Key Personnel

Executive Committee

The Executive Committee is comprised of staff from various departments and is responsible for setting the goals and direction of Vegan Outreach and providing guidance to the Executive Director and the Board of Directors.

Jack NorrisJack Norris

Executive Director

Jack is a cofounder of Vegan Outreach. He was inducted into the Animal Rights Hall of Fame in 2005. Jack is also a registered dietitian, and is responsible for all of VO’s writings on nutrition. With Ginny Messina, he co-authored Vegan for Life.

Jack grew up in Cincinnati, OH. He attended Cornell College in Iowa, where he was a Division III All-American in the pole vault. He has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, philosophy, and sociology. He performed his dietetic internship at Georgia State University.

For fun, Jack plays ultimate frisbee, takes hikes with his spouse, Alex, and hangs out with his rescued companion turtle, Richard.

Alex BuryAlex Bury

Vice President of Development

Alex leads VO’s development efforts, working in partnership with donors to fuel our work for animals. She brings over a decade of fundraising experience to VO, having worked in development at PETA and HSUS. She went vegan in 1995 while living in Anchorage, AK where she was rescuing dogs and learning about animal rights from PETA.

Alex trained at the Culinary Institute of America. She made the move from restaurants to fundraising when she realized that insufficient funding was the biggest hurdle standing between activists and their goals to end violence towards animals.

For fun, Alex enjoys participating in endurance sports challenges, reading, cooking for friends, and seeing Broadway musicals. Alex lives in Davis, CA, with her partner Jack, VO’s Executive Director, their rescued turtle Richard Karen, and an occasional foster dog.

Lisa RimmertLisa Rimmert

Vice President of Strategic Communications

Lisa oversees Vegan Outreach’s communications department, ensuring that all audiences—from potential vegans to dedicated VO donors—receive clear and consistent messaging about their critical roles in ending speciesism.

Lisa has 12 years of marketing and fundraising experience, mostly in the nonprofit arena. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and a master’s in public relations from Webster University in St. Louis.

Lisa lives in Maryland, where she volunteers on programs to foster racial equity in her county. She enjoys comedy, traveling, and spending time with her husband and rescued dog and cat.

Vic SjodinVictor Sjodin

Vice President of College Outreach and International Expansion

Victor oversees VO’s Outreach Coordinators, ensuring that as much of the world is reached with VO’s literature as possible. Victor has been VO’s leafleting specialist for some time and has vastly increased the success rate of many of our Outreach Coordinators and volunteers.

Victor has been leafleting college campuses throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico since 2008. In this time, he has reached over 875,000 individuals with a Vegan Outreach booklet. Victor paved the way for our exceptionally successful international programs and has a strong interest in expanding to other countries.

Victor was born in Sweden and grew up in the New York area. He studied philosophy and geography at Hofstra University. Victor enjoys reading, stand-up comedy, learning about nutrition, and being out in nature.

Kevin GallagherKevin Gallagher

Director of Operations

As Director of Operations, Kevin handles a number of functions such as monitoring our booklet inventory and coordinating printings.

Kevin has been involved with Vegan Outreach since the mid-1990s and joined Vegan Outreach cofounder Jack Norris for the Colorado leg of the first cross-country college leafleting tour. He was a member of Vegan Outreach’s Board of Directors from 2004 to 2015. Kevin was born and raised in suburban Chicago and was a vegetarian from his early high-school years due to the example of his mother. While attending Cornell College in Iowa, Kevin became vegan. After graduating with a BA in philosophy and political science, Kevin settled in Seattle and obtained a BS in neurobiology and physiology from the University of Washington. Kevin has worked for the University of Washington, where he cofounded and directed the Resource Center for Student Organizations, for ten years.

Aneeha PatwardhanAneeha Patwardhan

Director of Programs, India

Aneeha was inspired by Vegan Outreach to initiate a local animal rights movement in Pune, India. Now, she oversees the outreach team in India, taking the vegan message all over the country via leafleting, virtual reality outreach, humane education, restaurant campaigns, and more. Prior to joining Vegan Outreach, she spent several years leading outreach campaigns to promote veganism in her city and across India while volunteering with an Indian animal rights organization.

