CSS Leadership

Council of Trustees

Thomas Peterffy


Thomas Peterffy is Founder and Chairman of Interactive Brokers and is Chairman of the Common Sense Society’s Council of Trustees. A pioneer of digital trading in the 1980s, he was the first to build computer systems able to trade financial assets electronically, independent of direct human intervention. Born in Budapest, Hungary in 1944, he escaped communism in 1965 by emigrating to the United States. He learned computer programming, and his formula for pricing contingent assets was an early version of what is now known as the Black-Scholes model. In 1977, he became a member of the American Stock Exchange. Peterffy built the first automated market-making firm for stocks, options, and futures, which later gave rise to Interactive Brokers, a global, electronic broker with more than two-thousand employees and market capitalization of $29 billion.

Marion Smith

President and C.E.O.

Marion Smith is the President and C.E.O. of Common Sense Society, which he founded in 2009. CSS is an international network that promotes the principles of liberty, prosperity, and beauty. He is a director and former chairman of Washington, D.C.’s National Civic Art Society, a former visiting fellow in the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation, and the former executive director and C.E.O. of the congressionally authorized Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a bipartisan educational, research, and human rights nonprofit. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from South Carolina’s Wofford College and earned an M.A. from Central European University. His writings have been published in The Hill, Los Angeles Times, National Review, Politico, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He is a regular guest on network and cable television channels, including ABC, NBC, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, and CSPAN.

Professor Niall Ferguson, Ph.D.


Prof. Niall Ferguson is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Center for European Studies, where he was the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History. He is also a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and the Diller-von Fustenburg Family Foundation Distinguished Scholar at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Ferguson is the author of twenty-two books, including Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe, which gives a historical and theoretical account of disasters, and Civilization: The West and the Rest, which traces the development of Eastern and Western culture and shows where they stand today. His 2015 biography of Henry Kissinger, Kissinger, 1923-1968: The Idealist, won the Council on Foreign Relations’ Arthur Ross Prize. He is also an award-winning filmmaker, having won an international Emmy for his PBS series The Ascent of Money. His many other prizes include the Benjamin Franklin Prize for Public Service (2010), the Hayek Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2012), and the Ludwig Erhard Prize for Economic Journalism (2013). In addition to writing a weekly column for the Sunday Times (London) and The Boston Globe on topics ranging from economics and monetary theory to political systems and institutional history, he is the founder and managing director of Greenmantle LLC, an advisory firm. He also serves on the board of Affiliated Managers Group.

Alexandre Pesey


Mr. Alexandre Pesey is a founder and the executive director of the Institut de Formation Politique, a conservative training Institute in Paris, France. A civic entrepreneur, Pesey is also the founder of Le Coquetier incubator and the Institute Libre de Journalisme, a journalism school dedicated to training the next generation of responsible journalists. Pesey received a law and political science degree from Paris II Panthéon-Assas University, where he taught constitutional law and international relations theories. Also a graduate from EM Lyon Business School, he is the president of Contribuables Associés (The French Taxpayers Association) which gathers a network of 350,000 members to fight for a sound economy, less public money waste, and less taxes. He is on the board of directors of The Leadership Institute and the French Riviera Institute.

Sophie Scruton


Lady Scruton is the director of Horsell’s Farm Enterprises, Ltd. which she established with her late husband, Sir Roger Scruton, to provide guidance for commercial and non-profit enterprises concerned with local farming, conservation, and the preservation of historical records. Horsell’s Farm Enterprises sponsors summer school programs and launched Athelstan Farm Foods, which uses traditional local recipes to produce cheese for wholesale partners. She is a member of the board of directors of the Roger Scruton Legacy Foundation, which is a network of institutions and scholars committed to preserving and further developing the philosophies and cultural movements championed in Sir Roger’s work.


Marion Smith
President and C.E.O.

Marion Smith is the President and C.E.O. of Common Sense Society, which he founded in 2009. CSS is an international network that promotes the principles of liberty, prosperity, and beauty. He is a director and former chairman of Washington, D.C.’s National Civic Art Society, a former visiting fellow in the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation, and the former executive director and C.E.O. of the congressionally authorized Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a bipartisan educational, research, and human rights nonprofit. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from South Carolina’s Wofford College and earned an M.A. from Central European University. His writings have been published in The Hill, Los Angeles Times, National Review, Politico, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He is a regular guest on network and cable television channels, including ABC, NBC, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, and CSPAN.

