Our Team

Meet our Staff and Board of Directors


Propeller Staff

Andrea Chen

Executive Director

(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.

Dorcas Omojola

Business and Operations Manager

(504) 249 - 8935

Dorcas manages Propeller’s Finances, Human Resources, and Operations. If you have any questions or concerns don’t hesitate to call or email her. Dorcas has Accounting, Business Management, and Grants Management experience.

Before joining Propeller, Dorcas was an Accountant for a community college, government agency, and educational enrichment business in the New Orleans area. Dorcas has a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and Marketing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Dorcas will enjoy working for Propeller, because she will get great satisfaction from seeing how her work helps the New Orleans nonprofit and entrepreneurial community. In her free time, Dorcas enjoys relaxing, volunteering her accounting and business expertise, volunteering in general, cooking and baking, and attending festivals.

Daniel Applewhite

Director of Programs

(504) 517 - 2290

Daniel oversees and manages Propellers Accelerator and Entrepreneurial Support Programs. He is a champion for closing the equity gap in access to capital and has worked with social enterprises and entrepreneurs of color to raise pre-seed, seed, and series A funding rounds. Prior to joining Propeller, Daniel started two different companies, with a bulk of his experience centered in growth strategy, and culturally relevant approaches to solving social problems.

In between his work as an entrepreneur, Daniel worked as the marketing manager for Class Wallet, one of twelve EdTech startups from around the world to be accepted into the TechStars and Kaplan Accelerator. There he successfully completed the accelerator program and integrally assisted the founding team in pitch preparation and securing over $2 million in seed funding.

Ginny Hanusik

Manager of Programs

(504) 556 - 2284

Ginny manages all of Propeller’s program offerings including our Accelerator, PitchNOLA series, and consultant network.

With a background in art and architecture, Ginny brings a creative and innovative perspective to the Propeller team and is excited to work in a city responding to the environmental and social challenges of the 21st century.

She began coming to New Orleans in 2011 as a student at Bard College and quickly became immersed the in the vibrant community of artists, entrepreneurs, and civic leaders. She enjoys spending time outdoors in the Louisiana landscape and taking lots of pictures.

Trace Allen

Neighborhood Business Coordinator

(504) 264 - 1360

Trace works to support businesses in the neighborhoods surrounding Propeller through the South Broad Business Initiative (SBBI). The SBBI provides business owners of color located on and around South Broad Street with short-term technical assistance and long-term comprehensive support in areas including marketing, financials, legal assistance, and updating technology.

Trace has always held a deep passion for empowering others. This passion led him to complete coursework in Psychology, Sociology, and Business at Mississippi College. Trace comes to Propeller with experience empowering at-risk youth through recreational and educational programming in St. John the Baptist Parish where he served as Assistant Director at Kids on the Move Summer Camp. He was involved with the Young Fellowship Program of the Portland Leadership Foundation, where he had the opportunity to collaborate with a variety of local nonprofits, develop leadership capacity among student athletes, and work with an Ugandan-led NGO to serve vulnerable children and orphans in Jinja, Uganda. Trace is also a proud StartingBloc Fellow (NOLA ‘17)!

Trace is thrilled to be a part of the social entrepreneurship movement that Propeller is leading in New Orleans.

Sydney Gray

Director of Impact and Development

(985) 326 - 9484

Sydney manages Propeller’s grants and fundraising efforts. Reach out to her if you are interested in supporting Propeller.

Moving from San Francisco to New Orleans in 2011, Sydney has spent the last three years in New Orleans honing her skills in fundraising and development, first with the Audubon Nature Institute and later as a Global Advocate Fellow through Mama Hope where she raised funds and managed a clean water project serving a community of 2,700 in Kenya. After returning from Kenya, Sydney managed grants for Louisiana Green Corps and co-founded an all-volunteer organization dedicated to the intersection of women and water issues, Mama Maji. In her free time she serves as a flute player and as an adviser to the board for the New Orleans Volunteer Orchestra and writes fiction. Sydney holds a B.S. in Molecular and Environmental Biology as well as a B.A. in Molecular and Cellular Biology and utilizes her education and experience in research to inform every aspect of fund development.

Sydney is excited to have the opportunity to work with Propeller and use her passion for storytelling to showcase the innovators and social entrepreneurs of our vibrant city.

Catherine Gans

Marketing and Communications Manager

(504) 302 - 3747

Catherine manages Propeller’s outreach and communications. Reach out to her for questions about press, partnerships, events, or to learn more about what we do.

