WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

Connect with WOLA in New York

The WOLA New York Event Series

The WOLA New York City Event Series brings together a diverse group of business, government, private sector leaders, and concerned citizens to discuss hemispheric human rights challenges, and seek solutions through participation with WOLA’s leading human rights advocacy. The events, held quarterly, offer participants a chance to connect with WOLA’s experts and one another to learn about and discuss human rights issues facing the Americas in an intimate setting; allowing participants to meaningfully engage with WOLA in pressing for more humane, rights-respecting policies throughout the region.
Each event held through WOLA’s New York Event Series centers around a major theme of WOLA’s work or a timely human rights issue. In the past, themes have included:
  • Mexico: Behind the Headlines (May 2012)
  • A Post-Election Look at the “War on Drugs” (February 2013)
  • Immigration Reform: What Is and Isn’t Making the Media (July 2013)
  • A New Era in Human Rights: Shared Problems and Shared Solutions Across the Americas (December 2013)
  • A Conversation with David Smilde, Venezuela Expert (February 2014)
  • Private Reception with Ayotzinapa Group of Experts (May 2016)

About Our Community

The WOLA New York Event Series is hosted by the WOLA New York Council, a group of individuals who serve as leaders and ambassadors for WOLA’s mission in the New York area. Their bios are listed below.
To learn how to become a Partner’s Council Member, click here.

The WOLA New York Council

Steve Bennett

Steven J. Bennett
Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Brookings Institution

Steven J. Bennett is vice president and chief operating officer of Brookings. In this role, Mr. Bennett supervises the interaction between and among the Institution’s research programs, and between the research and non-research sides of Brookings, promoting collaboration and interdisciplinary work. He also oversees human resources, information technology, building operations and security, conference services and the Brookings library. He received his bachelor’s degree from Colgate University and a Masters in Public Policy from Georgetown University. Mr. Bennett is also the board chair of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).


Joel Campos

Joel Campos-Alvis
Senior Associate, Financial Institution Supervision Group, Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Joel Campos-Alvis is a Senior Associate in the Financial Institution Supervision Group at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY). He is a member of the Asset & Wealth Management (AWM) team, where he is responsible for evaluating the strategic direction of Credit Suisse’s and Goldman Sachs’ AWM divisions with a deep focus on all front office activities and identifying the internal/external vulnerabilities to which these strategies may expose the firm.

Before joining the AWM team, he worked at the FRBNY Liquidity & Funding Group, assessing the liquidity risks of Spanish, Italian, Belgian, and Irish banks in the US. Prior to joining the FRBNY, Mr. Campos-Alvis worked at JPMorgan Investment Bank, and JPMorgan Asset Management in New York City, where he held positions in Global Risk and Capital Advisory, respectively. He also held other roles at the Central Bank of Mexico (Banco de Mexico), BancoSol (Bolivia), the Inter-American Development Bank Private Sector Group, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Mr. Campos-Alvis is a member of the Board of Directors of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Mr. Campos-Alvis holds a B.A.—quadruple major, cum laude—from Portland State University (Oregon), and obtained his graduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University.


Oscar Chiock

Oscar Chiock
Vice President, East West Bank

Mr. Chiock is a Portfolio Manager in the Structured & Specialty Finance team at East West Bank, facilitating access to financing to lenders and asset purchasers operating in the commercial and consumer finance space. Previously, he spent several years as a relationship manager with the Non Profit Services Group at Citi, where he became deeply involved in understanding the issues and providing both advice and capital to organizations focused primarily in social services. His previous experiences include credit and underwriting roles in the Corporate and Commercial Bank as an associate at Citi and credit, underwriting and origination roles in the C&I and Agribusiness space with Peru’s Banco de Credito – BCP.

Mr. Chiock holds a Master in Business Administration from NYU’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business and a Licentiate in Economics from Universidad del Pacifico in Lima, Peru.


Lucy Mejer

Lucy Mejer
Group Account Director, The Bravo Group

Ms. Mejer is a fully bilingual and bi-cultural marketing specialist with 15+ years of experience in developing and leading effective communications programs for Fortune 500 companies. She possesses experience and in-depth knowledge across a broad spectrum of categories including CPG, Financial, Consumer Healthcare/OTC, Entertainment and Non-profit organizations.

