The REJOICE team has been working in partnership since 2018. Read on to learn about our leaders and the organizations who collaborate closely on the REJOICE project.
Meet Our Leaders
Dr. Bindu Panikkar, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at the Rubinstein School of UVM (she/her)
Dr. Bindu Panikkar has been working on environmental justice issues since 2002. Her more recent work has looked into PFOA contamination and health issues in Merrimack, New Hampshire and environmental controversies surrounding relicensing of nuclear powerplants in Massachusetts, mine permitting in Alaska, and water conflicts around transboundary Kabul River between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bindu works at the intersection of environmental justice, environmental health and science technology and society studies. She leads the Research Core at REJOICE, examining social, environmental, and health inequities in Vermont.
Britaney Watson, Environmental Justice Network Coordinator at Center for Whole Communities (she/her)
Britaney Watson (she/her) was born and raised in the mountains of Vermont. She attended the University at Albany where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy with a concentration in Public Sector Economics and a minor in Psychology. Determined to effect change within the foster care system, she spent six years serving children and their families as a caseworker and a supervisor. Following the tragic death of George Floyd, she joined a racial equity work group, which ignited her passion to be an advocate for the BIPOC community. Britaney is an empathetic leader with sincere interest and skill in learning about and assisting others to share their stories. She believes in the value that stories bring and their power in impacting important decisions.
Ginny McGinn, Executive Director, Organizational Development and Strategy at Center for Whole Communities (she/her)
Ginny McGinn is a mother, artist, and nonprofit leader. Throughout her career, she has been deeply involved in the work of social and organizational change and in building partnerships across lines of power and privilege. Ginny has a profound interest in how change happens, from the level of individual transformation through the level of entire communities or systems, and it is this process of change that she seeks to continue to study and facilitate in her leadership at Whole Communities. As a member of the REJOICE project, Ginny facilitates and consults on organizational change using the Whole Thinking practices she and her colleagues have developed over the years.
Jennifer Byrne, Environmental Justice Clinic Fellow at Vermont Law School (she/her)
Jennifer is a Fellow in the Environmental Justice Clinic at Vermont Law School and holds an A.A.S. in Alternative Energy Technology, a B.S. in Agriculture Science, and a Master of Environmental Law and Policy. She leads the Policy Core of the REJOICE Project, comparing state EJ policies and incorporating community feedback into recommendations specific to Vermont. She is passionate about creating effective methods for meaningful community engagement and centering equity in public decision-making processes. Jennifer also works as the Manager of the White River Natural Resources Conservation District.
Hayley Jones, Vermont and New Hampshire State Director, at Slingshot (she/they)
As the Vermont and New Hampshire State Director, Hayley works side-by-side with local leaders to confront pollution and seed solutions. As a member of the REJOICE community core, she focuses on building healthy relationships, designing inclusive materials, and keeping the website updated. She is excited to use her Spanish and environmental studies background to volunteer with Migrant Justice, organize with Slingshot, and interpret at Middlebury’s Open Door Clinic.
Ingrid Nelson, Assistant Professor in Geography and Environmental Studies at UVM (she/her)
Ingrid studies how environmental experts and activists do their work in places such as the miombo forests in Mozambique, on college campuses in Vermont and in ‘green’ places created online. She is interested in how people living, working in and using these spaces assert their place-based knowledge and insist on their rights to thrive. Ingrid is supporting the REJOICE project primarily through advising on ethical practice, logistics, critical feedback on community-centered and responsive research design, grant-writing, graduate and undergraduate research advising and friendship sustained through honesty and careful listening.
Kiah Morris, Movement Politics Director, Rights and Democracy (she/her)
Originally from Chicago, Kiah Morris lives in Vermont, where she served in the general assembly as a State Representative from 2014-2016 and 2016-2018. She is the first African-American and person of color elected from Bennington County and the second African-American woman to be elected to the legislature in Vermont history. Kiah currently serves as the Movement Politics Director for Rights and Democracy Vermont and is a Commissioner for the Vermont Commission on Women. Kiah also holds an accomplished artistic career as an actress on stage, film, television, spoken word performance, singer, dancer, and arts manager.
Sandrine Kibuey, Director, CVOEO’s Mobile Home Program
Sandrine Kibuey, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been in the USA since 1997 and Vermont since 2006. She is currently presiding the VT New American Advisory Council (VNAAC) and is also the Director of the Housing Advocacy Programs, a program of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO). Since 2020, she has been leading this ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse group of New American leaders to increase civic engagement, dismantle barriers to a sense of belonging, and expand opportunities for New American communities to thrive socially, culturally, and economically in Vermont. She has, for the last 10 years at CVOEO, been managing rapid rehousing/retention housing, advocacy and support services to vulnerable communities including asylum seekers and mobile home park residents. Sandrine graduated in International Relations from the University of Kinshasa-Democratic Republic of Congo, and holds a MS in International Community Economic of Development and MS in Organizational Leadership from the Southern New Hampshire University. She is currently a member of CVOEO and Northgate Residents Ownership Corporation (NROC) Board of Directors.
Dr. Susannah McCandless, Special Projects Manager,
Center for Whole Communities (she/her)
A political ecologist, parent, mentor, interpreter, and survivor of chronic illness, Susannah holds a PhD in geography and BA in ecology, Francophone and Latin American studies. She has worked formally and informally for over two decades with organizations focused on land reform, farming, community forestry, ethnobiology, environmental justice and migrant labor. She brings her storytelling skills to the REJOICE project, collaborating with the farmworker leaders whose grassroots advocacy has changed terms of access, mobility, and self-determination in Vermont.
Thank You to our Former Leaders:
Kesha Ram, Former Fellow at Center for Whole Communities
Current VT State Senator for Chittenden District
Marianne Engelman Lado, Former Director of the Environmental Justice Clinic at Vermont Law School
Current Deputy General Counsel for Environmental Initiatives at the US EPA
Shaina Kasper, Former Vermont and New Hampshire State Director at Community Action Works
Current Policy Manager for T1International
Meet Our Partner Organizations
Center for Whole Communities has 20 years of experience convening diverse stakeholders working at the intersection of Environment and Justice. CWC’s approach was recently noted in Scientific American for its work to engage low-income and underserved communities in addressing urban heat island impacts in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Environmental program at the University of Vermont is one of the oldest environmental studies programs in the country, since 1972 it has been serving as a center for innovative thinking and interdisciplinary learning on the global and local environment by advocating and inspiring environmentally and socially just sustainable activities and ways of thinking.
The EJ Clinic at Vermont Law School strives to further the environmental justice movement by representing and partnering with environmentally overburdened communities of color and low-income communities. The clinic seeks to enforce civil rights in the environmental context, while providing technical assistance and sharing resources to develop and implement other legal strategies. To that end, the clinic trains students to be ethical and effective advocates for their clients while adhering to the Principles of Environmental Justice.
People across Vermont and New Hampshire formed Rights & Democracy to build a movement to counter the influence of money in politics and to hold elected officials accountable to upholding our rights and the democracy we live in. We believe rights and democracy are won when people come together to make their voices heard, so we’re building a strong movement and the people power necessary to win justice and improve the policies that affect us and our communities.
The Vermont chapter of Community Action Works has engaged with 100+ community groups facing pollution threats in their neighborhoods throughout Vermont over its 18-year history in the state, including lending community support to North Bennington Neighbors fighting PFAS water poisoning. This work led to an agreement between the state and the local company to provide water to many of the affected residents.