Aneeha holds a degree in electronics and telecommunication engineering from Pune University. She has a background in data modeling, analytics, and programming, and worked in business consulting before becoming a full-time activist. In her free time, Aneeha enjoys reading, art, and spending time in nature and with her family.

Liz RossElizabeth (Liz) Ross

Director of Community Events

Liz is cofounder of Vegan Advocacy Initiative, an all-volunteer, animal rights, and vegan food justice organization. She is also co-creator of the People of Color: Animal Rights, Advocacy and Food Justice Conference, which takes place in Los Angeles.

Liz brings over 12 years of management, event planning, and marketing experience combined from the corporate real estate sector. Prior to that, Liz worked as a police officer and now raises awareness about the history and problem of mass incarceration, and volunteers for organizations that are working to counter its negative impact.

Liz is a graduate of James Madison University, Virginia. She enjoys trail running, gardening, and is passionate about learning veganic agroecological gardening methods and alternative food systems, from an ethical vegan’s perspective.

Breege TomkinsonBreege Tomkinson

Director of Finance

As Director of Finance, Breege makes sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. She pays the bills, balances the checkbook, keeps our registrations in dozens of states up to date, and handles a number of human resources functions.

Breege hails from the East Coast, having been born in New Jersey and spending most of her time in Connecticut and Vermont. She moved to California in 1999. Prior to VO, she spent five years with Nonprofit Financial Administrators (NPFA) working with animal rights and environmental organizations. Prior to NPFA, she spent six years at the Animal Protection Institute managing the accounting department. She has a BS in accounting from Colorado State University. In her free time, Breege can be found eating Ethiopian food, at various coffee shops, at the gym, riding her bike, or hanging with her three lazy cats.

Key Staff

Perla Anerol

Outreach Coordinator

Based in Mexico City, Perla Anerol conducts outreach throughout southern Mexico. She has been an activist for animals since her teenage years—she became vegetarian at age 14 after seeing chickens killed at her grandmother’s house, and at 16, she decided to become vegan.

Perla recently earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). In addition to her work with Vegan Outreach, she co-founded and continues to volunteer for a local organization called PLAN Por La Liberación Animal.

Perla enjoys spending time with her adopted dog, Ollin, and activist friends, being in nature, photographing insects, dancing, and reading—especially about psychology, social movements, and effective activism.

Jean BettannyJean Bettanny

Vegan Mentor Program Coordinator

Jean has been volunteering for VO for many years. Most recently she has taken charge of the Vegan Mentor Program to make sure mentees and mentors are matched up appropriately.

Jean has been a passionate advocate for animals since 1994 and a supporter of Vegan Outreach since 2000. Before settling in Port Townsend, WA, she had two careers, one as a computer programmer / systems analyst and later as a hairstylist / salon owner. She earned a degree in Romance languages from the University of Maine in 1966. She has lived all over the US, and in Germany and Argentina. Some of her hobbies are partner dancing and playing tennis with her husband, Tom, advocating for secular causes, and traveling via RV to dances while sampling vegan restaurants along the way.

Brian Chavez

Outreach Coordinator

Brian leaflets, tables at festivals, and shows virtual reality videos to the public.

Brian grew up in San Diego, CA, and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from UC San Diego. He has spent years researching and writing about the intersection between mathematics and preferences of ethical philosophy.

Brian has been volunteering to help animals since 2008. He has leafleted at many colleges in Southern California and the Midwestern U.S. When he’s not advocating for animals, Brian enjoys hiking and going to vegan potlucks. He also loves music, books, bicycling, board games, and his friends.

John DeetjenJohn Deetjen

Outreach Coordinator

After years of being one of Vegan Outreach’s most seasoned, dedicated, and prolific leafleting volunteers, John joined the team to carry on their extraordinary efforts as an Outreach Coordinator. Covering many of the states in the Midwest, they continue to impress.

John became vegan after seeing an exposé about the egg industry. They soon got involved in animal rights activism and have now handed out a booklet to over 250,000 people.

Raised in the Chicago area, John enjoys spending time in nature, cooking, finding new vegan restaurants, dressing up in costumes, visiting farm animal sanctuaries, and giving tours of supermarkets to show people how shopping for vegan foods can be done easily.

