Jess Grady-Benson, Young Alumni Organizer
Jess joins the REC team to support young alumni organizing for divestment and reinvestment campaigns. Currently based in Philly, Jess organizes to develop strategic avenues for alumni participation in campaigns that maximize the unique skills and leverage of young alums. A recent graduate of Pitzer College, Jess co-founded the Claremont Colleges Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign, which achieved victory at Pitzer in April, 2014. Believing deeply in the power of divestment to shift the discourse on climate change, challenge perceptions of risk and return, and mobilize youth power for climate justice, she is inspired to continue supporting the movement for divestment and reinvestment. In addition to her work with REC, Jess is a member of the Coordinating Committee of the Divestment Student Network. She also organizes with DSN’s Alumni Divestment Network, which seeks to build political community among recent alums organizing for divestment and climate justice. Jess is passionate about building a just transition to a new economy by bridging movements for climate, racial, and economic justice.
Outside of organizing work, Jess loves to play music, go on adventures, and ride her bike. You can follow her on twitter @jessgradybenson and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biola Jeje, Communications and Development Associate
Biola Jeje first joined REC as the Actions Organizer for the People’s Climate March and now supports as the Communications and Development Associate. Biola is an organizer, writer, and artist born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She began organizing as a member of the Brooklyn College Student Union and was one of the founders of New York Students Rising, a statewide network of students dedicated to the defense of public higher education.
As a writer, her work has been featured in Alternet, Salon, PolicyMic, and InTheseTimes and more. She also serves on the board of the the Participatory Budgeting Project, which works to transform democracy at the local level by giving people control over public funds in a way that is democratic and grassroots.
In her spare time she enjoys painting, making infused liqueurs, and reading. You can follow her on twitter @biolajeje.
Hannah is excited to be joining REC's team to support student divestment and reinvestment campaigns. She first encountered REC while working on Swarthmore Mountain Justice's fossil fuel divestment campaign. Since graduating from Swarthmore in 2012, she has continued to work with the national divestment movement to connect with grassroots organizations fighting extreme extraction on the ground. She has also recently started an organizing collective in Philadelphia with 5 friends called the Maypop Collective for Climate and Economic Justice. She owes much of her political development to mentors and friends in Swarthmore and Philadelphia, and to those fighting mountaintop removal in Central Appalachia. From them, she learned about the deeply entrenched nature of environmental, racial, and economic injustice.
When she is not organizing, Hannah sings and plays saxophone, plays ultimate frisbee, and ferments cabbage. You can reach her at email@example.com.
Nina Macapinlac, Coordinator of Alumni Organizing
Nina is the Coordinator of Alumni Organizing for the Responsible Endowments Coalition. She works and builds with alumni from around the country, getting them involved with divestment efforts at their alma maters and in the larger movement for responsible endowments. Born in the Philippines, she is a Rutgers University graduate and longtime New Jersey resident who has fought alongside many others for immigrant and labor rights. She is currently the Vice Chairperson for Anakbayan-NJ, a progressive Filipino youth and student organization that serves working-class Filipino communities across the state. With Anakbayan and the rest of the New Jersey Tuition Equity for Dreamers Coalition, Nina was involved in the youth-led campaign that passed the New Jersey DREAM Act in December 2013. Nina continues to support efforts to organize immigrant youth and migrant workers in New Jersey. She hopes to link and raise the connections between endowment justice and community-led grassroots movements for economic, political, and social justice.
Lauren Ressler, Director of Campus Organizing
Lauren currently supports the national student responsible investment movement as Director of Campus Organizing for the Responsible Endowments Coalition. Originally from Seattle, Washington, Lauren worked with the Cascade Climate Network and Sierra Student Coalition to oppose the development of coal export facilities along the Pacific Northwest coast. In addition to this work on coal exports, Lauren has worked on ending the student loan debt crisis and making higher education affordable for all. She currently organizes with more than 20 campuses across the U.S. campaigning for fossil fuel divestment and reinvestment and the emerging prison divestment campaign.
