Libertas Institute Staff

Connor Boyack, President
Connor Boyack founded Libertas Institute in 2011 and serves as its president. Named one of Utah’s most politically influential people by The Salt Lake Tribune, Connor’s leadership has led to dozens of legislative victories spanning a wide range of areas such as privacy, government transparency, property rights, drug policy, education, personal freedom, and more. A public speaker and author of over 30 books, he is best known for The Tuttle Twins books, a children’s series introducing young readers to economic, political, and civic principles. A California native and Brigham Young University graduate, Connor lives in Lehi, Utah, with his wife and two children.
Michael Melendez, Executive Vice President
Michael oversees Libertas’ policy operations, including policy analysis, government affairs, and organizational strategy. Prior to joining Libertas he was a legislative aide for a Utah state senator and the state government affairs manager for Waterford Institute, a digital education non-profit. Michael has also managed and worked on dozens of campaigns around the country, which included directing the Trafalgar Group’s nationally recognized polling operations in 2016.
Jen Maffessanti, Director of Communications
After staying home with her twin sons for seven years, Jen decided to bend her lifelong enthusiasm for storytelling toward sharing the message of liberty. Her writing has been translated into six languages as well as republished and cited in a number of publications, including The Epoch Times, The Guardian, Vox, and Newsweek. When she’s not reading, writing, or talking about the global benefits of freedom, she can usually be found cooking, racing cars, or geeking out about pop culture.
Nichelle Aiden, Media Director
Nichelle’s diverse background includes acting, directing, writing, and journalism. In short, she is a storyteller, and uses her media experience to help Utahns understand the personal impact of public policies—how government overreach can negatively impact families, and how liberty can unleash personal growth and a meaningful pursuit of happiness.
Molly Davis, Criminal Justice Policy Analyst
Molly is a policy analyst specializing in criminal justice. She is a senior contributor for Young Voices Advocates and a recipient of their 2019 award for excellence in advocacy. She is also a contributor to The Federalist. Molly’s writing has appeared in various news outlets including The Hill, Wired, Orange County Register, Washington Examiner, Salt Lake Tribune, and more. She graduated magna cum laude with a BA in political science and communication studies from Rocky Mountain College. Molly is also an alumna of the Charles Koch Institute’s fellowship program, and internship program.
Leslie Corbly, Privacy Policy Analyst
Leslie Corbly is a policy analyst specializing in privacy. Her background is in journalism, law, and policy. Her passion for advancing the rule of law and the sovereignty of the individual led her to join the national legal network for the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), an organization that champions individual rights. Leslie graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in Journalism and a minor in Constitutional Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and obtained a JD from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. When not at work, Leslie enjoys spending quality time with her husband, Timothy, their pets, and a wide array of leisure activities from CrossFit and hiking, to reading, writing, and painting. Always eager to live a more enriching life, she has recently picked up learning the piano and classical guitar.
Lee Sands, Local Government Policy Analyst
Lee has had a lifelong passion for research, writing, entrepreneurism, local government, and building relationships with people from all walks of life. Before joining Libertas, Lee worked as a technical writer, covered tech and local events as a journalist, developed websites, launched a Kickstarter campaign, and helped businesses create budgets and integrate accounting and other systems. A native of rural northeast Florida, Lee moved to Provo, Utah in 2004. Since graduating from BYU and attending the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Lee has started a family, become increasingly active in local politics as a volunteer, and now joins Libertas to be a resource for elected officials and the general public. Lee enjoys camping, fishing, Jeeping, history, and all things creative and analytical.
Jon England, Education Policy Analyst
Jon taught fifth and sixth grade and served as an elementary principal in Weber School District for the last 14 years. As a teacher, he received Weber’s E+ Team award. Prior to his career in education, Jon was in the Marine Corps Reserves from 1998-2006 separating as a sergeant from C Company at Camp Williams in Utah. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah in elementary education and a master’s degree from Western Governors University in Educational Leadership. Jon enjoys spending time with his wife and five children traveling, skiing and playing games.
Rees Empey, Director of State Government Affairs
Rees was born in Utah and raised in Missouri. Before joining Libertas, he was a Criminal Justice Associate with the Utah Justice Coalition. Rees earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Utah State University. While pursuing his degree, he interned with the Utah State Legislature, the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, exit polled for the 2016 election, and studied abroad in China. Aside from engaging in politics, Rees enjoys fishing, hiking, traveling, and reading.
Catherine Hess, Director of Development
Catherine Hess was born and raised in Orem, Utah. A people person and relationship builder at heart, she has over 20 years of experience serving in leadership positions in a variety of community, corporate, and charitable organizations. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a degree in Human Development and Psychology. Catherine is committed to contributing to the wellness and happiness of Utahns. She is a world traveler, an outdoor adventurer and athlete, organizational expert and event planner, nutrition and exercise guru, culinary artist, musician, and mother to three beautiful children.
Amandah Hendricks, Donor Relations Manager
Amandah has a background in both political science and event management. For the past several years, she has worked in the blockchain industry, and now with Libertas she spends her time cultivating relationships while championing her love for liberty and free markets. She enjoys all things candy, exercising and watching cartoons. Amandah currently lives in Springville with her three kids and golden doodle.
James Dunavant, Donor Relations Manager
James has held leadership roles in education and non-profit development since 2004. He works with the Free Market Medical Association and most recently helped the Mises Institute with their donor relations. Growing up in the Nashville area, he also worked in book wholesale and distribution for almost ten years. After relocating to Oklahoma, he received an MBA in Leadership and Organizational Development from Oklahoma Christian University. He has four children who have all been homeschooled, and his passion is advancing the ideas of liberty through education.
