ELi is a community project that since its inception in 2014 has benefited from the labor of literally hundreds of people in and around East Lansing! Here is a look at the folks who currently work regularly for this public news service.
Beth Peck, Executive Director & Publisher
Beth Peck became ELi’s Executive Director and Publisher in May 2023 following an open search and a unanimous and enthusiastic vote of ELi’s Board of Directors in favor of her appointment. Peck graduated from Michigan State University in 2004 with a degree in journalism and a specialization in public relations. Her career has included work in marketing, fundraising, and nonprofit management. She has been a regional director of development for MSU and, before that, an assistant director of development for Eastern Michigan University’s foundation. More recently, since 2018, she has served as the Executive Director for Project Koru, which provides peer-to-peer support for young adult cancer survivors. Peck is raising three children, all of whom currently attend East Lansing Public Schools, and her family lives in East Lansing’s Brookfield Heritage Neighborhood.
Julie Seraphinoff, Managing Editor
Julie took the reins of ELi’s content in September 2022 and has been doing an extraordinary job keeping ELi’s reporting at the highest of standards. Julie joins ELi as a capstone to a long career in journalism and journalism education. She recently retired from a 25-year career as a teacher at Haslett High School where she educated young adults about the power of the First Amendment, the importance of professional and ethical journalism, and the critical role of independent news reporting in democracy. Her work in Haslett was recognized by the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, the Journalism Education Association, the National Scholastic Press Association and Columbia Scholastic Press Association. A resident of East Lansing’s Bailey neighborhood, Julie holds a degree in Journalism from Michigan State University along with Secondary Teaching Credential from MSU with a major in Journalism and a minor in English. She has worked at the Lansing State Journal, California Delta Newspapers, the Contra Costa Times (in Walnut Creek, Calif.), and the Portland Review and Observer in Portland, Mich. In her free time, she sails, and working with her, we’ve learned she likes her coffee strong.
Luke Day, City Desk Editor
Luke comes to ELi with a recent bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University. A native of northern Michigan, he also holds an associate of arts degree from Northern Central Michigan College. At ELi, he oversees our governmental reporting but he also does reporting himself, taking on stories that involve careful investigative work. Having been a beat reporter for The State News, Luke has a strong understanding of local government and town-gown relations. Prior to joining ELi, he also worked for The Graphic/Petoskey News-Review, Great Lakes Echo and The St. Ignace News and he interned with the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness. Luke is currently broadening his education and skills by earning a master’s of social work degree from MSU. His long-term professional interests fall in the areas of investigative journalism, particularly with regard to issues of justice. Luke lives in the Bailey neighborhood of East Lansing.
Jodi Spicer, General Manager
“Team work makes the dream work!” That’s what Jodi cheerily reminds us every time she catches and corrects some error we have made. At ELi, Jodi oversees bookkeeping and payroll, prepares our weekly newsletter, and expertly manages our fundraising campaigns. (Other local news organizations around the country have tried to hire Jodi away from us, but we will never let her go!) She does her part-time management work for ELi while also working full-time at a state-level job. The mother of two adult sons, Jodi has been known around East Lansing for her volunteer leadership in the East Lansing schools, particularly in relation to the water polo teams.
Al Hargrave Jackson, Development Director
Now a law student at Michigan State University, Al loves to be active outside when she isn’t in her pottery studio or trying to write poetry. She moved to Michigan from Oregon where she mountain biked and skied and has continued her love of the outdoors in our Great Lakes state. Al has a degree in Business Management from Texas A&M University where she became involved in rock climbing and teaching yoga at the school’s recreation center. After college, she worked for a construction company near her home town and helped start and direct a nonprofit foundation created to assist the surrounding community. Her work with nonprofits, whether at the foundation she started, as a board member for a homeless clinic in Fort Worth, or blog writing for the Red Cross, informed her desire to pursue a law degree. She loves community and plans to focus on public policy in order to fight for equality and for the environment. Al started as a reporter for ELi (first under the byline Al Hargrave) and now sometimes still reports but chiefly works with our donors and grantors to keep ELi sustainable.
Morgan Lees, Tech Manager
Morgan created our new website (.news), and they now manage the ongoing design and maintenance of the ELi website. If everything is going right with the site, they should be invisible, and that’s how they like it. Morgan is a comic creator, writer, and artist – when not wrangling websites – who grew up in and still resides in East Lansing (along with family and cats). They were involved with All-of-us Express Children’s Theatre from a young age, directed six shows for the company, and served four terms on the AECT Board including two years as President and one year as Secretary. In their spare time, Morgan reads, plays computer and roleplaying games, dabbles in photography, karts and races in iRacing, and enjoys getting outdoors.
Lisa Lees, Tech Manager
Since ELi began its nonprofit public service in 2014, Lisa has provided what the editorial team considers lifesaving technical support for ELi’s web hosting and its content management system. Lisa moved to Michigan in 1977 to teach computer science at UM-Flint, and has since lived and worked in Ann Arbor, Lansing and East Lansing. Like most techies, Lisa had many jobs and job titles as computers evolved from room-filling, card-eating monsters to hand-held communicators, including a dozen years doing various things with various computers at MSU. Retired and with nothing but spare time on her hands, Lisa now lives with her two imaginary muses, surrounded by anime, books and comics (many in French or Japanese), board games, Playstation games and a variety of music.