Catherine came to New Orleans in 2014 as a fellow for Venture for America, a 2-year program that empowers recent college graduates to revitalize American cities through entrepreneurship. Drawn to New Orleans by its history of community organizing and civic engagement, she is inspired by the opportunity to connect New Orleanians with resources to start and grow solutions to inequities they experience firsthand.

Outside of Propeller, she teaches yoga at different locations across the city. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and French from Vanderbilt University and has studied journalism and democracy at the London School of Economics.

Allison DeJong, AICP

Senior Water Manager

(504) 475 - 4388

Allison DeJong is Propeller’s Senior Water Manager, focusing on water policy and strategy, special projects, and supporting Propeller’s entrepreneurs and accelerator programs. Allison comes to Propeller from GCR, where she was a Senior Planner and a leader in local economic development efforts; she co-authored the City of New Orleans strategic plan for economic development, ProsperityNOLA, and led the recent update to JEDCO’s Jefferson EDGE 2020 strategic plan. She has also contributed to numerous housing, transportation, and economic development plans and analyses throughout Louisiana. Most notably, Allison and her team at GCR secured over $240 million in CDBG-DR awards for their clients from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience Competition. Allison developed benefit-cost analyses, application narratives, and contributed to community outreach strategies, resulting in millions of dollars in funding for innovative water management and coastal resilience projects. Allison is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and holds a BA in Economics from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from Louisiana State University.

TraciAmanda Washington

Education Program Manager

(504) 533 - 8172

A native New Orleanian, TraciAmanda comes to Propeller with over ten years of experience in the education sector. Beginning her career as a Math teacher, TraciAmanda worked at KIPP’s TEAM Academy in Newark, NJ, and then as a Math Achievement Director for Middle Schools with Achievement First in Brooklyn, NY. She returned to New Orleans and taught Math at KIPP Believe College Prep before moving into Administration as the Upper School Academic Dean at ARISE Academy. Most recently, she led a charter school turnaround as the Founding Principal of Mildred Osborne Charter School in New Orleans East.

TraciAmanda holds a BS in Psychology from Howard University and a Master’s Degree in Sociology and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a is proud Alumnus of Education Pioneers (NYC 2009). She is passionate about and committed to the growth and excellence of educational opportunities in New Orleans and is excited to bring that passion and commitment to the Propeller Team!

Kristine Creveling

Food Program Manager

(504) 507 - 0498

​Kristine manages Propeller’s Food Sector accelerator and strategy. This includes managing the LPHI Healthy School Food Collaborative Evaluation Study, spearheading the New Orleans Healthy Corner Store Collaborative, and advocating for local food systems as a tool for economic development. Reach out to her if you are interested in pitching your food related start-ups at PitchNOLA, if you want to apply for the Accelerator Program, or if you are interested in collaborating on food access related projects.

As a clinic manager in Malawi, Africa and a nutrition volunteer in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Kristine has been involved with food and nutrition research around the world. Here in New Orleans, she has worked on research studies related to food access, obesity prevention, and nutritious foods in schools. Kristine is an executive member of the New Orleans Dietetic Association and also serves on the New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee.

Kristine has a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from California Polytechnic State University, a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Tulane University and she is also a Registered Dietitian. In her free time she loves to garden, play piano, and cook. Kristine is excited to work with Propeller where her strong passion for food equity and quality can be realized.​

Monique Thomas

Talent & Culture Coordinator

(504) 509 - 5286

Monique works to ensure the Propeller team is a well-rounded group of energized, excited, and productive professionals who have the tools they need to excel in each of their roles. This includes recruiting, hiring, culture management, and other talent cultivation processes.

Monique is a New Orleans native who grew up in New Orleans East. She graduated from Amherst College in 2013 earning a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology. Monique is currently pursuing a Masters of Business Adminitration at Loyola University, with a concentration in operations and organizational behavior. She has also completed coursework at Tulane University in Psychology and Business. She has served at Propeller in different capacities, from overseeing Salesforce and data management, accounting and HR compliance, managing board relations, report-writing and evaluations, and overseeing office operations.

Monique was drawn to and inspired by Propeller’s purpose and commitment to change. She’s excited to apply her skill in organization and process design to furthering Propeller’s vision.