She has specific interest in the U.S. Hispanic marketplace with regards to advertising and marketing.


Ethan MillerEthan Miller
Vice President of Finance, Nathan Cummings Foundation

Ethan Miller is a former Managing Director at GE Antares Capital, the sponsor finance group within GE Capital. Mr. Miller’s background includes 25 years in financial services, primarily in middle market lending. Throughout his career, Mr. Miller has worked in all aspects of the lending process including originating, structuring, underwriting, documenting, and closing transactions. He has led transaction teams, evaluated hundreds of financial statements and business plans, managed portfolio accounts and analyzed companies in a wide range of industries. Mr. Miller also has a passionate interest in nonprofits. Mr. Miller holds a Master of Management degree with Distinction from Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hobart College. He also sits on the Board of Directors at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).


Grant Priest

Grant Priest
Investment Specialist, Douglas Elliman

Grant Priest holds a BA from the University of Idaho, and became a real estate specialist in 2000. He grew up in the Pacific Northwest and enjoys outdoor activities, particularly skiing, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. He has years of experience in the advertising, direct response and internet marketing industries and has now been in the real estate business for over 15 years.


Robert Varenik

Robert Varenik
Director of Programs, the Open Society Justice Initiative

Robert O. Varenik serves as the director of programs for the Open Society Justice Initiative. Varenik was previously based in Mexico City with the Law Faculty of Mexico City’s CIDE (Center for Investigation and Economic Research), where he coordinated work on criminal justice and public security reform and directed the student clinic on juvenile sexual abuse and trafficking.

In Mexico, Varenik also designed and directed projects for the Institute for Security and Democracy (Instituto Para la Seguridad y la Democracia–Insyde) which he helped found in 2003. Since the late 1980s, Varenik’s work as a human rights lawyer has focused principally on criminal justice and judicial reform issues in Latin America and the Caribbean, Northern Ireland, Turkey, and Cambodia. For more than a decade, Varenik served the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now Human Rights First) in a variety of positions, including coordinator for Latin America and director of the protection program, aimed at assisting human rights activists and lawyers at risk. He is also on the Board of Directors at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).


George Vickers

George Vickers
Director of International Operations, Open Society Foundations (retired)

Until December of 2013, George R. Vickers oversaw the country and regional operations of the Open Society Foundations. From 2002 until July 2007, he served as the Foundations’ regional director for Latin America and senior policy analyst at the Open Society Policy Center. Vickers was Executive Director of WOLA from 1993 to 2001, and also served on the board of directors. Prior to joining WOLA he was Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York, and has written extensively on the dynamics of revolutionary movements, democratization processes in Latin America, civil-military relations, and U.S. military strategy. Vickers is currently co-chair of the Columbia University Seminar on Latin America and also a member of the board of directors of the East-West Management Institute.


Katti Wachs

Katti Wachs
HSE/ABE Instructor, LaGuardia Community College

Katti Wachs is a native New Yorker and a member of WOLA’s Board of Directors. She recently became both a GED instructor and a mother. Katti’s interest in Latin America began in college when she studied abroad in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Since graduating college, she has worked in a variety of social, legal, and educational positions. While researching her thesis for a Masters degree in Latin American Studies several years ago, Katti worked with one of WOLA’s colleague organizations in Argentina, CELS. Over the years, Katti has attended several of the WOLA workshops in New York City and Washington D.C., although her initial connection to WOLA was through her family’s fund, a longtime supporter of the organization.


John Gitlitz
Associate Professor, Purchase College

John Gitlitz is an Associate Professor at Purchase College in New York’s Social Science Division. He teaches classes on a variety of subjects, including international relations, human rights, and immigration. Mr. Gitlitz has lived in a number of countries in Latin America and, in 2013, he published a book on unofficial legal structures in rural Peru. He has written a number of articles on human rights in the Americas, and he has long worked as an activist on these issues. Mr. Gitlitz has also dedicated much of his free time to volunteer commitments. He served as an Advisory Board Member for Human Rights Watch Americas from 1990-2000, was the Chair of the Task Force on Human Rights and Academic Freedom for the Latin American Studies Association from 1992-1994, and is a Board Member and former Co-President of the Hispanic Research Center in Larchmont.