UPHE Staff

Jonny Vasic – Executive Director

Jonny Vasic

Jonny Vasic has over ten years of experience working with non-profit organizations in various roles including International Director and Director of Media. He has lobbied in Sacramento and Washington D.C. with the Humane Society of the United States and was the International Director at Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, where he was part of the team that created the critically acclaimed hit show Whale Wars for Animal Planet. He is on the Board of Directors for Surfers for Cetaceans and he is the producer of the award-winning documentary film Minds in the Water. Before Jonny’s non-profit work, he was an Executive in Charge of Production at a Los Angeles based TV production company. He was founder and president of Evergreen Oasis Entertainment, which specialized in communication with a conscience. Jonny grew up in Salt Lake City and has a keen interest living in an environment with clean air, water, and soil. His life long passion for the outdoors, a healthy environment and his love of animals combined with his experience in multi-media, has led him to work with groups that are making a real difference in people’s lives.

Brandi O’Brien – Project Coordinator

Brandi first became interested in Utah environmental issues during a year-long internship in the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance’s Washington D.C. office. Here, she lobbied for the protection of Utah’s wild places and engaged with passionate activists from across the country. During this time, Brandi was also enrolled in George Mason University, where she went on to obtain a degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Being particularly interested in the environment and its effect on people, she focused this major to revolve around environmental justice issues. With this focus she was able to research topics such as: water rights, air quality, and the success of various pieces of environmental protection legislation. Still passionate about Utah public lands, Brandi moved to Cedar City in 2019 to do field work for the Utah Conservation Corps. She was ecstatic at the opportunity to conduct this field work in one of her favorite parts of Utah- Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. She has since worked on other public lands improvement projects throughout the West- partnering with both nonprofits, and land management agencies. Brandi is thrilled at the opportunity to continue her work for the health of the environment and people of Utah through her role with UPHE.

Born and raised in Upstate NY, Brandi spends much of her free time exploring the breathtaking camping and hiking that Utah has to offer. 


Elli Lavon – Lead Safe Outreach Specialist

Elli spent her first year living in Utah as an AmeriCorps VISTA working with the Women’s Business Center of Utah to strengthen women owned businesses. With a degree in Communications and two minors in Political Science and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, education and outreach has become her main career goal. Her interest in community development and outreach sparked while working for the Voinovich School of Environmental Affairs as a research assistant to their Social Enterprise Ecosystem Program grant. Her research projects ranged from environmental topics such as land labs, to helping a local herbalist reinvent her social media presence. The inside look she was given to her small college town community piqued her interest in the array of impactful opportunities one may have working with the community. Leading her to UPHE, she is incredibly excited and interested to work in public health as it will not only improve the lives of Utah residents, but the environment as well. 

Outside of work Elli is an avid reader, cooking enthusiast, and is constantly looking for new ways to explore the world around her. She feels most at peace in the mountains, and will continue to lead her life in a way that is conscious of the environment and its inhabitants.


Ermiya Fanaeian – Lead Safe Assistant Outreach Specialist

Ermiya is a trans youth activist who has worked closely with the ACLU of Utah, Equality Utah, and the Utah Pride Center. She has also lobbied State government officials against conversion therapy. She has worked on many electoral political campaigns to help elect candidates, including Congressman Ben McAdams’ Congressional campaign and Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Campaign. She served as Director of Diversity for the student body at the University of Utah and a delegate for the World Prosperity Organization. Ermiya is the recipient of the Gandhi Peace Award, awarded to her by the Gandhi Alliance for Peace, and of the Mayor of Salt Lake County Local Hero Award because of her political organizing work.


Jake Jensen- Assistant Outreach Coordinator

Jake Jensen is a senior at the University of Utah majoring in environmental and sustainability studies with a geography minor. After spending his childhood skiing and getting outside in the Wasatch, his love for the outdoors transitioned into a genuine care and concern for the environment. Through college Jake has spent time getting involved with the environmental community in Salt Lake City and volunteering with environmental nonprofits. He hopes to continue his involvement in working to create a healthier environment before attending law school to pursue environmental law.

In his spare time, you will find Jake skiing, running, reading or planning his next outdoor excursion.


Jack Bozarth- Programs and Issues Intern

Jack is an undergraduate student at the University of Utah majoring in Environment and Sustainability Studies. On campus, Jack has applied his passion for the outdoors by involving himself in student activism as the President of the Enviroclub. Professionally, Jack has a background in medicine, working for University of Utah health as an EMT. After graduating, Jack hopes to devote his career to activism at the intersection of health and the environment by working in environmental nonprofits working to improve public health.

Outside of work, Jack enjoys spending time outdoors skiing, biking, fishing, rafting, hiking, and camping. These pursuits have in part inspired the trajectory of Jack’s career.