Meet a Matriot: Sophia Fifner

Sophia is the Community Relations Chief for Columbus Recreation and Parks, where she helps ensure that Columbus residents have access to health and wellness opportunities. She has more than ten years of experience working in both the private and public sector, including  as a Senate staffer on Capitol Hill and as a political fundraiser for a Fortune 100 company in Columbus.


You are a Founding Member of The Matriots PAC and serve on our 88 Woman Campaign committee. What about The Matriots PAC’s work appeals to you? 

I am fearlessly passionate about women and girls. I support The Matriots PAC because its goal to ensure women hold at least half of all public offices in Ohio by 2028 is ambitious, inspiring, and necessary. If we are going to change the trajectory of our community, support for women must extend beyond the walls of our home and office. The Matriots PAC serves as a nonpartisan vehicle to challenge the status quo. Therefore, as a mother, leader, and conservative, supporting The Matriots PAC is simple.

You are a community activist and a huge advocate for women and girls, as well as a woman of strong faith. How do these commitments complement one another, in your view?

My Christian faith is the foundation for every element of my life and serves as the lens through which I view the world. I keep my faith by demonstrating my values and returning to scripture for guidance when faced with difficult decisions. Thus, my advocacy for women and girls is purely an extension of my faith. A verse that truly resonates with this belief is Proverbs 31:8-9, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” I speak up because I aim to give voice to those who are voiceless.

As the Community Relations Chief for the City of Columbus Department of Recreations and Parks, can you share an anecdote about how this work has shaped you?

In my role, I have gained a significantly deeper understanding of how access to our programs, services, and facilities has a transformational impact on the lives of everyone. From the casual jogger to the child who receives one of the more than 500,000 meals we serve over the summer, recreation and parks is fundamental to the fabric of our community. This work has shaped me because I see first-hand how leveraging public-private partnerships can move the needle on building communities. Through collaboration, we are able to extend our services and reach key populations where services are needed most. Currently, one of our biggest projects is rebuilding the Linden Community Center and Park. I’m excited to be part of the team working to bridge and steward these relationships with the ultimate goal of providing equitable access to all.

You are also a mother of a young girl. Tell us a little about her and what you hope for her future. 

Caroline is the apple of my eye. She is passionate about being outdoors, playing with George Washington (our standard poodle), and reciting the alphabet song at least a dozen times. At nearly two years of age, I’m confident she is destined to accomplish great things. There’s a piece of wall art that hangs in our kitchen, which reads in part, “be fearless in the face of adversity.” This simple phrase encompasses everything I hope for her future. I hope she is an advocate for others. I hope she is a bold and fearless leader. I hope she lives in a world where all women are equal.  

Now for something fun: Tell us about a family member, hobby or a personal interest. 

My affinity for and support of pageantry and specifically the Miss America Organization is no secret. As a former state competitor and current volunteer, I love its mission – to prepare great women for the world and prepare the world for great women. Nearly 15 years ago, this organization gave me the opportunity to use my voice to advocate for women and girls. And, by the age of 25, I had the confidence and gumption to champion character education in local schools, advocate for legislation like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and interview Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In addition to the glitz of pageantry, I enjoy watersports and traveling to historic places with my husband and visiting one of Columbus’ more than 350 parks with my daughter Caroline.

Matriots Monday is Coming to Cincinnati!

Join us on October 22 for a Matriots Monday in Cincinnati at 12:30 p.m. This small group, brown-bag lunch get together will be at Solway Gallery.

We know you want to get to know our endorsed candidates and work toward their success in November. Matriots Monday’s are a great way to meet your local candidates and connect with other Matriots members. All are welcome. Don’t forget to invite your friends who want to know more about The Matriots PAC. You can get your ticket here.

We look forward to engaging in some great conversation.

See you there!

Matriots Mondays is Coming to Delaware!

Join us on October 15 for a Matriots Monday in Delaware at 5:30 p.m. This small group, after work get together will be at Old Bag of Nails.

We know you want to get to know our endorsed candidates and work toward their success in November. Matriots Monday’s are a great way to meet your local candidates and connect with other Matriots members. All are welcome. Don’t forget to invite your friends who want to know more about The Matriots PAC. You can get your ticket here.

We look forward to engaging in some great conversation.

See you there!

Meet a Matriot: Dr. Mary Jo Ruggieri

Mary Jo is an author, speaker and researcher, the founder and director of the Institute of Holistic Health Careers and the Center for Integrative Health and Wellness. She is a retired assistant professor of 25 years from The Ohio State University, where she also coached national and Olympic athletes in synchronized swimming.  Dr. Mary Jo was a two-time Olympic coach in 1988 and 1992.

1) You were among the first to join The Matriots as a Founding Member in 2017, our inaugural year. What about The Matriots PAC’s work appeals to you?

What appeals to me about The Matriots’ mission, purpose and PAC is very clear:  total focus on the political support of women!  My realization, after the 2016 election was — if we do not rethink the way our country is delivering politics, especially elections, and especially with regards to women’s value in politics, then we will lose everything we have worked and struggled with for 200 years as women.   I was angry, especially coming out of the second wave of the women’s movement in the ‘70s, to realize we were fighting the same battles we were fighting before. I said “no more” will I support a political system that disregards and devalues women in this country.  I chose in a flash to become a Founding Member of The Matriots whose vision aligns with mine and who will focus on a strong support of women in politics.  Together We Can. 

2) You spent many years as a coach at The Ohio State University and led the synchronized swimming team to 17 of 19 national collegiate championship titles, with 11 of those occurring in her last 11 years as head coach, a record that remains to this day among Division I collegiate sport programs. How did that experience influence your desire to see women in leadership?

