Our Team

Meet our Staff and Board of Directors

Team

Propeller Team

Andrea Chen

Co-Founder & CEO

(504) 345 - 9836

Andrea oversees the Propeller team, operations and strategic direction.

Andrea began her career as a high school English teacher at John McDonogh Sr. High School and subsequently trained teachers at the University of New Orleans and The New Teacher Project. She has worked at the Louisiana Association of Charter Schools where she oversaw grantmaking for over $5 million in charter school startup funds and launched a $1.5 million below-market rate Bridge Loan Fund. She was named “40 Under 40” by Gambit Magazine, 2010 City Business Women of the Year, World Economic Forum Young Global Shaper, and is an appointed board member of the New Orleans Business Alliance, the official economic development arm of the City of New Orleans. She graduated from Stanford University, attended Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University of New Orleans, and was trained in business at Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business.

Jess Allen

Chief Operating Officer

(504) 408 - 1386

Jessica is Propeller’s Chief Operating Officer with previous experience as Propeller’s Senior Health Program Manager.

Throughout her over ten year career in the nonprofit sector, Jessica has focused on championing cross-team collaboration to scale impact and achieve organizational goals. As Propeller’s Chief Operating Officer, she leads key initiatives in support of operational and strategic priorities to advance the organization’s mission and vision. Jessica also serves as a liaison with the Executive Director to provide management oversight and coordination of programs and special projects.

Prior to this role, Jessica served as Propeller’s Senior Health Program Manager. She continues to support those ventures who deliver healthcare services and address social determinants of health through the Impact Accelerator. Since 2017, she has provided technical assistance and coaching to over 25 business owners who have created 20+ jobs and reached over $700,000 in revenue and investment in New Orleans.

Jessica is the Chair of the Advisory Board of the New Orleans Chapter of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. She holds a Master’s in Public Health from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine with a focus in Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Bryn Mawr College.

Erik Paskewich

Director of Entrepreneurship

(504) 475 - 6598

Erik grew up on the West Bank of New Orleans and attended Tulane University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Management in 2013. After graduation, Erik served with a variety of socially minded organizations in New Orleans while working towards earning a Master of Business Administration from Loyola University in 2016. Passion for both entrepreneurship and for helping to spark positive change in his community led Erik to joining the Propeller team. Erik is excited to use his experience to help others build strong, sustainable organizations.

Adele London

Director of Community Development

Adele London is co-founder and Director of Business Development for enmasse Media with over 23 years in the field of small business and economic development. As an honors graduate of Loyola University of New Orleans, LA, London holds both a B.A. in Political Science and JD and for her outstanding leadership and dedication, she received the coveted Loyola Spirit Award, the highest recognition of a student’s demonstration of service to others at the prestigious institution. Adele is a very creative thinker, with innovative approaches and cutting edge concepts and her marketing acumen is highly regarded and has been noted by many of the small businesses and nonprofit organizations. She is highly trained business coach and has been recognized by the SBA and FDIC for efforts to bring small businesses to the next level. Adele is a very creative thinker, with innovative approaches and cutting edge concepts. She is accomplished in many aspects of the marketing process including conceptualization, planning, writing, design, placement and distribution, production management and client relations. For more than 20 years, she has trained and mentored hundreds of small business enterprises. As a past Director of Business Development for Good Work Network, the Exec Director of the SE Louisiana Women’s Business Center and the Business Affairs Manager at The Housing Authority of New Orleans Small Business Program. Throughout her career, Adele has assisted some of the most under-resourced entrepreneurs to incorporate sustainable business practices and launch successful ventures.

Elizabeth Eumont

Controller

(504) 453 - 4385

Elizabeth was born and raised in New Orleans. She attended the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Business Administration. Following her time in Charleston, she moved back home to New Orleans to obtain her Master of Science in Accounting at the University of New Orleans. While studying for her Masters, she started work at Postlethwaite & Netterville as an audit intern. During Elizabeth’s four years at P&N, she worked on Propeller’s financial statement audit as well as the audits of other non-profit organizations in the Greater New Orleans area. Through working with non-profit organizations, she decided that she wanted to pursue a career in the non-profit sector outside of public accounting. Following her four years at P&N, Elizabeth worked as the Assistant Controller for the Archdiocese of New Orleans before joining the Propeller team.