Cherita Williams

Accounting and Data Coordinator

(504) 493 - 9608

Cherita Williams handles accounting, payroll, human resources, and database management duties at Propeller.
Cherita graduated from the University of New Orleans with a B.S. in accounting in May 2017 with a focus on accounting information systems. Her passions include organizational leadership, tutoring, data management, and data analysis. Her recent volunteer experience has included projects focused on healthcare, animal welfare, park beautification, and employment access for differently-abled people. Cherita is especially eager to apply her knowledge and talent to furthering Propeller’s mission of increasing access to education and improving quality of life for the most disadvantaged of New Orleanians. In her spare time Cherita enjoys reading, going to the movies, and craft projects.

Erik Paskewich

Program Coordinator

(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.

Kyler Blodgett

Food Systems Fellow

Kyler supports projects in Propeller’s Food Sector, working towards building local access to healthy markets. He is fortunate to be serving a year-long fellowship at Propeller through the Newman’s Own Foundation, which focuses on philanthropically supporting food equality and youth engagement efforts.

Originally from northern Virginia, Kyler received a B.A. in International Politics and Economics from Middlebury College in 2017. There, he was involved with grant-making through the county’s United Way and coordinating the farm-to-table program at a transitional housing shelter. Having worked at NGOs in Cameroon and Rwanda, Kyler currently aims to understand the role of public-private partnerships in social innovation and is excited to learn from the Propeller community.

Outside of Propeller, Kyler enjoys looking for opportunities to improve his French and Spanish, running, and reading. During his time in New Orleans he is looking forward to engaging with community efforts and events throughout the city.

Katie Lyon-Hart

Impact Coordinator

(504) 517 - 2238

Katie leads Propeller’s evaluation and data management. Reach out to her if you want to know more about our organization’s impact and our metrics for success.

Prior to joining Propeller, Katie worked as the Development Director for Step Up Louisiana, a grassroots organization dedicated to economic and education justice, and supported policy work at the Crescent City Community Land Trust. Prior to moving to New Orleans, Katie worked for 10 years as a data, communications, and fundraising specialist​ at Make the Road New York, a northeast regional membership organization dedicated to building ​​power ​for working class and Latino communities.​ She holds a Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy from the City University of New York-Hunter College, with a concentration in affordable housing and climate justice. While in graduate school, Katie served as a policy fellow at the Center for NYC Neighborhoods and the Center for Community Planning, researching progressive policy solutions to address gentrification and the legacy of residential segregation. Outside Propeller, Katie continues to lead capacity building and data initiatives for Step Up, and spends her free time biking, hiking, and swing dancing. Katie is excited to bring her knowledge of community development and planning to support Propeller’s social change and racial equity goals.

Incubator Staff

Emily Eckland

Incubator Manager

(504) 571 - 9303

Emily manages the Propeller Incubator, focusing on business development, member and community relations, facilities management, and financial management. Reach out to her if you are interested in becoming a coworking member or renting out event space.

Emily spent the 2016-17 year as Propeller’s Water Program Associate through AmeriCorps VISTA, supporting the water sector ventures in both the startup and growth accelerators, as well as the entrepreneurs in Propeller’s PitchNOLA series. She joined the Propeller team after graduating from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in Atlanta, with concentrations in marketing and strategy, where she gained leadership experience in advocacy, event management, organizational development, and international social enterprise. Hailing from Minneapolis but with roots in Mississippi, Emily actively seeks out opportunities to learn from and build accountability to the communities she works with in the urban south. Harnessing her business acumen and community organizing experience, she is passionate about fostering stimulating environments that increase creativity and co-producing, and bridging the gap between community wealth building institutions and the communities they empower. In her free time, Emily likes to explore unfamiliar cities, the intersection of art and activism, and new forms of dance at Dancing Grounds.


Teri Conrad

AmeriCorps VISTA Member, Communications Associate

(504) 517 - 4178

Teri develops and creates marketing and press material that will establish and maintain Propeller’s online and community presence.

Teri is a New Orleans native, Loyola University graduate, and is currently pursuing post-baccalaureate certification in Digital Design at Tulane University. Before Propeller, Teri worked for public relations agencies and local non-profit organizations creating platforms for client storytelling.

Teri was drawn to Propeller’s socially driven mission and its efforts to connect with underserved communities. Passionate about gaining perspective from different sources, Teri enjoys reading in her spare time.

