External Advisory Board

Crashing waves on Lake Superior with the Split Rock Lighthouse and fall foliage in the background.

The IonE External Advisory Board is an international group consisting of government, academic, NGO and corporate leaders who provide strategic guidance to the Institute while sharing diverse, high-level perspectives and expertise on local, regional and global environmental issues.


Current advisory board members include:

Deb Frodl (2019-2024)
Board Director, Renewable Energy Group, Inc. and XL Fleet
Deb serves as a Board of Director and strategic adviser to corporations, government and academia. She serves as an Ambassador to the US Department of Energy, MIT & Stanford collaboration – C3E program and Advisory Board for National Renewable Energy Lab – Joint Institute of Strategic Energy Analysis. Prior to her Board experience, Debora was a former global senior executive with GE.

Sam Grant (2022-2025)
Executive Director, Rainbow Research 
Sam has a thirty-plus year history of utilizing critical participatory action research on the intersectionality of racial, cultural, economic, gender, environmental and geographic justice. He has worked with and through formations from the grassroots level to state government, and from community-based initiatives to those of national and international scope. Through organizing and development initiatives, he strives to improve the quality of life for people and transform structural patterns that impede mutual wellbeing.

Alan Holt (2021-2024)
EAB Board Member, retired
Alan is the former Environment Program director for the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, a Minnesota-based funder engaging in conservation and other international and domestic issues

Joanne Jones-Rizzi (2019-2025)
Vice President of Science, Equity, and Education, Science Museum of Minnesota
Joanne Jones-Rizzi leads the Science Museum of Minnesota’s science and education initiatives to ensure they achieve maximum impact and are equitably accessible to all audiences. Jones-Rizzi has decades-long experience working on systemic, ecological changes with museums, and advising museums nationally and internationally on culture, identity, anti-racism, exhibition development and community engagement.

Amy Phenix (2020-2023)
Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
Ms. Phenix leads public affairs, which includes communications, government relations and regional outreach, for the Ninth Federal Reserve District, which includes Minnesota, Montana, North and South Dakota, northwestern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Her goal is to build public trust and an understanding of the Bank through stakeholder engagement, creating compelling and relevant content and sharing the Bank’s research broadly.

Lisa Robinson (2021-2024)
Vice President of Global Food Safety and Public Health, Ecolab Inc.
As VP of Global Food Safety & Public Health, Robinson leads a global network of divisionally aligned food safety and public health team members, and is responsible for the functional leadership of the company’s food safety and public health strategies.

Dipender Saluja (2021-2024)
Managing Director, Capricorn Investment Group
Dipender Saluja is Managing Partner of the Technology Impact Fund, and Managing Director of Capricorn Investment Group, an investment firm founded to demonstrate that it’s possible to invest profitably while driving sustainable positive change. Capricorn manages about $7B in assets and strives for extraordinary investment results by leveraging market forces to accelerate large scale impact.

Maha Tahiri (2021-2024)
CEO & Founder, Nutrition Sustainability Strategies LLC
Maha supports start-ups and companies in transforming the global food system. Leverage science, consumer knowledge and technology to deliver innovations that will improve the healthfulness of the food supply and/or the environment.

Elizabeth Villafana (2018-2024)
Community Member
Elizabeth was most recently a vice president at R.W. Baird, and is very committed to serving her community. She has served on investment committees and boards in both New York and Minneapolis, including the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business, Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club of New York, the Minneapolis Club Board of Governors, the Collegeville Institute, and the Breck School Parent Association Board.

Felix Zhang (2021-2024)
Group Executive Director and Venture Partner, Envision Ventures
Felix Zhang is the Group Executive Director of Envision Energy, a world leader in renewable energy and technology space, and is General Partner of Silicon Valley based evergreen venture fund, Envision Ventures.

In addition to the advisory board, the Institute’s Faculty Leadership Council advises IonE’s director, plays a central role in guiding faculty participation in IonE and ensures that faculty concerns are incorporated into IonE goals and decisions.

For more information, please contact IonE director Jessica Hellmann.



Former External Advisory Board Members

Diana Wall (in memoriam)
Inaugural Director, School of Global Environmental Sustainability
Colorado State University Distinguished Professor
Professor of Biology
Diana H. Wall was a world-renowned ecologist and the inaugural director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability. Wall was a driving force for connecting CSU faculty, researchers, and students by providing innovative programs and tools to address the world’s greatest sustainability challenges.

Michael Martin
Founder and CEO, Effect Partners
Michael Martin is one of the country’s top social change activists and, through his company, EFFECT Partners, he regularly consults with well-known brands and celebrities to make environmental change and impact a part of their business strategy.

Dawn Wright
Chief Scientist, Esri
Dawn Wright aids in formulating and advancing the intellectual agenda for the environmental, conservation, climate and ocean sciences aspect of Esri’s work, while also representing Esri to the national/international scientific community.

Larry Berger
Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer, Ecolab
As chief technical officer, Larry Berger is responsible for leading the global Research, Development & Engineering organization at Ecolab.

Steve Cohen
Professor, Practice of Public Affairs, Columbia University
Dr. Steven Cohen is a Professor in the Practice of Public Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and the Director of the Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. He is also the Director of the Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and the Director of the Masters of Science in Sustainability Management at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies.

Gina Domanig
Managing Partner, Emerald Technology Ventures
Based in Zurich, Switzerland, Gina Domanig is the managing partner of Emerald Technology Ventures. In 2000 she founded Emerald as the first independent clean-tech venture capital fund in Europe.

Mark Kriss
CEO, Geofinancial Analytics, Inc.
Mark Kriss is co-founder and CEO of Geofinancial Analytics, a social business which uses satellite remote sensing to deliver transparency and insights on the sustainability of energy & food supply chains to investment professionals and producers. The Institute on the Environment is a minority owner of Geofinancial via a donated interest to the University of Minnesota Foundation. He also serves as Managing Partner of Macroclimate®, an impact investment firm.

Ben Nabors (2017-2022)
Founder, Group Theory
Ben Nabors is an East Coast-based filmmaker. His debut feature documentary “WILLIAM AND THE WINDMILL”, about windmill inventor William Kamkwamba, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival.

Mira Inbar (2021-2024)
Partner, ArcTern Ventures
Partner with ArcTern Ventures, where she is actively making investments in early-stage climate technologies. Mira started her career as an environmentalist in the mines of Africa. From there, she pivoted to big corporate, to the industries which had formed the bedrock of the carbon economy and spent over a decade in the chemical, utility, and oil & gas sectors where she built clean energy business lines.