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Meet our Board

Brandon K. Wharton, Esq.

Brandon is an Associate at Gallagher Evelius & Jones LLP, where his practice focuses on education law, employment law, investigations, and litigation. As part of his practice, Brandon counsels K–12 and higher education institutions on compliance with local, state, and federal laws. He also advises employers on issues related to internal investigations, employee wages, executive compensation, reasonable accommodation requests, discipline and discharge, and responding to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation charges. Additionally, Brandon represents individuals and educational, nonprofit, religious, and commercial entities in civil disputes in state and federal courts.

Before entering private practice, Brandon served as a law clerk to the Honorable Diana Gribbon Motz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and to the Honorable Paula Xinis of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Brandon graduated, magna cum laude and Order of the Coif, from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Maryland Law Review. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Towson University.

Brandon currently serves on the board of directors for the Towson University Alumni Association, the Dean’s Advisory Council for Towson’s College of Liberal Arts, and as secretary of the Monumental City Bar Association.

Cassie Motz

Cassie was born and raised in Baltimore City and is a current City resident. She joined the CollegeBound Foundation as Executive Director in January 2014. Prior to joining CollegeBound, Cassie served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Martin O’Malley. She had also served as Deputy Legal Counsel to Governor O’Malley and as the Interim Director of the Governor’s Office for Children.

Cassie graduated from Dartmouth College and Yale Law School. Between college and law school, she taught at a public middle school in the South Bronx, New York through Teach for America. After graduating from law school Cassie practiced law for several years in Washington — prosecuting homicide and domestic violence cases as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and serving as a Deputy Attorney General for the District of Columbia government, representing the city’s child welfare and mental health agencies.

In July 2023, Governor Wes Moore appointed Cassie to be Chair of the Maryland Higher Education Commission. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the University of Maryland Medical System and the Baltimore Lab School. She has previously served on the boards of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, the KIPP Baltimore public charter school, and Baltimore Outreach Services, a shelter and job training program for women and their children in South Baltimore.

Denzel Mitchell Jr.

Denzel Mitchell Jr. is an educator, farmer, cook, and longtime justice advocate. Born and raised in Guthrie, Oklahoma, he and his wife planted themselves in Baltimore in the fall of 2006 and became active in Baltimore’s urban agricultural movement. Denzel went on to found the Greening and Nutrition program at Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School and while there heard the call from the land. On six vacant lots and with the help of a chef and food historian, he brought the nearly forgotten heirloom, Baltimore’s Fish Pepper, back to the Chesapeake region’s culinary palette. He left the classroom in 2010 to pursue dreams of vegetable farming and operated Five Seeds Farm until 2015. He currently serves as the executive director of the Farm Alliance of Baltimore and is a part-time “biscuit head” at Blacksauce Kitchen. Denzel loves to eat, cook, and play with his family and friends.

Irena Stein

Irena Stein is a photographer, restaurateur, immigrant, sustainability advocate, and humanitarian whose spirit is deeply rooted in humanizing society. Irena came to America from Venezuela on a Fulbright Scholarship to Stanford University where she graduated with a Master’s in Cultural Anthropology. Since then she has merged her passion for art, food, community, and environmentalism into a seamless blend in Baltimore, Maryland. 

She officially entered the culinary world in 2002 and opened two cafés at Johns Hopkins University. Both locations introduced sustainability and zero waste at Hopkins. Her cafés not only received recognition for their sustainability practices and delicious fresh food but also as the first establishments to bring the traditional Venezuelan arepa to Baltimore. In 2015 Irena opened Alma Cocina Latina, she was the first to bring contemporary and imaginative Venezuelan cuisine to the United States. 

The restaurant became wildly popular, gaining attention, accolades and awards from around the country including Baltimore Magazine’s Best Chef, Best Restaurant and the Baltimore Sun’s Top 10 Restaurants and in 2020 she received their Marylander of the Year. During COVID Irena opened Alkimiah, a community meals program in partnership with Mera Kitchen Collective that provided healthy, high-quality, and sustainable meals to communities for free during COVID in partnership with Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen. Alkimiah fed over 150,000 people, and was recognized by Bon Appétit, The New York Times, Baltimore Sun, United Nations Environmental Board, and more. Behind all of Irena’s concepts is her belief that food is the key to breaking social barriers, bridging communities, and ultimately the foundation of world peace.

Liz Nussbaumer 

Liz joined the Johns Hopkins University's Center for a Livable Future (CLF) in 2019 and serves as the Project Director of Aquatic Food Systems & Public Health, following nearly seven years at Food & Water Watch in Washington, D.C., where she worked as a Senior Researcher. Liz earned a Master of Public Policy, focusing on environmental policy and international development, at American University, where much of her research investigated the root causes of industrial monoculture farming. She completed her undergraduate studies at DePaul University in Chicago majoring in Political Science and Community Service Studies. Her recent areas of interest include worker health and safety in food systems, seafood supply chains, and the intersection of nutrition, climate change and aquatic foods.

At CLF, Liz is working to convene organizations and individuals to raise awareness on the seafood, public health, and food systems nexus. In this capacity, she learns from a wide range of people who connect with the farmed and wild seafood space, from producers to consumers and everyone in between.

Outside of the office, Liz aspires to do more gardening and a variety of homesteading activities. An adventurous traveler, she and her husband love to sample local foods, ranging from chapulines and nopales in Mexico to cuttlefish in Italy. Liz grew up in Michigan and has lived in the greater Washington, DC/ Baltimore, MD region for 13+ years.

Sophia Silbergeld

Sophia is a veteran of Maryland business and politics, having counseled hundreds of elected and business leaders on policy, industry trends, capacity building, donor cultivation and B2B solutions. She is the managing partner at Adeo Advocacy and brings to Adeo a unique adeptness in identifying and connecting individuals and organizations with shared aspiration to facilitate meaningful collaboration for their clients and partners.

She most recently served as Director of Membership for the Greater Baltimore Committee, the region’s leading business advocacy organization. In addition to shepherding record membership growth during her tenure, she was responsible for the evolution and management of the organization’s diverse programmatic offerings. Most recently, she led the creation and implementation of the #bwomen Initiative and Next Up program, quickly establishing both at the forefront of best practices in two of today’s most recognized and publicized spaces for business improvement, gender diversity and millennial leadership training.


Prior to that, Sophia spent 10 years at Maryland’s premier political fundraising firm, ending her time working for candidate and issue campaigns as the firm’s COO. She began her work in government and politics as a Legislative Assistant in the Government Affairs office of then, Baltimore County Executive, James T. Smith, Jr.


A native Baltimorean with a strong commitment to the city, Sophia serves on numerous Boards including WYPR, the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership and the Creative Alliance.


Vicki Tepper, PhD

Dr. Tepper is a distinguished pediatric psychologist and Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She has centered her work on the impact of HIV on the lives and health of children, youth, and families. Her career at University of Maryland School of Medicine the has allowed her to teach, mentor, create and to provide innovative programs that increase access for underserved and marginalized children, youth, and young adults in the U.S. and internationally. Her expertise in the field of HIV has led to her participation in the training of health care professionals in nine developing countries. Her steadfast commitment to improving the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS fuels positive change worldwide.

Previous Board Members

Sherri Lombardi Hunt

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