Ilyssa Manspeizer, Executive Director

Ilyssa Manspeizer, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Ilyssa Manspeizer is an anthropologist with over 20 years of experience working in community-based development and natural resource conservation. Formerly the Executive Director of the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation, she has also managed programs and conducted research on conservation and community development in the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Zambia, and the United States.  Ilyssa has a wide diversity of experience, including managing and administering non-profits, raising funding for community investment, enhancing community-centric development strategies, developing urban parks, conserving and monitoring African elephants, and evaluating rural African community development programs.

Ilyssa directed the award-winning Emerald View Park initiative for the MWCDC for 7 years, working closely with the community to build Pittsburgh’s newest regional park on 260 acres of formerly mined, denuded and dumped on land on the steep slopes of Pittsburgh’s Mount Washington neighborhood.  Under her direction, the organization raised more than $3 million in investments in the Park, resulting in the creation of a 20 mile trail plan and 10 miles of trails, the creation of the Emerald Trail Corps, the restoration of Mount Washington’s priceless view corridor, the removal of over 300,000 pounds of dumped garbage, the planting of more than 5,000 trees, and the creation of a treasured Park on land once thought to have no intrinsic value.

Ilyssa has a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Binghamton University (State University of New York), an M.Sc. in Nature Conservation from University College London, and a B.S. in Environmental Science from Cook College, Rutgers University.

Thomas Guentner

Director of Land Stewardship

Thomas Guentner brings nearly a decade’s worth of leadership experience with equal experience as a trail builder to the Landforce management team. Thomas received a BS from Slippery Rock University for studies focused on Public Relations and Sociology. He has worked as a court appointed advocate for Children and Youth Services and as a direct care worker specializing in independent and transitional living for teens aging out of the system before beginning a tenure with the Student Conservation Association as a crew leader and environmental educator.

Thomas was able to hone his project management and leadership skills as the manager of the Emerald Trail Corps workforce development program for the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation where he assisted in the development of Emerald View Park, Pittsburgh’s newest regional park, employing close to 50 adults with barriers to long term employment. Thomas has entrepreneurial experience as a former small business owner as well as a creative background as a writer and musician. He is also certified in Sorens Eriksson’s Game of Logging and National Green Infrastructure Certification Program.

Tiffany Mrotek, MSW

Workforce Development Director

Tiffany Mrotek, MSW, is the Workforce Development Director at Landforce. She received her Master’s in Social Work degree focusing on Communities, Organizations, and Social Action from the University of Pittsburgh in May 2016. During her graduate program, she had the opportunity to work for the Hill Community Development Corporation and The Heinz Endowments.

Tiffany is originally from Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas and spent over four years working on training development in suicide prevention. She also spent a year in a remote part of Ghana working on a dry season sustainable farming initiative, teaching at an education center, and coordinating bicycle deliveries and workshops.

Jasimine Cooper

Work Readiness Manager

Jasimine A.M. Cooper is a native of Pittsburgh, PA. The youngest of seven siblings, Jasimine has always felt the desire to work in the helping capacity. Experiencing the highs and lows of growing up to a single parent in the inner city, Jasimine’s passion to help people who need it most was ignited at a very young age.

Jasimine attended Edinboro University of PA, and graduated with a B.A. in Criminal Justice. Learning that one very important aspect of criminal justice is social service, Jasimine started working in the social service field and has held positions as a Direct Service Worker, a Lead Trainer and a Manager in the nonprofit sector of social service for over 12 years. Staying actively involved in the care and concern of inner city youth, Jasimine also sits on the board of directors for a non profit agency that helps youth who are aging out of the foster care system.

During Jasimine’s free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, volunteering throughout the city of Pittsburgh, and being outdoors.

