Senior Fellow


Elisa Massimino

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Elisa Massimino is a senior fellow at American Progress. She is also a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center, where she directs the Human Rights Institute and serves as a senior research fellow with the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. Massimino served as Georgetown’s 2019–2021 Robert F. Drinan, S.J., chair in human rights and was recently a senior fellow for human rights policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Previously, Massimino spent 27 years—the last decade as president and CEO—at Human Rights First, one of the nation’s leading human rights advocacy organizations. 

Massimino has a distinguished record of human rights advocacy in Washington. She has testified before Congress dozens of times; writes frequently for mainstream publications and specialized journals; appears regularly in major media outlets; and speaks to audiences around the country. During her leadership at Human Rights First, the influential Washington publication The Hill consistently named her one of the most effective public advocates in the country.

The daughter of a nuclear submarine commander, Massimino was instrumental in Human Rights First’s effort to assemble a group of retired generals and admirals to speak publicly against policies authorizing the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody. This coalition of military leaders played a pivotal role in restoring compliance with the Geneva Conventions.

Massimino is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Supreme Court Bar. She holds a law degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University, and she is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Trinity University.

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