Board Members

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President: Theresa Dardar

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Vice President: Rosina Philippe

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Treasurer: Evan Ponder

Evan is currently a graduate student in Social Work focusing on Community Health and Urban Development at the Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago. Evan works at the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA).

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Evan was a Community Liaison for Project Homecoming, Inc. from 2012-2014, collaborating with community groups around affordable housing and neighborhood recovery and planning efforts. from 2010-2015, Evan worked as a wetland communities advocate through the Coastal Communities Collaborative and Bayou Blue Presbyterian Church to support and strengthen connections between coastal communities in Louisiana around environmental justice and community resilience.



Acting Secretary: Louise Fortmann

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At Large: May Nguyen

Nguyen is the Community Outreach Director at Tulane Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic and practices law part time at Garcia Law Firm
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In 2013, Nguyen received the Rishwain Social Justice Entrepreneur Award for designing and implementing a novel “impact claims” campaign strategy to demand recognition and calculate damages for lost subsistence use due to the BP oil drilling disaster. After Hurricane Katrina, Nguyen created culturally competent small business assistance programs and organized partnerships among diverse stakeholders to attract over $4 million in grants and low-interest loans to rebuild neighborhood businesses in New Orleans east. Her work was detailed in “Coming Home to New Orleans,” published in 2013 by Oxford University Press. Nguyen is fluent in Vietnamese and proficient in Spanish.

J.D., UCLA Law School

M.A., Johns Hopkins University

B.A., Amherst College

At Large: Michele Companion


Team Members

Kristina Peterson

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Alessandra Jerolleman

Alessandra Jerolleman is a subject matter expert in climate adaptation, hazard mitigation, and resilience with a long history of working in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
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Dr. Jerolleman is the Vice President of Louisiana Water Works where she works on projects related to integrated water management and resilience. She is also currently supporting the flood recovery efforts in Baton Rouge with FEMA and supporting climate adaptation efforts for local communities along the Gulf Coast with the Lowlander Center. She currently teaches for Tulane University, the University of New Orleans, and Jacksonville State University. Dr. Jerolleman’s experience includes the following: working as the lead grant writer and emergency planner for the First Peoples’ Conservation Council, working with the Lowlander Center on coastal community resettlement, community based resilience planning across the United States, serving as a Program Specialist in the Gulf Coast with Save the Children USA, working on a resilience initiative around children’s needs in emergencies; hazard mitigation planning at the local, state and campus level; community education and outreach regarding mitigation measures and preparedness; development of collaborative networks and information sharing avenues among practitioners; and, delivery of training and education to various stakeholders. Dr. Jerolleman is one of the founders of the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association (NHMA) and served as its Executive Director for its first seven years. She is involved in various aspects of planning and policy and the national and local level, including participation in several workshops each year. Dr. Jerolleman speaks on many topics including: hazard mitigation and climate change; campus planning; threat, hazard and vulnerability assessments; hazard mitigation planning; protecting children in disasters; and, public/private partnerships. PHD, MPA, CFM



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Shirley Laska

Shirley Laska, PhD, completed 35 years of academic work, principally as a research manager at the University of New Orleans, before retiring in 2009 and transitioning her efforts to full-time applied research.

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She is a community/environmental/disaster recovery sociologist with significant time spent on interdisciplinary teaching, interdisciplinary research and service on interdisciplinary advisory committees both regionally as well as nationally—namely the National Academy of Sciences.

Shirley co-founded the Lowlander Center with Kristina Peterson in 2009. Their goal was (and is) to commit their time fully to the support of coastal and bayou communities of Louisiana through service to community goals and applied research similarly to support their successful sustainability. The challenge of supporting communities so threatened by land loss and powerful riverine flooding, coastal storm inundation and oil spills is that sustainability adjustments may in the end be inadequate to these communities being able to remain in place. The Lowlander philosophy is that the sustainability skills developed in their effort to remain in place can be used to resettle inland if conditions warrant, i.e. “between now and then.”