Shawn Taylor

Site Supervisor, Construction Specialist

Shawn Taylor proved himself as an exemplary worker in 2011 when he began working with the Emerald Trail Corps as a Crew Member only to be promoted to Crew Leader the following year. With four years of crew management experience with the Emerald Trail Corps, Shawn has provided the guidance and skills training necessary to complete around 15 miles of trail construction in the southwestern Pennsylvania area, including Pittsburgh’s newest regional asset, Emerald View Park.

A graduate of South Vocational Tech High school, with knowledge in outdoor power equipment technology small engine mechanics Shawn provides technical know-how and vision to each project he has worked on. Shawn has received several different certifications in trades that reflect his motivation for success and leadership through his participation in the A. Philip Randolph Institute and has served as a GTECH intern working on Sunflower harvesting for Biofuel use and community outreach.

Shawn enjoys working outdoors and providing a sense of brotherhood among his team. From work to recreation he enjoys all things outdoors. He also enjoys cooking and home DIY projects as hobbies. Shawn is a perfectionist who has an eye for detail and takes immense pride in his work. He is also certified in Sorens Eriksson’s Game of Logging.

John Jones

Site Supervisor, Horticulture Specialist

John Jones is a graduate of Peabody High School and attended Slippery Rock University with a concentration in Social Work. Also, John is an alum of the 2016 Landforce crew and provides a valuable perspective to the staff.

He is a native of Pittsburgh, who learned of Landforce through a contact at Manchester Bidwell. He enjoys working outside and being able to work with those in need while we steer them in a positive direction through workforce development. In addition, wants to educate people in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas to obtain a better understanding of what it takes to become work ready in today’s world and open the participants’ eyes to the new fields of employment that are opening up in Environmental Services and Green Infrastructure. He is also certified in Sorens Eriksson’s Game of Logging.

In his free time John enjoys writing, producing music, and playing basketball.

Tricia Dougherty

Operations & Communications Manager

Tricia is the Operations & Communications Manager at Landforce. Prior to her work with Landforce she honed her problem solving, management and operations skills as a legal assistant at a small law firm for five years.

She has a degree in Political Science with certificates in Women’s Studies and European Union Studies from the University of Pittsburgh.

In her free time she enjoys listening to podcasts and lounging on her porch with our newest office dog, Pandora.

Cindy Vicente, MSW

COVID-19 Engagement Coordinator

Cindy J. Vicente is a macro-minded social worker with a strong understanding of State and Federal government operations and policy. Cindy was born in Puerto Rico, but raised in Lancaster Pennsylvania.

After completing their Bachelors in Social Work at Millersville University, they attended the University of Pittsburgh for a Masters in Social Work with an emphasis on community organizations, and social action.

Cindy’s areas of expertise are HIV/AIDS education/prevention, political organizing, and community engagement while utilizing an intersectional lens in both understanding and solving social problems.

They currently live in Fairywood with their partner, dog, and cat. Cindy uses ‘they/them’ pronouns, and would love to know yours.

Alliy Gundlach

Land Stewardship Project Assistant

Alliy Gundlach joined Landforce in the Spring of 2020 bringing her skills and background in conservation biology, plant ecology, and land restoration.  She received her Bachelor of Science  in Biology with a concentration in Conservation from the University of Central Florida during which her research focused on invasive plant species and disturbance ecology. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Park and Natural Resource Management from Slippery Rock University. 

Alliy is a native to southwest PA and grateful to be back in her hometown of Pittsburgh. She has had the opportunity to learn and apply her skills across the country ranging from endangered species surveys and sea turtle rescue in South Florida to wetland restoration in the Midwest to sustainability advocacy in the Far West.  Her horticultural and leadership skills were sharpened as the head grower for a retail nursery for the past five years managing ten greenhouses and multiple crop productions. Some of the accomplishments she is most proud of outside of the green industry is helping women get reintroduced to the outdoors through volunteer guiding services. 

When she is not working with Landforce she enjoys spending her time in wild places with her partner Andy and forever puppy Austin.  Botanizing, backpacking, paddling, trail running, climbing, and fly fishing are some of her favorite outdoor activities that continually humble and inspire her.