Lauren enjoys spending her free time creating incredible vegetarian meals, exploring new communities, and brushing up on her salsa dancing. Contact Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter at @laurenressler.
Marcie Smith, Executive Director
Marcie Smith is the Executive Director of the Responsible Endowments Coalition where she works with university students, alumni, administrators, and trustees to align endowment investments with the long-term, democratic mission of higher education. She has been organizing youth and students around climate justice, democratic economic development, and girls' and women's rights since 2006. During college, she started her campus’s first environmental organization, co-founded the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition (KSEC), and served on the Student Environmental Action Coalition’s national council. As a former co-chair of Youth for Sustainable Development (SustainUS) and an early organizer with YouNGO, she was deeply involved in international youth organizing around and within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties 14, 15, and 16. She has also worked with Grand Aspirations, Energy Action Coalition, the Sustainable Economies Law Center, Carolina Common Enterprise, and the UNC Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, and is the founder of the girls' empowerment organization Full Circles Foundation. She is originally from Kentucky, received her B.A. from Transylvania University, and J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law.
Ian Trupin, Organizer
Ian works with student groups around the country who are demanding that their schools divest from private prisons and fossil fuels. As a student activist himself, Ian worked on a successful campaign that led Brown University to divest from HEI Hotels and Resorts, a hotel chain notorious for its labor rights abuses. This involvement led to an interest in endowment justice which he pursued as a student representative on Brown’s advisory committee on investor responsibility. A proud Tanzanian-American, Ian is passionate about economic justice organizing and challenging institutions to mobilize their resources in support of new economy solutions.
Ian enjoys learning about his beautiful new home of New York City, drawing, singing, and jamming on various stringed instruments.
Robert Ascherman, Spring Organizing Intern
Robert is currently a junior at NYU’s School of Individualized Studies, where he has made his own major called “The Role of Liberation Theory and Psychology in Social Movements” He has been organizing with NYU Student Labor Action Movement and United Students Against Sweatshops throughout college and is very excited to be spending this Spring with REC. As a member of SLAM and USAS Robert has worked on housing and education justice campaigns, in addition to workers’ rights campaigns. In addition to looking into Liberation Psychology Robert is interested in multi-issue movement building that unites people across all lines of division, and how economic and political conditions in the 21st century require new models for organizing.
When not organizing Robert likes to spend his free time reading, listening to music, playing video games and being with friends. Contact Robert at Robert@endowmentethics.com
Board of Directors
Kate is a student representative on the board who has been involved with endowment issues since her first semester at Swarthmore College. She is a member of Swarthmore Mountain Justice, a group pressuring the college to divest its holdings in the fossil fuel industry. In addition to climate justice work, Kate is an active member of the Swarthmore Labor Action Project and an intern with Movement Catalyst, a movement support group for community-based social justice organizations working primarily on housing rights. A senior at Swarthmore, she is a History major and Political Science minor.
Vonda Brunsting is the Director of the Capital Stewardship Program at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Vonda also serves on the Board of the Trustee Leadership Committee. Vonda attended the University of Chicago and Calvin College. Vonda lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Patricia Estevez works at Change to Win, a labor federation, on corporate governance, shareholder and labor issues since November 2008. Prior to this, she worked on Wall Street as a financial analyst. Patricia has been active with NYC area organizations that empower young people from low income communities to find their paths to success. She grew up in Queens, New York.
Beth Herz is Associate Program Officer at the Surdna Foundation, a New York-based family foundation that supports sustainable and just communities in the U.S. In this role, Beth works with Surdna’s program staff and board to ensure collaboration and impact across the foundation’s three areas of work – sustainable environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures. Beth joined Surdna as a member of the Sustainable Environments team, where she contributed to grantmaking and strategy development in climate change, transportation systems, and the green economy. She previously worked in community organizing and advocacy, including at WE ACT for Environmental Justice in Manhattan.Beth received a B.A. from Wesleyan University and an M.S. in Natural Resources and Environment from the University of Michigan. In addition to the Responsible Endowments Coalition board, Beth sits on the Board of Advisors of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy.
