Our Team

Meet the Water Center's dedicated staff
Howard Neukrug

Howard Neukrug

Executive Director

hneukrug@upenn.edu

Bio

Howard Neukrug is the former Commissioner and CEO of Philadelphia Water, where he was responsible for all aspects of utility operations, environmental compliance, engineering, financing, budgeting, capital and strategic planning, customer service, human resources, and legal and policy decisions for its drinking water/wastewater/stormwater system serving 2.3 million people. At Penn, he is the director of the Water Center and teaching courses on the water industry and the role of water in urban sustainability and resiliency. He is also a Principal with CASE Environmental, LLC, where he provides consulting services to cities and utilities in urban planning, systems design, sustainability, organizational development, strategic planning and trends and innovations in the global water industry.
Meg Maffitt

Meg Maffitt

Director of Strategic Development

megkra@sas.upenn.edu

Bio

Meg comes to The Water Center at Penn with a recently earned Master of Environmental Studies (MES) from University of Pennsylvania, hands on experience with land conservation, watershed education and environmental sustainability at the local level and a keen interest in water issues. She combines her interest in water with management expertise developed through decades of business and entrepreneurial experience to help The Water Center at Penn achieve its vision of becoming the preeminent center that provides real world solutions to critical urban water problems.
Karl Russek

Karl Russek

Director of Programs and Applied Research

russek@sas.upenn.edu

Bio

Karl Russek has over 25 years of experience in the areas of legacy pollutants, natural resources damage assessment, emerging environmental risks, industry/regulatory interface, and stakeholder management in the United States and globally. He holds a Master of Science degree in Environmental Quality Science from the University of Alaska where he focused assessment and restoration of freshwater systems. He most recently founded and managed the international environmental business for a leading global insurer.
Erica DePalma

Erica DePalma

Senior Water Systems Program Manager

edepalma@sas.upenn.edu

Bio

Erica DePalma earned her Master in Applied Geosciences with a focus in hydrology from the University of Pennsylvania. She has conducted water resource projects all over the world and currently leads a variety of the Water Center’s grant funded projects, particularly those focused on water affordability and water equity. Ultimately, she seeks to contribute professionally to mitigating the strain systemic injustices have on ensuring access to plentiful high-quality drinking water. Erica holds a Bachelor of Science from Fordham University and her previous work experience includes natural resource stewardship and fluvial geomorphology research within the NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s Stream Management Program.
Krystal Pleasant

Krystal Pleasant

Communications Manager

krpleas@sas.upenn.edu

Bio

Krystal Pleasant has spent more than 15 years building strategic and creative communications campaigns, specializing in brand positioning, message development, and digital strategy. Krystal joins us from the University of South Florida where she was the assistant director of communications and marketing for the Health Development and Alumni Relations office. She led the communications strategy for fundraising and alumni engagement and developed the brand concept and communications program for an award-winning campaign to raise funds for student success projects. She also served as a judge coordinator for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Previously, Krystal oversaw the public relations strategy for a $20 million federally funded research program at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Prior to that, Krystal was an associate for the global PR firm GMMB and was a technical writer for urban and community development at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), focusing on topics such as environmental health and disparities among certain racial and ethnic groups. Krystal holds a Master’s degree in Communication Arts from New York Institute of Technology.

 

Andrea Garay

Andrea Garay

Administrative Manager

agaray@sas.upenn.edu

Bio

Andrea joined us from the College of Liberal and Professional Studies at the University of Pennsylvania where she was an administrative assistant for three programs: Master of Chemical Sciences, Master of Environmental Studies, & Master of Science in Applied Geosciences. She possesses a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing and Logistics and Intermodal Transportation and a Master of Business Administration Concentration in International Business. Andrea’s previous work experiences range from raising money for foundations, handling customer service, sales and logistics for different businesses, and assisting faculty and students in different academic programs. At the Water Center, Andrea manages all offices and communications related duties including events, social media, website and graphics. Ultimately, she seeks to improve the visibility of the Water Center by efficiently communicating the importance of our mission and vision to the public.
Miriam Hacker

Miriam Hacker

Senior Research Implementation Lead

hackerm@sas.upenn.edu

Bio

Miriam Hacker comes to the Water Center with a background in civil engineering from the University of Washington and a passion for understanding social implications from water and wastewater issues. Her professional experience includes stormwater regulation at a local level and strategic coordination in international development. Her doctoral research in civil engineering investigated the coordination of temporary accommodation for people seeking asylum in Germany, Sweden and Lebanon. Most recently, her work as a postdoctoral researcher with the Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) focused on the socio-technical barriers for adoption of on-site water reuse at a city level in the United States. As cities look to adapt water and wastewater infrastructure to climate change, Miriam’s passion lies in the organizational and institutional response to these initiatives and impacts for the local community.
Jazmin Ricks

