Board of Directors

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OAEC’s Board of Directors supports and
oversees our self-governing staff collective:

Melissa Nelson


Melissa K. Nelson is a Native ecologist, writer, media-maker and indigenous scholar-activist. She is the president/CEO of The Cultural Conservancy, a Native-led indigenous rights organization she had directed since 1993. She is also associate professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University where she teaches courses in Native Science. Her work is dedicated to indigenous rights and revitalization, biocultural heritage protection and environmental justice, intercultural solidarity, and the renewal and celebration of community health and cultural arts. For nearly two decades Melissa has been involved in the Native American food movement in North America and since 2006 in the indigenous food sovereignty movement internationally. Melissa is a Switzer Environmental Fellow and has received awards for documentary films, community engagement, and experiential education. She publishes essays in academic and popular journals and books and documents Native issues through audio and video recordings. Her first edited anthology Original Instructions ‚Äď Indigenous Teachings For A Sustainable Future (2008), focuses on the persistence of Traditional Ecological Knowledge by contemporary Native communities. Her next edited anthology, Keepers of the Green World: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Sustainability will be out in 2018. She has served on numerous boards of directors, including Earth Island Institute, Bioneers, and the Center for Whole Communities. Melissa is Anishinaabe, Cree, M√©tis, and Norwegian. She is a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Melissa says, “I‚Äôve loved OAEC since the beginning as I have been blessed to know some of its co-founders from UC Santa Cruz. I‚Äôm thrilled to deepen my kinship with OAEC by serving as a board member and supporting it‚Äôs cutting-edge, holistic sustainable model of living-in-place with deep respect and reverence for ecological processes and local peoples.”

Lori Maddox


Lori helped launch the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), a global network of public interest advocates now spanning 80 countries, in 1991. She has traveled to Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the South Pacific, and Central and South America to work with local advocates to protect the planet and defend human rights. These days, she is most deeply engaged with colleagues in Mexico and Central America, and programmatically focused on protecting marine and coastal biodiversity and coordinating ELAW’s work to Defend Defenders – fighting back against attempts to chill civil society leaders worldwide. Lori oversees administration and finance at the ELAW Secretariat in Oregon. She earned a B.A. degree from Hollins University in English with a minor in Theater Arts. She studied Business for Graduates at the Katharine Gibbs School in Boston, MA, and worked as a paralegal in environmental, administrative and nonprofit law in Oregon. She was a founding Board member of the Western Environmental Law Center, where she served for 23 years supporting that work to protect wild places and communities in the Western United States. Lori says, “I’m inspired by OAEC’s hands-on important work, and pleased to serve. Alongside my Board service, I learn from the experts about cutting edge strategies for building community resilience in the face of a changing planet.”

Susan McGovern*


Susan McGovern is a member of the intentional community that resides at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, as well as a founding member of OAEC. In her 23 years on the land, she has engaged in consensus-based community governance and land stewardship to support the missions of both the residential community and OAEC. One of the greatest outcomes of this joint project to date for her has been the creation of a vast network of progressive people who now consider themselves to be part of the larger OAEC community. Susan is also a teacher at Salmon Creek School, Occidental’s public school. Working with hundreds of students and their families over the years, she has created close links to the local community. Susan has a special interest in place-based education, an approach that supports the idea that students learn best when their curriculum is connected to place. Closely aligned with this approach are values placed on ecoliteracy, community service, and environmental stewardship. Susan has been instrumental to the realization of the school’s place-based charter. *Not an independent, voting board member.

Gopal Dayaneni

Gopal Dayaneni has been involved in fighting for social, economic, environmental and racial justice through organizing & campaigning, teaching, writing, speaking and direct action since the late 1980’s. He currently serves on the Staff Collective of Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project, which inspires and engages in transformative action towards the liberation and restoration of land, labor, and culture. MG is rooted in vibrant social movements led by low-income communities and communities of color committed to a Just Transition away from profit and pollution and towards healthy, resilient and life-affirming local economies. Gopal is a trainer with the The Ruckus Society and also serves on the boards of The Center for Story-based Strategy, The Working World, and (The Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Corporate Concentration). He is also on the advisory board of the Catalyst Project. Gopal works at the intersection of ecology, economy and empire.

Janelle Orsi

Janelle Orsi¬†is a lawyer, advocate, writer, and cartoonist focused on¬†cooperatives, the sharing economy, urban agriculture, shared housing, local currencies, and rebuilding the commons.¬†She¬†is Co-founder and Executive Director of the¬†Sustainable Economies Law Center¬†(SELC), which facilitates the growth of more sustainable and localized economies through education, research, and advocacy.¬†Janelle has also worked in private law practice at the¬†Law Office of Janelle Orsi, focusing on sharing economy law since 2008.¬† Janelle is the author of¬†Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy: Helping People Build Cooperatives, Social Enterprise, and Local Sustainable Economies¬†(ABA Books 2012), and co-author of¬†The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community¬†(Nolo Press 2009). Janelle says, “I’m in awe of OAEC’s work, accomplishments, and the values and thoughtfulness the staff put into everything they do. Their democratic staff governance structure, in particular, has long been an inspiration to me, so I’m proud to be supporting it!”