Nicole Neily is the president of Speech First. Nicole grew up passionate about civil liberties thanks to her family history; her grandparents, both Japanese-American citizens born in California, met in the Manzanar War Relocation Center during WWII. In college, Nicole joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) student group and passed out “know your rights” cards to over 8,000 sorority members while serving as vice president of risk management for the University of Illinois’ Panhellenic Council, the largest Greek system in the country at the time.
Nicole’s commitment to First Amendment protections was strengthened while serving as the president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, an investigative journalism nonprofit focused on highlighting abuses of power, cronyism, and government overreach in the states. Watchdog journalists frequently uncovered misdeeds in various universities across the country – including the cronyism scandal at the University of Texas that led to the departure of powerful university president Bill Powers. Through tenacity, shoe leather, and countless Freedom of Information Act requests, reporters worked to hold Ivory Tower administrators (and others) accountable.
Nicole has also worked in the private sector as a senior vice president at Dezenhall Resources, a DC-based communications firm; as executive director and senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum; as manager of external relations for the Cato Institute; and as director of research analysis for the Winston Group, a public opinion and message design firm.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Illinois, and a master’s of public policy from Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy. Originally from the Chicago suburbs, she now lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Clark and two children.
Cherise Trump is the Executive Director of Speech First. Before joining Speech First she worked at the Heritage Foundation as the Associate Director of Coalition Relations focusing on defense policy, foreign policy, and immigration reform issues. Previously, Cherise worked at The Alexander Hamilton Society (AHS) as the Program Manager. While at AHS she managed their national network of university and professional chapters which focused on bringing speakers to campus to debate professors on foreign policy issues. She also ran the annual AHS conferences and fellowships, mentored the alumni and developed young professional programs in Washington, DC.
Over the past years Cherise has participated in a number of fellowships, while also leading and moderating many debates and discussions on key policy issues. Trump is a 2018 George C. Marshall Fellow of the Heritage Foundation, a 2017 Claremont Institute Publius Fellow, and has participated in numerous fellowships hosted by the Hertog Foundation. Cherise completed her MA in Security Studies at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service where she was a 2019 Donald Rumsfeld Graduate Fellow and has a BA in Government and International Politics from George Mason University.