Olivia Seideman

AmeriCorps VISTA Member, Community Outreach Associate

(504) 323 - 4751

Olivia works on the communications team as the Community Outreach Associate AmeriCorps VISTA. If you live or work in Broadmoor, Hoffman Triangle, Gert Town, Zion City, or Central City and want to know how Propeller can help you or your small business succeed, please reach out!

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, CA, Olivia graduated from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD in May 2016 with a B.A. in Global Environmental Change and Sustainability and International Studies. She is specifically interested in the intersection between social and environmental sustainability—how we approach inequities holistically, creating a sustainable world that is both environmentally responsible and socially just. As a senior in college, she worked on integrating equity into Baltimore City’s Sustainability Plan. She was drawn to Propeller by its commitment to incorporating equity into all of its solutions to both social and environmental problems in New Orleans.

Olivia hopes to draw on her experience in both environmental and political organizing, as well as her passion for community-led engagement and empowerment, to strengthen Propeller’s relationship to the people, businesses, and organizations who call Propeller’s neighborhood home. She hopes to explore how Propeller can be a resource to all New Orleanians. As a liaison to Propeller’s surrounding community, she looks forward to helping residents and business owners find ways to take advantage of Propeller’s resources, listening to current needs and desires to determine how Propeller can best serve its neighbors.

Magen Krage

AmeriCorps VISTA Member, Development Associate

(504) 517 - 0391

Magen is originally from a small farm town outside of Madison, Wisconsin. She moved to New Orleans in 2013 to attend Tulane University where she studied Political Science, with a focus in International Development, and Economics. She plans to focus her future career on alleviating extreme poverty in developing countries through women’s empowerment but wanted to first dedicate some time to the amazing city that gave her so much.

Magen has joined the Propeller team as an Americorps VISTA Development Associate and will be working to grow Propeller’s capacity through grants and fundraising. She is looking forward to experiencing first hand the differences Propeller is making in the community.

Caroline Lutkewitte

AmeriCorps VISTA Member, Food Program​​ Associate

(504) 535 - 4458

Caroline is serving with AmeriCorps Vista as Food Programs Associate working on projects such as the Healthy Cornerstore Collaborative and emerging food ventures in the Accelerator program. Originally from New Jersey, Caroline came to New Orleans by way of Tulane University, graduating with a degree in Public Health and Environmental Science. Having fallen in love with the people and community of New Orleans, she decided to remain here after graduation to pursue a socially conscious career.

She is passionate about social justice and food systems. She found a love for travel and unique food cultures from a semester abroad in India, where she spent much of her time in Delhi and throughout the rural Northeast. The capstone of her experience was an independent study on the Ganges River where she was grateful to join in on traditional, locally grown meals with rural families. In her free time, she enjoys listening to podcasts and crocheting.

Imani Franklin

AmeriCorps VISTA Member, Education Program​ Associate

(504) 475 - 7858

Hailing from Oakland California and witnessing the need for advocacy amongst the youth, Imani Franklin developed a passion for social work at a young age. For several years she worked for the City of Oakland Parks and Recreation developing after-school and summer programs for recreation centers across the city. She also has Human Resources experience with the University of Southern California and Green Dot Public Schools. This sparked her interest to create opportunities for students and their families within the education sector.

Imani has a Bachelor’s in Health and Human Services from St. John’s University and a Master’s in Social Work with a concentration in Business in a Global Society from the University of Southern California. New to New Orleans, she is excited to join the Propeller team and share her ideas and experience to improve opportunities within education.

Allessandra LeDoux

AmeriCorps VISTA Member, Health Program​​ Associate

(504) 982 - 4490

Allessandra is a New Orleans native, growing up on the city’s West Bank. She graduated from Dartmouth College in 2017, where she majored in Sociocultural Anthropology and minored in Sociology. She also completed Dartmouth’s Global Health Certificate program, which culminated in a capstone project on her cultural competency work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta during the Ebola crisis. Allessandra is passionate about exploring culture and learning new languages and has studied in France and among the Maori in New Zealand. She is particularly interested in the intersection of culture and health access, and how cultural understanding can improve the quality of healthcare. Eventually, she plans to pursue a career in public health and intends to work toward improving access to quality, affordable healthcare for all. Outside of Propeller, Allessandra enjoys traveling, watching documentaries, exploring new restaurants, and playing her ukulele.

