Leadership Team

Jorge Figueroa
Director, Principal

Expertise: Innovation Processes, Market-Based Solutions for Conservation, Natural Resources Planning and Policy

Background: Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Puerto Rico, Jorge focuses on helping the people of San Luis Rio Colorado bring back and enjoy their Colorado River in perpetuity; advancing cultural resiliency and resilient food-energy-water systems in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean; and protecting the West’s sacred landscapes for future generations. Prior to founding El Laboratorio, Jorge worked for Western Resource Advocates for eight years as a Senior Water Policy Analyst, developing innovative processes and solutions with and for governors, state agencies, utilities, local communities, and other partner organizations. He also served as Project Associate/ Research Faculty Member for the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force. He was a Fulbright Scholar in India on Climate Change Innovation and Community Forestry. Jorge holds degrees in law (Pace University) and forestry (Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies).

Nita Gonzales

Expertise: Community Engagement and Justice, Education, Fundraising, Nonprofit Management

Background: Born and raised in Colorado, Nita is a nationally- recognized leader in education and community justice and equality. She was President/CEO of Escuela Tlatelolco Centro de Estudios, a model for Chicano/ Mexicano and indigenous education. Nita had primary responsibility for fundraising to provide scholarships for over 8,000 students. She has managed successful, statewide political campaigns and worked with a wide range of nonprofit organizations. Nita received her Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and Masters in Education from Antioch University.

Paul Hellmund

Expertise: Green Infrastructure, Greenway Planning, Conservation Planning, Ecological Design, Green Urbanism, Process Facilitation

Background: Born and raised in Panama, Paul brings decades of professional experience developing innovative conservation and community planning solutions in the western United States and Latin America. He brings together diverse people and expertise to solve complex conservation problems, especially those involving underserved communities. He has co-authored two books: Designing Greenways: Sustainable Landscapes for Nature and People (2006) and the award-winning Ecology of Greenways (1993). For ten years he was president and professor at the Conway Design School. Paul was educated at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and at Colorado State University, where he teaches in the School of Global Environmental Sustainability.