Kathleen graduated Summa Cum Laude from Arizona State University and Barrett, The Honors College, with a Bachelors of Science in Human Systems Engineering. She won the Outstanding Graduate award for both the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the Barrett Honors College. She is an All-Arizona Academic Team Scholar, an All-USA Coca-Cola Gold Scholar and a member of Phi Kappa Phi. Kathleen is the Founder and President/CEO of GAIA International (Growth Alternatives in Action). She founded the non-profit organization after the project was incubated in the "Make Your Ideas Happen" class at ASU. She successfully incorporated GAIA and received 501c3 tax-exempt status from the IRS in record time. Kathleen also serves on the Board of Directors for GAIA International. Her passion for alleviating poverty is a driving force behind GAIA’s success. Kathleen has recruited numerous partners to the project and has written for many grants for which GAIA received funding, including the ASU Innovation Challenge, HCD Connect Microgrant administered by IDEO.org, the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, and Global Resolve.
Tyson Stevenson is a Barrett Honors Student and was among the original six team members in the Make Your Ideas Happen class at ASU, where the project began. After leaving the project to focus on his educational goals, Tyson returned a semester later to continue helping the farmers of Peru to increase their crop yield through the use of biochar. During his recent travels to Peru (March, June 2014), Tyson worked with agriculture Professors on designing a biochar experiment at the Agronomy University in Cuzco and helped build two pyrolyzers for the students to use in implementing the experimental design.
Erin holds a Bachelors of Science in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Arizona State University (2014). She currently serves on the board of directors for GAIA International and is the Secretary of the corporation in charge of human resources. Erin is a hard worker and is always willing to lend a hand in any capacity that is needed. Her cheerful spirit and “can-do” attitude are among her greatest assets!
Stephanie McGrath is an experienced professional with a keen understanding of business practices. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Grand Canyon University and is currently finishing her Masters in Psychology at her alma mater. Stephanie McGrath has developed her skills by working in higher education and human resources. This includes working to initialize the human resources department at a start-up operation in Mesa, Arizona, where she wrote the employee handbook and created policies and procedures for the entire organization. Stephanie is passionate about GAIA’s initiatives and plans to ensure that GAIA has procedures and guidelines in place to guarantee the success of all of its operations.
Mark Henderson is Associate Dean of the Barrett Honors College and Professor of Engineering at ASU’s Polytechnic campus in the College of Technology and Innovation. Mark received his PhD in mechanical engineering from Purdue University. He is the senior sustainability scientist for the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU, and the Executive Director and Co-founder of Global Resolve. Global Resolve is an organization that works together with many different partners, including GAIA International, in order to create sustainable technologies for rural areas in developing countries with interests in energy, clean water, and local economic development. In addition, he is a member of the advisory board for Carbon Roots International, another GAIA partner. Mark also serves on the Board of Directors for GAIA International.
Jay Connor has many years of experience in the business management field, and in entrepreneurship. He holds a JD/MBA in Marketing, Finance and Law from The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Jay has a hand in many different organizations. He is the founder and CEO of Learning Ovations, Inc., which is a company that improves children’s reading ability through an A2i platform. This platform informs the teachers on the best way to teach a particular student in order to achieve the most success. He is the founder and managing partner of Rubicon Partners, LLP; founder of Collaboratory for Community Solutions, Inc., a non-profit organization for community support for holistic community wide solutions; and thought leader for Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement. Jay also serves as a board member for NCN (Non-Profit Centers Net) and served as Chairman of the Board for GAIA International.
Dr. Nathan Johnson served as Technical Advisor to the team and was an invaluable resource throughout the project. He holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering and an M.S. in both International Development and Mechanical Engineering. He was awarded the Teaching Excellence Award in 2012. Dr. Johnson’s experience working in developing countries and his interest in biochar were a great asset on this project. His interests also include sustainability, especially in the areas of water, energy and health. Nathan has designed sustainable biofuel for cooking. He plans to continue working with GAIA on various biochar initiatives. Nathan also serves on the Board of Directors for GAIA International.
Karishma Thakkar is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering at Arizona State University, along with a Minor in Sustainability. Initially a student intern, Karishma was invited to serve as a Board Member for GAIA International, and through GAIA has been granted numerous amazing opportunities to learn and advocate the significance of sustainability achieved through innovation. Karishma was recently able to serve as a liaison for GAIA and obtain a certification in Permaculture Design from George Mason University. Karishma aims to integrate her professional and academic learning experience to foster continuous development in emerging fields that propagate technological innovation as a means to sustainable growth.
Tom Zender is a Professional Business Mentor who serves clients from post-startups to $50 million. His background includes: leadership roles at General Electric and Honeywell; senior vice president of NYSE Fortune 500 and NASDAQ listed corporations; CEO of a successful Internet-based marketing services startup company; CEO of a global nonprofit organization; board member of NASDAQ and Toronto Stock Exchange listed corporations; board member of nonprofit organizations, including Advisory Board member to GAIA International; bestselling author of books about business ethics; functional leadership roles in marketing, sales, customer service, technology development, strategic planning, mergers and acquisitions. He is a mentor at Arizona State University’s SkySong incubator, an advisory board member at Paradise Valley Community College, and a guest columnist for the Phoenix Business Journal.
Jesus Garcia-Gonzalez was recruited to the GAIA team towards the end of the spring 2013 semester. His knowledge of biology and strong background in agricultural studies proved to be a great asset to the project. He took the lead in writing for the HCD Connect Microgrant, for which GAIA received an award. Jesus twice traveled to Peru for GAIA, in order to work with rural farmers outside Cuzco, where he helped build pyrolyzers and instructed farmers on the use of biochar in their fields.