Jazmin Ricks

Research Program Coordinator

Bio

Jazmin Ricks graduated from Vanderbilt University’s BA program in Medicine, Health, and Society (MHS) in 2016 and from the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Public Health (Environmental Health) program in 2021. Jazmin’s professional interests revolve around the field of Environmental Epidemiology and the effect that physical, biological, and chemical factors can have on the public’s health. As a Program Coordinator at the Water Center, Jazmin supports the aims of the Director of Programs and Applied Research and oversees the center’s applied research and programming efforts. Overall, Jazmin seeks to promote water equity and quality as well as advance environmental justice for all Pennsylvanians. 
Joanne Spigonardo

Joanne Spigonardo

Senior Advisor-Alumni and Corporate Engagement, Student Advising

Bio

Joanne is senior advisor at The Water Center at Penn.  She focuses her efforts on alumni and corporate engagement.  Joanne leads efforts to grow the Penn Alumni Water Forum with special events and global outreach to regional clubs. In addition, Joanne acts as an advisor to students for careers and internships. She is available for weekly office hours. In her former roles, Joanne served as Senior Associate Director at the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) at Wharton.  Joanne was also part of the Communications Office. She held positions as business manager of the Wharton Seminars for Business Journalists and for the Wharton Alumni Magazine. Joanne also served as the media relations coordinator. When with Alitalia Airlines, Joanne worked as a sales representative. Joanne graduated from The University of Pennsylvania with a BA and later graduated from the Wharton Aresty Institute of Executive Education. Joanne has certification in HR Management.  She has a strong background in development, management, marketing, and Italian language and culture. As a Wharton Mentor, she coached new employees on professional development, and is active in Penn’s Grievance panels.  Joanne was on the board of governors for the University Club. Joanne is chair of the Delaware County Penn Alumni Interview Program and oversees alumni volunteers. As an alum of Penn and Wharton, and also a parent of two Penn graduates, she is a strong advocate in promoting Penn. At Wharton IGEL, Joanne had been in partnership with GreenBiz, Sustainable Brands, the Ethical Corporation, Pira Packaging International, Public Relations Society of America, the Green Sports Alliance, World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia, the Italian Consulate, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Sonoma County Winegrowers Association, and the Nature Conservancy, as well as, many other NGO and government offices. She has brokered hundreds of corporate relationships for Wharton. Joanne is the author of her book, White Widow, published on Kindle and Amazon. The book is a fictional novel about 19th-20th Century Italian immigrants. https://www.amazon.com/White-Widow-Joanne-Natale-Spigonardo/dp/B085DT65DB
Jalonne L. White-Newsome

Jalonne L. White-Newsome

Senior Advisor

Senior Advisor on Equity & Justice

Bio

A life-long learner and advocate, Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome founded Empowering a Green Environment and Economy, LLC, a strategic consulting firm, with the mission of transforming communities through the development of people-centered solutions.  She serves a diverse set of clients with forward-thinking and intersectional approaches to tackle issues such as climate change, public health, environmental injustice, and advancing racial equity.  Jalonne’s has multi-sector experience having worked in environmental philanthropy, state government, non-profit, grassroots, academia and private industry.  Most notably, she created and implemented the transformational Climate Resilient and Equitable Water Systems (CREWS) Initiative at the Kresge Foundation as a Senior Program Officer; she was the first Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s federal policy office in Washington, DC;  and, her doctoral research illuminated the impact of climate change & extreme heat on the low-income, elderly in Detroit, and is still referenced to drive public health interventions.  A native of Detroit, Jalonne earned a Ph.D. in environmental health sciences from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Southern Methodist University, a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Northwestern University, and her certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University.   Jalonne serves on multiple national and local academic, non-profit and for-profit Boards.  She is a Lecturer at The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, a lifetime member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the proud mom of Arielle and Jeannelyn.
Andrew Kricun