David Talbot
Executive Vice President

David Talbot is the executive vice president of Common Sense Society, an international nonprofit network with the mission to strengthen citizen competency by promoting the principles of liberty, prosperity, and beauty. He is chiefly responsible for the development and implementation of strategy, and has 15 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising, programming, management, and governance. He was formerly chief of staff at the congressionally authorized Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, an educational, research, and human rights nonprofit. He has worked as a construction laborer, a substitute teacher, a camp cook, a collegiate athletics statistician, an industrial laundry equipment installer, an oil and gas lease researcher, a ghost writer, a security officer, a janitor, and a grocery store clerk. He serves as treasurer of the National Civic Art Society, and graduated cum laude from Hillsdale College.

Elizabeth Stiff
Chief Communications Officer

Elizabeth Stiff is the chief communications officer for Common Sense Society where she is responsible for building innovative strategies for traditional press and new media outreach, product and event marketing, partner development, employee communications, and creative asset design. She was previously the founding partner of an Emmy award-winning marketing firm, where her communications and marketing success spanned the world of public policy, sports, corporate, and nonprofits. Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Good Morning America, and Politico. Originally from North Carolina, Stiff studied political science at the College of Charleston.

Christine V. Emery, Ph.D.
Chief Development Officer

Dr. Christine Emery is the chief development officer for Common Sense Society, where she brings her experience in institutional capacity building and strategic planning to her role in leading CSS’s fundraising. She began her career with cross-cultural consulting, where she advised law firms and foreign embassies. She received her Ph.D. from George Washington University and has served in leadership positions at the Wilson Center, OPIC (now the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation); the George Washington University, CHF (now known as Global Communities); and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Paige Hanson
Chief Financial Officer

Paige Hanson is the chief financial officer for Common Sense Society. In her former role as associate chief financial officer for policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, she helped manage a $9 billion budget. She has also served as director of government affairs at the Organization for International Investment with a focus on taxation and appropriations and as policy staff in the U.S. Senate for the Joint Economic Committee under Senator Dan Coats and the Senate Budget Committee under Senator Jeff Sessions. Originally from Lexington, SC, she holds an M.B.A. from Virginia Tech and a B.A. in government and economics from Wofford College. Hanson is a member of The Association of Nonprofit Accountants and Finance Professionals, and was a Heritage Foundation Congressional Fellow.

Austin Stone
Chief Operating Officer

Austin Stone is the chief operating officer for Common Sense Society. In his role, Austin is responsible for overseeing the organization’s programs and operations, ensuring efficiency and effectiveness. Drawing from his decade of experience in strategic consulting, entrepreneurship, and prior leadership roles, he drives organizational growth. Co-founder of Beck & Stone, a consultancy for cultural renewal and enterprise, his industry experience stretches from agribusiness to the arts. His commentaries have appeared in publications such as Law & Liberty, Newsweek, The American Spectator, American Greatness and The Federalist.

Murray Bessette, Ph.D.
Vice President of Education

Dr. Murray Bessette is vice president of education at Common Sense Society, where he oversees its international fellowships and professional development programs, directs its middle school and high school curricular initiatives, and plans the programming for its academic events. In his eighteen years in the academic and non-profits sectors, Dr. Bessette has edited or authored numerous books, chapters, articles, and reviews; organized and presented at dozens of international and national conferences and panels; and co-directed more than $3 million in U.S. federal grants. He was previously an associate professor at Morehead State University and director of academic programs at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. He was also a Lincoln Fellow of the Claremont Institute, an academic fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the co-director of the Bluegrass State Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence, president of the Kentucky Political Science Association, and an academic advisory board member of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions. Dr. Bessette earned a Ph.D. in political science and an M.A. in American government from Claremont Graduate University and an M.A. and B.A. in political science from the University of Alberta.