Shirley was educated at Boston University, Tulane University and a Post-doc with the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in Cali, Colombia. She has taught at Dillard University and the University of New Orleans where she created two research centers, one directed toward environmental sociology and the other applied disaster mitigation and served as Vice President of Research for eight of the 35 years. She is (almost) a lifelong resident of coastal Louisiana.



Amy Lesen

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Dick Krajeski

Rev. Richard L Krajeski has served the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) and the ecumenical- interfaith community as an ordained pastor for over 50 years and the disaster response community as a scholar/advocate for over 30 years.
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He spent 40 years as a pastor in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia and 12 years in the delta - bayou area of southeast Louisiana – all places of ‘economic, environmental extraction and human exploitation’. He is actively engaged in environmental and social justice issues. Dick’s academic background includes degrees in philosophy, history and theology. His doctoral program was in applied technology, with concentration on sustainable development and ethics. He has been instrumental in introducing the concept of mitigation, vulnerability and resilience to the disaster and mission ministries of the religious community. He led the country’s largest VISTA program as a response to massive plant and mine closures and then helped the program engage in disaster mitigation work following the 1985 flood. Krajeski is a founding member of the international Gender and Disaster Network as well as a founding board member of the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association and the Lowlander Center where he was the founding president. He is a Fellow in the Society for Applied Anthropology and was awarded the distinguish service award by Church World Service Disaster Response for his work in developing justice based community disaster response and mitigation programs particularly in large scale disasters. His present interests include exploring the nature of just resilience and just collaborative co-creation of knowledge (research).



Tony Laska

Anthony Laska has combined formal education in Louisiana coastal ecology, more than two decades of training and experience in environmental planning, building performance and energy management and a deep understanding of natural system elements and processes to support innovative and sustainable projects and programs to enhance community resilience.

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As a community volunteer helping New Orleans’ Parkway Partners with the city’s recovery following Hurricane Isaac, Dr. Laska took charge of teams of volunteers over several weeks, straightening and anchoring more than 70 of the 700 trees planted on public land that had been blown over and even uprooted. More than 20 years previously, as president of the Bywater Neighborhood Association he coordinated a number of early volunteer efforts to plant street trees that now shade several blocks in the Upper 9th Ward. At present he is public communications interface between the contractors, volunteers and sponsors of the S&WB-sponsored “WEB” green infrastructure project and the Broadmoor Improvement Association and neighborhood residents, explaining the value of containing and reducing rainfall runoff to decrease localized street flooding. Tony was the New Orleans City Planning Commission’s Environmental Planner in the ‘80’s, immersed in process and public service, advising city officials on the impacts of federal and state energy and environmental regulations and proposing City actions. In this capacity he honed a talent for explaining complex technical concepts to decision-makers with limited attention span. In addition to processing environmental impact applications, he collaborated with a leading civic-minded mechanical contractor to draft, present and gain approval for city and/or state legislation regarding energy efficiency, recycling, performance contracting, building codes and environmental management, and secured grant funding for recycling and energy demonstration projects. Tony moved to Oregon in 1989 where he gained proficiency in cutting edge science of wetland assessment and energy management. As Special Assistant to the President of Clatsop Community College, he played an intergovernmental role, building a new campus. Tony supported program design and securing of Congressional funding for three buildings to complement the new Maritime Sciences facility: Industrial & Manufacturing Technology Center; “Living Machine” wastewater treatment demonstration facility, and the Fire School at the Marine and Environmental Research and Training Station, (MERTS) Astoria, Oregon. He transferred “temporarily” back to New Orleans in 2007 to participate in the post-Katrina recovery, serving on pro bono committees and boards focused on sustainable re-development, citywide energy efficiency program development, regional water resource management and HVAC, while continuing to consult in energy and environmental management in Louisiana to the present day. Tony’s undergraduate degree is from Harvard University; his MS, PhD and Post-Doctoral research with Tulane University.




AmeriCorps VISTA Members

Katie Dehart

Kandi Dardar

Carmalita Sylve