NLI Staff & Workshop Facilitators

Margo Hittleman, Co-founder and Coordinator, Natural Leaders Initiative (NLI). Margo is passionate about helping people and organizations strengthen their capacities to collectively build strong, inclusive, sustainable communities. This goal has guided her work with grassroots, human service and educational organizations in Tompkins County for over three decades. Margo has also taught at Cornell University and was the recipient of three teaching awards there. She has designed and led numerous educational and professional development workshops and curricula on leadership; staff and organizational development; diversity and inclusion; human rights; social and organizational change; alliance-building, university-community and school-community partnerships, participatory action research; and evaluation. She is a former Cornell Civil Leaders Fellow and is currently a Senior Fellow with the Dorothy Cotton Institute. Margo has written several professional development books and publications, including Winning Decisions: Getting It Right the First Time (Doubleday, 2002), and Counting Caring: Attending to the Human in an Age of Public Management (Cornell Cooperative Extensions, 2007). She lives in Lansing, NY where she and her partner have built a home-scale permaculture garden-farm and dance in the living room. Contact Margo at  (607) 272-2292 ext.167 or

Michele Jones, Natural Leaders Initiative (NLI) Educator. Michele comes from a family of community activists and leaders -- and continues that tradition through her own work. She was a founding member of the NAACP in Bellingham, WA and has worked in the areas of domestic violence prevention, anti-war and anti-nuclear campaigns, and adult literacy. She helped establish a farmer’s market in Raymond, WA, and was a Den mother for her son’s Boy Scout troop when he was younger. Born and raised in Queens, NY, she has lived in Colorado, California, Washington State, Virginia, and North Carolina. Now making her home in downtown Ithaca, Michele is on the GreenStar Community Projects Board of Directors, the Black Lives Matter Ithaca working group, and works in the polls on election days. She is a 2014 NLI Graduate. "As the NLI Educator,she says, "I get to help other people find their voices and gain the confidence and skills to be effective leaders in our community. This is so exciting for me, and I look forward to this journey."  Contact Michele at (607) 272-2292 x 167 or

Phoebe Brown, Founder, Women’s Healing: Mind Body and Spirit; Natural Leaders Initiative Graduate; Community Educator, Multicultural Resource Center.
A highly skilled community activist, advocate, and multicultural bridge builder, Phoebe brings her passion for community-building to everything she does and everyone she meets. She moved to Ithaca 21 years ago from Harlem, NY, where she grew up in a community of neighbors who supported each other through life’s joys and challenges. Currently an educator with the Multicultural Resource Center's new Re-Entry Program, Phoebe has also worked with Cayuga Medical Center, the Southside Community Center’s Black Women’s Empowerment Project, the Ithaca City School District, BOCES, the Crisis Hostel Project, and other local organizations, She is the founder and facilitator of Women’s Healing: Mind, Body and Spirit, which brings together women of all ages from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds to meet in a supportive environment. She is on the Board of Directors for GreenStar Community Projects and Bike/Walk Tompkins; and a member of the Steering Committees for Building Bridges and Get Your Green Back Tompkins. In 2013, she was selected as a Civic Leadership Fellow by Cornell University and received the Rere Sojourner Hassett Social Justice Award from the Multicultural Resource Center. She is a 2014 Graduate of the Natural Leaders Initiative. But her biggest achievement, she says, is that she is the mother of three and the grandmother of six. Contact Phoebe at (607) 272-2292 or


Margo Hittleman
Natural Leaders Initiative Coordinator
(607) 272-2292 ext.167

Last updated September 14, 2016