People

Photos of CWC Staff

 

Core Team

Joshua Carrera

Josh bio pic Program Manager
Josh Carrera is a proud New Yorker that grew up in Brooklyn to a first generation Ecuadorian immigrant family. During his years in college and graduate school, Josh’s interest led him to study sustainable development and international relations in Ecuador, Mexico, and Brazil. More recently, Josh has been involved in local environmental and housing issues in his native city. One of Joshua’s proudest accomplishments has been organizing a six day volunteer event where New Yorkers planted close to 8,000 trees over six days at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Josh is a founding member of Mi Casa No Es Su Casa: Illumination Against Gentrification, an activist project which uses art as a form of protest against the rapid neo-colonization of Brooklyn neighborhoods. Josh is a proud collective member of Mayday Space – a social justice movement space where he is working on building a radical library that values truth, critical thinking, and justice. In his free time, Josh loves to take salsa and bachata classes or photograph the newest city he is visiting.

Mohamad A. Chakaki

Mohamad Chakaki PhotoSenior Fellow, Urban Program Development
Planner / Educator / Facilitator / Writer
Mohamad grew up playing in the sand and surf on both sides of the Arabian Peninsula, and then on the edges of eastern forests and city streets in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. His intellectual and professional interests lie where the lines blur between East and West, cities and nature, art and science, and so on. Mohamad holds a Masters of Environmental Management with a focus on Urban Ecology and Environmental Design from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and undergraduate degrees in Religion and Biology from The George Washington University. He completed doctoral coursework at the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT, with research into emerging urban landscapes in the modern Middle East.

Mohamad has followed his passion for working in nature and with people in parks and gardens across the US, with the Peace Corps in Central Africa, and the United Nations in Syria. He consults on environment and community development projects in both the US and the Arab Middle East. Mohamad was a co-founder of the DC Green Muslims network, and is a Senior Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program.

Samara Gaev

Samara Gaev PhotoSenior Fellow, Program Design and Facilitation
Samara Gaev is a New York based activist, educator, trainer, theatre director, performer. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of Truthworker Theatre Company, a social justice based hip-hop theatre company for high school and college aged youth in NYC. Using theater & media to examine history and learn about models for creating social change, Samara calls upon language and critical thinking skills as tools to develop solution driven citizens of the world. Samara is honored to be the Resident Artist/Scholar at Columbia University’s Teachers College: Graduate School of Education.

She serves as a teaching artist at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, directing their Arts & Justice program for teens. Samara graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BA from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She completed advanced training in Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed from the Paul A. Kaplan Center for Educational Drama and received her Master’s Degree in Performance Studies from NYU‚ Tisch School of the Arts with a thesis that explored trauma, advocacy, and witnessing. She is a recipient of the 2009 Next Generation of Leadership Fellowship through the Center for Whole Communities, where she is now faculty. Her active involvement in progressive social change has taken her beyond the classroom and the stage, and towards actualizing the change she wishes to see.

Melanie Katz

Melanie Katz PhotoExecutive and Administrative Coordinator
Melanie’s passions lie at the intersection of environmental justice and community development. Before joining CWC Melanie completed a year of AmeriCorps raising funds for a food relief program at the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC). With her community service background and an education in communications and sustainable development at UVM, she has started a career path doing what she loves: helping her community and co-workers and affecting positive environmental change.

Melanie is particularly excited to be involved in environmental work that benefits all people. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, practicing yoga, supporting the local food movement, listening to music, singing along, and taking photographs.

Ginny McGinn

Ginny McGinn PhotoExecutive Director
Ginny McGinn is a mother, artist, organizer, meditator and radical change midwife. Throughout her career, she has been deeply involved in the work of social and organizational change and in building partnerships across lines of power and privilege. Ginny has a profound interest in how change happens, from the level of individual transformation through the level of entire communities or systems, and it is this process of change that she seeks to continue to study and facilitate in her leadership at Whole Communities.

Previously, Ginny served as president of Bioneers, a national nonprofit dedicated to disseminating practical and visionary solutions for restoring Earth’s ecosystems and healing human communities. While at Bioneers she and her colleagues greatly expanded the reach of its programs by launching satellite conferences and building partnerships in cities around the country, creating access for many who would not have otherwise had it.