Alice Dreger, Founder and Reporter
Alice founded ELi in 2014. These days, she chiefly produces general Government reporting and special investigative reporting for ELi. She has lived in East Lansing longer than any other place in her life, but as the putative holder of the record for most FOIA requests made to the City of East Lansing, you can tell she’s a native New Yorker. Her national bylines include the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, WIRED Magazine, and The Atlantic. Among other honors, she has received the Heterodox Academy’s inaugural Courage Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship for her book, Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Truth (Penguin, 2015), named a New York Times Editor’s Choice. She lives in the Oakwood Historic Neighborhood near Valley Court Park.
Dustin DuFort Petty, Reporter
Dustin moved to East Lansing in 2003 to study at Michigan State University. He has earned two degrees there, a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture & Natural Resources Communications and a master’s in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education. An academic advisor for the Bailey Scholars Program at MSU, he has also co-authored two books, Michigan FFA: A Legacy of Great Lakes Leadership and The New Bullying, the latter being named a National Finalist in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence competition. He is researching for a new book about the queer post-war history of MSU and the greater Lansing area. He is an avid baker, genealogist, vintage Pyrex collector, and volunteer in his spare time. At ELi, he is reporting on many areas of interest to our readers, including schools, local government, and faith communities.
Mya Gregory, Reporter
Mya Gregory joined the ELi reporting team in Spring 2023 and works for us as a general assignment reporter. She is currently a student at Michigan State University double-majoring in intercultural communications and journalism with a focus in sports journalism. With a plan to graduate in 2024, Mya is also minoring in Spanish although she is already fluent in that second language, having been schooled in Spanish immersion programs since early childhood. She tells us, “I am interested in sports journalism, mainly basketball, as I have grown up loving sports my entire life and watching sports constantly with my dad.”
Sarah Spohn, Arts & Cultures Reporter
Sarah is a little bit of a rock ‘n’ roll rebel, almost always at a concert (when there isn’t a pandemic going on). With degrees in Journalism and Professional Communications, at ELi Sarah reports on a variety of arts and cultures topics, from video game tournaments to small business features to poetry slams. She loves to soak up the local scene at boutiques, libraries, diners, and record stores. She still buys CDs and borrows music documentaries from the library. Just don’t call her a hipster. (She says she’s never been that stylish.) The editorial team loves assigning Sarah a story because we know she’s going to make us feel like we are personally talking with the people she has interviewed. And we love that she’s always up for an adventure!
Gary Caldwell, Photojournalist
Gary started working with ELi in 2019 but his love of photography stretches back to when he first started working with cameras in the second grade. In addition to shooting portraits and local scenes for ELi, Gary sometimes attends public meetings to capture for ELi’s reader the feel of the decision-making processes in our City government and public schools. He has also done drone photography for ELi, providing aerial images of development project sites, public parks, and more. More information about his company, Gary Caldwell Productions, can be found here.
Dylan Lees, Photojournalist
Dylan started working with ELi in mid-2021, returning to the field of documentary photography for the first time since he concluded his longtime tenure as the official show photographer for All-of-us Express Children’s Theater in 2014. Although he started his photographic career in the theater, Dylan’s primary calling is landscape photography. He sells his work online through the one-man outfit of Dylan Lees Photography, and when there isn’t a pandemic ongoing he can be found at art festivals throughout lower Michigan. Other interests include attempting to break into the epic fantasy scene as a new author, gaming of all types, racing electric karts, and playing with his cats.
Chris Root, Editor and Reporter
An ELi veteran, Chris has reported on Government (and sometimes gardening) for ELi and also sometimes helps edit our Government reporting. In 2021, she was named a member of East Lansing’s Study Committee on an Independent Police Oversight Commission by City Council. By way of background: Chris registered as a lobbyist at the age of 18, when she began working on anti-apartheid and southern Africa issues for a church- and union-sponsored non-profit, the Washington Office on Africa. After moving to East Lansing, Chris provided staff support for the Democratic caucus of the Michigan House of Representatives on a bill to divest state public employee pension funds from companies operating in South Africa. Chris continues her focus on this movement by helping to build the Africa Activist Archive Project. Holding bachelors and masters degrees in Economics from American University, Chris worked at MSU for 15 years helping faculty obtain grants. She now devotes a lot of her time to monitoring policing, economic development, and financial issues in East Lansing, gardening, and spending time with family.
Adan Tomas Quan, Reporter
Adan Quan is a student at East Lansing High School, and is in the class of 2023. He was a participant in ELi’s Summer Youth Journalism Program in 2020 and also edits and writes for the ELHS student newspaper, Portrait. Adan is involved in the ELHS band program, where he plays the flute in the ELHS Wind Ensemble and piccolo in the marching band. Since completing the Summer Youth Journalism Program, Adan has reported for ELi on a variety of topics, including happenings at ELHS and community outreach and support events in East Lansing.
Cody Harrell, Director of Educational Programs
As Director of ELi’s Summer Youth Journalism Program and our adult educational programming, Cody helps teach newbies how to reach our high standards. He has developed and led both our “introductory” and “advanced” classes since the youth program’s inception in 2017. After graduating from Michigan State University in 2015, he assumed the role of journalism and English teacher at East Lansing High School, where he currently advises the Ceniad yearbook and Portrait newspaper. In his years of teaching, those programs have collected over a hundred state interscholastic press awards and have been featured in national publications that highlight outstanding journalism programs around the country. He also serves as a trustee of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association (MIPA) executive board and serves the press association as a summer workshop instructor, one-day workshop instructor and conference speaker. He loves journalism education so much, he’s tattooed himself for it. In his free time, he sings and travels in an internationally-competitive barbershop quartet and chorus.