Joel Bowers
Regional Vice President–Southeast United States

Joel Bowers is the regional vice president for CSS–Southeast. He is an entrepreneur with a career starting, acquiring, and exiting several businesses, primarily in retail, e-commerce, and real estate. Notably, in 2013, Bowers helped launch CSS operations in the United States. His primary focus is helping lead programmatic activities in the Southeast, business-civic engagement, and leadership development. He is a board member of Restoration Project Foundation, a youth mentoring program based in Greenville, South Carolina. He earned a B.A. in government from Wofford College and an M.L. in strategic studies from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

Christopher Bedford
Executive Editor

Christopher Bedford is the executive editor at Common Sense Society, where he is responsible for CSS’s print and online publications. Formerly, he was a senior editor at The Federalist, editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller News Foundation, and editor-in-chief of The New Guard magazine. He is currently vice chairman of Young Americans for Freedom and on the boards of The Daily Caller News Foundation and National Journalism Center. He is a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute, a Pulliam Fellow at Hillsdale College, and a Madison Fellow. He has been published in The American Mind, National Review, and the New York Post, and he is a frequent guest on Fox News and Fox Business.

Orsolya Domaniczky
Director of Common Sense Society–Hungary

Orsolya Domaniczky is the director of Common Sense Society–Hungary. She is a political scientist with expertise in the fields of biodiversity and sustainability and is co-owner of a boutique consulting firm. She previously worked as a policy officer for CEEweb for Biodiversity, a network of non-government organizations that promote biodiversity in Central and Eastern Europe. As a Pannonius Fellow with Common Sense Society, Domaniczky studied under Sir Roger Scruton and published on ecology, environmental stewardship, and political philosophy. She received an M.S. in environmental science and policy from Central European University and a B.A. in political science and international relations from Corvinus University of Budapest in addition to studying philosophy at Eötvös Loránd University.

Melvin Schut, Ph.D.
Director of Common Sense Society–The Netherlands

Dr. Melvin Schut is the director of Common Sense Society–The Netherlands. He is a board member of the Amstel Institute for the Liberal Arts and Sciences and a political science faculty member at Amsterdam University College. Previously, Dr. Schut taught at Leiden University, both at the law school and the Institute for Philosophy. He studied at Cambridge, Oxford, and Leiden University, and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago with a thesis on Alexis de Tocqueville’s conception of freedom.

Emma Webb
Director of Common Sense Society–United Kingdom

Emma Webb is the director of Common Sense Society–United Kingdom. She was most recently deputy research director at the Free Speech Union, a membership organization fighting to protect freedom of expression in the U.K. In 2020, she co-founded the heritage campaign group Save Our Statues. Prior to that, she was director of the forum on integration, democracy, and extremism at the Westminster think tank Civitas, and a research fellow at the foreign policy think tank, The Henry Jackson Society. She is a regular contributor to GB News and TalkTV, and has appeared on flagship BBC political programming The Big Questions, Politics Live, and Channel 5. She has written for a number of publications including The Spectator, The Daily Telegraph, and The Times, and hosts a weekly political show for the Westminster-based New Culture Forum podcast. She is a graduate of the University of Cambridge and King’s College London.

Kat Noviello
Director of Marketing

Kat Noviello is the director of marketing at Common Sense Society. She oversees CSS’s traditional and digital marketing strategy and finds innovative opportunities for increasing the public’s access to CSS’s fellowships, events, educational resources, and ideas. She previously worked in marketing at various agencies that catered to nonprofits. During her time with state-funded organizations in Virginia, she led the strategy and digital ad buy component for Virginia’s 2019 Commemoration. She graduated with a B.A. in English from the College of Charleston.

Luca Takács
Director of European Operations

Luca Takács is the director of European operations for Common Sense Society. She is responsible for ​​managing the operations of CSS–Hungary’s Budapest office and overseeing CSS’s European event operations. Her professional experience includes project, event, exhibition, and budget planning and management; protocol and VIP services; and preparation of professional materials such as event organization guides and protocol handbooks. She has a B.A. in tourism and special events and is currently finishing her M.A. in international business at Eötvös Loránd University. 

Lydia Pitea
Director of Events

Lydia Pitea is the Director of Events at Common Sense Society where she crafts and executes a wide array of experiences connecting members, alumni, and friends to the principles of liberty, prosperity, and beauty. Lydia is the former Director of Novus Society, the young philanthropists project of DonorsTrust, where she started in 2016 as a Marketing Associate. She is also the former DC Hub Director for America’s Future where she still volunteers as a council member. She has participated in the Koch Associate Program, Atlas Network Academy and Leader Lab, and the America’s Future Writing Fellows Program. Lydia is a graduate of Montclair State University in New Jersey, where she received her B.S. in Business Administration.