Patrick Hernandez

Director of Capital Access

(985) 519 - 1766

Patrick serves as the Director of Capital Access, working to oversee the Propeller Impact Fund II as well as it’s predecessor Propeller Social Venture Fund, lead strategic planning efforts for and execution of access to capital programming, and connect entrepreneurs to capital sources to grow their businesses and impact.

A native of south Louisiana, Patrick left the state to attend the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics with a concentration in Finance. He began his career on the Allianz Capital Partners private equity fund investment team in New York City before moving back to Louisiana to co-found Roulaison Distilling Co. As an entrepreneur himself, Patrick understands the importance of access to capital.

Outside of work, Patrick spends his time volunteering with and serving on the Board of Directors of Young Leadership Council.

Dr. Biruk Alemayehu

Monitoring and Evaluation Manager

Biruk oversees Propeller’s data collection, analysis, monitoring, and evaluation. Before joining Propeller’s team, Biruk was a full-time Associate Professor in the College of Business and Public Administration at Southern University in New Orleans for the last twelve years and an Adjunct Professor in the online Masters in Public Administration program at Grand Canyon University. She has studied in the Czech Republic for ten years and worked in Luanda, Angola for six years. Before coming to the United States, she worked for the United Nations Development Program and other international nonprofit organizations such as Africare Angola.

She received her Ph.D. in Public Policy with a concentration in public finance, a Masters of Professional Accountancy from Southern University in Baton Rouge, and an Engineering Degree in Agricultural Economics and Management from Mendel University in Brno, Czech Republic.

She loves cooking, traveling, reading, and exploring new cultures, food, and places in her free time. That love led her to open Addis NOLA, a family-owned restaurant serving traditional Ethiopian meals and sharing Ethiopian culture. She is also a 2020 Propeller Impact Accelerator Alumnus with Addis NOLA. She is fluent in five languages including Amharic, Czech, Spanish, Portuguese and English.

Sean Kline

Coworking Operations Manager

(504) 338 - 8688

Sean manages the Propeller Coworking space, focusing on business development, member and community relations, facilities management, and financial management. Reach out to him if you are interested in becoming a co-working member or renting out event space.

Sean was born and raised outside of Cincinnati, OH in the small town of Miamisburg. He has spent the majority of his career working for the YMCA as a program manager, primarily focused on working with Youth and Families in the immediate and surrounding communities. Coming from a small, Midwestern town, Sean looks forward to integrating himself into New Orleans culture, and working with Propeller to fight the inequalities faced within the community every day.

When he’s not working, Sean enjoys running, spending time with his dog Leo, cheering on the Pelicans, and exploring everything New Orleans has to offer.

Amber Tucker

Programs Manager

(504) 319 - 0984

Amber Tucker is a place-based public health advocate. She previously worked as a research coordinator for The Healthy Neighborhoods Project and the Program Director of Hagar’s House, a home for women and children in New Orleans. Amber has her master’s degree in Public Health from Louisiana State University, where her research focused on the impact of transportation and housing access on health outcomes. She has completed coursework in Clinical Mental Health at Xavier University and earned her bachelor’s degree at Smith College with a self-designed major in Social Movements and Activism. Amber’s engagement with housing equity work in New Orleans includes employment at Tulane University’s School of Medicine, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, as board member of the Tulane Canal Neighborhood Association, and the Tulane Canal Development Corporation.

Sophia Scarano

Programs Manager

Born and raised on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Sophia Scarano developed a passion for the arts and community serving enterprises at a young age. They studied Music Education at Florida State University and have continued to perform as a professional classical bassist with ensembles across the U.S. Sophia moved to New Orleans in 2014 where they earned their MA in Arts Administration. During this time, Sophia worked with arts organizations such as the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Uptown Music Exchange, the Louisiana Philharmonic, and Girls Rock New Orleans. Their dedication to mutual aid, uplifting marginalized people, and serving their community in New Orleans led them to Propeller, where they work to support water and education ventures in New Orleans as Program Manager.

