Vanessa is a dedicated, passionate, and consistent advocate with nearly twenty years of building, managing, and obtaining funding for programs designed to create social impact.
Prior to joining JAC as its Executive Director, Vanessa served as a facilitator for the Greater New Orleans Funders Network’s Coastal Communities Action Table. She also was the resident grant writer at Converge and the Legislative & Advocacy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, where she connected people to policy at state and local levels, protecting and achieving gains in criminal, reproductive, immigrant, and voting justice. Upon returning to Louisiana, she served as Chief of Staff to New Orleans City Councilmember Susan Guidry, co-founded a social justice government relations firm, and worked as a public defender in Jefferson Parish.
Vanessa has been involved in the founding of several organizations including a Seattle grassroots education and advocacy organization with immigrant survivors of intimate partner abuse, and both the Employment Law Program at The Pro Bono Project and the Workplace Justice Project at the Loyola Law Clinic, where she represented low-wage and immigrant workers in state and federal cases, as well as litigation in support of worker organizing. While a county coordinator for dislocated worker services in western Washington, she served as President of her AFSCME local.
Vanessa earned her B.A. in Anthropology and Spanish Literature from Whitman College and her Juris Doctor from Loyola University New Orleans. While at Loyola, she engaged thousands of students from around the country in the post-Katrina recovery through co-founding the Student Hurricane Network and was acknowledged for her work in the Clinic with an Outstanding Student Award. After serving on the Board of Directors for the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, she served in the role of Interim Executive Director, where she merged the organization with the US Center for Climate Law & Policy, a project of the US Human Rights Network. She also has ten years of hosting, bartending, and waitressing experience and is a certified indoor cycling instructor.