Linda Vakunta


Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr. Linda Vakunta joined the Mayor’s Office in 2019 to assist with economic development, housing and human services with more than a decade of experience in grassroots community engagement and program development, monitoring and evaluation work. She served as Program Director at the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance International (HAI), where she led, developed, and designed training programs for government, community, and non-governmental organizations to combat trafficking in persons. In recent years, she has worked as a researcher with Sustaining Natural Circle’s CDC funded grant on understanding impacts of opioid use among African American women in Madison.

Dr. Vakunta earned three degrees from the UW Madison: a bachelor’s in psychology, a master’s in rehabilitation psychology, and her PhD in the Nelson Institute’s environment and resources program. While a student, she served as founding executive director for  Project 1808, a Madison-based nonprofit that promotes sustainable community development in Sierra Leone. Vakunta served as Project 1808’s executive director from 2009–19, until she was appointed to her current role as deputy mayor for the City of Madison. She is co-founder of Bright Start Africa, a Madison-based organization that equips young people in Sierra Leone and Cameroon with 21st-century skills for self-sufficiency and community development.

Dr. Vakunta is a children’s book author, with her first book “Achu, Apple and Acheke” published in 2023. She is also the host and producer of Storie! With Linda, a podcast and YouTube series that documents and amplifies the work of individuals promoting African cultures around the world. You can catch her on WORT 89.9fm’s Pan Africa radio show, where she has served as producer and host since 2009.