Liz Johnston

Senior Grants Coordinator

Liz Johnston is a writer, performer, and Native New Orleanian with a passion for advocacy, the arts, and cultural studies. A graduate of Loyola University New Orleans and Louisiana State University, Liz has a BA in Writing with a minor in Social Media/Mass Communication, an MA in Writing and Culture, and is a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Literature with a French Studies minor.

In their career as an academic scholar, Liz was a Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Fellow and Instructor at LSU sharing their research on African Traditional Religions (ATRs) and Popular Culture at various venues including the Louisiana Folklore Society and the Harvard Institute for World Literature. Liz is also the Founder and former Editor-in-Chief of the online arts, comparative studies, and gender/women studies journal Comparative Woman at LSU. They also worked as a Copyeditor and Social Media Specialist for The Maroon at Loyola and the Editor in Chief of the Loyola Branch of The Odyssey Online.

With a diverse background in nonprofit work, Liz did Public Relations work with The American Red Cross of Louisiana, chaired the Loyola University Community Action Program (LUCAP) where they won the Magis Award for Leadership, served as Development Director and Public Relations Coordinator at Anna’s Place NOLA and the Dodwell House Community Resource Center, and has been a mentor in several programs over the years.

Liz is passionate about supporting social justice, systemic change, and community advancement in New Orleans and is excited to join Propeller in our mission to grow and support local entrepreneurs in tackling social and economic disparities.

Damian Clark

Strategic Project Manager

Damian Clark serves as the Strategic Project Manager for Propeller. Damian’s career has focused on special project management, public policy, community engagement, and small business entrepreneurship development. Damian has experience in nonprofit & local government administration, where he served as the Legislative Aide for the New Orleans City Council and Executive Assistant to the CEO for the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce.

A New Orleans native, Damian is a proud graduate of Southern University at New Orleans, earning his Business Administration degree with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. Currently, he is pursuing his MBA at Loyola University at New Orleans where his concentration is Operations/Project management. Currently, he is an active member of the National Black MBA Association, Urban League of Louisiana Young Professionals, and Youth Leadership Council. He also serves as Treasurer on the Executive Board for the Committee for a Better New Orleans.

In his free time enjoys attending music concerts & festivals, Saints games, new restaurants, and hanging out with friends.

Board of Directors

Chair

Andreanecia Morris

Executive Director - HousingNOLA

Andreanecia M. Morris serves as the Executive Director for HousingNOLA, is a 10-year partnership between the community leaders, and dozens of public, private, and nonprofit organizations working to solve New Orleans’ affordable housing crisis.

A native of Edgard, Louisiana, began working to support creation of affordable housing opportunities in the Greater New Orleans Area in both the public and private sector after graduation from Loyola University New Orleans. Morris has created opportunities for approximately 500 families to become first time homebuyers after Hurricane Katrina, and she was lead organizer for Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance (GNOHA) when it started in 2007 as collaborative coalition of non-profit housing builders and community development corporations who work to rebuild the City of New Orleans.

Vice-Chair

Peggy Welsh

Attorney - Gordon Arata Montgomery Barnett

Peggy Welsh is a member of Gordon Arata Montgomery Barnett’s New Orleans office who focuses her practice in the areas of corporate, real estate, oil and gas, financing and securities transactions as well as handling regulatory issues before Federal agencies. Her experience encompasses participating in every stage of many high-profile and challenging corporate transactions including the representation of several U.S. and foreign companies in international and domestic, private and public transactions and joint ventures. She advises numerous companies and organizations on general corporate matters, including entity formation, contract negotiations, corporate restructurings and general corporate governance matters. She also has experience in other related transactional practices, including cross-border acquisitions, high-yield debt issuances, real estate, bankruptcies and restructurings, financing arrangements and securitizations. Peggy serves as the Assistant Chair of the Commercial Transactions section of the Firm.

