Our History


LiKEN incorporated as a non-profit in the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1990 (under the name Kentucky Environmental Foundation).  We are partners and members of various networks for collaborative, multistakeholder, policy-relevant, knowledge exchange and translation: Kentucky Nonprofit NetworkNational Rural Assembly, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Association, Rising Voices: Collaborative Science with Indigenous Knowledge for Climate SolutionsNational Climate Assessment, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).


In reverse alphabetical order









Craig Williams

Kentucky Environmental Foundation Program Director 


Craig is a founding member of the grassroots community group Common Ground and of Kentucky Environmental Foundation (KEF), and served as Director of KEF till January 2008. Craig maintains his position as Director of the CWWG, of which KEF is the lead organization. He is a charter member of the Kentucky Governor’s Chemical Material Demilitarization Citizen’s Advisory Commission, and currently serves as co-chair of the Kentucky Chemical Destruction Advisory Board.

Craig also has extensive community organizing experience related to veterans’ programs. He is the co-founder and secretary of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize). He has received several tributes in the U.S. Congress and was presented the John O‘Connor Citizens Achievement Award in 2003.

In addition, Craig is a board member of Blue Grass Tomorrow, a consultant for the Blue Grass Area Development District, a member of the PRISM Editorial Board for Eastern Kentucky University, and the coach of the Madison United Soccer Association and the Berea Youth Baseball League.

In April 2006 Craig was North American recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. Craig received a BA in Philosophy from Eastern Kentucky University, and in May 2008 was also awarded an honorary doctorate degree in Humanities from the University. Craig lives in Berea, Kentucky with his wife and near his two children and two grandchildren.


Deborah Thompson




Deborah Thompson

Senior Social Scientist


Deborah Thompson is a creative educator, networker, musician, and dancer promoting participatory arts and sustainable development, particularly focused on the Appalachian region and its people. Finding a home and passion in Appalachia both for personal and scholarly pursuits has meant that all of her university degrees were based in Appalachian Studies, including her Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Kentucky. She currently coordinates Country Dance Programs at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, also teaching Appalachian Studies and General Studies. While working on her dissertation from 2006-2009, she served as programming director of the Appalachian Center, where one of her special projects was coordinating the Celebration of Traditional Music.

As director of the Appalachian Semester and assistant professor of Appalachian Studies at Union College in Barbourville, KY from 1991-2001, Deborah loved bringing Appalachia alive for  undergraduate students, especially bringing them together with community folks through travel and internships. At this time, she also was a founding member of Just Connections, a community-faculty partnership whose ultimate goal is to help achieve social justice in the Appalachian Region through service-learning projects and community-based research.

Deborah collaborated and published in two cooperative projects, A Handbook to Appalachia and the Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Other writing relates to her dissertation, Performing Communities: The Place of Music, Race and Gender in Producing Appalachian Space and is documented on her curriculum vitae. She learned to play banjo, guitar, and dulcimer during the folk revival of the 1970s and has repertoire from living and playing in Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, and New England. Since 1976, she has performed both solo and with various groups, currently with the old time and Americana band, Skipjack. She has taught classes and workshops in Appalachian music and dance for all ages since 1984. Other meaningful work Deborah has enjoyed includes executive director of a local arts council, principal investigator for historic architecture surveys, and resident director for the National Collegiate Honors Council’s cultural study program in Appalachia, Mexico, and the Texas-Mexico border. She and her husband have spent two decades together living on 85 wooded acres in eastern Kentucky, raising animals and a garden and pursuing a more sustainable living.

Betsy Taylor 2017





Betsy Taylor

Executive Director

Email: director@likenknowledge.org

Betsy Taylor is LiKEN founding director and a cultural anthropologist.  Over the past 20 years, she has worked for community-driven development in Appalachia and South Asia to integrate issues of health, agriculture, forestry, culture and environmental stewardship.  In popular and scholarly venues, she writes about environmental and social justice movements, democratic planning and participatory research, women’s issues, the commons, democratic reclamation of academe / professions.  She co-authored, with Herbert Reid, the book, Recovering the Commons: Democracy, Place, and Global Justice (University of Illinois Press, 2010). At the University of Kentucky, she served as Co‐Director of Environmental Studies, Research Director for the Appalachian Center and on the faculty of the Social Theory program, and during her years at Virginia Tech, she was a research faculty member in the Appalachian Studies program.  She was appointed to the steering committee of the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in 2013 by the Secretary of the US Department of Interior. She just stepped down as chair of the Human Rights / Social Justice Committee of the Society for Applied Anthropology.  Many of her writings can be found on her website.  She blogs under “Betsy M. Taylor” for Huffington Post.

Betsy Taylor’s CV is available here.


