Staffer 

Leo Masic is a junior pursuing degrees in political science and urban planning. An alumnus of Olympus High School, Leo served a Hinckley internship at the Office of Governor Gary R. Herbert during the summer of 2013 as well as for Jonathan Evans MP of the British Parliament during summer 2014. Leo was selected as a National Campaign Ambassador of the Harvard Institute of Politics and represented the Hinckley at its annual conference in Boston in October 2013. He also belongs to the University of Utah’s Student Alumni Board, the school’s Elections Committee, and sits on an advisory committee for the Utah Transit Authority. Email:


Tim Chambless, Ph.D.: Hinckley Academic Outreach Coordinator, Associate Professor Lecturer

Tim Chambless is an Associate Professor/Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Utah. Since 1987, he has taught classes in American National Government and Political Parties as well as Law and Politics, Controversial Legal Issues and Mass Communication Law, and American Constitutional Law. Since 1994, Tim has organized and led the Hinckley Institute of Politics’ Capital Encounter program in Washington, DC.  Tim earned his Bachelor’s Degree at the University of California at Santa Barbara and then earned two graduate degrees at the University of Utah.


Matt (JD) and Emily Sanderson: Washington, DC, Liaisons

Matt and Emily Sanderson are the Washington, DC, Liaisons for the Hinckley Institute of Politics. Matt is a graduate of the University of Utah and Vanderbilt University Law School. Matt is an associate at the Washington, DC, law firm Caplin and Drysdale and specializes in political law. Matt is also a founder of PlayoffPAC, the principal opposition group to college football’s Bowl Championship Series. Emily is a graduate of Brigham Young University. They have four children and live in Northern Virginia.


Tabitha Benney, Ph.D.: Hinckley Journal of Politics Faculty Editor, Associate Professor-Lecturer

Prof Benney joined the Department of Political Science in Fall 2013.  Prior to arriving this Fall, she was a researcher at the Earth Research Institute and a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  In addition, from 2002-2007, she worked in the Policy and Global Affairs Division of the US National Academy of Sciences.  Her research interests include International Relations, International and Comparative Political Economy, Environmental Politics, Global Governance, and Research Methods. Her current research uses a mixed method research design to compare 31 emerging economies to explain how and why differing Varieties of Capitalism influence important policy outcomes across a range of markets (e.g. environmental, energy and financial markets) within these states.  Professor Benney’s work has been published inReview of International Political Economy, Energy Policy, and Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change.


Dan Jones, Ph.D.: Professor Lecturer Emeritus

Dr. Dan Jones earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Idaho State.  Following service in the military, he earned his masters in 1962 and doctorate in 1968 at the University of Utah. Following his graduate studies, Jones taught at Utah State University for 12 years where he rose to the rank of full professor. He directed the Bureau of Government and Opinion Research, and conducted polls on elections and social issues.  In 1980, Dr. Jones left Utah State University for Salt Lake City to focus on polling full time. In 2003, Dr. Jones accepted the position of interim associate director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, a position he held until July 2005. Dr. Jones is known as Utah’s preeminent pollster serving as President of Dan Jones & Associates.  He assists with the annual Huntsman Seminar.


Jerry Howe, MPA: Adjunct Instructor

Jerry Howe is a Policy Analyst in the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel where he serves as staff to the Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Interim Committee, the Judicial Confirmation Committee, and the Redistricting Committee. Mr. Howe also coordinates the Legislative Intern Program which provides opportunities for 65 undergraduate students from six of Utah’s institutions of higher education to work directly with Utah Senators and Representatives during the Legislature’s annual general sessions. In addition to co-teaching the Hinckley Institute Legislative Intern Preparation course with Dr. Dan Jones, Mr. Howe is an adjunct professor at Weber State University and he teaches Public Policy Analysis in the Master of Public Administration program at the University of Utah. Mr. Howe earned a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Brigham Young University.