Before joining Gordon Arata Montgomery Barnett, Peggy worked as a corporate associate in New York at a London-based firm where she represented high-profile Fortune 500 corporations and pharmaceutical companies. She routinely handled the negotiation and drafting of restructuring, shareholders, license, merger, joint venture and asset and share purchase and sale agreements. She advised on New York law matters for the purchase and sale agreement of Mitsubishi Corporation in its multi-billion dollar investment in a new partnership. This transaction won the Global M&A Deal of the Year, Chile (The American Lawyer’s Global Legal Awards, 2013).

Prior to law school, Peggy taught math and science for three years at a local high school in New Orleans. Upon graduating law school, she founded the education advocacy arm of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, a nonprofit organization that provides resources and training for public defenders who work with children and advocates for law and policy reform to build a juvenile justice system that is fair, compassionate and supportive of positive youth development.

Peggy earned her J.D. from Tulane University Law School, magna cum laude, in 2009, where she served as a Managing Editor of the Tulane Law Review. She was also inducted into the Order of the Coif and received a Dean’s Scholarship. She earned her B.S., with honors, in Geology-Physics/Mathematics from Brown University in 2002.

Treasurer

Kathy R. Hebert, CPA

KRH Consulting

Kathy R. Hebert, CPA began her career as an audit professional at Ernst & Young, LLP where she was an Audit Manager. She also held positions as the Vice President of Finance & Administration for The Greater New Orleans Foundation and Chief Operating Officer for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. She began her own accounting and consulting practice in 2008 where she provides accounting and consulting services primarily to not-for-profits.

Kathy graduated from Louisiana State University in 1994 with a B.S. in Accounting. She is a member of the AICPA and LCPA. She served on the LCPA Not-for-Profit Task Force and has served as a board member of American Society of Women Accountants. In addition, she has served on various boards including KidSmart, Nonprofit Knowledge Works, Dress for Success, Greater New Orleans Development Foundation, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, Project Lazarus, Notre Dame Health Systems, American Diabetes Association Advisory Board and Young Leadership Council which she served as Treasurer in 2000 and President in 2004,.

Kathy received the City Business 2002 Power Generation Award (Top 40 Under 40 Award) in 2000, the YLC 2000 President’s Award, the YLC 2001 Finance Committee Volunteer of the Year, the ASWA 2001-2002 Member of the Year Award, the City Business 2010 Women of the Year Award and the City Business 2015 Money Maker Award. She was also a member of the 2006-2007 New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute Class.

Secretary

Calvin Mackie

Founder & CEO - STEM NOLA

Dr. Calvin Mackie is one of the nation’s most prolific young STEM and Educational Motivational Speakers and Leaders. He is an award winning mentor, an international renowned motivational speaker, and a successful entrepreneur. His message as a mentor, speaker, entrepreneur and former engineering professor continues to transcend race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and time. His passion and talent is totally devoted to helping people unleash their greatness and transcend personal and societal barriers. Operating under the premise that exposure and experience are two important parameters of success, he utilizes unique strategies and methodologies to motivate and inspire. Calvin Mackie has lectured widely throughout the United States, helping people change the way they think about achieving their lifelong dreams through education in general, and STEM specifically.

A professional speaker, in 1992 he co-founded Channel ZerO, an educational and motivational consulting company and has presented to numerous civic, educational institutions and Fortune 500 corporations. Over the last 16 years, Dr. Mackie has presented to numerous school districts, educators, universities and corporations across the America. In 2004, Dr. Mackie received the 2003 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in a White House Ceremony. In 2005, he was the featured speaker for the six regional forums for The College Board and the opening speaker for the 50th Anniversary of Advanced Placement (AP) Conference. Mackie has addressed the National School Board Association, National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) , National Science Foundation (NSF) and is a frequent speaker at national teacher trainings, school districts, mentoring and technical development conferences. Most recently, Mackie has been lecturing internationally in Kuwait, Nova Scotia and Quebec Provinces of Canada. More at calvinmackie.com.

Board Members

Jonas Chartock

Independent Consultant - Chartock Strategies LLC

Jonas Chartock is an Independent Consultant at Chartock Strategies LLC. Jonas’ previous tenure as the first CEO of Leading Educators including overseeing the organization’s operations, strategy, outreach, and grown. Leading Educators became a key resource to school districts, charter networks, and policy makers in their efforts to maximize the leadership development of highly effective teachers.

