Board of Directors Election 2022

Candidate Statements


Each candidate was asked to provide 3 paragraphs answering the questions, “Why would I make a good Board member?” and “What do I bring to the Board?”. Find what they provided below and form your own conclusions.


Candidate: Taylor Ashlock

My name is Taylor Ashlock and I am interested in serving on the board of directors of ACGA because Gaelic has been such a gift in my life and I would like to be of service to the Gaelic community. I took my first courses in Gaelic and Celtic Studies when I was a student at the University of Edinburgh during the 2009-2010 academic year. Gaelic has been an important part of my life since then, and the friendships formed in that first Gaelic language class have continued to be some of my most valued relationships. As I studied Gaelic language and culture, I realized my future was in the humanities rather than the sciences. I was especially fascinated by early Christianity in Scotland, Gaelic music, and Scottish dance.

I transferred to the College of William & Mary, where I earned my BA in Music and Religious Studies. I went on to Yale where I earned my M.Div. I have served as Assistant Chaplain and Director of Children’s Ministries at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School and Church in Saratoga, CA since 2016. I also received my Multiple Subject (K-8) Teaching Credential in 2020. If elected, I would bring my knowledge and experience working with children and young people to the board. I am very interested in promoting Gaelic among young adults and families with children, and would be happy to assist with ACGA’s virtual events and social media presence if that would be helpful. I am also interested in exploring ways to increase the visibility of Gaelic on the West Coast and build community among LGBTQIA+ Gaelic speakers and learners in the US.


Candidate: Valeria Campbell

Why would I make a good Board Member? And What do I bring to the Board?

I would make a good Board member for two reasons:

First, I am impassioned to the point of obsession with maintaining heritage arts and culture and seeking inspiration there. I am becoming an activist in promoting Gàidhlig awareness. This is my fourth language and the only one that has sparked such commitment in me.

In addition to passion, I can offer skill in digital strategization. During the day, I work in IT as an analyst, helping people learn about and implement digital strategies and tools. Since I joined ACGA, I have been volunteering my skills in the digital domain to support teachers and cultural carriers of Gàidhlig. I have been setting up websites, mailing lists, and converting legacy materials into easy to maintain digital versions. I help organize hybrid or virtual events so that everyone, regardless of geographical boundaries, can be a part of the community.

Therefore, I would bring to the Board skills and enthusiasm to help promote ACGA’s messaging, increase ACGA’s reach and membership, and enhance learning opportunities for the greater community using the technological tools available.

Candidate: Richard Gwynallen

Richard Gwynallen developed an early interest in social justice movements in high school, which led him to work with nonprofits in organizing and management positions on a range of issues. This included ten years in forest conservation in Oregon and thirteen years in equitable community development in west Baltimore. He graduated from Towson University with a B.A. in Sociology and did graduate work in Macrosociology/Political Economy at American University.

Richard is a Scottish Gaelic learner and co-founded Sgoil Gàidhlig Bhaile an Taigh Mhóir with his Gaelic teacher and mentor, Scott Morrison. He serves as neach-stiùiridh of the organization, edits the school’s newsletter, Am Bollsair Geocach, and co-created the program and podcast Facing Our History: The North American Gael.

Richard works freelance as a genealogist, an unexpected occupation that started when his daughter got engaged and he wanted to create an archive of family history and stories for her and his future grandchildren. That archive became The Kitchen Table blog. His work in genealogy now includes managing an extensive genealogy and history project called Descendants’ Day at B’nai Israel Congregation in Baltimore, where he is employed part-time as the synagogue’s Special Projects Director.

Richard lives in Baltimore with his wife, Maraji, and her folk harps. Together they enjoy storytelling, as storytelling duo “Taleweaver”, and spending time with their daughter, son-in-law, and young granddaughter.

Personal Statement:

My name is Richard Gwynallen. I want to thank everyone for the opportunity to be considered for a position on the Board of Trustees of An Comunn Gàidhealach Ameireaganach (ACGA). I have put my life’s work into supporting movements that are building a more just and inclusive democratic society and an ecologically sustainable world. My career has ranged from community organizing to land conservation to equitable urban development to an array of causes pursuing social equality.

