UACT Staff and Trainers
GCO Trainer and Acting Director (Spring 2021)
Justin Helepololei is a PhD student in Anthropology at UMass Amherst, a trainer with the UMass Alliance for Community Transformation, and member of Great Falls Books Through Bars, Decarcerate Western Mass, Neighbor 2 Neighbor Holyoke and the Stoke Collective. Justin's work is focused on building the power of frontline communities to abolish prisons and police.
Urgyen grew up in New Delhi, India in a family shaped by Indian, Russian and Tibetan Buddhist cultures. They graduated from UMass Amherst in 2020 with a degree in Performance Studies and Community Organizing.
Urgyen explores intersections of Theater, Relational Organizing, Mindfulness and Somatics. They’re committed to cultivating spaces where individuals and communities can build agency and power, grow relationality and develop their capacity to work across difference. And remember to breathe! And play!
Alumni Magic Glue
Anastasia is a youth worker currently based in Central Massachusetts. She is passionate about nervous system education, creating spaces for collective healing, and providing community-based harm reduction for vulnerable populations. While she currently has post-pandemic dreams of becoming a trauma therapist, Anastasia finds joy in going on long hikes, reading 19th century literature, and wearing colorful eyeshadow.
Alumni Magic Glue
Tom took GCO in 2019, loved the UACT learning community, and stayed on to co-facilitate the class in 2020. After graduating with his English degree, dabbling in donut making and writing, Tom came back around as a staff member. Today he works at a school in the valley and supports GCO and UACT projects.
Organizing for New Movement Leaders Coordinator
Born & raised in El Paso TX, Leslie graduated from Smith College and then worked as a research fellow for a participatory action research project in Springfield, MA. In addition to helping develop and support UACT's Organizing for New Movement Leaders class, they also spend their time graphic scribing and community art projects. Previously, they have been involved in community organizing and political advocacy, collaborating with community leaders and organizations in Texas and Massachusetts. They hope to always be working at the intersections of art, healing, and justice, and are lucky to have many communities to come home to and build with. Leslie likes to spend their time making art, drinking tea, or learning about herbal medicine and astrology.
Director and Trainer
Jen Sandler is the Director of UACT and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at UMass. Her research focuses on on how people use different forms of knowledge to change society. Jen earned a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2008, and held visiting faculty positions at Trinity College and Bates College before coming to UMass and UACT in 2012. She is intensely grateful to have so many meaningful projects and relationships guiding her engagement in these times of extraordinary precarity, injustice, violence, and possibility. Jen's day-to-day is grounded by a nine-year-old kid, builder partner, the best pup, and a couple of old hens.