Founded in 2009 with the creation of the documentary film Coexist, and continuing with the Emmy® award-winning feature Dawnland, the Upstander Project has trained more than 2,000 educators and reached thousands more across North America and around the world to encourage upstanding. 


Adam Mazo is an Emmy® award-winning filmmaker and the director of the Upstander Project. He co-founded the Upstander Project with Mishy Lesser in 2009. He is the co-director and producer of the Emmy® award-winning feature-length film, Dawnland (Independent Lens, Woods Hole Jury Award for Best Documentary 2018) and First Light (Camden International Film Festival 2016) and Dear Georgina (Camden International Film Festival 2019). Adam also directed and produced Coexist (WORLD Channel, Africa Movie Academy Award Nominee 2014). He is also the co-director and producer of the upcoming short Bounty. His films have been broadcast on domestic and international television, programmed at film festivals and international conferences, and screened at universities, middle and high schools, where they are also often used in curricula. He is originally from Minnesota, graduated from the University of Florida, and now lives with his wife and sons in the territory of the Massachusett people in the place known as Boston.

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Mishy Lesser, Ed.D., is the learning director for the Upstander Project and Education Fellow at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut. She is co-director of the Upstander Academy, a weeklong professional learning experience for teachers and museum educators that focuses on genocide and decolonization and the skills of upstanders. Currently Dr. Lesser spends much of her time researching and writing the teachers' and viewers' guides for Dear Georgina and Bounty. Mishy authored the twelve-lesson Dawnland Teacher's Guide to help students explore the relationship between the taking of the land and the taking of the children, and the four-lesson Coexist Teacher’s Guide to promote learning about the complexity of reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda. She is a Circle Keeper and has been featured on WBUR (Boston) and PRI/BBC’s The World. Mishy was a Fulbright Scholar in Ecuador and spent 12 years learning and working in the Andes. 

Tracy Rector (Choctaw/Seminole) is the impact producer for Dawnland and the Upstander Project. She is a mixed race filmmaker, curator, community organizer, co-founder of Longhouse Media. She has made over 400 short films, and is currently in production of her fifth feature documentary. Her work has been featured on Independent Lens, Cannes Film Festival, ImagineNative, National Geographic, Toronto International Film Festival, and in the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian. She is a current Firelight Media Lab Fellow, WGBH Producer Fellow, and Sundance Institute Lab Fellow. Raised in Seattle and Albuquerque, Tracy lives in Seattle and sits as a City of Seattle Arts Commissioner.


Ben Pender-Cudlip is an Emmy® award-winning independent filmmaker and the co-director and cinematographer of Dawnland and First Light. He has directed over a dozen short documentary films, including Sanjiban in 2012 (Hot Docs, CIFF) and Fetch in 2014 (Woods Hole). He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, and graduated from Bard College at Simon’s Rock.


  • Chico Colvard, University of Massachusetts Boston adjunct lecturer, documentary filmmaker (A Family Affair)

  • Donna Hicks, Ph.D., associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, author of Dignity

  • Dave Joseph, LICSW, senior vice president for program, Public Conversations Project

  • Robert Koenig, film director (Returned), producer, writer, and editor

  • Rebecca Lowenhaupt, Ph.D., assistant professor for educational leadership and higher education at Boston College

  • Dick Olsen, strategic planner and fundraising consultant for major non-profits