Cultivating practices that support whole communities (lower case intended) and bringing those practices into our daily lives is the focus of her current work. Through “Whole Thinking in Practice” we are able to stay present, make better decisions, and act on behalf of the whole as we go about our work in organizations and movements.

Ginny facilitates and consults on organizational change around the country, using the Whole Thinking Practices and the tools she and her colleagues have helped evolve at Center for Whole Communities.

Kavitha Rao

Kavitha Rao PhotoSenior Fellow, Program Design and Facilitation
Kavitha is a mother, a facilitator, a yoga teacher, a consultant, and an organizer. She has worked with grassroots organizations around the world and is humbled by the immense commitment and vision she has witnessed from people unwilling to accept that the violence, injustice, and inequity that may surround them is the only way things have to be. She has spent much of the past decade founding and leading Common Fire, a nonprofit which helps to create accessible and sustainable intentional communities as a means of cultural transformation. Through her work with Common Fire, and partners like Be Present, Center for Whole Communities, The Fellowship of Reconciliation, The Omega Institute, and others, she has consulted and facilitated numerous retreats and trainings on power and privilege, interpersonal dialogue, nonviolence, consensus decision making, conflict resolution, the art of facilitation, green building, spirituality and social change, mutual mentorship and more.

Kavitha is passionate about healing and is thrilled to share with others practices that have fueled and sustained her own activism, helping her to ground her work from a place of love and creative action rather than merely anger and reaction. All the various manifestations of her work are explorations for how we can live, in the here and now, the just and sustainable futures we all deserve in solidarity with all peoples and the planet.

Kesha Ram

KeshaRamNA350sqInterim Director of Organizational Development
Kesha became a student of what makes a community whole growing up in her Indian immigrant father and Jewish American mother’s Irish pub in Santa Monica, California. Her adolescent activism in Los Angeles was divided between environmental protection and social justice until she met Van Jones, then Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and she began to see the “light at the crossroads” between the two movements.

She sought cleaner air, a more human-scale community, and a new adventure when she moved across the country to attend the University of Vermont. There, she began exploring environmental injustice faced by Vermont communities, which translated beyond her thesis work into a successful run for the state legislature at the age of 22. She served in the Vermont House of Representatives for eight years championing civil rights, tribal recognition, community-based land use planning, and protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence. In addition to her legislative service, she has worked as the Legal Director of Steps to End Domestic Violence and the Civic Engagement Director for the City of Burlington.

Kesha has served on the board of the Center for Whole Communities for six years before working as Interim Director of Organizational Development. She sees this new role as a way to uplift care, connection, and celebration for the organization in a critical juncture for its growth and expansion.

Kristin Rothballer

Kristin Rothballer PhotoSenior Fellow, Program Design and Facilitation
Kristin Rothballer is a transformative social change leader, with a focus on where care for the planet meets advocacy for equality and justice. She consults on strategy, programs and organizational development for nonprofits, foundations and social and land-based enterprises. Her current projects include serving as a Senior Fellow for Center for Whole Communities; helping to design FIREROCK, a musical to engage people around climate change. She is also on the teaching team of Ecology of Awakening, a program through Edge at Commonweal.

Kristin recently helped to build a new rural retreat center as Program Director for Bell Valley Retreat. She previously served as the Managing Director of Green for All, an organization she helped to found, which is working to build an inclusive green economy. She was the Program Director at Tunitas Creek Ranch/New Priorities Foundation, a foundation and working farm that hosted educational programs and retreats. For many years, Kristin worked as the Director of Programs at Bioneers, where she led efforts to widen participation in ecological and community restoration, particularly among underserved youth. Her background includes nonprofit management, teaching, community organizing and marketing strategy. Kristin serves on the Board of Trustees for the Tyler Rigg Foundation and also on the Board of Directors for Windcall, Edventure More and CTZN WELL.

