WHO WE ARE
Board of Directors
Cindy Brown is a New Orleans native who has worked in the land conservation and environmental fields for 25 years for such organizations as The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, and as a private consultant in her own firm, Third Coast Conservation. She currently serves as Executive Director of the Land Trust for Louisiana. Areas of expertise include program development, project management and fundraising in the areas of ecological restoration, land protection, and conservation programs and policy. She earned a graduate degree at Duke University and a bachelor’s degree at the University of New Orleans.
Hector Cassini’s career in the hospitality industry spans 35 years, dedicated to financial management roles in various hotel organizations, including managing internal controls and developing and implementing budgets and forecasts. He currently serves as Business Manager for the New Orleans Film Society. Hector holds a Bachelor’s degrees in General Business Administration and Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration from the University of New Orleans.
Amy Connolly is a mother, teacher, and scientist who hails from Seattle but has been living in New Orleans since 2003. Amy holds a BS in Biology from Santa Clara University and an MS in Biology from the University of Memphis. She has served in Cameroon as a Peace Corps Volunteer where she completed an assignment in Agroforestry and conducted agricultural and forestry interventions. She studied community ecology at the University of Memphis and conducted her thesis on milpa (small farm) recovery and fertility as a function of distance from old growth tropical forestry stands. Amy is certified in K-12 science education and has taught biology, physical science and math at the high school level. She has also worked as a Peace Corps Recruiter, a Voluntary Agency Liaison (VAL), Intergovernmental Affairs Liaison, and Intergovernmental and Congressional Affairs Supervisor for FEMA, and most recently as Site Coordinator for Catholic Charities’ ESL program. In 2004 Amy co-founded a non-profit called Baobab Leadership Initiative which brought New Orleans high school students on overseas service-learning projects and developed leadership skills. She is a founding member of New Orleans Red Beans and Rice Parade and Social Aid Club and enjoys participating in neighborhood improvement projects and political advocacy events.
Shannon Dawdy is a scholar who works across the fields of anthropology, archaeology, and history. She has also worked in museum education, as a grant writer, and as the director of a public outreach program. Her research has centered on the material life of New Orleans, from the French colonial period to the post-Katrina present. She has authored or edited five books and dozens of articles. Her work has been featured by the New York Times, the BBC, and other major media outlets. Dawdy has been the recipient of numerous national awards and grants; in 2010 she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. Since 2015, she has been investigating rapid changes in contemporary death practices in the United States which will soon result in a book called American Afterlives , and a short documentary film, I Like Dirt 
Rachel Hammer is an internist and psychiatrist who completed medical school at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and residency at Tulane University. She has special interest and research in medical education and narrative medicine. She completed a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction at Seattle Pacific University while in medical school and uses writing as a way of healing with patients and personally, as a recent cancer survivor. Since 2017 she has co-hosted community and hospital-based Death Cafes in New Orleans.
Glenn Owings serves as a volunteer for nonprofits in the greater New Orleans area, helping to build the capacity of institutions in the arts, education and health & human services sectors, including New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, Lazarus House, Roots of Music, Threadhead Cultural Foundation and 826 New Orleans. She has previously served on the board of Christ Episcopal School and the Magnolia Gardens Civic Association. Glenn holds a Bachelor’s in General Studies from Birmingham-Southern College and a Master’s in Political Science from Tulane University. She has worked as an adjunct professor of Political Science at Lonestar College and as a tutor for middle school and high school children.
Neil Ranu has counseled business owners, companies, community groups, and nonprofits in all aspects of their operations as an attorney at law firms in Louisiana and California. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. In 2010, he moved from California to attend the graduate Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans. He now defends the interests of children as a children's rights attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Reverend Cory Sparks is Pastor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in the French Quarter.
Originally from Fort Smith, Arkansas, Cory has served churches in New Orleans and suburban Lafayette. He’s also an organizational development consultant who has worked with more than 325 nonprofit organizations. Cory often speaks to groups about ways to promote a more just and caring society. He is Secretary of community organizing group Together New Orleans and Past President of the New Orleans Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. He’s also on the advisory team for the Community Developers Program of The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries. Rev. Dr. Sparks holds an A.B. from Columbia University, an M.Div. from Southern Methodist University, and a Doctorate in American History from Louisiana State University.
Liz Dunnebacke’s professional career began over 25 years ago in the entertainment industry in her native California, where her experience ranged from property development for Comedy Central to free-lance work on PBS documentaries. Since moving to New Orleans in 2004 Liz’s work has toggled between television production and nonprofit administration, occasionally blending the two. As the Executive Director of New Orleans Video Access Center, Liz saw the quintupling of the organization’s operating budget and built workforce development programs that put New Orleanians back to work in the burgeoning film industry in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Returning to free-lance television production, she continued to serve on the board of several New Orleans-based nonprofit organizations, including founding a Louisiana chapter of Women in Film & Television, and helping the New Orleans Film Society to restructure and grow. Since 2013, Liz has followed the growth (return) of the green burial and home-funeral movements with passion, and is committed to providing resources to the community for sustainable end-of-life care. Liz holds a BA in Theatre Arts from Brown University.