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Board + Staff

Board of Directors

Ann Blake
Alameda, CA

Ann Blake is an independent consultant working with governments, occupational health, and public health and environmental advocates to find viable alternatives to toxic chemicals in manufacturing and consumer products. Dr. Blake’s work covers toxics reduction strategies from product content screening and environmentally preferable purchasing to drafting local, national and international legislation and chemical policies. Dr. Blake has a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, and a Ph.D. in molecular genetics and neural development from the University of Oregon.

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Allison Chin
Leesburg, VA

Dr. Allison Chin is a social justice and environmental activist who developed a love and respect for the outdoors in her youth, hiking in Sequoia Kings Canyon. She works with a variety of organizations to fight for everyone’s right to clean air, clean water, and a safe and healthy environment in which to thrive. She has led numerous initiatives in both grassroots and national leadership roles within the Sierra Club, including service on its Board of Directors from 2007 – 2013 and as president for three years. She has been a steady advocate for creating a culture in which people of all backgrounds feel welcomed, respected, supported and valued.

Dr. Chin is a retired molecular cell biologist and earned her B.A. from the University of California in San Diego and her Ph.D. at the University of Southern California. Dr. Chin worked in biotechnology and led multidisciplinary domestic and international project teams focused on developing biopharmaceuticals for the treatment of cancer and chronic degenerative diseases. In her free time, Allison and her husband enjoy growing their own food and cooking.  She loves exploring trails new and old and honing her spoon carving skills.

Ogonnaya Dotson-Newman
New York, NY

Ogonnaya Dotson-Newman is the Director of Environmental Health at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Ogonnaya joined WE ACT in April 2008 as the organization’s Environmental Health and Community-Based Participatory Research Coordinator.

Prior to joining the WE ACT team, Ogonnaya worked at Loma Linda University’s School of Public Health as a research associate and instructor, teaching classes and advising students in the Health Geoinformatics program. Her research there focused on environmental health service delivery in New Mexico, where she collaborated with local tribes on preparedness, pan flu, and preparedness training for public health professionals.

Dotson-Newman earned a degree in environmental science from DePaul University, focusing on the historical implications of place and space on the South Side of Chicago. She then completed a master’s degree in public health, researching environmental health service delivery in Zambia while teaching at a local university there. She’s most passionate about using a variety of research methods to translate science for communities of color and low income people.

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Betsy Hands
Evanston, IL

Betsy Hands has 20 years of nonprofit and leadership experience and currently works at Friends of the Chicago River as the director of outreach and community relations. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, West Africa, Hands has since worked on community organizing and economic development projects in Minneapolis, MN and Missoula, MT. She previously served as executive director at HomeWord, a community housing development corporation, incorporating green building principles into all housing. Before that, she worked with the Western Governors’ Association and former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer to analyze policies on renewable energy and transmission development in western states as well as the Western Environmental Law Center on clean energy issues. Hands was a three-term Montana State Representative.

Hands is most passionate about educating young adults, empowering women, and fostering civic engagement. She earned a B.A. in social sciences at the University of Michigan, with a focus on sustainable development, and her master’s of science in environmental studies from the University of Montana.

Anuja Mendiratta, M.E.S.
Berkeley, CA

Board Chair

Anuja Mendiratta is a Bay Area-based philanthropic advisor and independent consultant working with foundations, donors, nonprofits, and coalitions on a range of environmental, human rights, and social justice issues. Anuja manages the Race, Gender and Human Rights Fund of the Women’s Foundation of California. She recently launched an exciting new book project that will culminate in an anthology by Women of Color and Indigenous Women working on an array of environmental issues. The Mesa Refuge writers’ retreat awarded her a residency for the project. Prior to starting her consulting practice, Anuja worked at the Women’s Foundation, the Marin Community Foundation, and the San Francisco Foundation. She is a co-founder of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance. Anuja currently chairs the board of Women’s Voices for the Earth, is an advisor to the Muonde Trust (Zimbabwe), and co-chairs the Rose Foundation’s Northern California Environmental Grassroots Fund. She also serves on the funding board of the Center for Environmental Health’s Justice Fund and the 2015 grants review committee of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’s Climate Change Solutions Fund. Anuja has an undergraduate degree in environmental sciences from Antioch College and a master’s in environmental studies from York University. She lives in California, loves being outdoors and is a walker of this beautiful earth.