Doug Foxley: Associate Instructor

Doug Foxley, the senior principal of the firm Foxley Pignanelli Attorneys at Law, is continually recognized by local media as the leading government relations expert in Utah. A practicing attorney, Mr. Foxley has been a major presence in Utah politics and legislative activities since 1982.  He has more than 20 years of hands-on experience representing clients in the lobbying, government, and public affairs areas.  Mr. Foxley has a wealth of experience in public affairs including communications strategies to support major initiatives, message development, media relations training and consultations, organization image-building, crisis management, community relations, and public event coordination.  Mr. Foxley served on the Utah State Board of Regents from 1985 to 1997 and as Chair of the Board from 1989 to 1993.  He has been actively involved in politics for many years.  He managed former Utah Governor Norm Bangerter’s first gubernatorial campaign in 1984.  He co-teaches the Hinckley Institute Political Management Course.


Frank Pignanelli: Associate Instructor

Frank Pignanelli is a featured Sunday Opinion Page political columnist for the Deseret Morning News.  He has many years of experience in lobbying and government relations, representing clients in a variety of legislative initiatives and regulatory matters including taxes, appropriations, financial institutions, insurance, technology, and other issues before the Utah State Legislature and various government agencies.  Mr. Pignanelli served in the Utah State Legislature from 1986 to 1996 and six of those years as Minority Leader.  He also served as the Vice President of Legal Services and General Counsel at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Utah from the 1993 to 1997.  He co-teaches the Hinckley Institute Political Management Course.


Ralph B. Brown, Ph.D.

Ralph Brown collaborates with and consults the Hinckley Institute on international internships. Ralph is a Professor of Sociology and Director of the International Development Minor at Brigham Young University. He is also the Executive Director and Treasurer of the Rural Sociological Society. His Ph.D. (1992) is in Rural Sociology from The University of Missouri-Columbia, with an MS and BA in Sociology from Utah State University. His research has centered on community satisfaction and attachment in rural communities and on social change and rural development both in the United States, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. He speaks Indonesian and Thai and directs International Development Internship programs in Cambodia, Thailand, and Jordan. His current research foci include the social and economic impacts of changing transportation options in Southeast Asia; and declines in community and friendship attachments in liquid modernity.


Former Ambassador John Price

John Price served as Ambassador to the Republic of Mauritius, Republic of Seychelles, and Union of Comoros from 2002-2005. Ambassador Price is a proven business leader and committed member of his community. He was on the forefront of economic and small business development in Utah and the western United States, and also served in national leadership roles. He was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of JP Realty, Inc., a publicly traded New York Stock Exchange Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah and a former Director and member of the Executive Committee of Alta Industries Ltd. Mr. Price was a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Utah from 1992-1999 and also served on the Advisory Board of the David Eccles School of Business (University of Utah). He was a member of the Small Business Administration Advisory Board and the Industry Sector Advisory Council on Small and Minority Business for Trade/Policy Matters. Mr. Price’s service in civic, educational and economic development has been far reaching. He supports a variety of causes within his community. He serves on the Board of Overseers of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and was a member of the Print Committee of the Whitney Museum in New York. He was a member of the Management Committee and Board of Trustees of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Mr. Price graduated from the University of Utah 1956. He and his wife, Marcia, have three children and eight grandchildren.


Former Senator Robert F. Bennett

Former Senator Robert F. Bennett (UT) is the Hinckley Institute of Politics’ Resident Scholar.  Mr. Bennett entered the political arena by managing his father’s Senatorial reelection campaign 49 years ago, in 1962. Wallace F. Bennett was a U.S. Senator from 1951 to 1974. It was this experience that would later inspire Mr. Bennett to seek public office.  He worked as a staffer on Capitol Hill and in several successful entrepreneurial pursuits, including as CEO of Franklin International Institute, now known as Franklin Covey. In 1992, Mr. Bennett followed in his father’s footsteps and ran a successful campaign for the U.S. Senate, carrying his businessman-like approach with him to the Hill. He served as a senior member of the Senate Banking Committee and a member of the distinguished Joint Economic Committee, where he was at the center of national economic policy discussions. He also served as the ranking Republican on the Senate Rules Committee. Mr. Bennett is a graduate of the University of Utah, where he was student body president. He and his wife Joyce are the proud parents of six children and 20 grandchildren.

We are now accepting applications for Fall 2014 semester internships. Apply now.