Allison Acosta

AmeriCorps VISTA Member, Water Program​​ Associate

(504) 603 - 6346

Allison works closely with the Senior Water Manager to address New Orleans unique water challenges through the promotion of coastal businesses and the strengthening of Propeller’s diverse partnerships with a variety of water-affiliated individuals and organizations. During her time as an AmeriCorps VISTA, she hopes to establish an increased number of university and community partnerships to promote a strong pipeline of upcoming water entrepreneurs for the region. Allison is excited to return to the Gulf Coast from living in Gulfport, MS from 2001-2006. She recently graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering. On the search for what to do after college, she felt that working at Propeller would allow her to combine her technical skillset with her dedication to the ideas of humanitarian engineering and environmental justice. Starting her work with Propeller’s team in September 2017, Allison is fully committed to supporting New Orleans in developing sustainable water management solutions through community empowerment.

Board of Directors


Linda Usdin

President - Swampilly, LLC

Dr. Usdin is the president of Swamplily, LLC. In this capacity, she has helped match the strategic interests of philanthropic organizations with the needs and capacity of local non-profits and governmental agencies in diverse areas. In the last six years, she has worked with the Ford, the Open Society, the Conrad N. Hilton, the Louisiana Disaster Recovery, and the Greater New Orleans foundations. In addition, she has taught courses on building community engagement in public health efforts for the South Central Public Health Leadership Institute, the Centers for Disease Control, and Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and has facilitated strategic planning processes for groups such as the City of New Orleans, National Network of Public Health Institutes, and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Dr. Usdin was recently awarded a Bellagio fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. She graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in psychology from Duke University, has a master’s degree in public health from the University of California at Berkeley and a Dr.PH. from the international health department at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. The focus of her academic work was on the planning and evaluation of community development and change initiatives.


William C. Perez

General Counsel - @Pay LLC

Billy Perez is General Counsel with @Pay LLC, a revolutionary electronic payments company headquartered in Albuquerque, NM. Billy has over 20 years of experience in all aspects of public and private company corporate and securities legal matters. He has previously worked both in-house, as General Counsel for an international computer hardware manufacturing company, and with several AmLaw 100 law firms, including Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Jones Day, Locke Lord, and Adams and Reese. A frustrated entrepreneur, Billy has also co-founder several companies in diverse fields including manufacturing, high-tech, food service and retail. Billy received his LL.M. in Securities and Financial Regulations from Georgetown Law Center, J.D. from Loyola University School of Law and MBA from Loyola University, both in New Orleans, and BBA from University of Mississippi. In the community, Billy is active with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and is a member of the St. Jude/ALSAC Leadership Board of the Board of Directors. Billy has been honored multiple times by New Orleans Magazine as a Top Lawyer in the fields of Mergers and Acquisitions, Securities Regulation, Securities/Capital Markets, and Venture Capital. Billy is licensed to practice law in Louisiana, the District of Columbia, and Virginia.


Jamar McKneely

Chief Executive Officer - Inspire NOLA Charter Schools

Jamar McKneely’s educational philosophy is derived from Marian Wright Edelman’s special quote: “The question is not whether we can afford to invest in every child; it is whether we can afford not to”. He earned both a bachelor’s degree in Finance and a master’s degree in Educational Administration from Southern University in Baton Rouge. Prior to becoming an educator, Jamar worked in the field of finance as a budget analyst for two non-profit organizations in Baton Rouge. After serving for seven years as a teacher and Assistant Principal at Edna Karr High School, he transitioned to the position of Principal of Alice Harte Charter School. In 2013, together with the principal of a nearby high school, he formed InspireNOLA charter schools, a new Charter Management Organization in New Orleans focusing on educating the youth of our city.

Under Jamar’s leadership, Alice Harte and its students experienced great success, including: increased School Performance Score by 25 points. For the 2013-2014 school year Alice Harte was ranked as an A school and top gain school proving that students with high-poverty can excel.

As Chief Executive Officer of InspireNOLA, Jamar currently manages two of the highest performing open-admission schools in New Orleans and focuses on creating a pipeline for leadership, supervising administrative and instructional personnel, establishing a clear vision for the organization’s mission and goals and branding the new CMO.