Jonas came from the Charter Schools Institute of the State University of New York where he served as Executive Director of the nation’s largest university-based charter school authorizer. Previously, he served as the Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of the Charter School Policy Institute (CSPI) in Austin, Texas, and as Executive Director of Teach For America in Houston, Texas. Jonas began his career as a teacher with Teach For America in the Compton Unified School District. He holds a B.A. from Cornell University, M.A. from Chapman University, Ed.M from Harvard University, and earned his Ed.D. in educational leadership at the University of Texas at Austin. Jonas is an amateur musician, and resides in New Orleans, LA, with his wife and daughter.

Shelina Davis, MPH, MSW

Chief Executive Officer, Louisiana Public Health Institute

Shelina Davis, MPH, MSW serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) where she oversees the LPHI team and offers strategic direction to ensure health and racial equity; and champion health for people, within systems, and throughout communities. Shelina brings over 15 years of experience in public health, health care systems, leadership development, and health equity. Shelina serves on the Boards of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship – New Orleans, Propeller and CARE: Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity. She was selected as Aspen Ideas Festival Health Scholar, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office on Smoking and Health Leadership and Sustainability School Fellow, and National Council for Behavioral Health Addressing Health Disparities Leadership Program Participant. In April 2020, Shelina was appointed to Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, Louisiana Prisons Sub-Committee and Louisiana Resilient Commission, Manufacturers Sub-Committee.

Prior to joining LPHI, Shelina served as Assistant Vice President of Practice Improvement at the National Council for Behavioral Health based in Washington, DC, where she led the strategic oversight and development of public health initiatives — supporting community-based organizations as well as federal, state, local and tribal governmental agencies and their workforce in achieving health and racial equity.

Paula Estrada de Martin

Of Counsel - Baker Donelson

Paula Estrada de Martin is a life sciences and biotechnology patent attorney at Baker Donelson’s New Orleans office and a member of their Intellectual Property Group and the Global Business Team.

Dr. Estrada de Martin focuses her practice on U.S. and foreign patent prosecution in the life science, biotechnology and plant fields, patent
interferences, patent portfolio growth and management, patentability assessments, biosimilar assessments and strategy, non-infringement and invalidity opinions, IP due diligence, pre-suit investigation and litigation support for life sciences and plant matters. In addition, she represents small to mid-size businesses, educational institutions and nonprofits in intellectual property transactional and licensing matters.

Dr. Estrada de Martin was formerly with WilmerHale in New York and was adjunct faculty at New York Law School, where she served as the patent law mentor in the IP Jobtrack at the Institute for Information Law and Policy. Prior to joining WilmerHale, Dr. Estrada de Martin was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Ophthalmology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, where she investigated the sorting and targeting of apical membrane proteins in RPE and MDCK cells in the laboratory of Dr. Enrique Rodriguez-Boulan.

She graduated as a Harlan Scholar of New York Law School and also holds a PhD from Yale University in Cell Biology. She received her MS and BS at California State University in San Bernardino.

Cedric S. Grant

Cedric S. Grant has served as a senior executive at each of the three major levels of government. His expertise is in capital development and finance, economic development, general government policy development, water utility and disaster grants management and resilience, urban, transportation and strategic planning. He is a strategic thinker and visionary leader.

When he first worked for the City of New Orleans, he managed the development and sale of a 264 unit single family housing subdivision under a federal infrastructure grant. At the City’s Downtown Development District, he completed the infrastructure redevelopment that ushered in the 1984 World’s Fair. At the Port of New Orleans, he developed the 20-year Port Master Plan which included plans for cruise ship and gaming berths. At the City of New Orleans, he managed the City government of 6,000 employees along the $550 million operating and $200 million capital budgets. He managed the Atlanta regional office for Parsons Corporation, overseeing major road and highway projects. As Deputy Secretary of Transportation for the State of Louisiana he managed the State toll authority, its disadvantaged business program and multi-million-dollar special projects such as the Huey P. Long Bridge Expansion, John James Audubon Bridge and I-10 Twin Spans Bridge Replacement Project. While CAO of Ascension Parish he managed the government and its recovery from Hurricane Gustav, securing $20 million for recovery projects including the acquisition of the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.