Sara Schmitt_web size





Sara Schmitt

Administrative Assistant



Sara Schmitt is LiKEN’s Administrative Assistant at the Lexington, KY based office. Her role encompasses support to the Executive Director and team members, and, management of the LiKEN House as a community meeting and lodging host. She brings to us a rich mix of skills gained from experience in the Sport Horse industry—ranging from working hands-on with horses, to customer service positions with competitors and owners, and, event management. Sara coordinated the Sport Horse Department at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute and developed and managed the inaugural Split Rock Jumping Tour CSI3***, an international show jumping competition in Lexington, KY. Recently, she has been operating Sara Schmitt LLC where she focuses on developing organic relationships and building connections with individuals of shared value who are in need of coaching and administrative assistance with their small businesses. Sara is a devoted yogi and practices daily meditation. She is passionate about outdoor adventuring and recently began as a Stand-Up Paddle Board Guide with the eco-adventure tour company, SUP Kentucky. Connecting with nature, especially water and mountains, brings her utter happiness and she loves sharing in explorations with her seven-year old son, dogs and any friends that are game to join in.





Julie Maldonado

Director of Research

Email:  research@likenknowledge.org

Julie Maldonado, PhD, anthropology, is LiKEN’s Director of Research and program lead for the Region2Region Program. She is a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Environmental Studies department, and is a consultant with the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, working with tribes to facilitate the development of climate change adaptation plans. She also co-organizes Rising Voices: Collaborative Science with Indigenous Knowledge for Climate Solutions. Previously, Julie worked for the U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA), was the lead author on the Third NCA’s Indigenous Peoples, Lands, and Resources Chapter, and was the lead editor and organizer for the Special Issue of Climatic Change and book, Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Impacts, Experiences and Actions. Julie has consulted for the United Nations Development Programme and World Bank on development­-induced displacement and resettlement, post disaster needs assessments, and climate change. She has been a fellow with the United Nations Institute for Environment and Human Security and Munich Re Foundation’s academies on social vulnerability and climate change. Her doctorate in anthropology (American University) focused on the social and cultural impacts of environmental change in coastal Louisiana. Julie has written numerous articles published by the Journal of Refugee Studies, the Journal of Political Ecology, Climatic Change, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, among others. She has served as an expert presenter to Congressional committees and staff on climate change, indigenous peoples, displacement, and relocation.

Julie Maldonado’s CV is available here.







Mary Hufford

Arts & Humanities Director

Email: hufford@likenknowledge.org

Folklorist Mary Hufford who grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Allegheny foothills, has worked over the past three decades in government, academic, and local community settings. As folklife specialist at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress (1982‐2002) she led regional team fieldwork projects in the New Jersey Pine Barrens and the southern West Virginia coalfields. From 2002‐2012, she served on the graduate faculty of folklore and folklife at the University of Pennsylvania, directing the Center for Folklore and Ethnography from 2002 to 2008. As adjunct faculty with the Master’s Programs in Cultural Sustainability and Environmental Studies, she offers a summer seminar in Environmental Justice.   Her seminars and field practica engage students in exploring how folk arts and humanities, grounded in ordinary settings and daily lives of Central Appalachian communities, and neighborhoods of Philadelphia and East Baltimore, are crucial to the work of environmental justice.  A Guggenheim Fellow, she has published dozens of articles and reviews in both public and academic venues, including Orion Magazine, Gastronomica, the Journal of American Folklore, Southern Quarterly, Cahiers de Litterature Orale, Cornbread Nation, Social Identities, Western Folklore, the Journal of Appalachian Studies, and the Proceedings of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration. For a more complete list of her downloadable publications go to her website.

Mary Hufford’s CV is available here.








Allan Comp

Senior Analyst

Allan Comp is an historian who blended the reclamation of mine scarred lands and waters with community arts and heritage programs with a focus on helping in the recovery of Appalachian mining communities from a century of pre-regulatory exploitation and neglect.  He later expanded that philosophy across the Department of the Interior, serving as the Project Officer for two teams of VISTA positions, one with the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement and the other spread across the Department of the Interior, bringing 125 VISTA Volunteers to some of the poorest communities in which the Department had a presence. He has received national awards for his work with the people of the Appalachian coal country, for his successful effort to engage the arts and humanities in environmental recovery and for his remarkable choreography of multiple federal agency partnerships, particularly with VISTA, in working with rural mining communities. Recently retired as a Senior Program Analyst at the Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining, Allan was profiled by Orion Magazine, received a Phoenix Award from the EPA Brownfields Program, was named a Purpose Prize Fellow by Civic Ventures in 2007 and was the first federal employee ever to be named a National River Hero by River Network in 2009. In September of 2009 he was awarded the Service to America Medal in the Environment by the Partnership for Public Service, the highest award a federal employee can receive and first ever to recognize work with National Service. An historian with a long engagement in cultural resources, community redevelopment and environmental reclamation, Allan was once aptly described as “a relaxed blend of John Muir, John Dewey and John the Baptist.”



