The USGCC Staff
Together, these people make up the USGCC Working force
As CEO, Michelle Thatcher utilizes her 20+ years of non-profit conservation leadership experience in building a comprehensive national advocacy, networking, and education platform for businesses around the nation. She served as National Director for three years before being selected to lead the organization in 2013. Prior to her role as National Director, Michelle served as Executive Director of the Association of Florida Conservation Districts, a non-profit organization for the state’s 63 Soil and Water Districts, from 2006-2010. Earlier, she served as Executive Director of Seminole Soil and Water District. In addition to several current board positions, Michelle also serves on the advisory board of the International Green Energy Council, Recycle Across America/Recycle Across the World, World CSR Congress, and Ideas for Us, a United Nations accredited Non-Profit Organization. Michelle is an internationally recognized expert on sustainable businesses and is a guest lecturer at conferences around the globe.
Deborah has an extensive business and marketing background. For over 20 years, she worked with two major national outdoor sporting good companies helping to grow their business through sales, marketing and strategic planning. For the past 10 years, Deborah has been the co-owner of :Orlando Painting Company, a business dedicated to sustainability through sustainable painting practices. She is also an expert in organizing and directing green festivals, art shows and fundraising events.Deborah was an elected official on Seminole County Soil and Water Board for 5 years, and was appointed to the Seminole County Fl. Natural Lands and Parks Board. In addition, she served as Chuluota Community Association past president, the Rural Heritage Center President, and Eastern Lands Coalition past president. Her passions have led her to lobby on behalf of natural lands preservation, connective green space for wildlife corridors, water conservation, and the effects of urban sprawl, to local county commissioners, Florida House and Senate Representatives, and Washington D.C. legislators.
Kimberly White currently serves as the Global Program Director for the U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce. She joined USGCC as a Research and Sustainability Associate. She was promoted to Project Manager and Coordinator and then to Director of the Global Green Consumers program. Kimberly has researched and written articles about consumerism, business sustainability, environmental awareness, and alternative energy; created presentations and webinars dealing with waste management and water conservation; created modules on energy efficiency and resource management for the USGCC SBA certification program; spearheaded a global summit featuring sustainability experts from around the world; and currently leads global program development and outreach. In addition to her role at USGCC, Kimberly is also the Editor-in-Chief for the Sea Turtle Preservation Society. She received her Climate Reality Leadership training alongside former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Kimberly was named Co-Chair of The Climate Reality Central Florida Chapter in 2017. She is an ambassador for The 5 Gyres Institute. Kimberly currently serves as a researcher at Lean & Green Supply Chain Management Lab at Karatay Üniversitesi in Konya, Turkey. Her research interests are business sustainability, climate change, global studies, and wildlife; she uses her interests to promote sustainability on a global scale.
Giovanna Wolanski currently serves as USGCC’s International Solar Certification Director, where she is leading team efforts to develop a solar energy certification program for business professionals around the world. Her team consists of top-notch individuals from diverse backgrounds, in terms of both education and ethnicity, whom Giovanna has hand-selected to contribute to a truly global and comprehensive program, by nature. Giovanna is effectively directing program development efforts by delegating responsibilities to team members, providing her team with all of the necessary management tools and resources they need to excel in their responsibilities, and actively guiding and participating in team progress, among many other things. Giovanna has proven herself to have exemplary leadership and collaboration skills, something that is further exemplified through her previous management position as an Environmental Business Manager at Capitol Environmental Services, Inc. Following her time in that role, she traveled to Australia, where she received a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management in the field of Sustainable Development from one of the world’s top universities, the University of Queensland. Her skills were further complemented by her recent volunteer work in South Africa, where she dedicated countless hours of her time supporting conservation efforts for both cheetahs and great white sharks.
Giovanna has a strong background in research, shown by her undergraduate and postgraduate theses, as well as from her role as a Conservation Research Assistant with the World Wildlife Fund in Australia. She has a passion for all things related to climate change, as well as a passion for the role that businesses play in shaping a sustainable future. She hopes that her experience at USGCC will fine-tune her knowledge on corporate sustainability and give her the skills she needs to make a lasting impact in the sustainability movement.
Renewable Energy and Sustainability Strategist
Jason Brackett currently serves as a Renewable Energy and Sustainability Strategist, where he utilizes his experiences in renewable energy design, use and implementation to update and revise the USGCC learning materials regarding renewable energy. Jason’s leadership experience includes working for the University of Southern Maine (USM) Student Conduct Committee, where he hears cases regarding violations of student code and recommends reasonable punishments. Additionally, Jason has worked with TRIO student support services at USM to provide some insight into good organizational and planning skills for students who become overly stressed due to a lack of organization. Within his academic career, Jason has performed Environmental Impact Assessments for hydroelectric dam installations and removals, and has developed standards of use for small businesses in Maine, regarding the installation and use of solar technologies. Jason is very passionate about renewable energy and sustainable development, and he plans to build on his previous experiences by working with the USGCC to promote conservation and renewable practices for a more sustainable society.