Andrew Kricun

Senior Advisor

Advisor

Bio

Andrew Kricun is a Senior Advisor at the Water Center at Penn working on various projects related to the Delaware River watershed. He is also a Senior Fellow with the US Water Alliance and a Senior Director with Moonshot Missions. Previously Andy was the Executive Director and Chief Engineer of the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, overseeing an 80 million gallon per day wastewater treatment plant in Camden, NJ. He graduated with honors from Princeton University with a degree in chemical engineering, holds a professional engineer’s license in civil engineering and is a board-certified environmental engineer. Andy serves on the New Jersey Environmental Justice Advisory Council and served on the board of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies as the chair of its Utility of the Future and Environmental Justice committees.
Joanne Dahme

Joanne Dahme

Senior Advisor

Advisor

Bio

Joanne most recently served as the Philadelphia Water Department’s Deputy Commissioner for Communications and Engagement (DCCE) and was responsible for developing and implementing strategies that enhanced PWD’s image, services and engagement with its customers, all residents, elected officials, media and key stakeholders. Joanne directed the planning, development and implementation of programs designed to inform and serve water, wastewater and stormwater customers and the public and to increase the PWD’s credibility and accessibility. In October 2019, Joanne established Mayfly Communications, a professional service that specializes in public engagement, education and communications around environmental policies and regulatory challenges with a focus on water resources.
Scott Moore

Scott Moore

Senior Fellow

Water Resource Specialist

Bio

Scott Moore is a political scientist whose work focuses on water politics and policy, especially in China and South Asia. Scott is currently a Senior Fellow at the Penn Water Center as well as Director of China Programs in the Office of the Provost at the University of Pennsylvania. Until 2018, Scott was a Young Professional and Water Resources Management Specialist with the World Bank Water Global Practice, where he co-led a study of China’s water sector with the Development Research Center of the State Council and was a co-author of two flagship reports, High and Dry: Climate Change, Water, and the Economy, and Uncharted Waters: the New Economics of Water Scarcity and Variability. Previously, Scott served as Environment, Science, Technology, and Health Officer for China at the U.S. Department of State, where he worked extensively on the Paris Agreement on climate change, and prior to that was Giorgio Ruffolo Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Harvard University. He has published widely on the full range of global water issues in leading publications including Nature, Foreign Affairs, and The New York Times. He is also the author of Subnational Hydropolitics: Conflict, Cooperation, and Institution-Building in Shared River Basins, published in 2018 by Oxford University Press. Scott holds a doctorate in Politics and a master’s degree in Environmental Change and Management from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and a bachelor’s degree from Princeton.
Tony Sauder

Tony Sauder

Senior Advisor

Advisor

Bio

Tony Sauder is a registered professional engineer and geologist with more than 30 years of experience in water resources, hydrogeology and environmental engineering. At Penn, he serves as an academic advisor and lecturer in the Masters of Applied Geosciences (MSAG) program. For the past 15 years, he has brought practical experience to his hydrology classes from working at Pennoni on challenging water supply and stream restoration projects. Previously, he lived and worked internationally for over 10 years on projects involving water supply and sustainable development in Chad, Sudan, and Honduras. He has mentored projects with Engineers without Borders’ (EWB) in Honduras, Guatemala and Cameroon and serves with the Global Water Alliance. Tony received a dual master’s degree in Civil Engineering and Engineering Geology from Drexel.
Stephanie Chiorean

Stephanie Chiorean

Senior Advisor

Advisor

Bio

Simran Rajpal

Simran Rajpal

Undergraduate Intern

Intern

Bio

Simran Rajpal is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying Public Health & Computational Biology. She is from Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, where she is heavily involved in improving the lives of women and children through volunteering and philanthropy. At Penn, Simran contributes to research studying behavioral and pharmaceutical interventions for weight loss in West Philadelphia through the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders. This summer, alongside her internship with Safe Water Network, she is assisting GlobeMed@Penn and Choice Humanitarian on an anti-human trafficking campaign in Peru.

In addition to her interests in community-oriented public health, Simran is incredibly interested in improving access to resources and promoting health equity. As a student, she loves learning about both the history behind modern public health problems, and the applied sciences she can use to approach and solve these issues. Through her Undergraduate Research Internship on Safe Water Access in India in collaboration with the Center for the Advanced Study of India (CASI) and Safe Water Network, Simran hopes to gain a better understanding of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected water access in India, and how integral water infrastructure is to improving health equity in the US and India, especially from the lens of women’s health.