I’m a writer, organizer, project manager, and strategist (and all around advocate for a better world). My knack for thinking strategically with a long-term perspective is rooted in a passion for a sustainable world. I hope that some of those skills might be of use to ACGA.

I spent my childhood mostly in Japan, San Francisco, and Maryland as an Army Brat (with countless side trips). It was a family life surrounded by history, stories, and many cultures. When I was in 5th grade I told my father that when I grew up I wanted to be in Military Intelligence like him. He told me, “That’s a fine thing to want to be, but you have a lot of growing up to do and the most important thing is to make the world a better place.” Despite missteps and mistakes, that’s what I’ve tried to do.

San Francisco was an incredible place to be a kid in the late 60s. It probably marked the birth of my social conscience. When I was in college and handing out leaflets someone approached me and said, “So, what are you pushing now?” I said, “I’m not pushing anything. I’m building a more just world.” Much of my life has been a ramble, and in that ramble I have been many things: social and political activist, concert promoter, hiker, camper, gardener, wanderer, spiritual seeker, husband, father, grandfather, and harp schlepper. I have made some major mistakes, and I have had the privilege of being in awe inspiring events and places. But whether I was stuffing envelopes, handing out fliers, preparing a research document, or leading an organization, I always saw myself as a builder.

My Gaelic journey started when my daughter was in college, and she and I decided that we wanted to learn the language together. It started as an ancestral calling, but my background in organizing and organizations led me to think that we should build more than a small class. Sgoil Gàidhlig Bhaile an Taigh Mhóir has been an exciting journey and probably will be for the rest of my life. But I also want to serve the Scottish Gaelic language community at a broader level, which is why I am standing for a position on the Board of ACGA. If elected, I will bring to ACGA the same passion and commitment I have given Sgoil Gàidhlig Bhaile an Taigh Mhóir to building ACGA and an ever better connected North American Scottish Gaelic language community. It would be an honor to serve in your company.


Candidate: Jeff Justice

Jeff Justice has been a member of An Comunn Gàidhealach Ameireaganach for nearly 15 years and began learning Gaelic many years before that. He served for two full terms on the ACGA Board as a director, being asked to serve as vice president or co-vice president throughout both terms. He is continuing as a non-voting member of the board in the role of co-vice president for the rest of the 2021/2022 term. He is a member of the editorial team for An Naidheachd Againne, to which he also contributes his quarterly column Litir à Dùn Èideann (retitled Litir à Dùn Èideann bhon Taigh Agam during the pandemic). He is website administrator and chair of the website committee, and he spearheaded the development of the new ACGA website.

Beyond the ACGA, he is a lecturer of political science at South Texas College. He is pursuing a second PhD in Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, expected to be finished in 2023. His research focuses on grassroots groups promoting lesser-spoken languages in the Celtic and Nordic countries. He is a life member of both the Royal Celtic Society and the Saltire Society; he will begin penning a column for the RCS’s quarterly newsletter this summer focusing on the Gaelic communities of North America. He holds memberships in the Celtic Studies Association of North America and the Association of Celtic Students. In addition to Gaelic, he is working toward general fluency in Welsh and Irish and has undertaken basic-level studies in Faroese, Manx, Breton, and Cornish, plus Icelandic.

I have faithfully served An Comunn Gàidhealach Ameireaganach in several positions over the past seven years, serving as an elected director for six of those. I currently serve as co-vice president and as our website administrator and committee chair. I hope to return to continue the work of the Board in advancing the ACGA’s mission of networking with Gaelic learning communities throughout North America and working with them to ensure they have the resources needed to engage their learning programs. I particularly look forward to ACGA’s liaising with Scotland-based SpeakGaelic, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and MG Alba, plus others about the world, in continued development and disseminating their material in the Americas. I am particularly dedicated to our reaching out to expand our membership in the post-pandemic world. Gaelic has drawn significant interest among language learners worldwide since 2020, and now is the time for us to reach out to those learning communities. I am equally dedicated to reaching out to other like-minded grassroots-based organizations in the Americas, Scotland, and beyond who share our goal of preserving Gaelic and expanding its speakership.



