Wendy has led KIND since 2009, and brings extensive immigration policy experience to the organization. Prior to KIND, she served as Chief Counsel on Immigration Policy in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees for Senator Edward M. Kennedy. She held prior immigration policy positions with organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Women’s Refugee Commission, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the National Council of La Raza. She has also written numerous articles, reports and cutting-edge op-eds on the plight of unaccompanied children. Wendy has received a number of awards and honors for her work on immigration rights including: 2017 Williams College Bicentennial Medal Award; 2016 Keepers of the American Dream Honoree by the National Immigration Forum; Women Inspiring Change 2015 Honoree at Harvard Law School’s 2nd Annual International Women’s Day Celebration; Foreign Policy’s Leading Global Thinker of 2014; Nominated as one of two NGO representatives to participate in Seminar XXI Program on U.S. Foreign Policy by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and National Defense University (2002); Honored by Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center for work on behalf of women and children detainees (2002); Child Advocacy National Certification of Recognition, American Bar Association, in recognition of contributions advancing the welfare of children (2001); Human Rights Award, American Immigration Lawyers Association, in recognition of the work of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children on behalf of women and child asylum seekers (1999). Wendy earned a joint law degree and master’s degree in international relations from American University in Washington, DC, and a bachelor’s degree from Williams College in Massachusetts.
Matthew J. Kessler-Vaughn
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Matthew has spent nearly 25 years in nonprofit leadership where he focuses on developing efficient and effective infrastructure in support of mission delivery through smart business solutions. He started his career building the administrative infrastructure of a newly founded national nonprofit organization focused on child and family policy. Kessler-Vaughn then moved to the public health sector where he spent nearly 15 years with AIDS United, the largest domestic HIV grant maker in the United States. In his role as Vice President of Operations, he worked to reengineer the organization with a focus on expansion and sustainable growth. He played a lead role in the organizational acquisition and subsequent rebranding thereby expanding the scope and over all mission of the organization. In addition to his work, Matthew consults for leading national and community-based nonprofits in the areas of organizational efficiency models, board management, and strategic growth. He currently sits on the advisory council for The George Washington University School of Business Transformative Leadership in Disruptive Times program. He holds a degree in international business and a master’s degree in business administration.
Chief of Staff
Hardy Vieux serves as Kids in Need of Defense’s Chief of Staff. Prior to joining KIND in May 2021, Hardy served as the senior vice president, legal, at Human Rights First. There, he led and directed Human Rights First’s legal initiatives— including its pro bono legal representation, which pairs lawyers at the nation’s top law firms with indigent refugees in need of counsel in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. Hardy also established and oversaw the organization’s impact litigation, which seeks to make systemic change on behalf of those seeking asylum in the United States by challenging harmful governmental policies and laws in federal court. In addition to his role at KIND, Hardy teaches a graduate human rights law seminar at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy. Prior to Human Rights First, Hardy served as a policy fellow in the Middle East, where he worked at Save the Children International in Amman, Jordan. Before that, he was in private legal practice in Washington, D.C., for over ten years. Before moving to private practice, Hardy was a criminal appellate defense counsel in the United States Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, where he served as lead counsel in a capital punishment case and national security cases. He is a frequent media commentator on military justice issues. Hardy started his legal career as a law clerk in federal district court in Denver, Colorado. Hardy serves on the board of directors of the National Military of Justice, the board of visitors of Duke University’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. Hardy previously served on Duke’s board of trustees and the WISER Girls Secondary School, a Kenyan residential school focused on empowering young women. He also served on the board of trustees of DC Scholars Public Charter School and the D.C. Bar’s Pro Bono Committee. Hardy is a 1997 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School—serving as editor-in-chief of the Michigan Journal of Race & Law—and Ford School of Public Policy, where he earned his law and Master of Public Policy degrees. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke in 1993.
Chief Legal Officer
I am the Chief Legal Officer of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the preeminent U.S.-based nongovernmental organization devoted to the protection of unaccompanied and separated children. KIND envisions a world in which every unaccompanied child on the move has access to legal counsel and has their rights and well-being protected as they migrate alone in search of safety. Unaccompanied children come to KIND in need of legal services, but also often with deep traumas caused by the violence and fear experienced during their forced migration. KIND’s team of 400+ people works every day to address their needs. I am extremely proud to be part of an enterprise that does so much to protect the rule of law and the legal needs of the most vulnerable members of society. Previously, I was a partner at the global law firm of Reed Smith and had the privilege of serving for ten years as the firm’s Chair and Global Managing Partner. Reed Smith is a dynamic international law firm focused on providing exceptional client service. With a team of more than 3,000 people (1,700 lawyers) in 31 offices and 10 countries, Reed Smith is connected by a common culture of collaboration, innovation, inclusion, and service to its clients and communities. The firm has a thriving pro bono program the participation rates in which, I am proud to say, grew exponentially while I was in leadership. Reed Smith is and long has been a strong advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Recruitment, retention, and advancement of women and diverse professionals are and long have been firm priorities, and the firm’s perennial attainment of Mansfield Certification Plus status, WILEF Gold Standard certification, and Seramount “Best Law Firms for Women” acknowledgement, demonstrates its commitment. Before entering private practice I was an attorney for the United States Department of Justice and a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. I clerked for The Honorable Robert R. Merhige, Jr. in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division.
Director, Executive Office
As KIND’s director, Executive Office, Lesley Kirby (she/her) oversees the executive office’s operations and special projects, supports board of directors’ initiatives, and helps the senior leadership team craft and implement strategic plans. Before joining KIND, Lesley helped direct operations and strategy for Human Rights First’s asylum representation team, which mentors thousands of attorneys nationwide to provide pro bono legal representation to indigent asylum-seekers. In that role, Lesley overhauled case management and metrics-tracking systems, stewarded special projects, and streamlined team processes, with a focus on sustainability, efficiency, and aligning the team’s work with the organization’s mission. Previously, Lesley provided operational and paralegal support to a law firm focused on human rights and corporate accountability. Lesley holds a dual B.A. from the University of Virginia in Spanish and Foreign Affairs, with a regional specialization in Latin America.
Executive Administrative Assistant
Bianca Mitranca serves as KIND’s Executive Administrative Assistant, where she supports the Executive Office’s activities by maintaining calendars, coordinating meetings and events, and processing reports. Before joining KIND, Bianca served as the Event Planning Intern at a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding breast cancer research. In that role, Bianca assisted with the planning, management, and execution of all fundraising events. Bianca graduated magna cum laude from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and minors in International Development and International Studies. Currently, Bianca is pursuing a master’s degree in Ethics, Peace and Human Rights from American University in Washington DC.