Abi was among the original six team members in the Make Your Ideas Happen class at ASU, where the project began. After the semester ended, Abi joined some of the other GAIA team members on a summer trip to Peru where they began working with farmers outside Cuzco. Abi left the project to focus on her studies at ASU, but continues to be one of our biggest cheerleaders!
Aaron Carr has a degree in electronic engineering technology with a focus in alternative energy technology. He was among the original six team members in the Make Your Ideas Happen class at ASU, where the idea behind GAIA was incubated. Aaron’s technical abilities were a great asset to the team. He tested one of the group’s first pyrolyzer prototypes, theorized yield and worked on research and development at the early stages of the project. Aaron also came up with the idea for the name “GAIA” while the team was working together on their original Edson application.
Zachary Cotnoir graduated in May 2014 from ASU with a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology with a focus in Manufacturing and Automation and hopes to have a career in process engineering. Coming from a family that has been in the manufacturing setting in one form or another for four generations it seemed like a great fit. Zach was brought into this project as the student team leader for the redesign of the pyrolyzer.
Adam Browne graduated in May 2014 from ASU with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, with a focus in automotive. His skills include design development, CAD, CNC machining, welding, thermal testing and data acquisition.
Shane Whitcombe graduated in May 2014 from ASU with a Mechanical Engineering degree. His skillset includes thermodynamic analysis, CAD, troubleshooting and machining. Shane had a previous interest in biochar and was a great asset to the team tasked with redesigning the pyrolizer.
Alex Porter graduated from ASU in May 2014 with a Manufacturing Engineering Technology degree. His skills include manufacturing process and design, welding, CAD, CAM, material selection and analysis, thermal dynamics, writing technical reports and design generation.
Jordan Lindemann graduated from ASU in May 2014 with a Mechanical Engineering degree. His skills include thermal dynamic analysis, CAD, and team work. He was mainly responsible for the design of the pyrolyzer prototypes and determined what materials and tools were required for construction.
Azat Myrzagaliyev graduated from Arizona State in May 2014 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology. His talents include CAD and thermodynamic analysis. He also acted as scribe for the team throughout their two-semester capstone project.
Armani was one of the original six team members in the Make Your Ideas Happen class at ASU, where the project began. After the semester ended, Armani left the project to focus on his studies. He was a great help in working to clear land out at the Ecovillage garden plot, at the Polytechnic campus, so the team could plant with biochar. He was always a great team member and will be missed!
Jesse was among the original six team members in the Make Your Ideas Happen class at ASU, where the project began. After the semester ended, Jessi left the project to pursue his studies at ASU, but continues to have a passion for creating a positive impact on the world and has a willingness to help GAIA as needed. Jesse worked diligently on the original Edson proposal for the team, writing past midnight in order to beat the submission deadline. He is also an aspiring scientist interested in the field of physics, biochemistry, psychology and neuroscience who currently lives in Tempe, Arizona.
James was invaluable in developing the prototype of the original pyrolyzer unit and was responsible for fabricating the team’s first functioning pyrolizer, working long hours in the Tech Shop out at the Polytechnic campus. He also taught a presentation to GAIA team members about water filtration, which is another use for biochar (charcoal). James continues to be a great resource for knowledge on the subject of gravity filtration and charcoal-based water treatment.
Lauren Edgett graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Computer Information Systems and commissioned into the United States Air Force as a Second Lieutenant in May 2014. During her last semester at ASU, Lauren's team spent 10 weeks working with Kathleen Stefanik and her associates to create a functional website that fulfilled G.A.I.A.’s business needs. Lauren acted as the “scrum master” (i.e. group leader) of the student team, facilitating communication, clarifying requirements, and organizing tasks and timelines for the six team members.
Drew Kearns graduated in May 2014 from Arizona State with a degree in Accounting and CIS. While he was a part of the team that got GAIA’s website up and running from day one, Drew worked on everything from design, content and functionality of the site. He said he was drawn towards GAIA because "the entire team, mostly Kathleen, was so passionate about the project" that he knew they deserved a well thought out site to reach more people seeking BioChar education and to gain donors.
Matthew Guzman graduated from Arizona State University in May 2014 as a double major in Accounting and Computer Information Systems. He learned about G.A.I.A. during his last semester at ASU and was pleased to become part of the group that helped make the organization’s website. Matt helped design and implement the website and tried to help G.A.I.A. get their information out there in the best way possible. Matt says, "Working with Kathleen Stefanik and everyone at G.A.I.A. was an absolute pleasure" and Matt was glad that he had the chance to be part of such a great organization.
Caroline graduated from Arizona State University in May 2014 as a double major in Accounting and Computer Information Systems. After hearing about the impressive work the organization had already contributed all around the world, she knew she could help contribute herself by utilizing her technology experience to help others online learn more about BioChar. Caroline was involved in many testing and technical aspects throughout the site.
Josh Taylor graduated from W.P. Carey at ASU with a B.S. in Computer Information Systems. He work at Foresold, a digital agency which helps grow businesses using the internet. Josh enjoyed working with passionate people who really wanted to help GAIA make an impact, and helped fulfill many of the technical needs associated with developing GAIA's website. Josh has stayed on at GAIA, after his Capstone project ended, in order to handle the IT needs of GAIA and manage its' ad grants and website development.
Shawn Sanchez graduated from Arizona State University in 2014 with a degree in Computer Information Systems. He is currently interested in Information Technology. Shawn researched and implemented different web technologies that would help spread GAIA's message on their new website. Shawn stated, "GAIA has a strong purpose that really helps people." That's why he was interested in being a part of their website development team - he wanted to make sure that that message was able to reach people across the world.