The future of animal welfare leadership is looking bright with leaders like Sheila Kouhkan, Miranda Hitchcock, Matt Chan and Sarah Humlie at the forefront. All four individuals work in animal shelters across the U.S. and have been selected as fellows for Maddie’s® Executive Leadership Fellowship program, an intensive professional opportunity for individuals committed to developing and strengthening their knowledge and skills in no-kill animal sheltering management and leadership.

Sheila and Miranda are starting their year-long intensive training by shadowing leaders at Austin Pets Alive! and Austin Animal Center, while Matt and Sarah learn from the pros at Charleston Animal Society.

Both host cities are thrilled at the opportunity to share their training and help future leaders make more cities around America no-kill.

“Austin Pets Alive! and Austin Animal Center are extremely proud to be one of two pilot cities hosting two year-long Maddie’s® Executive Leadership Fellows,” said Austin Pets Alive! Executive Director Dr. Ellen Jefferson. “These individuals will spend one full year learning the programs and infrastructure necessary to make and keep a city like Austin no-kill. We believe this fellowship will provide a well-lit path for individuals to join the industry at the highest levels and effect lifesaving change around the country, thanks to Maddie.”

Joe Elmore, CEO of Charleston Animal Society, shares Dr. Jefferson’s excitement. “I am so grateful for and proud of Maddie’s Fund® for pioneering this effort to enhance the professional leadership capacity in the animal welfare field,” he said. “I am convinced that this investment will ultimately save thousands of lives. Both Sarah and Matt reflect what I refer to as the ‘Triple H Factor’ needed to move animal welfare at light speed – Heart, Head and Hunger!”

You can learn more about the fellows by reading their bios below, and stay tuned for more great things to come from them in the future!

Sheila Kouhkan – APA! and Austin Animal Center

Sheila Kouhkan moved to Austin, TX, from Los Angeles, CA, for the Maddie’s® Executive Leadership Fellowship and the incredible opportunity to work with Austin Pets Alive! and Austin Animal Center. She originally moved to Los Angeles in 2006 to attend the University of California – Los Angeles. During her time at UCLA, she held an internship with Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz as well as the UCLA Institute of Democracy, Education, and Access.

After graduating, she joined the office of Councilmember Koretz where she served as a Field Deputy, Community Liaison and Special Assistant. She worked with Councilmember Koretz on animal welfare legislation and assisted with policies such as the ban on the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits (AKA the puppy mill ban) and the ban on the use of the bull hook on elephants on traveling shows (AKA the bullhook ban, which resulted in the retirement of all Ringling Bros. elephants soon after).

Toward the end of 2015, she accepted an opportunity to work for Best Friends Animal Society, where she oversaw the NKLA Coalition and various projects relating to the NKLA initiative. Los Angeles is committed to being no-kill by 2017, and one of Sheila’s last projects with Best Friends was working with the Los Angeles City Council to pass a resolution reaffirming their commitment to no-kill. This resolution passed unanimously on May 3, 2017. (You can read more about the resolution here.)

Sheila enjoys traveling, hiking, fostering, interior design and testing out new vegan recipes. But, what makes her happiest is spending time with her dog, Ziba. She is also hoping to learn photography so she can take better pictures of Ziba for her Instagram page (@Ziba_The_Rescue).

Miranda Hitchcock – APA! and Austin Animal Center

Miranda grew up in Maryland and loved animals right from the start; her childhood dream was to win the lottery and build a sanctuary for all of the homeless animals. So far, she hasn’t won the lottery, but she’s incredibly excited to be working with animals anyway.

With an engineering degree from Penn State, Miranda loves figuring out “how stuff works” and brings an analytical approach and a love of science to her work. After several years of volunteering at her local shelter in Maryland, she dove into working there full time doing social media, outreach and data analysis. Now, she’s incredibly excited to be taking on the Maddie’s® Executive Leadership Fellowship in Austin.

During the next year, Miranda is excited to learn what’s working best in no-kill sheltering, and also to help propel the mission even further with research and innovation. She hopes one day to be able to bring some of these programs and practices to other communities and help them succeed in the no-kill mission.

Miranda has traveled to over 50 countries, and loves exploring new parts of the world. She’s an avid scuba diver, salsa dancer, and rock climber. In her spare time she’s a dog trainer who loves teaching both people and dogs.

Matt Chan – Charleston Animal Society

Matt graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications. Matt was Customer Service Coordinator for the Augusta Regional SPCA for two years before joining the Cat’s Cradle team in Harrisonburg, VA, in 2012. As Adoption and Volunteer Coordinator with Cat’s Cradle, Matt and the volunteer team assist with driving adoptions through utilizing special promotions, social media and web presence. He also trains and coordinates volunteers on many skills including adoption counseling, pet retention and rehoming counseling and fundraising.

Matt lives in Harrisonburg with his two furry family members Mercedes and Audrina, and is strongly committed to helping drive the no-kill concept into an entire no-kill nation and no-kill generation.

 Sarah Humlie – Charleston Animal Society

Sarah is the dynamic Executive Director of the Pensacola Humane Society, with a big heart for animals and nearly a decade of nonprofit leadership experience.

Sarah is no stranger to change. Growing up as the daughter of an Air Force officer who moved frequently around the country, she learned at an early age how to adapt to new people, places and circumstances. These foundational experiences have shaped the way she approaches life and give her a diverse perspective and a positive outlook on the benefits of change.

Sarah spent time studying abroad and graduated from Marquette University. It was her lifelong love of horses that led her into the non-profit world, gaining employment as a Program Director for the horse camps at a summer camp outside Seattle, WA. Having a love for youth development and outdoor pursuits, she rose through the ranks, eventually becoming Director of Camp Services for three summer camp properties and their year-round programs.

In 2012, Sarah moved to Pensacola, FL, and was hired as the executive director of a small no-kill animal shelter, the Pensacola Humane Society. As a life-long advocate for shelter pets, she found this job was a great fit. In her five years with the organization, she has started a low-cost spay and neuter clinic that performs over 6,000 surgeries per year, nearly doubled adoptions, expanded the pet food pantry program, grown the foster program, and expanded the staff from 5 to 20. The organization now serves more dogs and cats per year than it ever has in its 74-year history.

When Sarah is not at work, she can often be found serving on the boards of other non-profit organizations or community initiatives. To relax, she likes to spend time at the beach, surf, sail or paddle board on the Bay. She also enjoys horseback riding, music, traveling and spending time at home with her wife, dog and cats.