Amanda Dolina

Amanda Dolina is the controller for Common Sense Society where she oversees the organization’s accounting operations. Most recently she provided consultancy services to nonprofit organizations with various funding mechanisms including membership based, federally funded, and grant funded. She also has experience managing various transaction cycles in the headquarters finance department of a large international nonprofit which operated in over fifty countries and as an auditor focusing on commercial clients and employee benefit plans. She has a B.S. in accountancy, is a certified public accountant, and a certified associate in project management.

Lindsay Eberhardt, Ph.D.
Managing Editor

Dr. Lindsay Eberhardt is the managing editor at Common Sense Society, where she is responsible for editing CSS’s magazine as well as its curricular, fellowship, and marketing materials. She was formerly the managing editor for Dissident.com, The American Mind, and the Claremont Review of Books Digital, and an assistant editor at the Claremont Review of Books. She has taught politics and political philosophy at the U.S. Naval Academy, George Mason University, and CSUSB and her writings have been published in The Journal of Woman, Politics, and Policy and Political Research Quarterly. She has a Ph.D. in political science and an M.A. in American government from Claremont Graduate University and a B.A. in political science from the University of Alaska.

Petria Hoffpauir
Education and Programs Manager

Petria Hoffpauir is the education programs manager at Common Sense Society. She has over fifteen years of experience in operations, programming, research, recruitment, and curriculum development in higher education, state government, and the nonprofit sector. Prior to joining CSS, she was assistant director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism at Clemson University. She holds a B.A. in government from Skidmore College and an M.A. in politics from Claremont Graduate University, where she is currently a Ph.D. candidate.

Emily Soper
Director of Communications

Emily Soper is the director of communications at Common Sense Society. She oversees CSS’s websites and is responsible for the creation, execution, and tracking of digital media content. She previously worked in website management, email marketing, social media, and traditional press outreach at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Heritage Action for America. She received her B.A. in international studies from Baylor University, and studied human rights and East Asian political affairs at Yonsei University in South Korea and American University in Washington, D.C.

Ben Crocker
Research Fellow in Music Studies

Ben Crocker is academic programs manager at UATX in Austin, Texas, and since 2022, has been research fellow in music studies at Common Sense Society. He is from North Queensland, Australia, and most recently taught at the King’s School in Sydney. Ben has lectured and guest conducted at the University of Sydney and recorded for nationwide radio broadcast at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In 2021, he was appointed as an inaugural Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation scholar to Washington, D.C. His columns have been published by The SpectatorThe Federalist, and Australia’s Quadrant magazine.

Michael Curtis

Michael Curtis is the artist-in-residence at Common Sense Society. He is a sculptor, painter, historian, architectural designer and poet. He has taught and lectured at universities, colleges, and museums, including the Institute for Classical Architecture and Art, the College for Creative Studies, and the National Gallery of Art. His pictures and statues are housed in over three hundred private and public collections, including the Library of Congress, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Supreme Court. His plays, essays, verse and translations have been published in over thirty journals. His most recent nonfiction books include, Occasional Poetry: How to Write Poems for Any Occasion, and The Classical Architecture and Monuments of Washington, D.C.: A History and Guide.

Joshua Mitchell, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow

Dr. Joshua Mitchell is a senior fellow at Common Sense Society and a professor of political theory at Georgetown University. From 2002 to 2005, he was the chair of Georgetown’s government department and he was the associate dean of faculty affairs at the School of Foreign Service in Qatar from 2005 to 2006. Since 2005, he has taught courses there periodically for several years. During the 2008-10 academic years, Dr. Mitchell took leave from Georgetown, and became the acting chancellor of The American University of Iraq–Sulaimani. His areas of interest range from the ancient world to contemporary America and Europe. His thinking has been deeply informed by the nineteenth-century writer, Alexis de Tocqueville, who anticipated the problem of loneliness and isolation in the modern world, and who thought that to combat it, families, churches, and other mediating institutions would be needed, along with a commercial spirit aimed at producing well-being. Dr. Mitchell received a Ph.D. and M.A. in political science from the University of Chicago, an M.A. in sociology from the University of Washington, and a B.G.S. from the University of Michigan. He has published articles in The Review of Politics, The Journal of Politics, The Journal of Religion, APSR, and Political Theory.