Varshini Prakash is a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she is pursuing a dual-degree in Environmental Science and Political Science. She has played an active role in the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign since its inception. A Massachusetts native and life-long resident, Varshini recognizes the importance of connecting on-campus organizing efforts to local off-campus ones. She has worked on a variety of climate-related campaigns in Massachusetts with groups like 350.org and Better Future Project.
Maura began working with REC as a freshman at Seattle University when she led the formation of the Committee on Responsible Investment (CRI). She served as the REC Northwest Student Organizer and a Steering Committee member from 2008-2010 and started a community investment program and a revolving fund for energy-saving sustainability projects at Seattle U. After living, working and studying in Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, Maura returned to Seattle where she now works for PCC Farmland Trust– a non-profit land conservation organization that preserves and stewards organic farmland throughout WA state. Outside of her local food/economy passions, Maura loves experimenting in the kitchen, capturing moments with her trusty Nikon, running around and climbing things, traveling to meet new people and places – anything that involves adventure. Maura is delighted to have served on the board since late 2010, and is honored to help guide the organization that was so integral to her commitment to the movement.
Mary Schellentrager works at Energy Action Coalition as Divestment Campaign Coordinator, supporting students campaigning for fossil fuel divestment and sustainable reinvestment nationwide. She began working with REC in 2007 when she advocated to establish a committee on responsible investment and sustained investment in the DC community while studying at American University. She served on REC’s Student Steering Committee and as Mid-Atlantic Student Organizer from 2009-2011. While at AU, she co-coordinated the Community Action and Social Justice coalition, helped win union recognition for the university’s shuttle bus operators, and organized for affordable housing and reproductive rights in DC. She loves working in close partnership with REC at the intersection of environmental and economic justice and is honored to have contributed to the strategic growth of the organization since she joined the Board in 2010. In her free time she adores taking road trips, camping, seeing live music, and spending time with family.
Jérôme Tagger serves as Director of Membership and Operations at the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN). In this role, Jérôme oversees the strategy, member services, recruitment, and programming for both the Investors’ Council and Network Membership initiatives, as well as certain GIIN operations.
Jérôme has an extensive background in non-profit management with global organizations in the fields of sustainable and responsible finance. He served as the Chief Operating Officer of the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment, where he worked for five years. Prior to that, he was Head of Research at Eurosif, the European Social Investment Forum. Jérôme is a graduate of Essec Business School in France.
Molly Thomas-Jensen is an attorney with Change to Win Labor Federation. Prior to working for CtW, she worked at South Brooklyn Legal Services, where her work focused on employment discrimination against individuals with criminal records. Molly is an active member of the New York State Bar Association's Labor & Employment Law Section Executive Committee and the New York City Bar Association's Committee on Legal Issues Affecting People with Disabilities. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Brown University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Sam Wohns is a student at Harvard University, where he studies political economy. As a sophomore in college, Sam founded the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition with the goal of making his university’s endowment the most responsibly managed in the country. The Coalition launched the Fair Harvard Fund as a mechanism for students and alumni to support the creation of a Social Choice Fund within the endowment by donating to a responsibly managed escrow fund.
Sam’s commitment to social justice has led him to organize rural residents to protect the Tangle Lakes in Alaska from large-scale development, train volunteers to empower youth living with diabetes in Ecuador, and co-found a student think-and-action-tank called Economy Futures. Although he is usually down to Earth, Sam is on cloud nine when eating wood-fired pizza, listening to street musicians, or backpacking between snow-capped peaks.
Joshua Humphreys, is the President of the Croatan Institute.
Anuradha Mittal is the founder and executive director of the Oakland Institute.
Robert A. G. Monks, Founder ISS, Lens Investors, Hermes Lens, GMI.
Stephen Mulkey is the President of Unity College in Maine.