Niyanta Spelman is the founder and executive director of Rainforest Partnership. Between 2000 and 2007, Niyanta owned PPPMC Inc, a public sector-oriented management consultancy. Niyanta’s broad public sector experience includes working for the Legislative Budget Board, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the Texas Legislature, the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe located in Budapest, Hungary, and the first lobbying firm in London, England.
Niyanta currently serves on the board of the Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum, based in San Francisco, is an advisor to SxSW Eco and is an adjunct faculty member at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at University of Texas at Austin. She was a founding member of Texas Federation of Asian American Chambers of Commerce, served for several years on the Austin Zoning & Platting and Planning Commissions and on the boards of various nonprofit organizations.
Niyanta grew up in Tanzania and lived in India and England before coming to Texas 25 years ago. She received a B.A. in biology from the University of Texas at Dallas, and a Masters degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin. She and her husband Bill Spelman, a UT professor and an Austin city council member, live in Austin and have two sons, Jasiel and Ronan.
Melissa Matherne graduated from Louisiana State University in 2004. Since graduation, she has focused solely on non-profit development and management. Philanthropic at heart, she has 10 years of fundraising and non-profit experience fostering relationships at such organizations as the Alliance Safety Council, LSU Museum of Art, Special Olympics Texas, and Citizen Generation, where she was the Development Director.
Melissa joined the RP team in 2014 as the Director of Marketing & Development for Rainforest Partnership. Here she works to channel her passion for creating equality both in development work and the business world, and hopes to be part of a more sustainable future.
She may "bleed purple and live gold,' but since moving to Austin in 2010 she has grown to love the Austin community and proudly gets her Horns Up on Game Day. While fundraising is her bread and butter, her passion for animals has led her to take on leadership roles in supporting the Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary and Austin Pets Alive!. When not working hard to help non-profits continue their valuable missions, she spends her free-time wrangling monsters (2 boxers: Lola & Cash) and mastering the perfect cartwheel.
An Austinite for the last several years, Lavanya has previously worked with Environmental Defense Fund and documentary filmmaker Seema Mathur. In India, Lavanya had worked on the research and production of documentaries and media campaigns with a focus on environmental and social issues. One of the documentaries she co-directed and produced for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation was later showcased at the Climate Days Film Festival in Poznan, held in parallel with COP14. Lavanya loves also capturing the essence of nature, people and places through photography wherever she travels.