President: Theresa Dardar
Theresa Dardar is a resident of a small American Indian community of Pointe-aux-Chenes in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, one of the most fragile coastal areas in the world.
She works as the Diocesan American Indian liaison at the Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux and serves as President of St. Charles the Roch, Kateri Circle, which is a branch of the Tekakwitha Conference. She is a board member of South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center and Go Fish, a multi-parish alliance of fisher families. Theresa serves as well as the President of First Peoples’ Conservation Council. She is a member of The Grail, movement supporting the human rights of women. Theresa has been a participant/leader in Church Women United, an ecumenical women’s movement that fights against racial prejudice. She spends most of her time traveling between political, professional, academic and organizational realms to voice justice concerns for her tribe and for the greater native community. When she does find herself at home, Theresa enjoys cooking special local bayou dishes and being out on the water and shrimping with her husband, Donald.
Vice President: Rosina Philippe
A lifetime resident of coastal Louisiana, and an Elder/Member of the Atakapa-Ishak/Chawasha Tribe, Ms. Philippe is an advocate for preservation of traditional cultural and heritage practices and a grassroots activist.
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).
Acting Secretary: Louise Fortmann
Louise Fortmann is a retired professor of natural resource sociology in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California at Berkeley.
At Large: May Nguyen
J.D., UCLA Law School
M.A., Johns Hopkins University
B.A., Amherst College
At Large: Michele Companion
Michèle Companion is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs and a food and livelihood security expert.
Dr. Companion works as a food and livelihood security consultant to international humanitarian aid organizations. She has worked extensively across Africa in countries including Malawi, Mozambique, Angola, South Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Somalia and in Japan. Her current work focuses on the expansion of food security indicators to increase local sensitivity to food crisis triggers, especially in local markets and urban areas, and on population displacement, migration, and resettlement. She has numerous publications. She edited the volume Disaster’s Impact on Livelihood and Cultural Survival: Losses, Opportunities, and Mitigation (CRC Press, 2015), which includes contributions from a number of Lowlander Center team members, and co-edited Responses to Disasters and Climate Change: Understanding Vulnerability and Fostering Resilience with Miriam S. Chaiken (CRC Press, 2017) and Street Food: Culture, Economy, Health, and Governance with Ryzia de Cassia Vieira Cardoso and Stefano Marras (Earthscan from Routledge, 2017).
Kristina Peterson, is an aspiring permaculturalist and is working towards the integration of nature into all she does.
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.
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.
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.
AmeriCorps VISTA Members
Hello my name is Kandi Dardar and I’m a memeber of the Pointe-Au-Chien Indian tribe.