During his 40-year career, Grant developed billions of dollars of public projects. As the leader of the City of New Orleans post Katrina recovery program he directed the delivery of over $1 billion in facilities and roadwork projects including the redevelopment of the World Trade Center Office building. As leader of the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, he led reforms of the organizational structure and increased water and sewer rates to support a $3.3 billion capital improvement program that included a $200 million investment in green sustainable infrastructure. He has undertaken, guided and completed complex projects throughout his career. On an international level, Grant engaged in collaborative initiatives such as the C40 Delta Cities Network aimed at creating resilience and adaptation strategies around the world. He has been a frequent speaker on these subjects at international forums.

Grant is currently president of Grant Management Group, a management services firm providing advisory and strategic planning services to government, private sector and non-profit organizations. He is an advisor to public and private clients where he consults with senior leaders on government operations, strategic growth, business development, water management, resilience and sustainability.

Grant holds a B.A. in Political Science from Xavier University of Louisiana and a Master of Public Administration from the University of New Orleans. He is a graduate of the United States Army Command and General Staff College and graduate of an International Port Management Training Course. He is an US army veteran retiring with the rank of Major. Mr. Grant is a Life Member of the International City/County Management Association and a member of the ICMA Advisory Group on Graduate Education. He is the 2019 recipient of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators Marks of Excellence Award. He has served on the board of directors of several national organizations. Cedric is married to Bridget Depland-Grant.

Julie Henriquez Aldana

Administrative Assistant Professor of Women’s Leadership and Director of Student Leadership and Engagement for the Newcomb

Julie Henriquez Aldana serves as an Administrative Assistant Professor of Women’s Leadership and Director of Student Leadership and Engagement for the Newcomb Institute at Tulane University. In this role, she manages all student engagement and leadership development initiatives, and leads both organizational and equity, diversity, and inclusion strategic planning efforts. She earned a B.S. in International Trade and Finance (2003), M.S. in Human Resource Education (2005), and a Ph.D. in Human Resource Education with a concentration in Human Resource and Leadership Development (2017) from Louisiana State University.

Julie’s dissertation research focused on the experience of Latina faculty as they navigate the tenure process, specifically on the role of engagement in successfully achieving tenure. As a Latina and emerging Human Resource Development and Leadership scholar, Julie’s research interests focus on multicultural leadership, cultural competence, and organizational culture in the workplace.

Adrianne “Ajax” Jackson

The founder and director of Magnolia Yoga Studio, the first Black-owned Yoga studio in Louisiana. A multilingual visionary,community change-maker, and a wellness programming pioneer.

She was recently awarded a 2020 MindBody Visionary award for her commitment to Wellness, Accessibility, and Diversity. Ajax has acquired 20 years of collective work experience as an impresario, Yoga entrepreneur, educator, retreat leader, and producer of events such as the Afro-Beat Yoga Experience! Ajax is an international keynote speaker and preferred Yoga provider for various schools, businesses, world festivals and city departments, including Columbia University and the Orleans Sheriff’s Department.

She has been featured in Yoga Journal, the Washington Post, and in New York Magazine. Ajax is also currently leading retreats to Mexico, Los Angeles and Egypt. During the summer months she leads a Self-Awareness Program for Columbia University, Teachers College and runs her own BIPOC Yoga 1,000 Teacher Training program.

Deirdre Johnson Burel

Program Officer - W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Deirdre serves as Program Officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Previously, she served as the Executive Director of OPEN (Orleans Public Education Network). Under her leadership at OPEN, the organization has launched programmatic anchors like the Parent Leadership Training Institute, engaged more than 3,000 New Orleanians, and successfully advocated for development of the ONE APP and increased transparency in the charter application process. A native New Orleanian and product of the city’s public schools, Deirdre Johnson Burel recognizes the importance of investing in public education.