Ome Laila Balkhi
As a Junior Project Development Manager, Laila created and customized presentation material for USGCC Global Certifications on Climate Change and Solar Energy, and developed complementary usage guidelines for the research team to utilize. She is also currently spearheading research on Afghanistan’s capacity for sustainability in the long run, and through ongoing networking efforts, adds to the extensive USGCC global network by engaging with non-profit organizations and sustainable businesses. In addition, Laila is a Fox Alum Fellow through Robert A. Fox Leadership Program, providing a range of research, networking, teaching and technical support to Senior Fellow, Mary Summer’s academically based community service course, Politics of Food and Environment. In the past, she has worked on a number of research projects including her work with Dr. Blanca Himes researching correlations between asthma and climate variables. With her science-focused academic background, Laila is passionate towards exploring the nexus between science, economics and politics in implementing the triangular sustainability framework to organizations and businesses. She hopes to dedicate her career to sustainable international development and human rights advocacy with the ultimate goal of taking a leadership role in addressing global environmental and health issues.
Lauren Talbert joined USGCC as a Sustainability Associate 2 years ago and has since been promoted to Sustainability Manager for her hard work and commitment to the organization. Throughout her time with USGCC, Lauren has contributed to and spearheaded multiple projects. Some of the most prominent include researching and writing the series of sustainability toolkits on office outreach, energy efficiency, water conservation, waste management, alternative energy, and efficient transportation; developing relationships with universities to recruit interns by posting positions through their career services department; and managing USGCC’s Newsblog and facilitating USGCC’s National Webinar. Lauren holds an array of leadership positions including serving as Marketing Assistant for the University of Central Florida’s College of Sciences where she oversees the news blog and creates the monthly newsletter. Lauren is passionate about sustainability and hopes to compliment her already extensive experience with her long-time involvement at USGCC to pursue a career in environmental policy.
Robert Besler serves as a Graphic Design Associate, assisting USGCC in redesigning and creating design options for our new website. Robert’s previous design experience makes him an irreplaceable asset to the USGCC team; this experience includes 4 years of practicing studio art, 1 year of architectural design, and interning for Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners where he aided in constructing architectural models and led some of his own projects. Robert’s eye for design and detail is evident in his accomplishments — first place in a 2013 mixed media competition and second place in a 2012 charcoal art competition. Robert’s passion and talents lie with art and design. He plans to compliment his skills with his experience at USGCC to incorporate his passion into his rising interest in worldwide sustainability.
Sagarika Subramanian serves as a Sustainability Consulting Associate where she researches and creates sustainability toolkits, such as the Climate Change Toolkit and Chemicals in the Workplace Toolkit, for USGCC’s business certification program. Her past experiences have provided her with various skills such as preparation of technical reports, presentations, and literature reviews, all of which have helped her develop the toolkits. Currently, Sagarika also holds the position of researcher at UCLA, where she is working on an Environmental Report Card for Los Angeles County. The project requires her to use critical thinking and data management to provide a comprehensive assessment of energy and air quality indicators. She also utilizes skills obtained from her time as a Student Project Consultant for the Climate Action Reserve, where she conducted research on greenhouse gas offset projects and their corresponding co-benefits. Sagarika is passionate about mitigating climate change and environmental justice issues, and is interested in learning more about the roles carbon markets and greenhouse gas accounting play in businesses. During her time at USGCC, she hopes to supplement her skill-set with a better understanding of corporate sustainability.
Jerel Francisco currently acts as Chapter Steering Committee Coordinator where he employs his team management and organization skills to facilitate the formation of new USGCC chapters nationwide. Jerel holds several leadership positions on the State University of New York’s campus; these include serving as Director of the Associates Program for Work in Asia and being a committed volunteer for the Food Recovery Network. As a leader in the aforementioned organizations, Jerel has successfully planned and led weekly professional development workshops and has assisted in the elimination of over 2,300 pounds of food waste. Jerel is dedicated to a career in sustainable business and hopes to build on his previous experiences with his role at USGCC to promote business success and sustainability across America.
Elena Guevara currently serves as a Junior Sustainability Associate where she employs her previous research, writing, and communications skills to revise USGCC’s series of sustainability toolkits and establish connections between the organization and sustainability consulting professionals. Elena has held various leadership positions including serving as a Research Assistant for Abel Impact where she currently researches various companies’ philanthropic campaigns and conducts preliminary financial reviews of non-profits; Spanish Communications Intern for Heal the Bay during which she spearheaded the creation and design of the organization’s new Spanish blog; and Content Analytics Intern for Enrou where she assisted in building the brand’s voice through strategic messaging in blog content. Elena is passionate about corporate sustainability and hopes to compliment her repertoire of experience with her involvement at USGCC to achieve her career goal of becoming a sustainability consulting professional.
