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Ground for Hope - Wisconsin Speaker/Presenter Bio-Sketches

Winona LaDuke
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Event Schedule

Workshop & Tour Descriptions

Sunday Keynote Speaker - Winona LaDuke

Winona LaDuke is an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg who lives and works on the White Earth Reservations, and is the mother of three children. She is also the Executive Director of Honor the Earth, where she works on a national level to advocate, raise public support, and create funding for frontline native environmental groups.

In 1994, Winona was nominated by Time magazine as one of America's fifty most promising leaders under forty years of age. She has been awarded the Thomas Merton Award in 1996, the BIHA Community Service Award in 1997, the Ann Bancroft Award for Women's Leadership Fellowship, and the Reebok Human Rights Award, with which she began the White Earth Land Recovery Project.

A graduate of Harvard and Antioch Universities, Winona has written extensively on Native American and Environmental issues. She is a former board member of Greenpeace USA and serves, as co-chair of the Indigenous Women's Network, a North American and Pacific indigenous women's organization. In 1998, Ms. Magazine named her Woman of the Year for her work with Honor the Earth.

She has written extensively on Native American and environmental issues. Author of now six books, including The Militarization of Indian Country (2011), Recovering the Sacred: the Power of Naming and Claiming (2005), the non-fiction book All our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life (1999, South End Press), and a novel - Last Standing Woman (1997, Voyager Press). 

Monday Kickoff Speaker - Ken Leinbach

Executive Director, The Urban Ecology Center
Ken Leinbach

Ken Leinbach, Executive Director of the Urban Ecology Center, is a nationally recognized leader in community-based environmental education.  His work makes re-connection with nature a foundation for urban revitalization, and he has partnered with hundreds of faith communities to bring this compelling vision to life.  Starting with a single trailer in a high-crime city park, Ken’s contagious energy led to the development of the acclaimed Urban Ecology Center, which connects tens of thousands of central city students and residents across Milwaukee with nature each year.  The Center’s programs have changed crime-ridden parks into outdoor learning centers for students of all ages, and have become models for cities around the globe.
Ken has over 25 years of experience directing, teaching and developing environmental science programs in Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia and Kentucky.  He was awarded the 1995 National Nature Educator of the Year Award from the Roger Tory Peterson Institute and the Thomas Jefferson Medal for outstanding contributions to natural science education. 

A certified high school science teacher, Ken earned his B.S. from Antioch College in Ohio, a Masters’ in Environmental Education from Prescott College in Arizona and an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.  He is involved with numerous nonprofit and community-based groups in Milwaukee and beyond.

Workshop Leaders

Huda Alkaff
Director, Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin

Huda Alkaff has degrees in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development and Science and Environmental Education from the University of Georgia.  She also has experience teaching environmental science courses at the University of Wisconsin. She is the President of Wisconsin Interfaith Power & Light and Vice Chair of the Interfaith Earth Network.

Hardeep Ahuja

Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and Sikh Religious Society of Wisconsin

Currently a Family Practice physician , Hardeep is a speaker and advocate for the American Heart Association and often speaks on the importance of diet in managing cholesterol and overall health. He teaches regularly on the importance of a plant based diet, gardening and the environement.  Influenced by his father, a retired geologist whose work invovled cleanups of chemical contamination, Dr Ahuja is a member of the Sikh community and is currently developing a plan to initiate a recycling program that will utilize food wastes from the Temple's kitchen and convert it to soil for a vegetable garden.

Rev. Neddy Astudillo
Ecumenical Latino Minstry, Beloit

Eco-theologian Neddy Astudillo, a Venezuelan-American and candidate for a D.Min. on Eco-justice Ministries and Eco-spirituality at Drew University, is the pastor of an Ecumenical (ELCA/PCUSA) Latino ministry in Beloit, Wisconsin. Neddy lives in Northern Illinois with her husband and three teenagers, where they moved in 2001 to help start the Angelic Organics Learning Center, a center for learning about food, farming and caring for the earth.  Neddy has taught Eco-Theology in seminaries in Guatemala, Perú and Bolivia, is a co-author of the NCCC Declaration “God’s Earth is Sacred”, and of  “God’s Earth is Sacred: Essays on Eco-Justice” (2011). Neddy shares her passion for God’s creation through worship, workshops  and a Spanish website:

Dr. Peter Bakken
Wisconsin Council of Churches, Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light

Peter Bakken is Coordinator for Public Policy at the Wisconsin Council of Churches and Executive Director of Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light.  He received his Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Chicago Divinity School.  He was a member of the task force that produced the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America social statement, “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice.”  His publications include Church on Earth: Grounding Your Ministry in a Sense of Place (with Jeff Wild; Augsburg Fortress 2009); Ecology, Justice and Christian Faith: A Guide to the Literature (co-compiled with J. Ronald Engel and Joan Gibb Engel; Greenwood Press, 1995) and Evocations of Grace: Writings on Ecology, Theology and Ethics by Joseph Sittler (co-edited with Steven Bouma-Prediger, Eerdmans, 2000).   He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife and daughter, where they are members of Advent Lutheran Church (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).

