Our experts in residence

BU Spark!, through the Boston University Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences, hosts distinguished individuals and alumni as part of its Experts in Residence Program. Experts in residence get deeply involved with Spark! by leading initiatives, providing strategic counsel to the Spark! team, and directly engaging with and supporting students. They also pursue projects with support from student teams. Learn more about the Experts in Residence Program.


Ayora Berry, Ed.D.

Expert in Residence for Product Innovation + Vice President, PTC

Ayora is a software product leader and educator with experience in academic, non-profit, and corporate sectors. e takes a holistic approach to problem solving that blends business, design and technology frameworks with a focus on incubating new solutions in the areas of CAD, PLM, IOT, AR, ALM FSM, AI, and edtech. He is currently the vice president of Product Strategy at PTC, an engineering software company with 37,000+ customers worldwide. He founded Elements88.com, an edtech consulting firm that offers services in strategy, app development, and education programming. Ayora holds a Bachelor of Arts in History, a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a Master of Teaching, and a Doctorate in Education. He lives in Arlington, Massachusetts.


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Adam Friedman

Expert in Residence + Founder and CEO, Civera

Adam is an entrepreneur, political organizer, and full-stack software engineer. He is founder and CEO of Civera, a small software consultancy in Cambridge, whose mission is to liberate public data and improve government transparency. Civera’s flagship product is ElectionStats, a publishing platform used by seven states to make election results and voting statistics far more accessible to the public. Adam has also served as a leading advocate for ranked choice voting. He co-founded Rank the Vote in 2020 and co-founded ranked choice voting organizations in over 20 states, training up volunteer leaders on the grassroots capacity growth model he built and executed as the founder and Executive Director of Voter Choice Massachusetts (VCMA) between 2016 and 2019. VCMA transformed into the YES on 2 ballot measure campaign of 2020 and became the largest statewide movement for ranked choice voting in US history. Adam has a Bachelor of Arts in History from Boston University, and resides in Somerville, Massachusetts.


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Kevin Hatchoua

Expert in Residence + Senior User Experience Designer, Red Hat

Kevin strongly believes in empowering children, expanding opportunities, and reducing disparities between communities. After moving from Cameroon to the US as a child, Kevin had been driven to make a positive global impact. At Mass.gov, Kevin focused on transforming online interactions between citizens and their government, simplifying processes and improving accessibility for a seamless experience. Currently a Senior User Experience Designer at Red Hat, Kevin is committed to enhancing user journeys in the open hybrid cloud. With expertise in User Experience Design, research, product analytics, Data visualization, ServiceNow administration, and asset management, Kevin is dedicated to reshaping experiences and driving engagement. Kevin serves on the boards of Virtual Activism and Afrihope, nonprofits leveraging digital tools to empower marginalized communities, promote equal rights, diversity, inclusion, and professional development. With unwavering dedication to tech-driven solutions and a profound sense of purpose, Kevin offers a unique perspective to each endeavor. Kevin’s commitment to lasting, inclusive change defines their impactful mission.


Tom Hopper

Tom Hopper

Expert in Residence + Director, Center for Housing Data at MHP

Tom (he/him) is a housing policy professional and data scientist focused on making complex data sets and policy topics more accessible to a general audience using interactive tools and visualizations. Tom has over 15 years of experience in the affordable housing field, including developing database systems, designing metrics, and creating data tools and analytical reports that provide insight into issues facing affordable housing developments. He has also led public policy research efforts on topics such as transit-oriented development, housing production, affordability, land use, and housing stability. Tom has a bachelor’s degree in economics, a master’s degree in city planning from Boston University, and a master’s degree in urban informatics from Northeastern University.


Michelle Johnson

Michelle Johnson

Expert in Residence + Associate Professor Emerita, Boston University

Michelle is an associate professor emerita at the Boston University Department of Journalism. She retired in 2022, where she taught a variety of courses focused online journalism and media storytelling. She is a former editor of the Boston Globe and Boston.com. A graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism, Michelle was awarded the school’s distinguished alumni award in 2020. In 2022, she was the recipient of the Online News Association’s Rich Jaroslovsky Founder Award, which honors “a senior-level individual who has significantly advanced or made lasting contributions to the field of digital journalism.” She was also inducted into the Association of LGBTQ Journalists Hall of Fame in 2022. Michelle was named 2013 Educator of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. She served as the very first Academic Representative on the board of the National Association of Black Journalists from 2015 to 2018. She writes and edits AI Insider, a newsletter that tracks the latest developments in artificial intelligence.


Carl Williams

Expert in Residence + Assistant Professor, Cornell Law School

Carlton (he/him) is an assistant professor of clinical law at Cornell Law School. He is a movement lawyer and organizer dedicated to building and supporting liberation struggles. He has practiced criminal and civil rights law in Massachusetts for many years. He began his legal career as a criminal attorney with the Roxbury Defenders and later served as a racial justice attorney with a national civil liberties non-profit. Carlton has been an advocate on issues of war, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, and Black and Palestinian liberation. He is a member of the National Lawyers Guild and has served as the chair of its Massachusetts board of directors. He was part of the legal defense for the Occupy Boston movement, providing legal, bail, and court support and training to the thousands of participant-organizers. In 2015, he served on the working group that organized the inaugural Law for Black Lives convening and was a featured speaker in its RadTalks event. He has taught issues of social justice and the law at Northeastern University School of Law and Yale Law School. Carlton was the executive director of the Water Protector Legal Collective, defending and supporting Indigenous environmental justice and sovereignty. He is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island, the Pre-Law Summer Institute for Native Americans, and the University of Wisconsin Law School.


Freddie Vargus

Freddie Vargus

Expert in Residence + Former Senior Machine Learning Engineer, GitHub

Freddie is currently building a company focused on AI evaluation, leveraging his prior experience as a Senior ML Engineer at GitHub. He has had a career focus on building systems and tools for Machine Learning & Data Science, and before GitHub he worked at various startups in quant finance, agriculture, and e-commerce. He also has experience in maintaining and contributing to open source software, and idea-stage venture capital.  Freddie has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Boston University.


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Steve Backman

Expert in Residence Emeritus 

Steve created and led the Database Designs consulting practice for 25+ years. With others, Database Designs played a pioneering role in bringing strategic data systems to nonprofit, education, and labor organizations in the Boston area and nationally. Steve consulted on technology strategy, software architecture and design, and outcomes and performance management. Steve backed this work with personal engagement in Boston-area organizing and public policy advocacy on issues including youth and education, housing and development, and election campaigns. Steve has degrees from Harvard College and Yale Graduate School and studied graduate Computer Science at U Mass Boston. Three personal elements nurture Steve’s work. He draws deep satisfaction and inspiration from his family, stays engaged with community and political issues, and passionately practices and teaches tai chi, qigong, and meditation.