Meet the team that’s thinking green.

The Institute for Engagement and Negotiation at the University of Virginia (IEN), in partnership with the USFS Urban and Community Forestry Program, received the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (NUCFAC) Challenge Cost-Share Grant to fund two years of nationwide research about the importance of urban and community forestry. The IEN convened a Research Advisory Committee and Engagement and Outreach Advisory Committee to help guide the design, outreach, and content for this initiative. We also engaged over 50 participants from across the U.S. and its territories, including Puerto Rico and Guam.

Spotlight on Our Workshop Participants

Participants in the urban forestry workshops came from diverse backgrounds. They represent a rich tapestry of communities, including Latine, African American, Indigenous, rural, low-income, and more. From healthcare workers to tribal leaders, their collective experiences and perspectives will contribute to a holistic toolkit, one where their input is the guidepost for best practices and strategies that will resonate within each community. We’ll highlight different participants periodically, so be sure to check back to see who’s making a tree-mendous impact on the path toward a national movement.

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Nelda Liliana Ruiz Calles

Co-Director at Regeneración

Nelda is a fronteriza community organizer and cultural worker from the Sonoran borderlands. As a Barrio Campesinx (urban farmer), she supports people in reconnecting to the Earth through traditional ways of knowing and respect. Nelda has been organizing in the south side of Tucson for 15 years, connecting communities with the resources they may need to create safe, healthy, and regenerative communities; she currently organizes with the community-based organization Regeneración, facilitating the Armando Barrios program.

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Iasia Cheers

Director of Community Engagement, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful

Iasia is a dedicated community engagement specialist in Indianapolis, IN, who works with local and neighborhood organizations on community placemaking initiatives. Her passion lies in empowering underserved communities and mitigating social inequalities through grassroots, community-led, intercultural communication.


Victoria Flores

Founder of The Giving Garden

Victoria is an Indigenous urban gardener and grassroots organizer who is focused on the principles of community nourishment. She aims to build networks of care and reconnection to the land through stewardship, culture, and food.

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Kimberly Dyke-Harsley

Certified Community Health Worker

Kimberly assesses and addresses social determinants of health, which include housing, transportation, food, education, literacy, civic engagement, legal advocacy, health equity, and other areas in life where people need assistance from others.

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Suneeta Eisenberg

Executive Director/Founder

Suneeta is a women’s empowerment community organizer that seeks climate, racial, and social justice through SPORTS! She is a green builder (hemp homes), educator, activist, and regenerative agriculture practitioner in Washington.

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Lashawn Farmer

Director of Expansion & Design, 
River District Association

Lashawn manages the transformation and revitalization of Danville, Virginia’s Downtown and North Main Business District. She works to enhance the areas’ physical and visual elements while capitalizing on their unique assets.

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Chad Martin

Environmental Justice Policy Strategist

Chad works for the North Carolina Black Alliance as their environmental justice policy strategist. Together, they work to make sure North Carolina communities’ air, land, and water are safe to create healthy outcomes for fence-line communities and BIPOC populations.

Research Advisory Team

Tim Beatley

University of Virginia

Founder & Executive Director of Biophilic Cities

JD Brown

University of Virginia

Program Director, Biophilic Cities

Howard Frumkin

The Trust for Public Land

Senior Vice President & Director of the Land & People Lab

Lara Johnson

Virginia Department of Forestry

Urban & Community Forestry Program Manager

Jenny Roe, Ph.D

University of Virginia

Urban & Environmental Planning Director, Center for Design & Health

Kathleen Wolf, Ph.D

University of Washington, College of the Environmental (Retired, Affiliated)

Research Social Scientist





Grassroots & Outreach Engagement Advisory Team

Kelsey Delaney

Western Forestry Leadership Coalition

Director of Partnerships & Program Implementation

Eugenia Gusev

International Rescue Committee

Senior Technical Advisor for Food Security & Agriculture

Abel Olivo

Defensores de la Cuenca

Executive Director & Co-Founder

Roxanne Ramirez

Groundwork USA

Development & Communications Manager

UVA Institute for Engagement & Negotiation Project Team

Tanya Denkla Cobb


Mary Davis Hamlin

Project Lead

Ian Baxter

Project Lead


Julia Moore

Student Research Assistant

Max Klavon

Student Research Assistant



Aleen Carey

Workshop Consultant, Cultivate Charlottesville

Selena Cozart, Ph.D

Workshop Consultant, Cozart Consulting

Beth Roach

Workshop Consultant, Nottoway Tribe of Virginia

Yaz Tovar

Workshop Consultant, DEI Specialist