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New Haven Civic Innovation Prize Judges

Meet the expert practitioners and innovators who will serve as the New Haven Civic Innovation prize judges for Startup Yale's 2022 pitch competitions.

The New Haven Civic Innovation Prize awards up to $10,000 to the best student- or community-led venture or project focused on benefiting the City of New Haven.

New Haven Civic Innovation Prize Judges

Dara Kovel
Dara Kovel headshot


Ms. Dara Kovel is the Chief Executive Officer of Beacon Communities LLC, a multi-family housing development, investment, and management company with properties throughout New England, New York, and the eastern seaboard.  The company currently owns over 150 communities with more than 18,000 units of housing, with a wide variety of affordable, mixed income and mixed-use projects.   Beacon has over 50 years of history creating and maintaining award-winning residential communities that serve a diverse cross-section of society that make enduring contributions to the vitality of the cities and towns where they are located. 

Dara began at Beacon in 2015 as President of Beacon Communities Development LLC, overseeing all development activities for Beacon Communities. Dara has been actively involved in the development of affordable housing her whole career. Prior to her joining Beacon, she was Vice President and Chief Housing Officer at the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) where she oversaw all multifamily lending and tax credit allocation activities, as well as the homeownership programs.

Before working at CHFA, Dara ran the New England office of Jonathan Rose Companies, a New York-based, green, real estate development and investment company.  Her previous work was with Mercy Housing California, where she ran the Southern California office and developed affordable housing throughout the state of California.  


Dara currently serves on the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center’s Workforce Housing Board and the Home Connecticut Steering Committee.  She is LEED accredited and holds a BA and MBA from Yale University.

Sasha Thomas
headshot of Sasha Thomas


Sasha Thomas (ES ’22.5) is an Economics & Mathematics major from Dallas, TX. Her interests are centered on inequality, labor, and development. Sasha has been involved in Dwight Hall since her first year when she participated in FOCUS. She served as a Co-coordinator of Dwight Hall’s Student Executive Committee where she focused on responses to the Covid-19 pandemic both in the Yale and New Haven communities. Sasha has been an ex-officio member of the Hall's Board of Directors and an Urban Fellow at Love146. On campus, Sasha is a member of the Yale Glee Club and does research in the Department of Economics.

Arthur Thomas
headshot of arthur thomas


Mr. Arthur W. Thomas III received his Bachelor’s in Industrial & Labor Relations from Cornell University.  Upon graduation, he worked in finance for many years while preparing the transition to investing in real estate and community development. Once transitioned, Mr. Thomas focused on residential rehabilitation for both his personal investment company, and in a consultation capacity for other investment organizations. With a heart for his hometown of Newark, and experience in redevelopment, Mr. Thomas partnered with the City of Newark to beautify depressed areas with the construction of new multifamily residences.

During this time, Mr. Thomas became extremely active in a local church, and formed the Divine Grace Foundation aimed at empowering historically marginalized residents with academic proficiency, financial literacy, health care, and workforce development skills.  Both Arthur and his wife Dr. Jennifer Pierre-Thomas are active board members in this foundation, and are developing programs and raising capital to cultivate these initiatives both locally and abroad in Haiti and Nairobi.   

Mr. Thomas recently graduated from a master’s program at Yale Divinity School to enhance his ability to evaluate the ethical intentions and outcomes of community empowerment programs, and build strategic partnerships to reduce socio-economic inequities.  He has also serves on the board of directors for Community Health Network and the Glendower Group CDC. He is co-chair of the Faith in Action outreach ministries at Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church, and is in the ordination process with the American Baptist Convention.  Mr. Thomas is a healer at heart, and passionate about using innovation, real estate, theology, and entrepreneurship as a treatment for combating racism and disrupting the reproduction of poverty outcomes in under-resourced neighborhoods.

Most recently, Mr. Thomas joined The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven as the Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives and Inclusive Economic Opportunity – providing the platform for collaborative cross-sector leadership and strategies for equity and empowerment.  As such, He is currently holding conversations with a variety of anchor institutions and community leaders to think through ways of building an equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem in NH.

Mr. Thomas loves to travel with his wife, shopping, socializing with family and friends, learning about other cultures, reading, playing pool, dancing, and spending time counseling anyone who needs help.

Genevive Walker
Genevive Walker


Genevive Walker was raised in New Haven, Connecticut.  She attended Educational Center for the Arts and studied theater and graduated from Wilbur Cross High School and subsequently attended and graduated with cum laude distinction from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies.

After a few relocations in her young adult life, she received her Master of Arts in Elementary Education at Teacher College, Columbia University in the City of New York.  Through the years and during her time at Columbia University, Genevive nurtured her passion for education and developing youth through her service in afterschool programs, summer youth development programs, and youth ministry programs in Harlem, New York, Bridgeport, and New Haven, Connecticut.  Her deepest interests have been supporting the voices of children and young adults in an effort to bring about empowerment and readiness for adulthood.

Genevive is a veteran 5th grade teacher, having served in both the New Haven and Hamden Public school districts.  She is currently the Chief Executive Officer at the Connecticut Center for Arts in Technology in New Haven, CT, where she previously served as Director of Programs and Chief Operating Officer.  During her tenure as Director of Programs, she designed and oversaw the implementation of the Adult Career Training programs, and  Youth Arts After School and Summer programs at ConnCAT.

She has demonstrated her deep passion for education, literacy, and youth through her previous involvement as board members on the Elm City College Preparatory Executive Board and the Literacy Coalition of Greater New Haven Executive Board, Cold Spring School Board of Trustees, and the Youth 2 Youth Network Board. Her hope for New Haven is further demonstrated by her participation as a Facilitator for the Community Leadership Program.  Genevive’s primary interest is taking care of and loving her three children and husband.