Staff

Zenobia Barlow, executive director and cofounder of the Center for Ecoliteracy, has led the Center’s grant making, educational, and publishing programs since its inception. One of the nation’s pioneers in creating models of schooling for sustainability, she has designed strategies for applying ecological and indigenous understanding in K–12 education, including the Food Systems Project, Rethinking School Lunch, and Smart by Nature. She is coauthor of Ecoliterate: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence (Jossey-Bass, 2012) and coedited Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World (Sierra Club Books, 2005) and Ecoliteracy: Mapping the Terrain. Zenobia serves on the board of directors of the David Brower Center. In 2009, she was named a Fellow to the Post Carbon Institute and served on an international team of experts that advised the Bhutan government on integrating Gross National Happiness principles into education.  Prior to joining the Center for Ecoliteracy, Barlow was editor of an international publishing company, a university program director, and executive director of the Elmwood Institute, an ecological think tank. She travels widely as a documentary photographer.

Laura Benitez, administrative coordinator, spent 12 years in the catering and event planning industries before bringing her organizational skills and knowledge of food production to the Center.  In her previous role as an event coordinator for Fork & Spoon Productions in San Francisco, she managed large-scale, high-end events, handling everything from tech-industry conferences to weddings and house parties. Raised by parents who both worked in the public sector, Laura has always been passionate about public service, and is excited to have made the transition into the nonprofit world.  Laura is also a musician and songwriter. 

Karen Brown, creative director, is an award-winning designer who hails from a family of inventors, growers, and makers. Her work has been included in the Smithsonian Institution and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and featured in The New York Times, Architectural Digest, and dozens of other popular and technical publications as well as on Today on NBC. She has lectured on design and environmental topics throughout the United States, Japan, and Europe. She is a contributor at Etsy.

Nate Evans, finance manager, has nearly 30 years' experience in a variety of finance-related positions with both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. He served most recently as accounting manager and controller at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, where his responsibilities included audit oversight, internal control procedures, daily accounting operations, finance functions related to grants, and staff training and education. He is a graduate of Golden Gate University.

Jonathan Foley, California Thursdays network coordinator, has been working within San Francisco Bay Area nonprofits for the past five years, with a focus on school food systems. His passion lies in developing programing that allows students to understand and engage with the food systems around them, helping them to become informed and conscious stewards of our planet. This work stems from his well-rooted sense of wonderment with the outdoors, where you will likely find him if he is not in the office.

Jenn Gerard, program director for California Food for California Kids, served previously as director of Nutrition Services for the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, where she prioritized a transition to fresh meal preparation, salad bars, and staff development, and helped launch a culinary program at Seaside High School that collaborates with Nutrition Services to develop, test, and market new recipes. A Fresh Meals@ Schools Ambassador, she incorporated local agriculture in the district’s Farm Fresh program and expanded partnerships with local fishermen to incorporate Monterey Bay’s marine bounty into the child nutrition program.

Jim Koulias, deputy director of finance and operations, was an early pioneer in developing new project management tools for documentary films and television. In 1995 he turned to Web-based communications strategies, websites, and production management techniques for businesses around the world. He served as Senior Producer, Executive Producer, Project Manager, and department manager prior to coming to the Center. He was once a public school teacher and has lived in Mexico, Japan, and France.

Katie Kurlyandchik, social media coordinator, worked in media and sales administration for a multi-title magazine publisher and later at a direct-mail and digital marketing company. A volunteering stint harvesting corn for a food-rescue nonprofit inspired Katie and her husband to spend three weeks as farmhands on an organic aquaponics farm in Hawaii. There she learned about sustainable and cutting-edge farming techniques and witnessed firsthand the power of community fostered by small-scale local farming.

Alexa Norstad, project management coordinator, recently returned to California from Brooklyn, NY, where she worked in the corporate offices of Condé Nast Publications and for the account management team at Doremus, a global advertising firm. She took the long way back to the Bay Area, by way of a farming apprenticeship in Vermont and six months of domestic and international travel. She is passionate about cooking and feeling connected to one’s food systems.

Chris Smith, communications and development director, has 25 years of experience with nonprofits in the Bay Area and New York.  He provided fundraising, strategic planning, and program development for the Marin School of Environmental Leadership and Strategic Energy Innovations, served as interim executive artistic director at the Napa Valley Opera House, and led several arts organizations, including the Magic Theatre (SF) and Youngblood (NYC).  Chris is on the board of the Playwrights Foundation and served on selection panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and Marin Arts Council. He is a graduate of Brown University.

Jan Stone, program support and event planner, has held a variety of executive positions in retail, financial services, and commercial real estate development [for Macys, I. Magnin, Golden West Financial, and the David Rockefeller Company’s Embarcadero Center]. After 15 years in the corporate world she formed her own marketing consulting business with a colleague. Elected to the board of Beacon Day School in 2009, she served as interim executive director for the independent Oakland school for two years. Jan provided event-planning services for the Center for Ecoliteracy for a number of years before joining the staff in April 2015.

Michael K. Stone, senior editor, is the primary author of the Center for Ecoliteracy's book, Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability (Watershed Media/University of California Press, 2009). He coedited Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World (Sierra Club Books, 2005). Prior to coming to the Center, Michael was managing editor of Whole Earth magazine and the Millennium Whole Earth Catalog; he has also written for the Toronto Star and The New York Times, among other publications. He was a founding faculty member and academic vice president of World College West in Northern California.