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Meet the Staff

Dr. John Forren
Executive Director


A native of Pataskala, Ohio, Dr. Forren holds a bachelor's degree with College Honors from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in political science from Johns Hopkins University. Before coming to Miami in 1997, he taught at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, East Carolina University and the College of William and Mary. He currently serves as an associate professor in Miami's Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and is a faculty affiliate of the Department of Political Science and the Department of Justice & Community Studies. He has served as the executive director of the University’s Menard Family Center for Democracy since its inception in 2019.

Dr. Forren's research and teaching interests lie in the fields of American government and politics, constitutional law and history, public policy-making and civic engagement. In that vein, he has published on a range of issues including the development of federal and state statutory protections for civil liberties, the use of media in political campaigns, state-level trends in civic participation, the impact of college-based civic engagement programs, the evolution of legal policy in the lower courts and the federal government’s role in protecting Native American religious liberties. He has also co-authored two of the National Conference on Citizenship's Ohio Civic Health Index Reports and served from 2013-15 as the Academic Director of the U.S. State Department’s Study of the U.S. Institutes on Civic Engagement at Miami University.

Dr. Anne Whitesell
Associate Director


Originally from Annapolis, Maryland, Dr. Whitesell received her B.A. in political science from Roanoke College. Prior to graduate school, she worked as a research assistant at the Urban Institute within its Income and Benefits Policy Center. In 2017, Dr. Whitesell earned a dual title Ph.D. in political science and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies from Pennsylvania State University. Prior to starting as an assistant professor of political science at Miami, she taught courses on public policy, gender and politics, and research methods at Penn State and Ohio Northern University.

Dr. Whitesell's research focuses on the relationship between political representation and public policy. In her work, she examines how individual citizens, advocacy organizations, and political parties represent the needs of marginalized groups within American society. Her research has been published in a variety of academic journals, including "Politics & Gender," "Interest Groups & Advocacy," "Policy Studies Journal" and "Politics, Groups, & Identities."

Maggie Simpson, '10


A native of Fairfield, Ohio, Ms.Simpson attended Trinity College (now Trinity Washington University) in Washington, DC, to study American History and Politics, where she was also an Undergraduate Research Assistant in International Affairs and a Congressional Intern. Prior to relocating back to Ohio, she worked at a non-profit law firm in Washington, DC that represented minors in the District of Columbia in cases pertaining to their adoption and guardianship, healthcare access, and educational rights. Following her interests in Media and Visual Culture, she enrolled in Miami Regionals’ Bachelor of Integrative Studies degree program, and was one of the program’s first graduates in 2010.

Ms. Simpson has worked at Miami since 2012 and spent several years working in Enrollment Operations at the Hamilton Campus; she also has worked in the Provost’s Office. She has been recognized for her work with the Miami Regionals’ Campus Impact Award and was named a recipient of a SOCHE (Strategic Ohio Council for Higher Education) Excellence Award in 2021. For her leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic, she received Miami’s Prodesse Quam Conspici Medal. Her research interests include gender and politics, as well as the use of marketing and media in comparative governments.  

Menard Family Center for Democracy

Oxford Campus
321 Harrison Hall
349 East High Street
Oxford, Ohio 45056