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Jamie Van Leeuwen

Former Public Policy Fellow


March 1, 2017 — December 22, 2017

Professional affiliation

CEO & Founder of the Global Livingston Institute and Director of Youth & Community Engagement at the Emerson Collective

Wilson Center Projects

“Reintegrating Child Soldiers in Northern Uganda”

Full Biography

Jamie Van Leeuwen currently serves as the Director of Youth & Community Engagement with the Emerson Collective focused on building and leveraging relationships across sectors that impact social justice issues specific to education, conservation, immigration, health care, and youth development.  Prior to this role Jamie served both Mayor and Governor John Hickenlooper for 14 years as a public sector leader in Colorado.  Through his work in local and State politics he has engaged collectively across sectors to generate over $300 million in new resources for the public good.  He is also the CEO & Founder of the Global Livingston Institute (GLI), a non-governmental organization in East Africa designed to engage students and community leaders to Listen. Think. Act. by developing innovative solutions to poverty.  He is a Senior Research Fellow with the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs and became a Fulbright Scholar in 2013 and a Woodrow Wilson International Fellow in 2017.   

Jamie completed his PhD in Public Policy at the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver with an emphasis on affordable housing and homelessness.  He has a Master’s degree in International Public Health and a Master’s degree in Sociology from Tulane University.   His career focus is on domestic and international work related to poverty alleviation, specifically targeting homeless and vulnerable youth globally. 

Jamie serves on boards for the Biennial of the Americas, Colorado Music Coalition, the Presidents Leadership Class at the University of Colorado, Take Note Colorado and the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs Advisory Board. He has previously served on the boards of the Capitol Hill United Neighborhood Association, Colorado Health Institute, Curious Theatre, Denver Foundation Human Services Advisory Board, Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, Family Directions, the Harm Reduction Action Center, Level One Health Board, Morgridge Family Foundation 21st Century Classroom Board, and the 9Kids Who Care Advisory Board.  He is a graduate of Leadership Denver (2002), Emerging Leaders (2003), and Leadership Arts (2004) and has served as an adjunct faculty member at Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Denver and University of Colorado Denver.  Jamie was selected in 2005 as an inaugural Livingston Fellow by the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Board to cultivate his leadership in the non-profit community in Colorado and in 2006 was named one of “Forty Under Forty” by the Denver Business Journal.   In 2011 he was featured in the Power Issue of Out Front magazine as a leader in Lesbian & Gay community and in 2017, CoBiz Magazine named him as one of the 25 Most Powerful People in Colorado.   

He is active as a national and international researcher and presenter.  Over 75 publications, poster presentations, lectures and keynotes include recent articles on mental health services in rural Uganda, former child soldiers in Northern Uganda and a needs assessment of an urban slum in East Africa.   He is the recipient of the 2018 Denver Center for International Studies Community Ambassador Award, the 2017 Urban Peak Maverick Thinker Award, the 2014 Creighton University Alumnae Merit Award, the 2010 Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation Alumnus of the Year, and the 2009 “Judy Kaufman Civic Entrepreneurship Award” from the Denver Foundation. 

From 2014 to the end of the Hickenlooper Administration, Jamie acted as the Senior Advisor for Governor Hickenlooper after working as Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Community Partnerships during the first term.  Leading up to the Hickenlooper administration, he worked as the Policy Director and served on the transition team for the Hickenlooper for Colorado gubernatorial campaign. 

In 2006, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper appointed Jamie to head up Denver’s Road Home.  In this role, he oversaw leadership staff, fundraising, public relations and evaluation for Denver’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness.  In the first five years, Denver’s Road Home leveraged over $50 million in new resources for the homeless, developed over 2,000 new units of affordable housing, prevented over 3,500 families from becoming homeless, reduced chronic homelessness by 70 percent and was recognized by the White House as one of the top six homeless programs in the country.  In 2007, Mayor Hickenlooper appointed Jamie to chair the Drug Strategy Commission and oversee the Office of Drug Strategy.  The office launched a major community-wide strategic plan in 2008 to close the unmet treatment gap in Denver.  In the first two years the plan created over $500 thousand in new treatment services and generated $3.5 million in in-kind media annually.  Denver’s Road Home and the Office of Drug Strategy combined to form a new Office of Community Impact under Jamie’s direction.

Since 2009, as the founder and CEO, he has worked to grow the GLI, an innovative research and learning institute for students and community leaders in Uganda and Rwanda with a social impact focus.  Building a campus modeled after the Aspen Institute in rural Uganda and forging over a dozen academic and public-private partnerships, this innovative community development organization engages over 300 scholars and community leaders annually, has hired over 300 East Africans into the workforce and is a collaborator in multiple research projects and workforce development initiatives throughout Uganda.  The institute hosts an annual Women’s Leadership Summit and produces one of the largest free music festivals in East Africa with a focus on HIV prevention, cervical cancer screening and reproductive health services. 

Prior to his role in the public sector, Jamie directed fundraising, legislative work and research as the Director of Development & Public Affairs at Urban Peak, a Colorado non-profit agency serving homeless and at-risk youth.  During his tenure at Urban Peak he was appointed to serve a two-year term on the National Council for Youth Policy for the National Network of Youth.  

Major Publications

J Adams, J Niringiyimana, JM Van Leeuwen, A Ward, R Gumbi, T Karrel (2019); Music as a Vehicle for Reducing HIV Stigma and Increasing Access to Testing in Rural Uganda: A Quasi-experimental, Mixed-methods Study, International Journal of Sociology, 3:6:429-435. (November 2019)

B Gelaro, J Amanya, M Sie Whitten, J Van Leeuwen, M Lindstrom, T Karrel, J Pinckney (2019); Down Syndrome in Uganda: Identifying Barriers and Making Recommendations to Increase Access, International Journal of Social Sciences and Management Review, 2:1:1-9. (July, 2019)

M Vanderwerken, J Amanya, E Fullenbach, K Herman, T Karrel, W Tesconi, J Van (2019); Introducing Electricity and Renewable Energy Platforms in Rural Uganda: A Case Study on Lake Buyonyi, International Journal of Social Sciences and Management Review, 2:1:1-9. (January, 2019)

J Van Leeuwen, H Nabimanya, A Ward, R Grundy, M Thrun (2018); Music Festivals Serving as a Catalyst for Collaborative HIV Prevention Education and Expanded HIV Testing in Rural Uganda, International Journal of Community Development, 6(1):1-4. (June, 2018)


J M Van Leeuwen, L Miller, M Zamier, R Grundy, J Amanya, C Chen, M Feinberg (2018); Community Reintegrating Former Child Soldiers in Northern Uganda: A Qualitative Study on the Road to Recovery, Journal of Psychology in Africa, 28(2):105-109. (May, 2018)

J Van Leeuwen, L Miller, J Amanya, M Feinberg (2018); Forced to Fight: An Integrated Approach to Former Child Soldiers in Northern Uganda, Wilson Center, Africa Policy Brief. (March, 2018)

J Van Leeuwen, M Feinberg (2018); Impact Investing in Africa: A Case Study on East Africa, Wilson Center, Research Paper.  (March, 2018)

J M Van Leeuwen, T Sekeramayi, C Martell, M Feinberg, S Bowersox-Daly (2017); A Baseline Analysis of the Katanga Slums: Informing Urban Public Policy in Kampala, Uganda, African Population Studies, 31:2. (November 2017)