UACT Staff and Facilitators

GCO Facilitators 2013-2014


Jenny Lanza

Jenny is a junior at UMass Amherst studying Public Health Sciences. She works in the UMass Infant Cognition Laboratory and is especially interested in child and maternal health. She is excited to facilitate GCO for the 2013-2014 school year and is looking forward to growing the UACT community and learning more about effective community organizing. 


Matt Lee

Matt is a senior at UMass Amherst majoring in Biochemistry.  He's from  Newton, MA.  He loves minimalist/barefoot running, thinking about buddhist ideologies, and most of all, FOOD.   He cares about conserving the environment and nature.  He worked on  campaigns with Alternatives for Community and Environment in Roxbury, MA during the summer of 2013.



Julia Legler

Julia is yet another student inspired by the pedagogy and practice of the UACT/GCO community. She is currently building her own major in the Bachelor's Degree with Individual Concentration program through UMass, which focuses on social justice, policy, and activism. She is also a Chinese minor, a language she accidently fell in love with in her junior year. The next piece to her personal curriculum is becoming a student facilitator for GCO in the Spring of 2014, so that she may lead other students in discovering the transformative powers of community organizing. Julia loves a good thrill, whether it comes from a rally or protest, a rollercoaster, or standing at the top of a mountain. You can often finding her sipping down mugs of coffee at Rao's, hiking the local trails, or napping on her couch. 



Sarah Orsak

Sarah is a second year student at Smith College, studying gender, film, and archives. Sarah understands the importance of knowing one's shared history to building solidarity and lasting change, and is thus working to document and make accessible the rich history of student movements and activism at Smith College. Sarah spent last summer organizing with UACT's community partner Virginia Organizing in Charlottesville, Virginia. Some of Sarah's favorite things include pink bubblegum, earnings with googly eyes, and tart frozen yogurt. Sarah is an Aquarius.


Alina Ortiz Salvatierra

is a conceptual installation art and critical pedagogy education
concentrator at Hampshire College, currently in her third year.
((sorry for that mouth full)) She really loves the interplays between
people, art, social justice and stories. She is originally from Los
Angeles California and will forever miss the west coast. She tries
really hard to treat every person she encounters with respect and
love. Her favorite things are sweets, deep conversations, face gems,
sunshine, and fighting injustice. She is a very communal person and
loves to have one on ones. Don't ever be afraid to ask her for a
feelings session if needed. <3


Johannes Raatz

Johannes is a Social Thought and Political Economy (STPEC) and Economics major. His GCO class traveled to Boston to work with Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) to work on a transit justice campaign supporting funding for the MBTA. Johannes is active with student organizing with the Center for Education Policy and Advocacy. He will be the new Access and Affordability Core Team leader starting in the fall. This summer he is gaining experience in labor union organizing through Unite Here's Organizing Beyond Barriers internship.



GCO Trainers

MaryGrace Decotiis

Hi! My name's MaryGrace and I'm going into my last year as a student at Umass, graduating with a major in Social Justice and Organizing.  After taking Grassroots Community Development as a freshman, I experienced what an honest, anti-oppressive learning community could look like. I realized my passion for social justice, that more spaces like this needed to exist, and that I wanted to be apart of that magic!
Fall-Spring of 2012, I worked with a team to develop an Alumni Class and Fall2012-Spring 2013, I became GCO facilitator! The experience was amazing and I realized how important education is in social justice work. Because of this transformative experience, I decided to help train facilitators this year.... sooo that's what I'm up to, along with chewing ice and looking up dogs on craigslist.


Kayla Goldberg

Kayla Goldberg is a senior Social Thought and Political Economy major at UMass. Her favorite things include chocolate, miniature dachshunds, 90’s music, and silly dancing. She volunteers as a tutor at The Literacy Project and is very interested in what it means to educate for democracy and engaged citizenship. She believes in the unbounded influence of education and that incredible things can be accomplished with enough passion and positivity.


Outreach Coordinator

Sandra Llewellyn

Alo! Sandra Llewellyn is an Anthropology major, minoring Spanish and Education (a big 180 from her first two years as an Astronomy major!) Her experience in GCO has further inspired her to get involved and make change in whatever way she can, like co-founding the five-college empowerment group for women of color, Linkin' the Chain. Last year was such an amazing experience for her, that she is now making it her personal mission to spread the word that places like UACT, and classes like GCO really exist! Oh, and for fun, she likes to read, write, sew, design, procrastinate, and NETFLIX.


Student Administrator


Marcus Chiaretto

Marcus is a junior at UMass who had an awesome time as a member of the Virginia Organizing core group of Grassroots Community Organizing this past spring semester. He is incredibly excited to be working with GCO yet again, this time as student administrator. When he isn't busy doing organizing work with UACT, you can find him out running, hiking through the Vermont wilderness, or with his head buried in a good book. Also, if you cook him yummy vegan food, he'll be your friend for life!

Post-graduate Interns


Amanda Santos

Hey! I’m Amanda Santos and I’m a Critical Pedagogy Campus Trainer for UACT. I graduated UMASS in May of 2013 with a degree in Anthropology, a focus in the cultural field. In the Spring of 2012 I took Grassroots Community Organizing and felt I had found exactly what I had been looking for- a nice combination of Anthropology and Education that deviates from the norm. From there I went on to student -facilitate in the Spring of 2013. I loved it so much I decided to stick around extra long to continue on practicing this pedagogy with students who are facilitating their own classes all around UMass, as well as the other four colleges we share the Valley with. When I’m not around the Gordon office, I’m usually found pouring people coffee, running around Amherst or having a grand ol’ time with wonderful people.


Sue-Ellen Duffy

Sue-Ellen Duffy graduated from UMass Amherst in the spring of 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health and a concentration in Community Engagement and Education. In her senior year, she co-facilitated one of the four Grassroots Community Organizing courses. Following graduation she interned with UNITE HERE, organizing and unionizing restaurant workers in western and central Massachusetts.  This year Sue-Ellen is a trainer for UACT, co-facilitating Critical Pedagogy for student facilitators. Simultaneously, she is co-facilitating workshops for other student facilitators and leaders across the five colleges.

While she is not immersed in UACT, Sue-Ellen works for the Fine Arts Center at UMass and searches for odds and ends jobs on craigslist (know anyone looking for a cat sitter?). As a post-graduate, she is learning to slow down and appreciate the simple things in life. Live everyday from beginning to unfinished.



Director Jen Sandler Ph.D.

Jen Sandler, Ph.D.

Jen is a Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology. In her research, Jen focuses on the knowledge practices of activist organizations and movements, asking how those who are trying to change the structures of society learn and teach about the problems they aim to address. Jen has conducted research with urban educators, community organizers, policy activists, parent activist groups, and popular education organizations in several urban centers in the United States as well as in Mexico. She also engages as a participant in many organizations and collectives that work with people to understand their shared struggles and to gain the power to shape the institutions and policies that affect them.

Jen received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2008, and subsequently held visiting faculty positions at Trinity College and Bates College. As a professor, she has worked with many local community activists and organizers as partners to teach students, through engagement with both theory and practice, about different ways of understanding contemporary power, social inequalities, and diverse approaches to social change. Her classes have frequently involved efforts to disrupt the traditional power dynamics of the classroom to create collective environments for learning and community engagement. Jen comes to UMass this year ridiculously excited to work with the UACT staff along with graduate students, faculty, and community partners who are interested in thinking critically about engaged teaching and research on activism.