Staff and Leadership



Catherine Read, Executive Director

Catherine Read is an experienced organizational leader and advocate with over 10 years of experience leading the Washington, D.C. offices of two human rights organizations. Most recently, she was the Washington Director of Crisis Action, an award winning international human rights organization whose mission is the protection of civilians in conflict.  Catherine joined Crisis Action in 2012 to establish and build the Washington office and it is now a highly regarded and critical player in the civilian protection landscape. From November 2014 to December 2015, Catherine served as the organization’s Global Syria Campaign Lead, running and managing a global coalition of over 130 human rights, humanitarian and peace organizations that make up the withSyria coalition.

Prior to joining Crisis Action, Catherine spent over five years with the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) as Director of its Washington office. Catherine provided overall strategic direction for CVT’s advocacy and policy agenda in Washington. She worked on diverse issues including appropriations, refugee and asylum issues, U.S. interrogation and detention policy, and accountability for torture. She played an integral part organizing the 2008 “Campaign to Ban Torture” which brought together over 250 national security, foreign policy and religious leaders, to support an Executive Order banning torture. Catherine then led a coalition of NGOs working to oppose efforts to undermine the interrogation standards laid out in President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order and supporting efforts towards accountability for torture. From 2003-2006, Catherine was a Senior Government Affairs Specialist at the international law firm DLA Piper. Catherine also served as a Legislative Assistant in the UK Parliament. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Politics from the University of Edinburgh (UK) and a Master of Arts Degree (with Honors) in International Relations from the University of Chicago. In 2011, Catherine was named by Washingtonian Magazine as one of their “40 Under 40” lobbyists with the most influence in Washington. She sits on the Advisory Council of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council and is a Council Member of NationSwell.

Jessica Porta, Organizer & Director of Development

Jessica Porta works on community engagement, fundraising, communications, and organizational development for the NCCIT.  She is currently the Community Manager for HQ Raleigh, an entrepreneurial community in Raleigh, NC and the strategist for the Triangle Diversity Business Council. Jess has a background in human rights.  Until 2015, she worked with The Salvation Army of Wake County’s Anti-Human Trafficking Program and as a Case Manager, helping victims of human trafficking rebuild their lives. Prior to her work experience, Jess received her Masters of International Studies from the North Carolina State University with a focus on human rights. 

Board of Directors

Dr. Christina Cowger, coordinator of North Carolina Stop Torture Now, agricultural researcher

Steven Edelstein, civil rights attorney, Chair of the Civil Rights Section of North Carolina Advocates for Justice.

Margaret Misch, advocate for human rights and social justice, retired biologist, and active member of Community Church of Chapel Hill Unitarian Universalist

Dr. Michael J. Struett, Associate Professor of Political Science in the School of Public and International Affairs at North Carolina State University


NCCIT Advisors

Imam Abdullah Antepli, Chief Representative of Muslim Affairs, Adjunct Faculty of Islamic Studies, Duke University – Durham, NC

Allyson Caison, resident – Selma, NC

William Hodding Carter III, Professor of Public Policy, University of North Carolina, journalist, member of the Carter Administration, former president of the Knight Foundation – Chapel Hill, NC

Julia Elsee, resident – Smithfield, NC

Ret’d. Capt. Matthew Hoh, Marine Corps veteran and former State Department official in Afghanistan; fellow with Center for International Policy – Raleigh, NC

Prof. Jayne Huckerby, Professor of Law at Duke Law and Director, Duke International Human Rights Clinic – Durham, NC

Phil Jacobson, Libertarian Party of NC, former State Chair

Ethan Vesely-Flad, Director of National Organizing, Fellowship of Reconciliation-
Asheville, NC

Prof. Deborah Weissman, Reef C. Ivey II Distinguished Professor of Law, UNC School of Law – Chapel Hill, NC

Jill Williams, former executive director, Greensboro Truth & Community Reconciliation Commission; former officer of Andrus Family Fund – Pulaski, VA

Erik Wilson, Southeast Regional Director, Republican Liberty Caucus – Raleigh, NC 

Barbara Zelter, MSW, MA, Department of Social Work, NC State University –
Raleigh, NC