Douglas Murray

Douglas Murray is a fellow at Common Sense Society. He is also an associate editor of The Spectator, author of The War on the West, and host of a new podcast series “Uncanceled History.” His previous book The Madness of Crowds was a bestseller and a book of the year for The Times and The Sunday Times, while his book The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam spent almost twenty weeks on The Sunday Times bestseller list and was a number one bestseller in nonfiction.

The Hon. Jon Parrish Peede
Senior Fellow

The Honorable Jon Parrish Peede is a senior fellow at Common Sense Society and the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (N.E.H.), a federal grant-making agency. Nominated by President Donald J. Trump and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Chairman Peede awarded more than $500 million to universities, museums, libraries, scholars, and cultural nonprofits nationwide. He has served in an ex officio capacity on boards of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and other federal bodies. His previous positions include publisher of the Virginia Quarterly Review at the University of Virginia, literature grants director at the National Endowment for the Arts (N.E.A.), counselor to N.E.A. Chairman Dana Gioia, and director of the N.E.A.’s Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience program. In addition to writing speeches and proclamations for President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, he is the co-editor of Inside the Church of Flannery O’Connor: Sacrament, Sacramental, and the Sacred in Her Fiction. He has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The New York Times, Stars & Stripes, Inside Higher Education, NPR, Bloomberg Radio, BBC, CSPAN, PBS, and other media outlets. He completed his B.S. at Vanderbilt University and M.A. at the University of Mississippi. He is the visiting writer in residence at Mississippi Valley State University, a public HBCU institution.

Aaron Rhodes, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow

Dr. Aaron Rhodes is a senior fellow at Common Sense Society and the president of the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe. He was executive director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights from 1993-2007. He is a writer, human rights activist, and advocate for the reform of international human rights law and institutions. He is a co-founder of the Freedom Rights Project, a human rights research initiative and think-tank. In 2008, he established the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran along with colleagues, and became policy advisor for the organization. He has been involved in multiple human rights campaigns in the Human Dimension of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe, and the United Nations, and has undertaken field investigations in many post-Soviet societies, Asia, the Middle East, and Cuba. Dr. Rhodes was named an honorary citizen of the Republic of Austria for his human rights work. He received a B.A. from Reed College and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in the Committee on Social Thought. His articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, National Review, and elsewhere. He is the author of The Debasement of Human Rights, published in 2018 by Encounter Books

David C. Rose, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow

Dr. David C. Rose is a senior fellow at Common Sense Society and a professor of economics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He has served as the department director of graduate studies and as the department chair. His primary areas of research interest are behavioral economics, political economy, and organization theory. He regularly teaches principles, price theory, graduate microeconomic theory, mathematical economics, and a course on the theory of the firm. He has been a member of the Missouri Advisory Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission since 2016. In 2008, Dr. Rose received the St. Louis Business Journal’s Economic Educator of the year award. His book, The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior, was selected as one of CHOICE’s outstanding titles of 2012 and was nominated for the Hayek Book Prize. Dr. Rose frequently contributes to policy debates through radio and television interviews as well as in op-eds in outlets such as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Word on Business, The School Choice Advocate, Forbes, The Washington Times, and The Christian Science Monitor on topics ranging from social security, monetary policy, fiscal policy, judicial philosophy, education reform, and healthcare reform. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Virginia and his B.S. from Southwest Missouri State University.

Piotr Trabinski
Senior Fellow

Piotr Trabinski is a senior fellow at Common Sense Society and a former International Monetary Fund executive director, where he worked on fiscal and monetary policies, financial sector supervision, central bank digital currencies, fintech regulation, anti-money laundering, and combating terrorism financing. Prior to that, he worked in Poland’s banking sector where he held corporate senior managerial positions and spearheaded IT projects. He has a J.D. and LL.M. from the University of Warsaw, an M.Eng. in computer science and cybersecurity from the George Washington University, and an M.A. in international relations from The Institute of World Politics. 

Stay Informed

Join our mailing list and be the first to receive exclusive news.

Thank you for signing up!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.