Ella Delio

Director of Environmental and Regional Initiatives - Greater New Orleans Foundation

Ms. Delio offers global experience running businesses, working with entrepreneurs, and partnering with government agencies. Ms. Delio was formerly at the World Resources Institute, where she served as Global Director of the New Ventures program, WRI’s center for environmental entrepreneurship. In that role, Ms. Delio provided business development services to innovative environmental enterprises in Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, and Mexico. Prior to joining WRI, Ms. Delio led the Springboard program at the Center for Women and Enterprise, one of the leading U.S. women business development agencies, and worked for Procter & Gamble Co. in the Philippines, where she handled marketing and advertising for the Healthcare and Food and Beverages businesses. Ms. Delio received her MBA and MPA degrees from the Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School and her Management Engineering and Economics (Honors) degrees from the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. She was awarded the Don K. Price Award by the Harvard Kennedy School for academic distinction and leadership in public service.

Board Members

Stephanie Barksdale

Manager of Social Entrepreneurship Initiatives - Tulane University

Stephanie Barksdale is Manager of Social Entrepreneurship Initiatives at Tulane University. She is also the Assistant Director for Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching – Social Innovation Engagement at Tulane University.

After working in the diplomatic field for several years, Stephanie received her MPA, with a concentration in non-profit management, from NYU Wagner School of Public Service. Stephanie has also worked for The Low Income Investment Fund, Upwardly Global, and the King Hussein Foundation International.

Currently, Stephanie is helping Tulane build upon its strengths in service learning and civic engagement to develop a university-wide, interdisciplinary social innovation and entrepreneurship program. Current initiatives include a speaker series, social venture competitions, engaging student’s across the university, and an academic minor in social innovation and social entrepreneurship.

Alvertha B. Penny

Principal - Alvertha Penny and Associates, LLC

Alvertha B. Penny is the Principal of Alvertha Penny and Associates, LLC. Through February 2014, she served as president and CEO of The Community Foundation of South Alabama. Ms. Penny’s background includes more than 35 years of development, management and administration of community development and human services programs in the nonprofit and public sectors nationally and in Louisiana, California, Washington, D. C. and Alabama. Previously, Ms. Penny worked as Senior Vice President of Programs at the California Community Foundation where she oversaw the planning, strategy development and distribution of a $20-million annual competitive grants budget, a $16-million program related investment portfolio and more than $3 million in special initiatives and supporting organization grant portfolios. Additionally, Ms. Penny was the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation President’s Senior Advisor on community development issues and the Family and Community Development Program Director. This included leading the Hewlett Foundation’s $30 million, comprehensive multi-year urban community revitalization demonstration effort. Prior positions also include serving as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the National Congress for Community Economic Development in Washington, D.C.; Program Officer for Urban Affairs at the San Francisco Foundation; and the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Planning and Community Services with the City of New Orleans. Ms. Penny is a member of the Association of Black Foundation Executives and chairs its Governance Committee. She has served on various national, regional, statewide and local boards of directors including the National Community Development Institute, the Nonprofit Finance Fund, Southern California Grantmakers, Northern California Grantmakers, Alabama Giving, VOICES for Alabama’s Children, and the Mobile Area Education Foundation. She holds a Master of Science in Urban Studies from the University of New Orleans.

Ava Rogers

Deputy Chief Administrative Officer - City of New Orleans

Ava Rogers has worked in international affairs, specializing in conflict and emergency settings for 20 years. Her previous assignments with the U.S. State Department and the United Nations include the Republic of Congo, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Nigeria, and Sudan.

She has an undergraduate degree in international relations from Georgetown University and a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Ava was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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.

Jonas Chartock

CEO - Leading Educators

Jonas Chartock is the Chief Executive Officer of Leading Educators. During Jonas’ tenure as its first CEO, Leading Educators has become a key resource to school districts, charter networks, and policy makers in their efforts to maximize the leadership development of highly effective teachers. He oversees the organization’s operations, strategy, outreach, and growth.

Jonas came to Leading Educators 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.

Paula Estrada de Martin

Associate - 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.

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.


Kevin Wilkins

Founder and Managing Director - trepwise, llc

Kevin Wilkins is the founder of trepwise llc, a New Orleans based advisory firm with the vision of driving entrepreneurial success in New Orleans. Kevin has extensive experience in general management, marketing, and operations, and brings over 25 years of experience in corporate and entrepreneurial ventures. A graduate of Dartmouth College, he began his career at The Procter & Gamble Company in brand management for new product development in the Household Cleaning Category. After graduating from Harvard Business School with honors, he ran high net worth discretionary management for Fidelity Investments, where he was also Vice President of Strategic Planning for customer acquisition. He transitioned to State Street Research & Management, Inc. where he was the Managing Director and head of SSRM Distribution Company.