Corey Wills

Corey Wills

Watershed Resource Analyst

Intern

Bio

Corey has a diverse background spanning food justice, grassroots organizing, mental health advocacy, and sustainable agriculture. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Environmental Studies degree at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is focusing on the creation and management of water and food systems which are both sustainable and just. Her professional goal is to implement equitable city planning practices which provide clean water, healthy food, and green spaces for all residents. Corey is joining The Water Center at Penn to provide geographic information systems analysis of Pennsylvanian watershed conservation efforts while also analyzing the best sites for green roofs on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus.
Rui Jiang

Rui Jiang

GIS Analyst

Research Assistant

Bio

Rui Jiang is currently a graduate student in the Master of Science in Applied Geosciences Program at the University of Pennsylvania, concentrating in Environmental Geology. For her undergrad, Rui graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with a degree in Environmental Sciences. She also conducted undergraduate research to determine the origin of the world’s largest sailing ship ballast piles, driven by her interest in archaeology. Rui hopes to apply her GIS skills and use her knowledge on environmental issues to make the Delaware River “swimmable.” At the same time, while at the Water Center, she wants to gain experience from experts and develop skills for the future. 
Ennie Akinuwunmi

Ennie Akinuwunmi

Undergraduate Fellow

Undergraduate Fellow

Bio

Ennie Akinuwunmi is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences from Beacon, NY pursuing a Major in Urban Studies and a minor in Environmental Studies. She is passionate about environmental justice and transforming cities into sustainable, climate-resilient hubs for the future. Specifically, she is interested in researching the sea-level rise and the impacts it will have on water infrastructure in communities of color. On-campus you can find her helping Penn meet its Climate Action goals as an Eco-Rep or teaching as a Penn Anti-Violence Educator (PAVE).
Rajratna Sardar

Rajratna Sardar

Research Affiliate

Research Affiliate

Bio

Mr Sardar is currently pursuing MS in Sustainable Water Management from Tufts University. He has over 9 years of experience in international and national projects in the WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) sector. He worked on multiple projects in water management and has experience in managerial and technical lead positions in the non-profit and corporate sectors. Prior to these roles, he was also one of the key resource persons for numerous capacity building programs and workshops in water management. His areas of interests include sustainable and equitable water & sanitation, faecal sludge management, and decentralized wastewater systems.
Marielle Kang

Marielle Kang

Undergraduate Fellow

Undergraduate Fellow

Bio

Marielle Kang is a freshman, pursuing a major in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainability and Environmental Management. Prior to attending the University of Pennsylvania, she graduated from the Polytechnic School in Pasadena, CA. Marielle actively contributed to anthropological research with UCLA and Apsara Media on the facilitation of educational and academic development in Sidi communities in India. In addition to her inclination towards community-oriented research, Marielle is interested in the food industry and sustainability, participating in NOAA-funded research at the Huntington Gardens in San Marino on soil health in the context of increasing atmospheric temperatures and exploring alternative agricultural methods like hydroponics and aquaponics. Throughout her fellowship at the Water Center, she hopes to gain a better understanding of water infrastructure and its impact on human rights.
Gregory Donworth

Gregory Donworth

Research Affiliate

Research Affiliate

Bio

Greg is currently working towards a Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences degree. His interests include using behavioral science-driven design and research methods to create innovative public policy programs. Greg was among the winners in the Spring 2020 Water Center Behavioral Design competition, aimed at reducing bottled water consumption in Philadelphia. Greg is currently employed full-time as a Consumer Insights Manager at Aramark, where he performs market research studies to create consumer-driven innovation at Higher Education and K-12 clients. Prior to this, Greg received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University and founded a digital, on-demand farmers market that was acquired in 2018. Greg hopes to contribute a social and data science background to The Water Center, to help create more effective public policy initiatives.
Alex Cartwright

Alex Cartwright

Water Resource Analyst

Research Assistant

Bio

Alex is currently a graduate student in the Master of Environmental Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, concentrating in Resilience and Adaptation. He hopes to influence resilient urban development, promote regenerative food systems, and work to protect our precious water and land resources. Alex joins The Water Center at Penn to support research that investigates water system infrastructure, policy, and funding, including Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters program. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Economics from The University of Texas at Austin.
Saffron Livaccari

Saffron Livaccari

Water Resource Data Analyst

Research Assistant

Bio

Saffron is currently working towards a Master of Environmental Studies degree with a concentration in Sustainability.  Prior to UPenn, she graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Applied Mathematics and a minor in Music. After working in banking for two years, Saffron was inspired to switch her career into environmental issues. She hopes to combine her previous experiences with finance and mathematics to help preserve and sustain fresh drinking water. Saffron will join The Water Center as a data analyst for bacteria levels in the Delaware and Schuylkill River.