MEI logo.jpg
Meet Team MEI

Fast Facts:

  • not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization

  • originated in 2009 and founded as a nonprofit in July 2013

  • received 501(c)(3) status in May 2014

  • based in northwest Arkansas where the largest concentration of Marshallese in the continental United States reside (more than 12,000 residents)

  • first Marshallese-focused nonprofit formally established in Arkansas 

  • staff are made up of Marshallese, Americans, and Marshallese-Americans

  • opened the Marshallese Resource and Educational Center (MREC) in Oct. 2018

Our Mission:  Through educational programming, MEI promotes the cultural, intellectual, and historical awareness of the Marshallese people and facilitates intercultural dialogue to foster positive social change.

Full-Time Staff

Carlnis Jerry

Program Director 

Richard Laraya 

Media Specialist & Office Manager

Winona Kisino

Women's Program Coordinator, 

Climate Ambassador                  

Part-Time Staff

Benetick Kabua Maddison

Project Specialist, Climate and Nuclear Issues, and Education

Christopher Balos, Climate Ambassador

Marcina Langrine

Program Coordinator, Education

and Census 2020

Rotha Mejbon-Samuel

Interpreter, Community Outreach


Kristina Stege, International Liaison and Cultural Advisor

MEI Board of Directors

April L. Brown, Ph.D.

Chris Jacob

Wana Bing

Sevin Gallo, Ph.D.

Jessica A. Schwartz, Ph.D., Cofounder and Academic Advisor

Not pictured, Sharlynn Uluitavuki, UAMS Community Health Worker, FDSME-RMI

Carmen Chong Gum, Translator

Mandy Ritok, Translator

Institutional History


MEI was cofounded by Dr. Jessica A. Schwartz (N.Y.U. 2012), Assistant Prof. of Musicology at UCLA, and Dr. April L. Brown (U.A. 2006), Professor of History at NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, Arkansas, in July 2013. Schwartz and Brown are humanities scholars and specialists in interdisciplinary higher education. Jessica spent two years in the RMI 2008-2009 conducting fieldwork, where the idea of an intercultural organization was hatched between Jessica and Johnny Johnson. She has been working with community members in northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri since 2010. April is a long time proponent of international education and, as NWACC’s Honors Director 2008-2014, she founded and directed the global themed semester hosted at NWACC in collaboration with Service Learning Director, Dr. Chris Huggard. The focus of the spring 2013 themed semester: the Marshall Islands.

The themed semester, which consisted of joint Marshallese and non-Marshallese community events, brought many of MEI's current team members together for the first time. The semester's premier event: Nuclear Victims and Survivors' Remembrance Day, held at NWACC on Feb. 28, 2013, was coordinated by then-

Jessica Schwartz, Faith Jibas, Carmen Chong-Gum, Chris Huggard, and April Brown pose for a photo on Feb. 28, 2013 at NWACC, following Nuclear Victims and Survivors' Remembrance Day. (Photo provided by Lou Lo)

Consul General Carmen Chong Gum and Brown with the assistance of local Marshallese leaders. The intercultural dialogue that resulted from the event was what had been envisioned by Schwartz and Johnson in the RMI in 2009, and would become the basis of MEI's founding. Schwartz, who was a featured speaker, and Brown and Faith Laukon Jibas, who co-emceed the commemorative event, began collaborating early that summer on how to create future educational events to bring Marshallese and non-Marshallese communities together in a safe, educational space.

Since then, MEI has hosted several nuclear remembrance events, including Nuclear Remembrance Day 2014: Reflect. Honor. Educate., held at the Clinton Presidential Center. MEI's International Liaison, Tina Stege, emceed the event, which included speeches by Rongelap Senator Kenneth Kedi, Ambassador Charles Paul, and Law Professor Michael Gerrard, and cultural performances by the Bikinians and Rongelapese. The work of Bikini Councilman Nixon Jibas and Faith Jibas, and their outreach to the Bikinian and Rongelapese communities in the region, were essential to NRD's success, as was the work of Albious Latior, Sharlyn Lang, Terry Takamaru, and Benetick Maddison, who also spoke at the event. MEI also collaborated with RMI nonprofit, REACH-MI, and the Oregon Marshallese Community to host the Salem Nuclear Summit in 2016.


MEI has also developed humanities-based programming, which includes the ongoing Marshallese Oral History Project (MOHP) and Digital Music Archive - MEI's first project - and one that was awarded a major grant by the Arkansas Humanities Council / National Endowment for Humanities in October 2013. The organization's work to raise educational attainment levels among Marshallese community members was given a boost in 2016 with a grant from Tyson Foods. MEI offered the first local culture and language classes, hosted MyED (Marshallese Youth Empowerment Day), a Back 2 School event, and a mentoring program at Hellstern Middle School.