Dr. Lakshmi K. Bharadwaj
Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Dr. Lakshmi K. Bharadwaj is a sociology professor (emeritus) at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, where he had been teaching sociological theory, environmental sociology, the sociology of religion, and social change for over four decades.  Dr. Bharadwaj has served as the Director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.  As a longtime member of the Milwaukee Association for Interfaith Relations (MAIR) of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, he has been actively involved in promoting interreligious understanding and dialogue.  He currently serves as the Director of Education, Interfaith Relations, and Community Outreach at the Hindu Temple of Wisconsin.  Dr. Bharadwaj earned his PhD from the University of Wisconsin at Madison

Tom Brandstetter  
Transition Milwaukee
Tom Brandstetter is a member of the First Unitarian Society Milwaukee and a founding member of Transition Milwaukee.  He supported energy conservation and renewable energy retrofits to the First Unitarian Society while personally reducing his home energy use by 80%. 
The Rev. Willie Briscoe
Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope

The Rev. Willie E. Brisco is Associate Minister of the New Covenant Baptist Church and President of Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH).   His ministry focuses on deterring young people from entering the criminal justice system and on helping those who have been incarcerated to successfully rejoin society.  Rev. Brisco was called to the ministry after a 25-year career in law enforcement and corrections, having retired in 2009 as the Deputy Superintendent of the Milwaukee County House of Correction.   He also served as chair of MICAH’s Jobs and Economic Development Committee.   Reverend Brisco is a graduate of Milwaukee’s North Division High School and he attended the University of Wisconsin- Madison and the Milwaukee Area Technical College.  Rev. Brisco has been married to his wife, Sandra, for 20 years and is a proud father and grandfather.

Jeanne Collins
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Wauwatossa, WI

Jeanne Collins is one of the original organizing members of the St. Matthew’s Ev. Lutheran Church (Wauwatosa, WI) Care for Creation team.  From 2007 to date, she has been involved in such diverse efforts as tree donations for public parkland, fundraisers (pancake breakfasts, soup luncheons, salsa and pesto sales), composting, community gardens, and various recycling efforts, among other projects. 

Pamela Frydman-Roza
Tikkun Ha-Ir of Milwaukee
Pamela Frydman-Roza is a Jewish environmental educator. She is food justice coordinator at Tikkun Ha-Ir of Milwaukee, writes Jewish environmental curriculum for Chai Mitzvah: Grow Your Judaism and helps pre-schoolers understand their vital role as stewards of our precious earth.

Rev. Karen Hagen
Tippecanoe Church

Rev. Hagen is deeply blessed to serve as pastor with the abundantly gracious folk of Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church in the BayView area of Milwaukee, home to Living Waters Contemplative Life Center, Divine Intervention Cold Weather Ministry to the Homeless, Tippecanoe Community Garden and The Native American Wellness Garden, a Food Justice Site PCUSA.  She also serves as a consultant to “emerging” churches and to contemplative justice ministries, leads ecumenical worship and retreats, and works as a spiritual director practicing several of the healing arts.

Eric Hansen

Essayist, Commentator, Eco-Preacher

Eric Hansen is an award-winning essayist, public radio commentator and conservation campaigner with a broad background in framing evocative spiritual ecology, social justice and environmental themes. A frequent pulpit guest, he has presented “Our Ferocious Love of Life vs. Catastrophic Climate Change” to fifteen congregations. His spirituality themed public radio commentary “Climate Change and Common Sense Conservation in Wisconsin” earned a first place award for Editorial/Commentary from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.

The Rev. Fletcher Harper
Executive Director, GreenFaith

Fletcher is an Episcopal priest and GreenFaith’s Executive Director. Under his leadership, GreenFaith has developed innovative national programs linking religious belief and practice to the environment. An award-winning spiritual writer and nationally-recognized preacher on the environment, he teaches and speaks at houses of worship from a range of denominations nationwide about the moral, spiritual basis for environmental stewardship and justice. He has been recognized as an Ashoka Fellow and a Trinity Transformational Fellow.

