Sonya Halpern M'90

Sonya Halpern M'90

Outstanding Alum: Impact on Social Responsibility/Civic Engagement

Senator Sonya Halpern was elected in 2020 and is currently serving in her first term in the Georgia State Senate. Representing neighborhoods in the five cities of Atlanta, City of South Fulton, College Park, East Point, and Union City, District 39 is one of the most socio-economically diverse in the state.

With a passion for the arts, politics, and education, Halpern has dedicated her civic and philanthropic engagement in these areas over the past two decades. In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed her to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts (PACA), a national board of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Three years later, when he appointed her chair, she became the first African American and first Georgian to serve in this capacity since PACA’s inception in the late 1950s. Halpern currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for South Arts and is an active board member of the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, where she is also chair of the External Affairs Committee and co-chaired its $70 million “Here for Good” campaign. Additionally, she is an advisory board member of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland, a founding member of the Atlanta School for the Arts Foundation, a founding co-chair of the Electing Women Alliance/Atlanta, and a member of the African American Leadership Council of the DNC.

For nearly a decade Halpern’s leadership roles at the National Black Arts Festival, including chair of the board and acting executive director, helped to usher the country’s oldest multidisciplinary arts institution celebrating artists of African descent towards sustainability and a new strategic direction for its future. Other past board leadership roles include chair of The Children’s School and vice chair of Public Broadcasting Atlanta.

With more than two decades of fundraising, marketing, and event production experience in for-profit and non-profit environments, Halpern launched Whiskey in a Teacup consulting in 2019, an arts and cultural consultancy and communications firm. Early in her career, she held critical advertising sales roles at several of the country’s leading media companies, including ESPN, The Walt Disney Company, and Cox Enterprises.

Halpern earned an MBA from UHart’s Barney School of Business and a bachelor’s degree in mass  communications from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

She lives in Atlanta with her husband and three children.