Abhishek DubeyAbhishek Dubey

Outreach Coordinator

Abhishek leaflets and gives humane education presentations at schools in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. He’s been an environmental activist since 2010 and started volunteering for animal rights when he learned about the cruelty in the dairy industry, and the greenhouse gas emissions due to factory farming.

Abhishek holds a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication engineering and worked at an IT company before pursuing activism full-time. He’s an avid nature lover and enjoys butterfly watching, rescuing injured animals, planting trees, and protecting wetlands.

Steve ErlstenSteve Erlsten

Senior Outreach Coordinator

Steve does outreach throughout the northern half of California. One of VO’s most consistently prolific activists, Steve gives out thousands of booklets day after day.

A lover of the natural world, Steve was driven to action after reading about the environmental impact of hog farming. He achieved zero-net-energy consumption at his home through major renovations, but promotes a vegan diet as the most effective means of diminishing individuals’ ecological impact. Steve says, “Major home improvements are a great way to improve our world, but that’s a decision you can only make once. Each of us can choose to help protect animals and save the environment every time we sit down to eat.”

Before coming to Vegan Outreach, Steve used his free time to help establish some of the largest vegan and environmental festivals in the country. Steve enjoys cooking and being out in California’s wild open spaces—camping, swimming, and biking.

Victor FloresVictor Flores

Greater New Mexico Community Events Coordinator

In his role at VO, Victor does outreach to communities in New Mexico as well as in some areas of Texas such as El Paso, engaging and educating them in the benefits of a vegan lifestyle.

Victor and his spouse, Karla, cofounded the group Otero Veg in Alamogordo, New Mexico, along with other members of the community. Together, they’ve organized community meals, fed vegan food to those in need, planned restaurant events, and have convinced some businesses to add vegan items to their menu.

Born in Dimmitt, Texas, Victor is a previous business owner and enjoys the spirit of entrepreneurship. Some favorite hobbies Victor likes to do with his family include going four-wheeling in the mountains, hiking, RVing, and watching The Walking Dead.

Cara FryeCara Frye

Graphic Designer

Cara serves as VO’s Graphic Designer, creating visual content for our websites, social media, and print collateral. She holds a BFA in communication arts and design from Virginia Commonwealth University and has been an active member of the animal rights movement since 2012.

Cara has worked for global vegan nonprofits, where she’s helped establish the visual identity of campaigns and programs such as Vegan Action’s Certified Vegan Program and Farm Animal Rights Movement’s Animal Rights National Conference. Through her work, she hopes to facilitate wider recognition for animal rights and other social justice movements.

Cara lives in Richmond, VA with her six—and counting—cat companions. She is a co-founder of Porchlight Animal Sanctuary, which creates opportunities for folks in the central Virginia area to learn about and meet previously farmed animals.

Astha GuptaAstha Gupta

Outreach Coordinator

Astha leaflets and organizes virtual reality outreach in Pune, India. In her words, her compassion and love for animals is her motivation to work for them.

Astha holds a bachelor’s degree in law from Pune University and is a classically trained musician. She worked with law firms in Pune before joining Vegan Outreach as a full-time activist. Astha enjoys spending time with her friends and family and likes trying new vegan foods.

Rania HannanRania Hannan

Research and Assessment Specialist

Rania oversees Vegan Outreach’s studies to assess the impact of our programs and refine our strategies.

Rania lives in Michigan and has been vegan since 2013. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Oakland University and received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan. Her previous background includes working in nonprofits and as a research project manager on a community project in Flint, Michigan.

Rania enjoys reading, improv and sketch comedy, traveling, hiking, and baking.

Gwenna HunterGwenna Hunter

Greater Los Angeles Community Events Coordinator

Gwenna’s outreach in the greater Los Angeles area includes organizing a variety of events to engage and help facilitate the empowerment of local communities in following a vegan lifestyle.

Gwenna has several years of experience as an IT recruiter and social media consultant, as well as in radio and television sales and marketing.