Madison Purnell currently acts as the Director of the “Hispanic Leaders in Sustainability” Series. Her communication skills and experience living and volunteering in Latin America have added value in her work to find, interview, and write articles on the diverse Hispanic American leaders in the business sustainability realm featured in the series. Madison previously held the Global Research Analyst position, where she researched leaders and organizations in Latin America to find potential partners. Madison currently holds various leadership positions on the UCLA campus; these include serving as a campus tour guide, an on-campus representative for a study abroad provider, and as the Assistant Commissioner for the Campus Events Commission branch of student government. By representing these organizations and advancing the mission of each, Madison has acquired strong organizational and communication skills. She is passionate about different cultures and the environment and hopes to further compliment her professional experience with her position at USGCC to eventually work in sustainability on the international scale.
Celia Goodwin holds the position of Non-Profit Sustainability Specialist, assisting USGCC in maintaining records, providing guidance on applications, and helping to set policies. Celia’s previous leadership and sustainability experience include examining sustainable methods of reducing and treating human waste at Covanta Energy Corporation and METRO Wastewater Treatment Plant in Syracuse, New York, writing scientific papers on the benefits of natural wastewater treatment systems, and volunteering for Food Recover Network, where she brings uneaten food from Syracuse University to nearby homeless shelters. Celia is passionate about environmental affairs and plans to compliment her experience thus far with her position at USGCC to join the push for sustainable infrastructure in the public community and private businesses.
Jeremy Smith serves as a Design and Branding Associate where he effectively utilizes his leadership experience in graphic design and brand development to portray USGCC’s wide range of constituents and goals. Jeremy holds various leadership positions on the USC campus including working as an Undergraduate Researcher at the Spatial Science Institute and serving as Executive Creative Director for USC’s chapter of Design for America. Within these roles, Jeremy has successfully led a project to evaluate the livability of the USC campus and designed potential solutions to mitigate micro-urban heat island effects while curating Design for America’s brand and managing several team projects within the organization. Jeremy is passionate about the interaction between the built and natural environments and hopes to augment his skills with his position at USGCC to pursue a career in urban design.
Ellen Morris currently acts as an Advocacy Associate where she utilizes her research skills to develop content regarding environmental policies and their effect on business. She has held previous leadership positions including serving as an Environmental Education Intern for The Dunes Center during which she taught after school science classes to third, fourth, and fifth graders and led small museum tour groups. Ellen has also travelled to Peru with the Wildlands Studies International Academic Field Programs where she conducted research and led discussions about the impact of human activity on rainforest ecosystems. Ellen is passionate about sustainable development and plans to build on her previous experiences with her role at USGCC to promote sustainability and conservation around the world.
Eduardo Juaréz currently serves as a Sustainability Spanish Translator where he employs his extensive experience in the Spanish language to translate USGCC’s series of sustainability toolkits. He has held various positions that have solidified his expertise in the Spanish language; some of these professional experiences include translating informational documents for the Child Life Department at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center, serving as an interpreter for the Los Angeles Global Diaspora forum and the Tres Por Uno program lecture given by SEDESOL, a Mexican federal government agency. Eduardo is passionate about learning more about sustainability given its crucial importance for future prosperity in the United States and the world. He is particularly interested in using his knowledge as a Spanish language professional to expand public knowledge about different strategies for a sustainable and prosperous world.
Jacqueline Ostermann currently serves as a Sustainability Consultant where she has successfully employed her previous consulting experience to initiate and lead the creation of a criteria packet for assessing and improving corporate sustainability. Jacqueline’s considerable experience expands to both the private and public sector; this includes serving as an Environmental Services Intern for the city of Santa Clarita and serving as an Environmental Intern for two large German manufacturers, the Putsch Group and CLAGE GmbH. Within these roles, Jacqueline conducted audits of waste management systems and performed environmental assessments including analyses of the company’s carbon, water, chemical, and waste footprint. Jacqueline hopes to further expand her consulting expertise with her involvement at USGCC to continue mediating between the worlds of business and the environment to achieve a more sustainable future.
Sustainability Marketing and Business Development Associate
Allison currently serves as the Sustainability Marketing and Business Development Associate at the USGCC where she uses her previous experience from active roles in sustainability organizations and passion for green practices to write blog posts, create sustainable marketing material, and fulfil everyday tasks for the USGCC. She has been involved in the ACC’s Gameday Challenge football and basketball games each year, and achieved the ACC’s first zero waste basketball game last winter. Allison is passionate about green businesses and how they can boost the economy, and she plans to use her passions to achieve her future goals with USGCC.
Graphic Design and Eco Travel Associate
Ifeanyi currently serves as a Sustainability Reporter where he utilises the knowledge gained in his sustainability graduate degree at UCLA to develop sustainability reports in order to promote the integration of green practices in business ventures. Ifeanyi has a background in chemical engineering. He worked in the chemical industry as an Environmental Remediation Engineer where he developed technologies to eliminate harmful chemical contaminants from groundwater. In this role, he realized the negative impacts the emission of contaminants have on the environment and developed an interest in environmental sustainability. Ifeanyi hopes to leverage his USGCC network to drive sustainable development in technical fields thereby improving global sustainability.