Our Leadership Team usually comprises of six to eight members from various academic and professional backgrounds and with specific talents and skill sets. Members make a two-year voluntary commitment to a specific role on the Leadership Team and provide mentorship to our interns and research fellows. 

If you’re interested in joining our Leadership Team please follow this link for more information about available positions and the application process. Thank You!

Denise Muro

Executive Director

Headshot of Denise MuroDenise Muro has been working with Refugees Welcome! since 2017 and moved into the role of Executive Director in 2018. She is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance in the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She has an M.A. in International Studies and a background doing research addressing social relations among resettled refugees and host communities. Denise has several years of experience working, advocating, and conducting research with asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants in Colorado, Wyoming, Massachusetts, and Germany. As Executive Director of Refugees Welcome!, she hopes to contribute to refugee and immigrant advancement and community-building in the Boston area.

Denise’s research interests and current projects include:

  • Refugee resettlement and integration
  • Community-building between newcomers and established residents
  • The securitization of migration and criminalization of immigrants and refugees
  • Strengthening service and advocacy networks

Alyssa Bacon

Director of Communications

Alyssa Bacon is currently the ESOL Program Coordinator at Action for Boston’s Community Development’s Parker Hill/Fenway location in Roxbury, MA. After graduating from Boston University with a Master’s in International Affairs, she spent a year serving as an AmeriCorps fellow providing citizenship services to clients at ABCD’s Jamaica Plain office where she  developed a passion for working in the immigrant services. She is dedicated to doing work that empowers the voices of Boston’s immigrant population.

Alyssa’s interests include:

  • Immigration law and policy
  • Expanding access to ESOL, job training, and other education opportunities for adult learners
  • Social justice for low income and immigrant communities

Kenneth Mukonyezi

Co-Director of Research

Kenneth Baiza Mukonyezi has over 10 years of experience in government and NGOs focused on security, peacebuilding, justice, and development work. Kenneth’s experience growing up in Uganda exposed him to tragedies resulting from conflicts, wars, and bad governance, which affected the lives of people and often caused displacements in his native country and region. He was a soldier under the Ugandan military until 2014, which enabled him to travel across the country and witness the peoples’ struggles. This shaped his pursuit for peace studies and developed deep passion to work within peacebuilding, justice, and development professions.

Kenneth holds a master’s degree in Conflict Transformation from the School of International Training, and a bachelor’s degree in Conflict Resolution from Kampala International University. His graduate inquiry examined the nature of assistance for refugees and asylum seekers in the U.S. with an eye toward how it can be improved, and explored the rights-based approach as a long-term solution that ensures well-being and empowerment to refugees and asylees after resettlement. Kenneth is a Refugees Welcome! Fresh Start Awardee and SIT Graduate Institute’s Global Scholars Award recipient. He currently works at the Unitarian Universalist Association, a faith-based organization, as a Gift Processing Specialist.

His research interests include:

  • Religion and conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • International security frameworks
  • Social movements
  • Refugee service delivery in host, transition, and resettlement countries
  • Migration, governance, and peacebuilding pathways in Africa

Courtney Maurer

Co-Director of Research

Headshot of Courtney Maurer“Courtney Maurer joined Refugees Welcome! as a Research Fellow in 2019 and transitioned to the role of Co-Director of Research. She received her M.A. in Global Studies with a concentration in Immigration Studies from Brandeis University. Courtney’s research focuses on immigrant and refugee integration in the United States and how various push and pull factors of immigration impact an individual’s ability to reach self-sufficiency. Courtney continuously advocates for immigrant communities in the greater Boston area. In addition to her current work within Refugees Welcome!, she was a communications intern for The Right to Immigration Institute and an ESL teacher at Watch CDC. As the Co-Director of Research for Refugees Welcome! Courtney is eager to advocate for refugee and immigrant advancement by providing current and factual data that highlights inequalities among immigrant and refugee populations while providing more effective policy approaches.

Courtney’s research interests include:

  • U.S. foreign aid programs
  • U.S. immigration policy
  • Access to education and employment for immigrants and refugees
  • Immigrant and refugee integration

Maia Materman

Director of Technology

headshot8_19Maia Materman is a Computer Science and Human Centered Design student at Olin College. She is passionate about exploring the intersection of technology and the public good, and focuses primarily on human rights. Maia came to Refugees Welcome! through her management of the Migrant Service Map as a volunteer at Code For Boston. She is interested in the ways in which technology can improve the lives of people with a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and abilities. Maia is excited to work with refugees, immigrants, and service providers to build technology which empowers them and makes their lives better.

Maia’s interests include:

  • Technology and social justice
  • Project management
  • Accessible design
  • Technology’s impact on equity

Elena Mora

Events Coordinator

Headshot of Elena MoraElena Mora earned her bachelor’s in International Relations from Boston University with a focus on foreign policy and security studies. After graduating she moved to the Chilean Patagonia to teach English as a volunteer for the English Opens Doors program. Since her return Elena has been working in event coordinating and plans to bring her skills to the organization by creating spaces where individuals can work together to promote the wellbeing of migrant communities. Having grown up in a migrant family, Elena is familiar with the hardships many families face and hopes her work will help improve the access and quality of resources available to the migrant community.

Elena’s interests include:

  • Connecting migrants to outdoor and recreational spaces
  • Translating and interpreting for Spanish speakers
  • Fair treatment of migrants in the workplace


-Advisory Team-


Johanna Norshus Tvedt

Research Advisor

Before co-founding Refugees Welcome!, Johanna Norshus Tvedt received her M.A. in International Studies from the University of San Francisco, where her thesis explored gender in international refugee law. She currently works at Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she is researching higher education in the U.S.

Her work promoting refugee and immigrant rights spans several years and multiple continents. In Norway, she worked for equal rights for minorities at the MiRA Resource Centre for Black, Immigrant and Refugee Women, where she managed an educational program, provided policy analysis, and co-authored a handbook on anti-discrimination work within the Child Welfare Services. She has also worked with immigrant and refugee rights organizations on the East- and West Coast of the U.S., and currently serves as a member of North Korea Refugee Aid’s advisory board.

Charla Burnett

Founding Director; Technology Advisor

Charla Burnett is the founder of two successful nonprofit organizations- Refugees Welcome! and the International Society for Participatory Mapping (ISPM). In 2019, Charla M. Burnett founded the OrganizingTogether Consultancy Group, a uniquely designed organizational development and research collective based on the principles of community, experiential learning, and participatory decision-making. The OrganizingTogether Foundation helps provide technical and fundraising support for community based projects that use technology to reduce poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation.

Charla is a community mediator who specializes in strategic planning and decision support technologies. She has helped coordinate advocacy campaigns for Sierra Club and Cambridge for Immigrant Rights, and developed strategic plans, M&E and theory of change for Jerusalem Peacebuilders, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and SeaSketch.


-Past Leadership Team Members-

Marina Gabriel
Communications and Capacity Building Teams

Jason McSparren
Research Team

Ryan Gilson
Grant Writing Team

Wilhemina Agbemakplido
Co-Founder and Director of Communications

Jessica Allen
Legal Affairs Executive

img_0338Ayman Nijim
Steering Committee Member