Dr. Jeanne Hewitt
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Dr. Hewitt is on faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and directs the Outreach and Education Core for the Children's Environmental Health Sciences Core Center. This federally-funded Center does research and community engagement on environmental health problems especially those that affect reproduction and prenatal and early childhood development.

Rev. Steve Jerbi

All Peoples Church

Steve is inspired by the prophet Amos who said, "I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet, but a dresser of sycamore trees." After graduation from the University of Montana with a degree in Literature and Environmental Studies, he was an environmental education director in Southern California. He felt the call to seminary and chose the Lutheran School in Theology in Chicago for the Environmental Ministry emphasis. There he discovered a new passion for urban ministry and he has been serving at All Peoples Church - a National Council of Churches Great Green Congregation and a leader in youth and food justice - for five years.

Stacey Kennealy
Director, Certification Program and Sustainability, GreenFaith

Stacey directs the GreenFaith Certification Program, the world's first program of its kind, and also helps religious groups develop sustainable consumption practices. She wrote GreenFaith’s Repairing Eden guide on sustainable food, and has completed training with the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, The Center for Whole Communities, and The Climate Project.  An honors graduate of Rutgers University with dual degrees in ecology and environmental policy, Stacey has worked in depth with hundreds of faith-based schools and houses of worship from diverse religious traditions, helping them integrate environmental initiatives into their operations.

Young Kim
Executive Director, Fondy Food Center

Young Kim has been the Executive Director of the Fondy Food Center since 2003. Prior to coming to Milwaukee he spent eight years in Seattle working with the city’s homeless population. Young describes himself as a “hardcore foodie” and is always on the lookout for exciting and simple recipes. He believes that good food makes for a strong community.
A second-generation Korean-American, Young was born and raised in the Deep South. He is the co-founder of the Asian/Pacific Islander Caucus of the Unitarian Universalist Association and a member of the Milwaukee Rotary. He currently serves as Vice President of the Community Food Security Coalition, and he likes to read poetry and restore vintage fountain pens.  A graduate of Oberlin College, Yuong lives in Wauwatosa with his wife, the Rev. Suzelle Lynch, and daughter, Grace.

Rabbi Shlomo Levin
Lake Park Synagogue

Rabbi Levin joined Lake Park Synagogue as its full-time Rabbi in September of 2003. He graduated from Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago and earned his bachelor's degree in environmental science from Bar-Ilan University. He received his Rabbinic ordination from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and from Rabbis Shlomo Riskin and Chaim Brovender of Yeshivat Hamivtar in Efrat, Israel.

Prior to coming to Lake Park Synagogue, Rabbi Levin served as the Rabbi of Congregation Temple Beth El of Rutherford, NJ, taught Talmud at the Ramaz Upper School in New York, and served as the first director of the Omaha Center for Jewish Learning in Omaha, Nebraska. Rabbi Levin and his wife Noa have five children, two of them born in Milwaukee.

Rabbi Levin has written for the Canfei Nesharim Newsletter, Jewish Action magazine, and the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, and has been heard on OU Radio.

Gretchen Mead
Executive Director, Victory Garden Initiative

Gretchen founded Victory Garden Initiative in 2008.  As a social worker, she witnessed firsthand the negative impact that the current food system has on vulnerable populations, where the poorest are the most susceptible to diet-related illnesses and have access only to cheap processed foods, not fresh vegetables.
Gretchen grew up in rural Illinois, where her family harvested the bounty of local forests and cultivated a family garden. Gretchen’s aspiration is to reintegrate our food ecology and our human ecology. She points out, “Our current agriculture system happens away from where people live; our goal is to reintegrate those systems.”
Gretchen received her BA from Clark College and a Master of Social Work from UWM’s Helen Bader School of Social Welfare. She has been awarded the 2012 GOLD (Graduate of the Last Decade) Award from UW-Milwaukee.

Maria O’Connor
Unitarian Universalist Church West
Maria Costello O'Connor, MA, MSP, is a career Unitarian Universalist religious educator, serving the past 16 years at Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield, Wisconsin. For more than a decade, UUCW has successfully run many of the curricula available from the Northwest Earth Institute. Maria has personally facilitated some of these discussion groups based upon current environmental issues, and coordinates the adult enrichment program that has hosted several others. Maria serves on the Board of the Southeast Wisconsin Unitarian Universalist Congregations and on the Cabinet of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.