My experience as a faculty member and as an athletics coach at The Ohio State University definitely molded who I am today.  When I came to OSU in the ‘70s we were in the middle of the Title 9 battle for equality in sports.  I got a crash course in all facets of discrimination against women:  lack of privilege, lack of rights, lack of access, lack of control, and lack of any power to make decisions for ourselves. Many of the great OSU women leaders took us under their wings and taught us what we needed to know to fight with class, think out of the box, and make significant changes that opened up a new world to us.  We stood on their shoulders, learned their secrets of rhetoric of agitation and then followed in their footsteps when they were too tired to fight anymore.  We continued the battle for many years and challenged the glory of the Scarlet and Gray to give women their rights as students and athletes.  This experience influenced us to understand how to build good women into good leaders.    

3) You now focus primarily on integrated medicine and wellness. Tell us a little bit about women’s health as an economic issue that impacts society as a whole.

Having the privilege to coach high-profile women athletes brought me into the field of Integrative, Holistic and Preventive Healthcare. I quickly realized that to truly have optimal health and to grasp the deepest meaning of health, it was necessary for me to broaden my scope of working with young women beyond just the physical. Women’s healthcare issues became very important in understanding that women were not treated equally with regards to access in our healthcare system.  Research was limited on the health conditions of women and women reacted much better to a mind-body approach to healthcare.  Being in a very traditional system of healthcare, I can say that I found myself in another long struggle to get people to believe that what we were doing in a holistic approach to healthcare for women was beneficial.   When I retired from OSU we had already established a Center for Integrative Health and Wellness to benefit our community with a focus in women’s healthcare issues.   

4) You now divide your time between Cleveland and Columbus. What are the political issues that our state faces that you would like to see addressed by the women we are promoting for office?

After meeting many of the women that The Matriots selected to support for political offices, I realized how this support made a big difference. They all spoke about how passionate they were about making significant changes in the state of Ohio for the greater good of women, taking back and protecting women’s rights, women’s choices, and empowering women with economic stability. The reality that Ohio is ranked so low in the USA for women being represented at the political level made it even more important for women to succeed.  The candidates were excited and happy to be part of a focused group that supported them and wanted to help them become a political success.  The Matriots and the group support have given them a voice. The most notable process is seeing all The Matriots and the elected women coming together to support them as candidates.  This reminded me of the support and camaraderie I experienced with the women’s movement in the ‘70s.     

5) Now for something fun: Tell us about your family, a hobby or a personal interest.

As a woman from an immigrant Italian family, with all of my grandparents coming from Italy, I grew up with strong, bold Italian women and men who listened to them and supported them.  Of course, the men would say the women had the power, so do not argue with them; just support them.  My dad was a professional baseball player and I was always in the dugout with his team as the batgirl.  Even then I could never understand why girls did not have teams. My family is a huge focus in my life. I deeply enjoy spending time with my extended family, including my nieces, nephews and their families. The apple of my eye is my daughter, Elena, who graduated from Columbus School for Girls and now at 24 is in animal biology and wildlife management. She is a very empowered young woman who wants to become an advocate for animals and the environment. It gives me great personal satisfaction whenever I am able to travel the world, speaking and teaching about women’s health issues. I especially enjoy going to holistic centers and spas, where I can get hot stone massages, polarity therapy, detox and good yoga classes.  My favorite place is in Austria outside of Vienna called Rogner-Bad Bluma!

Matriots Monday

Join us for the Columbus September Matriots Monday on September 17 at 5:30 p.m. This small group, after work get together will be at Versa co-working space.

We know you want to get to know our endorsed candidates and work toward their success in November. Matriots Monday’s are a great way to meet your local candidates and connect with other Matriots members. All are welcome. Don’t forget to invite your friends who want to know more about our PAC. You can get your ticket here.

We look forward to engaging in some great conversation.

See you there!

Matriot Mondays is Coming to Cleveland and Cincinnati!

Please join executive director, Elissa Schneider, as she hits the road to meet our members in Cleveland and Cincinnati and share more about what’s next as we move toward the general election. We also hope to have some of our endorsed candidates on hand to talk about their campaigns and how we can help them get elected.

July’s Matriot Monday will be held on Monday, July 2, at the Winton Place Condominiums Party House at 12700 Lake Ave. in Lakewood. You can get your ticket for the event here: .

August’s Matriot Monday will be held in Cincinnati on Monday, August 6 at 5:30 PM. Tickets and more details, including the address for the event, can be found here: .

See you at the next Matriot Monday!

Join us Tuesday, February 20 for the Women of Power networking reception

This event is hosted by the John Glenn College of Public Affairs and the women of the Ohio Legislature to recognize the future of women’t leadership in Ohio.

The Matriots are a sponsor and will be there!

For more information and to purchase a ticket visit the website here.

Matriots Columbus Women’s March Meet-Up – January 20th

Commemorate and March!

Last year’s powerful Women’s March in Washington, D.C. spurred us to action. This year, many cities are hosting their own marches with speakers, community building, and education sessions. On January 20th, join Matriots in Columbus to march and remind our leaders and the people of Ohio that women’s political participation is key to good government.

Any and all marchers are welcome to march with The Matriots for the Women’s March Ohio: Power to the Polls event on January 20. We’ll meet at the corner of Goodale and High St. outside of the Convention Center at 1:30 p.m. and march together to the Ohio Statehouse. If you have buttons, wear your flair! We’ll have foldable signs to share while they last.

Public Launch

The Matriots host their official public launch with a “Pop-Up” event on Dec. 5 at the Columbus Museum of Art. We introduce our Endorsement Committee and announce the quiet Founding Member campaign surpasses $550,000!