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.
Alice Dreger, Founder
Alice founded ELi in 2014. In addition to leading the organization until her current sabbatical, she also 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 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 third book, Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Truth (Penguin, 2015), named a New York Times Editor’s Choice.
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. Somehow she does this part-time for us while also working full-time as a public health consultant for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The mother of two sons (one now in ELHS, one in college), Jodi is known around East Lansing for her volunteer leadership in East Lansing schools, particularly in relation to the water polo teams.
Morgan Lees, Tech Manager
Morgan created our new website (.news) based on the Largo theme from INN Labs, 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 freelance illustrator and writer – 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 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.
Heather Brothers, Staff Editor and Social Media Manager
Heather Brothers is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on Catholic women in postwar Germany. Previously, she worked as a teaching assistant at MSU while dabbling in jobs at the Office for Education Abroad and the MSU Museum.
Heather has been a Michigan resident her entire life, completing her B.A. and M.A. at Oakland University while residing in metro Detroit. She’s been with ELi since September 2020 and reports regularly on the Arts Commission and Study Committee on an Independent Police Oversight Commission.
When she’s not working on her dissertation, Heather’s an ardent consumer of popular culture and reader of horror fiction.
Al Hargrave Jackson, Reporter
Al loves to be active outside when she isn’t in her pottery studio or trying to write poetry. She just moved to Michigan from Oregon where she mountain biked and skied. She is happy to continue her other outdoor pursuits here around East Lansing, like birding, cycling, and van camping with her partner and their cat. She 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, has informed her desire to pursue a law degree in the coming years. She loves community and plans to focus on public policy in order to fight for equality and for the environment. Al previously reported for ELi as Al Hargrave.
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!
Clay Oppenhuizen, Reporter
Clay Oppenhuizen is a native Michiganian who grew up in Grand Haven. He received dual B.A.s in Sociology and History at Bowling Green State University before attending an M.A. program at University of Chicago. In 2017, after years of teaching abroad in Spain, Clay began his PhD at Michigan State University. Due to the pandemic and myriad factors he decided to depart with as an ABD with master’s degree. His thesis research had focused on local and clandestine media in Chile in the late twentieth century. His passion of journalism began as an academic interest during his M.A. and Ph.D. experiences but has grown much since becoming a reporter. He also works as a Spanish editor and translator for WKAR. In his personal life, Clay enjoys gardening (growing tomatoes and hot peppers as well as herbs), hiking, reading nonfiction, and going on adventures with his wife and twins.
Gary Caldwell, Photojournalist
Gary has been working with ELi since 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 regularly attends public meetings to capture for ELi’s reader the feel of the decision-making processes in our City government and public schools. He also does drone photography for ELi, providing aerial images of development project sites, public parks, and more. The work of his company, Gary Caldwell Productions, can be found on Instagram.
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, Government Editor and Reporter
Chris reports on Government (and sometimes gardening) for ELi and also helps edit our Government reporting. She was recently 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 economic development and financial issues in East Lansing, gardening, and spending time with family.
Nathan Andrus, Chief Data Analyst/Reporter
Nathan Andrus is ELi’s chief data reporter, frequently taking complex Freedom of Information Act requests and government materials and turning them into comprehensive reports and graphics for our readers. Until October 2020, he worked behind the scenes with us, including on reporting about City expenditures and Covid-19. Then we dragged him into the daylight so he could get full credit for his great work. A native of west Michigan, Nathan works part-time for ELi and full-time running Michigan’s largest regional real estate database, serving thousands of realtors and their clients. In his rare spare time, you can find him traveling the country exploring museums or around East Lansing enjoying a giant cup of coffee.
Ann Kammerer, Features Writer
Ann Kammerer regularly reports on local people for ELi’s readers. Her personalized portraits of folks around town tell us about good people doing good work. Ann says, “I’m fascinated by people who make a difference through their work, art and everyday kindness.” In 2016, she reported on a musical composition by Billy Childs designed to promote human rights awareness, and since then she has written about teacher Conni Crittenden, Officer Steve Whelan, recycler Drew Choma, a mobile health clinic, the Firecracker Foundation, and much more. In 2018, she did a special series for us on ELHS alum and their advice to the graduating class and in 2020 she took up the “Little Local Joys” series for us during the pandemic stay-at-home order.
Alex Hosey, Reporter
Alex is known for his leadership in civil rights in East Lansing and beyond. An Honor Roll student-athlete at East Lansing High School, Alex sparked a city-wide conversation that led to a formal acknowledgment by the City Council of East Lansing’s history of racist housing discrimination. Since that time, Alex has worked to change Michigan school curricula to include more meaningful material about the history of Black people, including the history of inequities and inequalities. Alex’s public speaking has included events hosted by the NAACP, MSU, Rotary Club, and the Obama Foundation. His many honors include having been named “Athlete of the Week” by ESPN’s “The Undefeated” and “Peacemaker of the Year” by the Peace Education Center of East Lansing. A graduate of ELi’s Summer Youth Journalism Program and a member of our Community Advisory Board, Alex works as a general reporter for ELi.
Amalia Medina, Reporter
Amalia has been writing for ELi since the summer of 2018, when she completed ELi’s Youth Summer Journalism Program. Amalia mainly writes feature stories about events and people in the East Lansing community, bringing forward the human experience here, although she sometimes covers government news with us. Outside of writing for ELi, Amalia is a student at MSU majoring in journalism. She also is a member of MSU’s residential James Madison College, where she is majoring in Comparative Cultures and Politics. When she’s not writing or studying, Amalia loves listening to music, creating art, and being outside.
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 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.
Jack Timothy Harrison, Reporter
Jack Timothy Harrison is from Ann Arbor, Michigan. and is a sophomore at Michigan State University studying Journalism, Public Relations, and Public Policy & Political Theory in James Madison College. Jack also currently writes for the Spartan Newsroom at MSU and previously managed a publication to 7,000 about youth involvement in politics. Jack’s journalistic interests include public affairs reporting and feature writing. Jack became interested in journalism in high school when he helped re-establish his high school’s newspaper, the Huron Emery. During Jack’s senior year of high school he won the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association’s (MIPA) best news writer and reporter in Michigan. Outside of journalism, Jack enjoys staying active on campus, watching sports and spending time outdoors, particularly on the golf course.
Cody Harrell, Director of ELi’s Summer Youth Journalism Program
As Director of ELi’s Summer Youth Journalism Program, Cody has developed and led both our “introductory” and “advanced” classes since the 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 four years of teaching, the 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. In his free time, he sings and travels in an internationally-competitive barbershop quartet and chorus.