Dr. Dale Olen
Senior Water Advocates Network
Dale Olen is a social/ecological psychologist studying the Earth-human relationship and how the human species can live in harmony with planet Earth.  Since retiring in 2003, he has been active in environmental groups working mostly on Great Lakes water issues. He directs SWAN (Senior Water Advocates Network) a project of Milwaukee Riverkeeper, teaches and writes on environmental ethics, and directs a website on discovering wisdom in the earth (

George Owen
Transition Milwaukee

George Owen has recently returned to Milwaukee from 4 years at a Quaker retreat center near Philadelphia. There he initiated the first Transition Town in Pennsylvania and gave workshops on sustainability - work he is continuing here on Transition Milwaukee’s Steering Committee.

Ahmed J. Quereshi, Esq.

Islamic Society of Milwaukee

Ahmed Quereshi is the President of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, the largest Islamic organization in Wisconsin.  He is a board member on the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, serves as the Islamic Society of Milwaukee’s representative to the Milwaukee Association of Interfaith Relations, is an occasional instructor for the UWM School of Continuing Education where he teaches courses on Islam and frequently speaks on Islam to non-Muslim audiences.  A graduate of Marquette University Law School, he is an attorney practicing law with an office in New Berlin.

Don Quintenz
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
Don Quintenz has been an environmental educator for forty-five years, and is currently the Director of Education and Land Management at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, supervising a staff of 18 educators and two land stewards.  He launched monthly programming at the Center on spirituality and the environment in 2006.

Rodney Sanchez

Tender Shot of Joy Dharma Center

Rodney Sanchez has been studying and practicing the Buddhadharma for 24 years. He has received instruction in the Thai, Vietnamese, Tibetan and North American lineages of Buddhism. Rodney received the transmission of the Three Refuges and Five Precepts from Caitriona Reed in the lineages of Thich Nhat Hanh and Ordinary Dharma, has been teaching meditation classes and leading retreats since 1999, and currently leads Tender Shoot of Joy Dharma Center. Rodney works closely with Santikaro and Liberation Park. Santikaro is a teacher in the Thai tradition, and Liberation Park is a rural Dharma Refuge in Western Wisconsin.

Amy Taivalkoski
Unitarian Universalist Church West

Amy Taivalkoski is the chairperson of the Earth Ministry committee, now in it’s 10th year, at Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield, WI. She is a renewable energy consultant and a manufacturers sales representative for an LED lighting company. She is interested in all aspects of sustainability including energy, water, food, and the interdependence of all living things.

John H. Teller, Sr.

College of Menominee Nation

John H. Teller Sr. graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1979 with a BS in Education. John taught Menominee Language and Culture for twenty five years in the Menominee Indian Schools. He served two years as Chairman of the Menominee Nation and currently is the Associate Dean of Continuing Education at the College of Menominee Nation located on the Menominee Reservation at Keshena, Wisconsin.

Katy Walter, Clean Energy Specialist
Clean Wisconsin

Katy Walter leads Clean Wisconsin’s outreach efforts around energy policies. She is responsible for coordinating field and communication strategies and serves as a liaison between clean energy businesses and the legislature.  Katy’s experience includes training student activists around the environment and civic engagement, and directing fundraising canvass to fight climate change. Katy is a graduate of UW-La Crosse with bachelor's degrees in sociology and political science.

Bruce Wiggins MDiv, MPA, APA
Milwaukee Urban Gardens

Bruce is an activist, gardener and advocate for more sustainable ways of living through social, economic, and environmental justice. He is a member of the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee (Unitarian Universalist) where he is a member of the Earth Justice Ministry and helped promote the campaign to install insulation and solar panels at the church. He is currently Executive Director of Milwaukee Urban Gardens, part of the growing urban agriculture movement in the city. He is concerned about the world that his two young grand daughters are inheriting. A professional planner (American Planning Association), Bruce received a Master of Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary and a Masters in Public Administration from Idaho State University.

Kimberlee Wright, J.D.
Midwest Environmental Advocates
Kimberlee Wright has worked with communities across Wisconsin for more than twenty years to protect our natural heritage, public health and the rights of all people to participate in open government.  Kimberlee draws daily inspiration from the legacy of Wisconsin native, Senator Gaylord Nelson and his deep belief in the power of ordinary people to make decisions that benefit communities today and into the future.  Wright holds degrees in Rural Sociology and Law from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


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