Our Team

Michiana VegFest is organized by passionate and energetic people who care about health, wellness, animals, and the environment. Meet some of the volunteers who have helped make this event happen. If you would like to join our team, fill out our volunteer application form and tell us about you and what you are interested in.

Mar. 13, 2015; Jocelyn Antonelli - Food Services Administration. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)
Jocelyn Antonelli

Jocie Antonelli is a registered dietitian, a wife, and mother of 3. She has been working in Campus Dining at the University of Notre Dame for over 22 years.

Her favorite health quote is: "The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison." She loves spending time with her family, thinking about nutrition, and going for long walks with her dog. Click here for more information.

Sept. 10, 2015; Jessica Brookshire (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)
Jessica Brookshire

As Associate Director for Public Affairs at the University of Notre Dame, Jessica focuses on building partnerships with local nonprofits and community groups while working with faculty, staff and students to promote engagement within our community.

Jessica has done extensive work with the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the United Way of St. Joseph County (UWSJC) and was honored in 2012 with the Dedication Award from ACS and the Volunteer of the Year Award in 2016 from UWSJC. Click here for more information.

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Rama Ganesan

Rama lives, works, and dreams vegan values! A book called Eating Animals by Jonathan Foer got her thinking and now, just a few years later, she works for Ethical Choices Program, she organizes Vegan Michiana, she volunteers with Vegan Outreach and she is a Pollination Project grantee for the advocacy work that she does with others in the area! Rama likes to say that she is plant-based for the planet, and she eats whole foods for health, but she is vegan for the animals. She is a scientist by training and she supports evidence-based approaches to veganism. She is interested in intersectionality, where one learns how to advocate in a way that is aware of different people with different backgrounds.  

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Kelly Hofferth

Kelly invites you to connect if you’re passionate about food, animals, health of the planet and humans!

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Mercedes Howard

Mercedes joined the Michiana community a year and a half ago when she moved to the South Bend area with her husband, a Notre Dame faculty member, and their feline family. She soon met passionate activists engaged in bringing about animal liberation, equality for all, aid for people living on the streets, homes for cats and dogs and an end to human trafficking. While involving in local actions, including helping out at the area’s own Pet Refuge, she continues to volunteer with national non-profits focused on animal rights, health and environment. Educating through friendly interaction is her style of inspiring lifestyle changes, from leafleting to reaching out to local businesses and encouraging them to include plant-based options. In between volunteering and creating her first novel, she relishes nature, yoga, journaling, working out, dancing, cooking and being among friends who overcome obstacles and rejoice in living.

Mercedes successfully applied for a grant from The Pollination Project, which became a sponsor of Michiana's inaugural VegFest. 

Mar. 23, 2016; Emerita Faculty Catherine Perry (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)
Catherine Perry

Before moving to the U.S., Catherine lived in Switzerland and Morocco. She taught French and Francophone literature and film at Notre Dame until she retired in 2016. An ethical vegan who is also health-conscious and concerned about our natural environment, Catherine helped found the first veg student group at Notre Dame, VegND. She enjoys organizing events for the local group VegMichiana. She also volunteers for the Humane Party as Editing Coordinator and The Pollination Project as Grant Advisor. Much of her free time revolves around her family’s 4 cat friends.

Karen Sommers
Karen Sommers

Karen Sommers is currently the Coordinator of the Dr. Dean Ornish Heart Reversal Program for Beacon Health System. She has a Bachelor's degree in Social Work and a Master's degree in Counseling. Prior to her current position Karen worked at United Way of St. Joseph County where she was the Vice President of Community Investment.

Karen has spent over twenty years in healthcare. Her healthcare history includes: Vice President of Marketing and Development; Executive Director of Oncology Services; Director of the Healing Arts Center; and Director of Memorial's Center for Integrative Healing. Her passion and belief is a holistic approach to one's health and well-being.

Karen is an organic gardener; long distance hiker; avid reader; bicyclist; and yoga instructor.

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Mary Jo Wenckus

Mary Jo earned her certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Foundation, e-Cornell, in 2012 and a certificate from Dr. John McDougall’s The Starch Solution curriculum in 2015. She has taught classes in plant-based nutrition and cooking and continues to attend conferences to stay educated about discoveries on the health and environmental benefits of eating the whole food, plant-based way. She has become increasingly aware of the plight of animals and is committed to educating people about how our unnecessary reliance on animal flesh not only dooms billions of animals to a manufactured death every year, but also contributes significantly to issues of starvation and food justice around the world. She is retired from over 25 years in corporate management.