In 2016, Gwenna went from vegetarian to vegan after watching the video Dairy is Scary. As founder of Vegans of LA, Gwenna enjoys bringing people together for social functions designed to create networking, mingling, dating, and a safe, fun space for non-vegans to experience new and delicious foods, while also learning that it’s unnecessary to eat animals.

Sara LaycockSara Laycock

Volunteer and Donor Liaison

Sara assists VO’s development and volunteer efforts in addition to organizing a variety of events to promote the vegan lifestyle in the Atlanta region.

Sara grew up in the midwest and became vegan after a realizing how it perfectly aligned her values surrounding animals, health, and the environment. She graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in public affairs and is a certified vegan lifestyle coach and educator from the Main Street Vegan Academy.

Sara worked as an economic and community development lobbyist before transitioning her career to animal activism with Mercy For Animals, where she served as the campaigns manager. She founded the brand Love Is Vegan with her mother-in-law and volunteers with Full Circle Farm Sanctuary. Sara enjoys live music, comedy, traveling to beaches, and spending time with her husband Rob and their two companion animals, Ruby and Cora.

Emmanuel MarquezEmmanuel Márquez

Mexico Outreach Manager

In January 2015, Emmanuel embarked on Vegan Outreach’s first full-time tour of Mexico. He’s traveled throughout Mexico, as VO’s first-ever Mexico Outreach Coordinator, spearheading our efforts to reach over 600,000 students with a booklet, talk, or virtual reality experience in the first three years of our Mexico program. As Mexico Outreach Manager, Emmanuel is now helping to further expand our work into other parts of Latin America and to train and manage new staff.

Emmanuel hails from Monterrey, Mexico, where he was born and raised. He graduated from the Universidad Autónoma del Noreste with a degree in psychology. In addition to animal rights, Emmanuel is also an activist for environmental, feminist, and social justice causes. Some of his favorite activities include spending time with friends and family, hiking, visiting museums, attending concerts, and watching movies.

Miguel Marrón

Outreach Coordinator

Miguel travels throughout the Western U.S., leafleting to several hundreds, often thousands, of students per day.

Miguel earned a bachelor’s degree from Weber State University in Utah, where he studied psychology and philosophy. While there, he founded Animal Unanimity, the school’s first student animal rights organization.

Before coming to VO, Miguel spent most of his professional career helping people with developmental disabilities to learn independent living skills and become better integrated ins their communities. He was an adjunct faculty member at Howard Community College in Maryland, where he taught a college level class for adults with developmental disabilities.

Miguel is a certified yoga teacher and teaches yoga classes between Vegan Outreach tours. He also enjoys cooking, painting, video games, computers, and being in nature.

Jevranne MartelJevranne Martel

Canada Outreach Coordinator

Based in Ottawa, Jevranne leaflets colleges throughout most of Canada and does other forms of outreach in her local area.

Jevranne has been a passionate vegan and animal advocate since finding out how animals are treated in August of 2013. Prior to that time, she was dedicated to motivational speaking and life coaching and now uses these skills to help motivate and coach others to be effective activists. Jevranne prides herself in using kindness, compassion, and understanding in her interactions.

Richa Mehta HeadShotRicha Mehta

Outreach Coordinator

Richa does extensive in-person outreach for Vegan Outreach in Agra, India. In addition to leafleting and giving humane education presentations, she works with food businesses and companies to reduce their use of animal products and introduce vegan options.

Richa has several years of experience working with animal and environmental protection organisations and has worked extensively for the welfare of chickens and cows in Rajasthan. She holds a post-graduate degree in mass communication and journalism and loves the work she does for animals.

Yuri MitzkewichYuri Mitzkewich

Southeast Outreach Coordinator

A tireless VO volunteer for years, Yuri became part of Vegan Outreach’s staff in fall 2014, leafleting colleges throughout the Southeast.

Yuri studied marine biology and foreign studies at the University of Maryland. Post-college, Yuri toured as a musician in various punk and reggae bands. During this time he developed a love of volunteering, and has been active with various organizations, including Greenpeace, RAN, and Service Employees International Union. After seeing the film Peaceable Kingdom in 2007, Yuri became vegetarian and eventually vegan, and began campaigning to end vivisection and marine mammal captivity. When not leafleting, Yuri enjoys distance bicycling, spending time in his hammock around Key Biscayne, and perfecting his skills creating the best vegan pizza in Miami.