Research Assistants & Student Interns






Itzel Flores Castillo

Research Assistant

Email: researchassistant@likenknowledge.org

Itzel Flores Castillo is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara majoring in Environmental Studies. Outside of academics, Itzel is passionate and involved in two ethnic dance student campus organizations holding an officer position as a director and coordinator, as well as teaching younger children in their nonprofit groups. Itzel is also currently a Floor Leader and EcoWarrior at LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics where she has worked for the past three years. As an EcoWarrior, she has worked on projects to bring recycling and composting into the store. Itzel’s passion for environmental studies only grew as she continued to work with LUSH’s ethics and environmentally-conscious practices. Being a student of color and majoring in environmental studies, Itzel has grown passionate about how environmental issues affect communities and for this reason, she is eager to begin working with LiKEN on projects which surround current issues such as displacement that continue to be seen and experienced by different groups throughout the world.








Sophie von Hunnius

Research Assistant

Email: researchassistant@likenknowledge.org


Sophie von Hunnius is a fourth-year student at the University of California, Santa Barbara with a major in Environmental Studies, a minor in Global Peace and Security, and a (clichéd) personal goal of making the world a better place. Sophie is dedicated to deconstructing complicated issues and creating meaningful solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. She is excited to join the LiKEN team, where she hopes to focus her passion for social and environmental justice in policy-level research and to bolster her endless curiosity about the universe.








Vera Petrovic

Student intern

Email: researchassistant@likenknowledge.org



Vera Petrovic is a junior at Lawrence High School, in Lawrence, Kansas. She has previously been involved with the Rising Voices Youth Climate Initiative, and has fostered a love for environmental preservation and social justice since a young age. Outside of her environmental engagement, Vera participates in debate, student council, and Habitat for Humanity. In the future, she hopes to study environmental sociology and psychology, with a focus in the historical trauma that has impacted indigenous communities.



Board of Directors

Shaunna Scott, Professor, Sociology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky

Dr. Shaunna Scott is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Kentucky. She is the Past President of the Appalachian Studies Association. Her interests center upon social inequality, gender, the politics of identity and commemoration, theory, qualitative methods, participatory action research and social movements in Appalachia and Northern Ireland. Dr. Scott’s work appears in Rural SociologyAnnual Review of SociologyQualitative SociologyJournal of Appalachian StudiesAppalachian Journal, and Action Research. Dr. Scott is an affiliate of the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center, Center for Poverty Research, Social Theory Committee, and Gender Women Studies. Dr. Scott’s ethnographic and interview research takes a feminist critical theoretical approach to understanding politics, commemoration, community and economic development and planning, identity construction and community dynamics. She is particularly interested in understanding and promoting democratic practices and social justice projects in conflictual, stratified, rural contexts. Her work focuses primarily upon Central Appalachia, although she has done research in Northern Ireland and New Zealand.


Linda Kaboolian, Lecturer, School of Public Health, Harvard University

Dr. Kaboolian’s professional experience, research and teaching focus on multi-stakeholder problem solving processes around workplace and public policy issues. She works with labor, management and community groups around improved organizational performance and service to diverse communities. Labor Management Relations and Win-Win Labor-Management Collaboration are topics on which she has published books, chapters and articles. She has conducted years of fieldwork on organizations that bridge racial, ethnic, and class divides. She co-authoredWorking Better Together: A Practical Guide for Union Leaders, Elected Officials and Managers and The Concord Handbook.  These works distill several years of fieldwork about organizations that bridge racial, ethnic, and class divides. While she now serves as a neutral mediator, she was an elected officer and chief bargainer of a union, and a senior manager in the federal government. She has also served in the state and local and non-profit sectors. Kaboolian received her PhD from the University of Michigan.


Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project on Government Oversight

Since 1993, Danielle Brian has been the Executive Director of the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). She frequently testifies before Congress and regularly meets with Members of Congress and officials at the White House and federal agencies to discuss how to achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.  Ms. Brian was appointed by the Secretary of the Interior to serve on the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Federal Advisory Committee in 2012. In 2013, she was elected chair of the civil society organizations on the Federal Advisory Committee. In 2015, Ms. Brian was elected to the Board of the D.C. Open Government Coalition. Ms. Brian serves on the board of Taxpayers for Common Sense, and is the chair of the Steering Committee for OpenTheGovernment.org. Ms. Brian was inducted into the Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame, was ranked by Ethisphere magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people in business ethics, and received the Smith College Medal.