Jen was born and raised in the United States. Her interest in migration issues started early in life – some of her earliest childhood memories are her family’s hosting of refugees from Vietnam and Palestine in their home. Jen eventually grew wings and ventured out into the world as an exchange student in high school and university, as a graduate research fellow in Hungary, and eventually moving to Russia, then Prague, then Germany for work, for life, for love.
In 2014 Jen was deported from Russia on political grounds after 11 years of life and work there. She lost her home, her family life fell apart, she had to start over. Her ongoing work with Russian human rights defenders and the emigre and refugee community, coupled with her own experience and life challenges inspired her to start Phoenix Project with Michael Goecken, to recognise and celebrate the resilience and skills of those who by no fault of their own, were forced to leave all that was dear behind them and start over.
Jen has a background in human rights, philanthropic advising, fundraising, program development and evaluation. Her academic background is in international affairs and organisational management, but her real education comes from life and learning from those around her. She now lives in Potsdam, Germany, and is the director for special programs at the CEELI Institute in Prague, Czech Republic where she manages a portfolio of programs for Russian civil society activists including an emergency shelter, respite and fellowship program, continuing education programs for Russian defense attorneys, and an advocacy project for EU visa reform for human rights defenders.