Delma Thomas-Jackson

DelmaFaculty Trainer
Delma Thomas-Jackson is an activist, facilitator, writer, counselor, and lecturer whose research covers a variety of issues including: American pop-culture and media literacy, Islamophobia in America and abroad, Hip-Hop in the context of a Black musical legacy, sexism and media, linguistic authenticity in cross-cultural dialogues, white identity, America’s love affair with violence, the legacy of Black comedy in America, African Americans and history of health care, and African Americans in the context of US housing policy. He earned his bachelor’s degree in African-American Studies and Psychology from Eastern Michigan University (EMU) and is currently finishing his Masters degree in Liberal Arts with a focus on American studies through the Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Delma has also conducted research on Afro-European identity. In 1999, he traveled to the Netherlands to explore the Dutch role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. In 2014, he went back to the Netherlands to explore migration and immigration patterns across Western Europe as well as European racialized pop-culture and its impact on Afro-Dutch identity.

He has lectured on various topics across multiple venues including New York University’s Tisch School for Performing Arts, Toledo University’s Graduate School for Criminal Justice, the University of Michigan-Flint’s School of Health and Professional Studies, and twice at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE). He is likewise conducting counseling, advocacy, and policy work on behalf of community residents living with HIV in the city of Flint and the broader Genesee County area.

Board

Hal Colston PhotoHal Colston’s lifelong interests of social justice and entrepreneurship have been blended in his career path. After a successful culinary career, Hal founded the Good News Garage program, to create transportation equity for people in economically distressed communities. Good News Garage has become a national model with locations in several other states. In January 2011 Hal was appointed by Governor Peter Shumlin as Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on National and Community Service now renamed SerVermont. Most recently Hal has been leading the Partnership for Change, a nonprofit serving the educational sector in Chittendon County Vermont creating innovative, collaborative, and equitable learning organizations that inspire all learners to lead in their communities.

Carolyn Finney PhotoCarolyn Finney is a professor at the University of Kentucky, where she explores how difference, identity, representation, and power play a significant role in determining how people negotiate their daily lives in relation to the environment. Motivated by her experiences of living in Nepal and backpacking around the world, she returned to school after a 15-year absence to complete a B.A., and M.A. in international development. She recently completed her Ph.D. in geography at Clark University in Massachusetts. Carolyn’s research seeks to broaden our understanding of African Americans and the environment through work with other individuals, community groups, and environmental organizations. She is author of the book Black Faces, White Spaces: African Americans and the Great Outdoors published in 2014.

Kesha Ram PhotoKesha Ram became a student of what makes a community whole growing up in her Indian immigrant father and Jewish American mother’s Irish pub in Santa Monica, California. Her adolescent activism in Los Angeles was divided between environmental protection and social justice until she met Van Jones, then Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and she began to see the “light at the crossroads” between the two movements.

She sought cleaner air, a more human-scale community, and a new adventure when she moved across the country to attend the University of Vermont. There, she began exploring environmental injustice faced by Vermont communities, which translated beyond her thesis work into a successful run for the state legislature at the age of 22. She served in the Vermont House of Representatives for eight years championing civil rights, tribal recognition, community-based land use planning, and protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence. In addition to her legislative service, she has worked as the Legal Director of Steps to End Domestic Violence and the Civic Engagement Director for the City of Burlington.

Kesha has served on the board of the Center for Whole Communities for six years before working as Interim Director of Organizational Development. She sees this new role as a way to uplift care, connection, and celebration for the organization in a critical juncture for its growth and expansion.

 

Faculty Affiliates

Adrienne Maree Brown
Anushka Fernandopulle
Carolyn Finney
Steve Glazer
Toby Herzlich
Wendy Johnson
Stephanie Kaza
Matt Kolan
Melissa Nelson
Enrique Salmon
Santikaro
Mistinguette Smith
Delma Thomas Jackson
Kaylynn Two Trees
Jesse Maceo Vega Frey

Founders

Peter Forbes & Helen Whybrow

Faculty Emeriti

Our work has been informed and deepened by many teachers and facilitators over the years, and we have been honored to have them serve on our faculty and contribute to our learning. We are deeply grateful.

Marge Bruchac
Scott Chaskey
Roberto Chené
Johari Cole
Mark Coleman
Mike Connelly
Gloria Flora
John Francis
Cynthia Jurs
Bill McKibben
Curt Meine
Carolyn Raffensperger
Scott Russell Sanders
Deborah Schoenbaum
Doreen Schweizer
Larry Yang