Taylor RadigTaylor Radig

Campaigns and Social Media Manager

Taylor works with restaurants and leading food providers to help them match their menus with the booming industry of vegan eating. She also manages VO’s social media.

Working and volunteering in the animal protection movement since 2009, Taylor not only brings her campaign experience, but also over eight years working in the food industry. She uses both experiences to help make vegan eating even more accessible, while creating a kinder and more sustainable world for everyone.

As a former undercover investigator for Compassion Over Killing, Taylor has seen firsthand the violence inherent in animal agribusiness. Her undercover work earned her recognition as Whistleblower Insider ’s 2013 Whistleblower of the Year.

Taylor lives in Los Angeles, where she volunteers for various grassroots organizations working on addressing racism and supporting the LGBTQ community. She holds two degrees in philosophy with a minor in theological studies. Outside of advocacy, Taylor loves traveling, indoor cycling, and has a newfound love of archery.

Debayan RakshitDebayan Rakshit

Outreach Coordinator

As VO’s Outreach Coordinator in India, Debayan does outreach tours of colleges and universities. There, he hands out pro-vegan leaflets, talks with students, and shows virtual reality videos of animals in farms and slaughterhouses.

Debayan is a musician and music researcher and holds a master’s degree in comparative literature.

In his spare time, he volunteers with a local animal rights group in Mumbai and helps produce videos on veganism in regional Indian languages.

Roopashree RaoRoopashree Rao

Indian American Community Events Coordinator

Roopashree is the Indian American Community Events Coordinator at Vegan Outreach. It’s a new role specially created to advocate for animal rights and vegan lifestyle choices to the large Indian community in North America.

Roopashree has a background in advertising and education, and has lived in India, Japan, Michigan, Southern California, and has now made a home in the California Bay Area. She recently spent a few years living in India and saw firsthand the emergence of veganism and its rapid growth thanks to a small but tight-knit community of vegan entrepreneurs there. Roopashree hopes to help inspire the Indian community here to learn about the nonviolent ways to eat and enjoy life, reminding them that the concept of ahimsa is, after all, very much a part of Indian culture. For fun, Roopashree loves to cook, explore farmers’ markets, stay connected with family and friends, do pranayama, and read books. She lives with her husband, teenage sons, and canine child, Marco Polo.

Katia RodriguezKatia Rodríguez

Mexico Campaigns and Spanish Media Coordinator

Katia helps run VO’s Español pages and also leaflets—in fact she holds the all-time record for the most booklets handed out in a single day with 6,496 booklets at her alma mater, the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL).

Katia went vegetarian after seeing a video at a concert for a local animal shelter and eventually went vegan. She has volunteered and interned for many animal rights organizations. Katia feels a strong passion for speaking up for animals used in labs and completed her biology degree without dissection or vivisection. She is now working to end those practices at UANL.

Katia enjoys attending concerts, reading, horror movies, 90s cartoons, science, Star Wars, and eating brownies. She lives with her adopted Egyptian rat, Arwen, and her three adopted dogs, Nirvana, Camila, and Nicky.

Stacy ShepanekStacy Shepanek

South Carolina Outreach Coordinator and Communications Designer

Stacy leaflets schools and does virtual reality tabling in South and North Carolina. She also designs event flyers and social media memes, among other communications projects.

Stacy is an artist, entrepreneur, and advocate. She began her career doing planning and design work in the engineering field and later started her own ceramic art business. Her path to animal advocacy began in 2012 when she became vegan. With a natural ability to connect and motivate others, and to build community, Stacy became an organizer of Charleston Veggies and Vegans. She also cofounded the Charleston Plant vegan dining guide and is now a co-organizer of Columbia Veg.

Stacy is passionate about health, fitness, and friends. She loves hiking, kayaking, and being outdoors, and has a ceramic art studio, Earth to Stacy. She lives in Columbia, SC, with her rescue dogs, Casey and Cookie.