Brandon Patterson, Donor Relations Manager
Brandon has worked in donor relations for a variety of organizations, most recently with Project Veritas. He earned his undergraduate degree from Lee University and his Masters in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. His experiences include higher education, journalism, public policy, and charitable organizations. Brandon works with supporters of the Tuttle Twins children’s series to help them accomplish their philanthropic goals. In his free time, Brandon enjoys hiking, cooking, skiing, writing poetry, playing chess, and reading philosophy.
Jessica Murphy, Grant Coordinator
Jessica manages grant writing and foundation relationships for Libertas Institute. Before joining our team, she worked in development, policy, and event planning at the state, national, and international levels with various State Policy Network affiliate think tanks, Students For Liberty, the Leadership Institute, and the Utah County government. She holds a BA in political science and a BS in environmental policy from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. Jessica is an alumna of the Charles Koch Institute internship program, America’s Future Foundation writing fellowship, and State Policy Network liberty fellowship. She was born in South Africa and raised in Wisconsin. In her free time, Jessica can be found lifting in the gym, playing the ukulele, and thrifting at flea markets.
Joshua Nicklin, Development Associate
Joshua has a background in small business as an entrepreneur and business development consultant. He founded four businesses across three industries and has nurtured startups as well as stagnant firms. He studied political science and economics at the University of Michigan where he participated in the Michigan in Washington Program. Previously he worked at the American Legislative Exchange Council, engaging private-sector companies and legislators in order to educate and develop innovative model legislation. He currently resides in Annandale, VA.
Jakob Fjeldsted, Development Associate
Jakob was born in Tokyo and grew up in Minneapolis. He is a graduate from Brigham Young University with a degree in Political Science. During his undergraduate experience, he worked as a research assistant studying global populism and as an executive director in the student leadership chapter, managing several campus-wide campaigns and events. As a former humanitarian volunteer in Southeast Asia, he speaks Thai and Lao. Jakob enjoys hiking, playing pickleball, and learning languages in his free time.
Quentin, Marketing Director
Quentin has led marketing efforts for hundreds of brands, including regional and international companies. His leadership has contributed to dramatic expansion in market share for e-commerce and service-based companies. At Libertas, Quentin brings the Tuttle Twins to a larger audience so that more young people can learn important ideas about liberty and free market principles. In his free time he enjoys exercise, reading, exploring nature, learning and meditating. He resides (mostly) in Northern Utah with his wife and four children, and has enjoyed taking his family to different locations for extended “worldschooling” experiences.
Emma Phillips, Managing Editor, Tuttle Twins
Emma reaches young minds with the message of liberty through our Tuttle Twins education program. She has previously served as a Spokeswoman for Young Americans for Liberty, as Correspondent Manager for Campus Reform, and as an Outreach and Policy Specialist for the Freedom Foundation. When she’s not getting kids fired up about freedom, Emma can be found working in her garden or planning her next hunting/fishing/snowboarding excursion. An Oregon native, Emma lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband Cabot and their yellow lab, Dolly.
Lisa Fernandez, HR Director
Lisa is originally from the Dominican Republic, has lived in eight different states and currently resides in Utah County. She has a degree from BYU-Idaho in communications. She is bilingual, enjoys traveling, and doing volunteer work. Lisa has a passion for learning and hopes to create a positive impact in her community through her work at Libertas Institute.
Ronni Peck, Media Coordinator
After growing up in Texas and graduating from Abilene Christian University with a degree in digital media, Ronni moved to Los Angeles where she and her husband worked in the entertainment industry. She later obtained a mathematics teaching credential, tutored child actors on set, taught at both in-person and online charter schools, and worked for various educational programs. Currently, other than raising and homeschooling her three children, Ronni also keeps busy screenwriting, blogging, gardening, raising chickens, and keeping abreast of current events. She and her family recently relocated to Southern Utah.
Lynée Fife, Children’s Entrepreneur Market Manager
Lynée has been an active volunteer for 20 years—in the classroom, on the high school football booster club, with youth groups, and as an angel investor for each of her four children’s businesses. As a piano instructor, window washer, and maker of gourmet caramel apples, her children have learned invaluable lessons gaining real world experience. She joins Libertas to help other young entrepreneurs make their mark on the world. Lynée is an avid runner and lives in Herriman with her husband and kids.
Megan McCabe, Fulfillment Manager
Megan is responsible for managing all orders of our popular Tuttle Twins children’s books as well as other items we offer. She is pursuing a degree in business management with certifications in entrepreneurship and lives in Lehi.
Mitchell McCabe, Fulfillment Assistant Manager
Mitchell is from Forsyth County Georgia and now resides in Lehi, Utah. He is currently pursuing a degree in Business Management. He loves to help share the principles of a free market and a limited government through the Tuttle Twins to kids all over the world.
Dana Sackrider, Customer Service Manager
Dana was born and raised in Arizona. She is a graduate of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University with a major in Business Administration. As a mother of four with 10+ years of homeschooling experience, Dana can relate with customers from all backgrounds who want to provide a better world by teaching our youth how to be critical thinkers. When she’s not working, homeschooling, or driving her kids around you will find Dana spoiling her golden retrievers, working out, and simply enjoying life at home.
Ben Shelton, Policy Research Fellow
After completing an internship at Libertas, Ben is continuing his journey as an advocate for freedom as Libertas Institute’s first Policy Fellow. Ben has a diverse background in public policy, journalism, and marketing. His writing has appeared in the Deseret News, The Salt Lake Tribune, and The City Journal. Before joining Libertas, he completed internships at the Office of the Governor, the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, The Disabled Rights Action Committee, and “and Justice for all.” Aside from work, Ben enjoys snowboarding, skateboarding, and fashion.