Education Fund

The Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund is the non-profit education and research affiliate of Ohio Citizen Action. The president of the Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund is Dr. Richard Wittberg. The executive director is Melissa English. Founded in 1975, the Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund works in communities across Ohio to protect public health and the environment.

The Education Fund provides research, strategy, media and community organizing support for campaigns that protect public health, improve environmental quality and benefit consumers.

The Education Fund is also known for tracking and analyzing the flow of campaign dollars to key decision-makers in the state government.

614 West Superior Avenue, Suite 1200  •  Cleveland, OH 44113
phone 216.861.1989  •  fax 216.694.6904

Because the Education Fund does not devote significant resources to lobbying, it can receive tax-deductible contributions.

Contribute to Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund

Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund Board of Directors

Dick Wittberg President (Marietta)

Dick Wittberg experienced a profound professional shift when he left behind a career in the lumber industry to pursue a position in public health. It was a decision largely influenced by his experiences with and concern over the consequences of manganese exposure due to the emissions of Elkem Metals (now Eramet). Eramet, Washington County's second largest employer, refined manganese for use in the steel industry and was the source of odors that had plagued the community for decades. Dick wanted answers to questions about how manganese in his community's air might be affecting people, especially children, and he wasn't finding any. In 1999 with the help of the USEPA and the University of Quebec, he designed and conducted a rudimentary study comparing school children in Marietta with matched counterparts in nearby Athens, in terms of their cognition, balance and other indicators of possible exposure to manganese. His study showed Marietta students had significantly worse balance, visual contrast sensitivity, memory and academic performance. The study was always intended to be a pilot and was too small to stand on its own, but suggested that further scrutiny was desperately needed. 

In 2005 when Washington county was reported by the Associated Press to have the worst health risk from air pollution in the nation, Dick learned of a local group working to address the issue and joined their cause. This small band of activists became Neighbors for Clean Air and in 2006 launched a formal good neighbor campaign with Ohio Citizen Action, directed at Eramet. Dick's ability to plow through and make sense of volumes of highly technical documents, his knowledge of human biology and epidemiology and his tenacity were key to the neighbors' victory in August, 2008 when Eramet announced plans to invest $150 million to improve environmental performance at the plant. 

Dick is the Executive Director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department in Parkersburg, WV and lives in Marietta with his wife Dawn and their two children.

Matthew Currie Secretary/Treasurer (Bellbrook) 

After working at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Matt attended Vermont Law School to pursue an interest in environmental and public interest law.  During law school, he led the student chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and has participated in anti-globalization and GE free food campaigns.  After law school, and two clerkships in Alaska, he moved to Ohio and now leads the housing and economic development practice group at Advocates for Basic Legal Equality in Dayton.  Matt also practices in the area of environmental justice, utilizing law to reach social justice goals.

“I tend to find my environmental ethics lining up with that of Social Ecology, which sees the causes of nearly all of our present ecological problems as originating in deep-seated social problems”, he says.

Matt was drawn to Ohio Citizen Action by its good neighbor campaign work, specifically the attributes of decentralism, community control, and direct, face-to-face democracy. “I am honored to be a part of an organization with a rich history in supporting communities’ efforts to protect themselves from pollution and other harmful contamination.”

He is also passionate about global justice issues, local and organic farming, civil liberties, wilderness, and alternative energy issues.

Robert Park (Cincinnati)

Robert Park has spent much of his professional life on occupational health research, giving him a practical focus for his knowledge of biology and toxicology, as well as his analysis and writing skills. He’s conducted many studies, published many papers and even provided technical support on a water contamination lawsuit all in the service of a less-toxic environment and better health. His training and profession provides an excellent foundation for understanding and critically evaluating social policy and helping define a vision that informs a road-map to the future.

He’s been a social-justice activist since participating in student opposition to the Vietnam War in college, has advocated for single-payer healthcare and participated in the Sierra Club Miami Group, Ohio Chapter. He’s also been a member of Ohio Citizen Action since first giving at this door in 1993.

When asked why he’s joining the board, Bob said, “After many years of activism on progressive issues and learning about how society works, and then observing the simultaneous collapse of our political system (which was pretty bad to begin with) and the explosive growth of alt realities on social media, I decided it’s time to get involved in talking to the people again, the way Ohio Citizen Action does.”

In his spare time, Bob enjoys sustainable gardening, outdoor activities including walking, biking, kayaking and cross country skiing.

Brooke Smith (Cincinnati) 

Brooke Smith found her path in life early and has made the most of the few years since starting her career. A Cincinnati native, she wasted no time after graduating from Walnut Hills High School and enrolled at the University of Cincinnati, where she graduated with a BS in Political Science and Government in 2014.

She currently serves as Associate Development Manager at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, where she has worked closely with the AFL-CIO on a variety of events and projects. “I care very deeply about protecting the rights of working people,” she says, “As well as about public education and women’s access to reproductive health care.”

Brooke joined the board because she believes in the fight to protect public health and the environment as well as the importance of a well-run grassroots strategy to win that fight. She brings expertise in community organizing, public policy, and development strategies. When asked about her motivation to work on environmental issues, she quoted photographer Ansel Adams who said, “Once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price”.

Dr. Heather M. Zoller (Cincinnati)

Dr. Heather Zoller is a Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the  Department of Communication at the University of Cincinnati.

Her research in organizational and health communication investigates the politics of public health, with an emphasis on the intersections of community organizing, health activism, and corporate PR/issue management. She focuses on how the social construction of health influences our ability to address the political, economic and environmental roots of health disparities. Topics include corporate health & wellness promotion, occupational heath, environmental health  and sustainability, globalization, power and resistance, identity and gender, dialogue and participation.

Her work appears in Communication Monographs, Communication Theory, Journal of Applied Communication Research, and Communication Yearbook, among others. She is co-editor of the book “Emerging Issues and Perspectives in Health Communication: Meaning, Culture, and Power” with Mohan Dutta.

Dr. Zoller is a Senior Editor at Health Communication. She also serves on the Editorial Board at Journal of Applied Communication Research, Mangement Communication Quarterly, Health Communication, and the Journal of International and Intercultural Communication.

Dr. Zoller teaches undergraduate and graduate courses such as Advanced Communication Theory; Communication and Health Politics; Organizational Identity, Image, and Issue Management; Organizational Communication: Power and Politics; and Dialogue and Communication.

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