In the summer 2017, MEI was awarded a grant through the Office of Insular Affairs to expand our cultural and language text and develop an online component, to develop curriculum for middle schools, and to create public service videos to help newcomers navigate life in Arkansas and the US. In 2018 MEI was awarded two major grants: one from OIA to open the country's first Marshallese Resource and Educational Center, and a second through the Arkansas DFA and Dept. of Justice to provide culturally appropriate training and outreach for female survivors of violence; both grants were renewed for 2019-2020. MEI is also engaged in Get Out the Count efforts with Census 2020 and has received funding from EPIC and AR Counts toward those efforts. We continue our outreach efforts with both Marshallese and non-Marshallese community members, and continue work in the area of education through the Marshallese Youth Academy and Manit Camp (summer 2020).


Work by MEI staff and board members, our community partners, and support from granting agencies and private funders ensures that MEI will continue to serve the community and fulfill our mission. 

International Liaison Tina Stege leads a Q&A during a Nuclear Forum in Salem, Oregon, May 2016. MEI hosted the event with partners, REACH-MI and the Oregon Marshallese Community. (MEI Photo)

MEI Programming & Activities Photo Gallery
Neisen Laukon speaking at Conference

Neisen Laukon speaking at Techno-Utopianism & the Fate of the Earth symposium, New York City, 2014

April and Albious at AAAJ Conference

April and Albious pose with Kathy Chin and Moua Lee at the Asian Americans Advancing Justice Conference in Washington, DC in 2014.

Distributing veggies

Manit Club members help distribute veggies provided by Seeds that Feed, a local nonprofit that provides surplus fresh veggies to the public for free. (MEI Photo)

President Photo

Language and Culture Class

Benetick Kabua Maddison teaches language during our 6 hour short course on Marshallese culture and language in Springdale, 2016.

Chris Balos

FBI Citizen's Academy

Faith graduates from the FBI Citizen's Academy pictured with her dauther Maria, the FBI Director of the Little Rock Bureau, Consul-General Carmen Chong Gum, and April. (MEI Photo)

Nuclear Conf JAS 02

NRD Little Rock 2014

Consul General Carmen Chong Gum speaks during Nuclear Remembrance Day 2014 hosted by MEI at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. (MEI Photo)

Rongelapese women sing

Women from Rongelap Atoll sing during Nuclear Remembrance Day at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, 2014. (MEI Photo)

Neisen Laukon and Jonitha

Neisen Laukon and her cousin, Johnitha, during NRD 2014, Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, AR.

Jessica, Claudia, and April at NRD

Claudia Kurcher presents Jessica and April with plaques at Nuclear Remembrance Day 2014 at the Clinton Library in Little Rock. (MEI Photo)

Tina Stege at NRD

Tina Stege speaks at NRD 2014 at the Clinton Library in Little Rock, 2014.

Tina moderating at Nuclear Summit

Tina Stege, foreground, moderates discussion at the Nuclear Summit in Salem, Oregon, in May 2016. (REACH-MI Photo)

Salem Nuclear Summit

Group photo at the Nuclear Summit in Salem, Oregon, May 2016

Nixon, Benetick, and April in Salem

Team members pose for a photo at the Salem Nuclear Summit, co-hosted by MEI in May 2016. (MEI Photo)

Native American Forum

Faith, Nixon, and Jessica speak during a Native American Nuclear Forum at UNLV in October 2016. MEI is working with indigenous communities also affected by nuclear contamination. (MEI Photo)

Marshallese students at UA

MEI worked with the Springdale ESL office to coordinate a campus visit by Marshallese juniors and seniors to the University of Arkansas campus in April, 2016. (MEI Photo)

FAFSA application

Former Assistant to the Executive Director, Albious Latior, right, helps a student fill out his FAFSA for college, 2013. (MEI Photo)

Hellstern MS at NWACC

Hellstern Middle School students who participated in the mentorship program and their teachers pose for a photo with Dr. Brown at NWACC before a tour in Dec. 2016. (MEI Photo)

Marcina Langrine at Hellstern

Marcina Langrine, left, works with a Marshallese student at Hellstern Middle School as part of the mentorship program. (MEI Program)

Faith on Panel at NWACC

MEI Executive Director Faith Laukon Jibas, far right, participates on a panel at a community forum hosted by EngageNWA at NWACC.

April at Community Forum

Dr. April Brown facilitates a story circle during a community forum hosted by EngageNWA at NWACC in Bentonville in November 2016.

Manit Club members represent

Members of the Manit Club represent and provide information about recycling at a table during Jemenei Day festivities in Springdale, May 2016.

MEI Participates at Welcoming week

Faith, Benetick Kabua Maddison, and JociAnna Chong Gum pose at the MEI booth during the Cisneros Center's Welcoming Week in downtown Springdale, 2015.

Photos copyrighted. Do not reproduce 

without written permission from MEI.

©2020 by Marshallese Educational Initiative


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614 E. Emma Ave., Suite 203

Springdale, AR 72764

United States