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Marya Torrez
Washington, DC

Marya Torrez is an attorney based in Washington, DC. She has been a social and environmental justice advocate for more than twenty years. She has worked at a number of nonprofit organizations including most recently as a reproductive justice advocate at the National Partnership for Women & Families, where she strove to ensure comprehensive health coverage for women and girls and, before that, at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Prior to moving to Washington, DC, Marya led programs in an organization serving marginalized youth in Santa Barbara, CA. Marya is currently an attorney-advisor to the DC Office of Administrative Hearings.

Marya has published a number of law review articles on the public health, environmental, and ethical implications of using animals for food. She is a member of the Community Advisory Board of the Teen Alliance for Prepared Parenting, which serves pregnant and parenting young people and their children. She previously served on the board of DC Lawyers for Youth, an organization she co-founded that advocates for improvements in the juvenile justice system.

Marya has a BA in Political Science from the University of Colorado, a JD from Georgetown University Law Center, and an LLM in Law & Government from American University Washington College of Law.

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Annie Watson, BSN
Missoula, MT

Annie graduated from the Montana State University School of nursing and most recently worked as a school nurse in the public school setting. Prior to that she worked at St. Patrick’s hospital in Missoula, where she served on the hospital’s sustainability committee and supported initiatives to make healthcare less toxic. Before earning her BSN, Annie worked throughout the Southwest Unites States, Alaska, and Mexico as both an educator and program manager with the National Outdoor Leadership School. Her background and passion for the environment and public health lead her to her involvement with Women’s Voices. Annie currently serves on the Board of the New Priorities Foundation and spends her days caring for her young daughter at home.

Jessica Welborn
Missoula, MT

In 2011, Jessica Welborn completed a Ph.D. in Perinatal Psychology at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute, with a focus on the psychological impact of donating breast milk following a perinatal loss. Dr. Welborn worked as the donor coordinator at the Mother’s Milk Bank in San Jose, CA, where she conducted her doctoral research. She is writing a toolkit based on her dissertation that provides healthcare providers with information about how to address lactation with bereaved mothers. She currently serves on the Board of Hunter Industries, a family-owned irrigation business that her grandfather started in 1981. Dr. Welborn can often be found exploring and hiking remote parts of Montana with her husband and her dog, Sam. Jessica also enjoys yoga, traveling, and cooking.

Tamara Toles-O-Laughlin

Tamara Toles-O’Laughlin
Brooklyn, NY

Tamara hails from Brooklyn, New York. She is an environmental advocate focused on social, environmental justice and access issues. She holds degrees from The City College, City University of New York, and Vermont Law School.

Tamara most recently served as Energy Communications Manager at the Maryland Energy Administration where she lead planning and development of programmatic communications, working primarily with Maryland state and local agencies, and the Office of the Governor.

Tamara works diligently to connect environmental thought leadership to action. She has been a proud DC EcoWomen Executive Board Member, on the Professional Development team, since August 2014. Additionally, she is a state representative on the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments: Air and Climate Public Advisory Committee. She is also a member of the Washington Council of Lawyers and the American Association of Blacks in Energy. Tamara was recently selected as a Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program’s 2015 Chesapeake Regional Network.

Prior to relocating to the DC Metro area, she served as the Senior Law Clerk to the Honorable Douglas A. Brady, and the (retired) Senior Sitting Judge Julio A. Brady at the Superior Court of the US Virgin Islands on St. Croix.

Tamara graduated from Vermont Law School in 2009, with a Juris Doctor and Masters of Environmental Law and Policy. The defining characteristic of her career has been a desire to work in public service, with specific attention to environmentally focused community, and government relations. She has been fortunate to hold positions with the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation, The Environmental Protection Agency, the Center on Race, Poverty and Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, among others.

Tamara is committed to environmental advocacy work for the poor and chronically underserved, and has worked for over fifteen years to promote the principles of environmental justice, with particular attention to community capacity building, mobilization, equity of enforcement, and environmental health.

Her hobbies include travel, yoga, reading boring books about politics and neuroscience, and subsequently writing diatribes about what she reads.

Karla James

Karla James
Oakland, CA

Karla James serves as the chief financial officer and chief operating officer for the Rose Foundation for Communities and Environment, a public charity that awards grants to grassroots initiatives working to protect the environment, public health and consumers. She serves as the director of the Consumer Products Fund, which supports organizations that educate consumers about the potential harmful health impacts of product ingredients. She directs the Rose Foundations’s Consumer Privacy Rights Fund, the Northern California Environmental Grassroots Fund and the Community Leadership Fund, where she helps to build the capacity of organizations that serve low-income, communities of color. Her experience in small business management includes founding and managing a whitewater rafting company in Montana. She previously taught high school and has an extensive volunteer background with grassroots social and environmental nonprofits, including Copwatch, a police accountability organization in Berkeley, CA. She serves on the board of Community Defense Inc, a nonprofit public interest law firm. She has a BA in Political Science from Texas A&M University. She lives in Berkeley with her family, and enjoys rock climbing, running, rafting,  camping, gardening, home fix-it projects and coaching her daughter’s soccer and softball teams.

