Virginia Straus is Executive Director of the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century. Founded in September 1993 by a Buddhist peace activist, Daisaku Ikeda, the Center fosters dialogue among scholars and activists on common values across cultures and religions. Human rights, nonviolence, ecological harmony and economic justice are focal points of the Center's work. Ms. Straus is a public policy specialist who formerly directed the Pioneer Institute, a state and local policy think tank in Boston, which she helped to establish in 1987. She also worked for nine years in Washington, DC, serving first as a legislative researcher in the House of Representatives and as a financial analyst in the Treasury Department and then later as an urban policy aide in the Carter White House.