Lana SmithsonLana Smithson

New England Outreach Coordinator

Lana has been distributing Vegan Outreach’s literature since 2006 and is our key leafleter in the Northeast. A resident of Maine, Lana focuses her attention on schools in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Quebec. She has also leafleted extensively in Florida. In addition to VO’s work, she has done other animal advocacy, including producing informative public access cable TV shows, collecting signatures for the Florida farmed animal ballot initiative, and participating in animal rescues.

Lana graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in animal science from Middle Tennessee State University. She previously worked in marine biology and microbiology. For fun, she enjoys swimming, scuba diving, skiing, and painting.

saurabh sonkarSaurabh Sonkar

Outreach Coordinator

Saurabh travels to several major cities in India to leaflet and show virtual reality videos at colleges, educating students and community members about the benefits of veganism for animals, the environment, and human health.

Saurabh holds two masters degrees—one in conflict management and the other in Hindi journalism. He’s passionate about animal rights and enjoys talking to students about veganism. He also owns a tofu and soy milk production plant in Varanasi and works on organic farming in his free time.

Sam TuckerSam Tucker

Australia and New Zealand Outreach Manager

Sam began working for Vegan Outreach in early 2015. He manages volunteers and conducts outreach throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Sam grew up in Hamilton, New Zealand. After reading a book highlighting the plight of factory farmed animals, he went vegan at age 13 and began his own animal rights radio show. He became passionate about using media as a tool to create social change and hosted or co-hosted on a variety of different radio shows and stations. This eventually led him to study communications and journalism at the Waikato Institute of Technology. He has also worked as an information technology support assistant. Outside of advocating for animals, he enjoys writing his own songs, playing guitar, camping, and road trips.

Aravindan VAravindan V

Outreach Coordinator

Aravindan does outreach at high schools and colleges in Coimbatore and Bangalore. Born and raised in Coimbatore, his love for animals started at a young age, when he would release rats caught in traps.

Aravindan holds a master’s degree in international business and also runs his own vegan sweets and savory food business. He volunteers for several other social causes and enjoys trekking, and collecting knives.

Jackie VaJackie Va

Central Valley Community Events Coordinator

Jackie does outreach in the Central Valley area in California—including Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, and Fresno—by organizing a variety of engaging events to provide information and encourage others to adopt a vegan lifestyle.

Jackie has a degree in geography from the University of California, Santa Barbara. After working at private civil engineering firms for a few years, she decided to change course and work for something closer to her heart.

Jackie was vegetarian at 16 and went vegan after visiting cows at PreetiRang Sanctuary. She and her sister, Stina, started the group Stockton Vegan Living in 2014. Jackie enjoys creating vegan social events in her hometown of Stockton and teaching people about veganism.

Jackie is a community organizer for Khmer Space, a group seeking to create more social and cultural events to empower the Cambodian community in Stockton. In her spare time, she likes rescuing bunnies, going beer tasting, hiking, and watching TV shows.

Sarah Weldon

Outreach Coordinator

Sarah leaflets and shows virtual reality videos to students throughout Texas and in several other southern U.S. states.

After serving for four years in the Marine Corps, Sarah left to pursue her bachelor’s degree at the University of South Carolina Beaufort. Watching The Cove in an English class compelled her to be a voice for animals. She became vegan in 2015 and has made it her life’s mission to see animal liberation.

After living in Michigan, Iowa, and South Carolina, Sarah returned home to Texas and is loving the vegan scene in Austin. Her heart is made whole by her two dogs, Ernie and Tucker, her cat, Miss Pippi, and her faith in God.

Nzinga YoungNzinga Young

Greater NYC Community Events Coordinator

Nzinga’s outreach work spans New York and New Jersey, organizing events designed to spread awareness and engage members of these communities in a vegan lifestyle.

Nzinga studied psychology and creative writing at Temple University. As a born-and-raised vegetarian and current vegan, Nzinga has followed a meat-free diet for 25 years. She believes a vegan lifestyle has countless benefits for human and nonhuman animals and works to promote these benefits to people from different backgrounds.

Nzinga uses community events and her personal Instagram to welcome people into the vegan movement. She hopes her work with Vegan Outreach helps members of her community adopt a healthier lifestyle, spares lots of animals from a life of suffering, and inspires more New Yorkers to go vegan.