Staff 

Erin Switalski

Executive Director

Before joining Women’s Voices for the Earth in 2005, Erin worked in a variety of fields, including affordable, green-built housing and human rights. At WVE, Erin has led statewide initiatives to reduce women’s exposure to mercury from mercury-containing products and introduced comprehensive legislation to ban the sale of mercury products in the state of Montana. She was also responsible for developing and implementing all aspects of the national Safe Cleaning Products Initiative, which has garnered international media attention and moved major corporations to make unprecedented policy changes, resulting in the introduction of federal legislation that, when passed, will reduce women’s exposure to cleaning product chemicals.

Erin has given numerous presentations about the unique role women play as advocates to diverse audiences across the Unites States. In 2010, she won the New Leaders Council’s “40 Under 40” leadership award for advocacy. Erin has traveled to Colombia twice to act as a human rights observer and holds a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Montana.

Jean Claire Duncan

Director of Finances & Administration

Jean Claire Duncan has an MBA from the University of Montana and a B.S. from University of Kentucky.  Jean oversees the financial, human resource, and technical systems management of the organization. She brings eight years of experience with business and financial management, office systems and other entrepreneurial endeavors.

Most recently, Jean spent six years working with Montana-based Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) as an interim executive director and a board member. Before that, she served three years as the business manager for the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center in Missoula, executive director of the Montana Hunger Coalition, and as general manager of a California-based food cooperative. Jean is happiest in the great outdoors, eating fresh local organic food, and being with her wonderful children, all but one of whom are grown ups now.

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Alexandra Scranton

Director of Science and Research

Alexandra Scranton is the Director of Science and Research at Women’s Voices for the Earth. Alex authors WVE’s scientific reports and provides scientific review for the organization’s programs. Prior to working at WVE, she worked in the epidemiology and statistics unit at the American Lung Association headquarters in New York. She currently sits on the Research Advisory Committee for the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and on the Institutional Biosafety Committee for Rocky Mountain Laboratories (a National Institutes of Health facility). She has a master’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana and a B.A. from Amherst College. Alex lives and works from Missoula, MT, with her husband and two beautiful daughters.

Jamie McConnell

Director of Programs and Policy

Jamie advances policies and strategies to reduce women’s exposure to toxic chemicals in both the home and occupational settings. She is the National Coordinator of the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance, and she serves on the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics national steering committee and legislative subcommittee.

Jamie has a master’s degree in environmental studies from the University of Montana and a B.A. from UCLA.  While attending the University of Montana, Jamie was named a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (2005-2006).

Sarada

Sarada Tangirala

National Campaigns Manager
Sarada has a deep background in environmental justice and corporate accountability campaigning. Previously she led market-based change efforts at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Her experience also includes coordinating Project Underground’s Chevron Nigeria campaign and conducting strategic corporate research for environmental justice campaigns at the Data Center. Sarada holds an MPP from Oregon State University and a BA in Sociology from UC Davis.

Beth

Beth Conway

Communications & Outreach Manager

Beth spent the last decade spearheading marketing, communications and multi-media programs in the adventure and sustainable travel industry. During those ten years, she had the opportunity to travel the globe and connect with diverse communities across the world. Beth holds degrees in history, English and political science and has her MFA in creative writing from the University of Montana, Missoula. She brings her love of language — the power of message — to Women’s Voices for the Earth. She knows the potency voices have to strengthen like-minded communities, ignite action and invite conversations with the most seemingly surprising allies.

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Robyn Hegland

Director of Development

Robyn has a background in feminist organizing and fundraising, and is excited to connect with WVE’s donors. She comes to us from Youth Homes, where she led fundraising efforts for the Linda Massa Youth Home. Previously, Robyn served two Americorps VISTA terms at Women’s Opportunity & Resource Development (WORD) as their Development and Communications Coordinator. She holds a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of Montana, where she also directed her campus Women’s Center. A born-and-raised Montanan, Robyn spends her off-hours hiking, biking, skiing, cooking, reading, and enjoying Missoula’s microbreweries.