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. 


Kaitlyn Christy – Assistant Project Coordinator

Kaitlyn has a deep passion for nature, equality and creating positive change through community advocacy. Kaitlyn believes that environmental issues are social issues. She wants to help create a sustainable world where all people have the right to a healthy environment. She is currently finishing her undergraduate degree in Energy and Sustainability Policy through Penn State University’s World Campus and hopes to help forge paths to stronger sustainability ethics.

When she’s not working, you can find Kaitlyn camping in Southern Utah, baking vegan treats,  writing haiku, or taking a hike.

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.


Ella Anderson – Lead Safe Housing Intern

Ella is a senior at the University of Utah majoring in Environmental Sustainability studies. She started her college education at the University of Hawaii with a degree in Fashion design and merchandising and transferred to the University of Utah after deciding she wanted to make a positive impact on the environment. Growing up in Utah and enjoying the outdoors skiing, hiking, mountain biking and camping has inspired Ella to pursue environmental work. Being outdoors has always been something special to Ella and she would like to be a part of creating a healthier environment. She also has an interest in sustainable food systems and worked at restaurants with local food sources she also worked with Real Food Rising. She hopes that all people have access to healthy food and environment.

While not in school or working Ella enjoys sewing, cooking, and spending time outdoors with friends hiking, skiing and camping.