Johnson Burel attended Eleanor McMain Magnet Secondary School and went on to attend U.C. Berkeley for undergraduate study and New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service where she earned a Master of Public Administration in public policy and non-profit management. She brings a career deeply rooted in social justice via educational programming (founding staff member for New Orleans’ first Americorps program, former Director of Franklin Summerbridge, Director of Programs at Urban League of Greater New Orleans) and education policy (Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget Policy Analyst, and Policy Director for the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education) to OPEN.

Dr. Sheryl Kennedy Haydel

Director of the School of Communication and Design

Sheryl Kennedy Haydel, PhD, APR earned her doctorate in mass communication from the University of Southern Mississippi – Hattiesburg, an MBA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison with a focus in Marketing and an MA in Journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park, and bachelor’s in mass media from Clark Atlanta University. She has worked as a journalist and an award-winning public relations executive. In addition, Haydel serves as a media expert on the use of social media in political and social movements. Twice she has been awarded the Individual Award of Excellence by the Public Relations Society of America’s New Orleans chapter. She also serves as the director of the National Association of Black Journalist’s high school program (JSHOP). Haydel has held both academic and administrative positions at several institutions. Her research examines the role of the Black collegiate press in the pursuit for Civil Rights and the use of social media today for both branding and activism.

Ericka Lassair

Ericka Michelle Lassair aka “Chef Diva” the Founder of Diva Dawg Food Truck is a New Orleans native and graduate of Southern University A&M College and Delgado Culinary Arts. She is a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow/Ambassador and was featured in the January 2017 Vogue magazine alongside Tory Burch. In Cosmopolitan’s “Get That Life,” and an episode of Modern Hero on Amazon Prime, Ericka shares the story of her entrepreneurial journey. The summer of 2017, Ericka was featured in Essence magazine as the Celebrity Chef for ‘Essence Eats’ and had an appearance in the movie “Girls Trip” in the Diva Dawg truck. In 2020, Ericka will be featured on several episodes of WYES TV show Kitchen Queens.

Reuben Teague

Director, Impact Investments Corporate Social Responsibility Prudential Financial, Inc.

Reuben Teague is a Director in the Impact Investments group in the Corporate Social Responsibility Department at Prudential. He is responsible for sourcing, underwriting and managing investments that meet Prudential’s social value criteria while providing risk-adjusted financial returns. Prudential Impact Investments manages a portfolio of more than $450 million in investments and typically originates between $150 million and $250million in transactions annually. The group has a goal of reaching a $1 billion portfolio by 2020. Prior to joining Prudential in 2013, Teague was co-founder and principal of Green Coast Enterprises, a triple bottom line real estate development and project management firm based in New Orleans. He participated in the development of over 1,000 units of sustainable, hazard-resilient affordable housing and over 50,000 square feet of commercial space aimed at restoring needed community resources to the greater New Orleans area.

He previously was an adjunct professor in Tulane University’s Masters of Sustainable Real Estate Development program. Teague has an AB degree in economics from Princeton University and a JD from New York University School of Law. He was an Echoing Green Fellow in 2008. Teague is a board member of Advocates for Arts Based Education.

Matt Wisdom

Matt originated the idea and co-founded TurboSquid in 2000 as one of the web’s first digital marketplaces for stock media, which was acquired in 2021 for $75M. Before TurboSquid, Matt entered the 3D industry as a founding partner and senior producer of 3D visual effects for Chimera Digital Imaging, a visual effects and 3D animation firm.

In 2005, he contributed the idea and co-authored the legislation for the Digital Interactive Media incentives for the state of Louisiana, widely cited as significantly contributing to the city’s entrepreneurial renaissance. More recently he co-chaired New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s transition team as she took office in 2018. Matt serves as Chairman of the Board for the New Orleans Startup Fund, and as a trustee for the RosaMary and MFW Foundations. His awards and recognition include being named “Technology Leader of the Year” for Louisiana by the Governor’s Office, and induction into the “Business Hall of Fame” by Junior Achievement. Matt graduated with a degree in History from Brown University in 1994 with a personal emphasis on software engineering. He is a member of the 2014 Class of Henry Crown Fellows at the Aspen Institute.