The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement has hired four new employees in recent months as the organization continues to grow and work to further its mission of informing citizens, inspiring creative cooperation, and catalyze change on issues of social justice, fairness and opportunity. 

The new employees include:

Brenda Kole, Assistant Director of Operations
Kole leads the organization’s budget, finance, and staff engagement functions. Her background includes extensive work in campaign management. She served as the trip and surrogates director for Hillary for America immediately prior to joining The Harkin Institute.

Britney Samuelson, Executive Assistant, Assistant to Sen. Tom Harkin
Samuelson manages Sen. Harkin’s schedule and handles administrative duties and event coordination for the institute. She graduated from Simpson College in April with a triple major in social justice, Spanish and applied philosophy.

Lyndi Buckingham-Schutt, Associate Director of Wellness and Nutrition Policy
Buckingham-Schutt currently is completing her Ph.D. in Nutritional Science from Iowa State University and will join the institute full time in the fall. She will coordinate and oversee research initiatives in wellness and nutrition policy.

Emily Schettler, Communications Strategist
Schettler oversees all communications and public relations efforts for The Harkin Institute. Prior to joining the organization she worked as the communications director for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry.

“These additions in our staff will play an integral role as we expand our research efforts on issues important to Sen. Harkin and continue to raise awareness for The Harkin Institute itself,” Executive Director Joseph Jones said. “I am excited to have a growing team of talented individuals to help advance our work in the years to come.”

The Harkin Institute was established at Drake University in 2013 shortly after Sen. Tom Harkin announced his plans to retire after four decades in federal office.


The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement was founded in 2013 on the premise that good public policy is best achieved when policymakers have access to high quality information, political processes are open and well-understood, and citizens are informed and active participants, The Harkin Institute offers programing, experiences, research, and connectivity focused on the areas that defined Senator Tom Harkin’s (Retired) career – people with disabilities, retirement security, wellness and nutrition, and labor and employment.