Candidate: Megan Kohtz

My name is Megan Wilkes Kohtz. I was born and raised on the South Island of New Zealand where there is a lot of Scottish heritage. I have many Scottish ancestors who immigrated to New Zealand at the turn of the 19th century. I went to high school and university in Australia and double majored in biology and psychology. I taught English as a second language in Japan. I have lived in Eastern North Carolina for over 19 years. I became interested in learning about my Scottish ancestry and learning Scottish Gaelic when I was introduced to the Outlander series books by Diana Gabaldon around 2006.

I have been a student of Scottish Gaelic for many years. At first, I was self taught with the “Teach Yourself Complete Gaelic” book and audio plus the “Speaking Our Language” video course. Then in 2014, I started studying with the Atlantic Gaelic Academy with Caroline Root and Davine Sutherland. I completed their first 5 levels of course work in 2019. I have done some course work at Daily Gaelic with Caroline Root. I have also worked on the Scottish Gaelic Foundations course with Jason Bond. I took “The Scottish Highland Clans: Origins, Decline and Transformation” online course from the University of Glasgow in the fall of 2019. I have contributed to Bradan Press Kickstarters for “Anna Ruadh” the Scottish Gaelic translation of “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery translation by Mòrag Anna Nic Nèill, as well as the audiobook of the Gaelic graphic novel “Às A’ Chamhanaich” by Angus Macleod. I have been a member of ACGA since 2019 and have gone to Grandfather Mountain Gaelic Song and Language week in person and online every year since joining. If elected, I am interested in continuing to support and promote in-person and online Scottish Gaelic culture and language learning.


Candidate: Nicole Rodriguez

My name is Nicole Rodriguez. I am putting my name forward for the ACGA board.

I love language. I am fluent in English, Spanish and French. I use my language skills at work for the government. I know through that experience that translating is more than just using words but expressing concepts. Language represents culture. How we see the world comes out in how we speak.

I decided to learn more about my Scottish Heritage and joined a local group. With my penchant for languages the president asked me to learn Gaelic, and so began my journey to ACGA. I didn’t know how much I loved something I never knew about.

I hope I’ll have the opportunity to promote Gaelic and learn more myself. I hope to find ways to share the beauty of the language and it’s history. I already see connections to how English has been influenced. I also see how Gaelic represents the Scottish people.

My strength is in language but I have some music skill as well. I also have helped organize Scottish events and led study groups in the Gaidhlig. I will bring that same energy to the board.


Candidate: Mallie Steele

My name is Mallie Moss Steele and I am writing to express my interest in joining the Board of the American Scottish Gaelic Society. I have been learning Gaelic for just over a year and like so many of us, it has become addictive! I began using DuoLingo and quickly discovered that I needed a more interactive learning experience. Among other learning experiences, I attended ACGA’s weeklong Gaelic immersion course online last summer and am hopeful to attend in person this year.

Why would I make a good Board Member?: I believe I would make a good Board Member because

  • I have a passion for Gaelic and want to be a part of the process to increase its exposure across America.
  • I am a team player and work well with others and understand that the most important goal is “to help learners of Scottish Gaelic”.
  • I am very comfortable speaking in front of others.
  • My background is very eclectic so I think about things differently than most people and bring a unique perspective to the table.
  • I am a sustaining member and former Membership Training Chair of the Junior League of Birmingham, Alabama, which is an organization of 2,000 women that is “committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.”
  • I am as comfortable taking out the trash as I am running a meeting.

What do I bring to the Board: I am a history teacher and as such, I tend to have the organization skills necessary to being a part of a group or organization. I am definitely an ideas person and one area that I think is very important is the expansion of Gaelic learning communities. Alabama has a rich Scottish history however there are few Gaelic learners or, if there are learners, we are not well organized or even aware of each other. One thing I would like to help with is the creation of state or regional communities in those areas that do not have them in order to help facilitate and foster more interactive learning to increase fluency.