Meet The Team

James McMahon, Chief Executive Officer

James McMahonAs CEO of The Collider, James McMahon leverages his experience with public, private, nonprofit, and academic sectors to build and serve the global climate services enterprise. He began his career in global change by studying physics at Harvard University, and atmospheric chemistry at MIT under the guidance of Nobel Laureate Mario Molina. At MIT, his focus was investigating heterogeneous mixed-phase reaction rates relevant to polar stratospheric ozone depletion.

He developed his business and technology management skills at Coca-Cola in a number of roles, including managing the company’s consumer marketing technology group for the U.S. James also has small business experience as COO and CEO of three companies, including a web development firm, a social networking startup, and a publicly traded marketing services venture.

Most recently he was a consultant for LMI, a nonprofit consultancy, and provided advice and assistance to the Director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. During his time there, he was a co-author with NOAA scientists of a paper published in the journal Science that challenged a “hiatus” in global warming. The study set off a firestorm of controversy by climate change skeptics. A recent study concluding that James and his former colleagues at NOAA were right drew significant media attention worldwide.

James is President of the Harvard Club of Western North Carolina and Treasurer on the Board of Directors of the Education and Research Consortium (ERC) of the Western Carolinas. He also serves as a small business mentor for the Venture Asheville Elevate program, and as choir director at Congregation Beth Ha Tephila.


Megan O’Connor Robinson, Executive Director

Megan RobinsonMegan Robinson is the Executive Director of The Collider, working on internal strategic development of programming, membership, coworking, and events. She is the key contact for anyone interested in cowork or office space at The Collider and the many benefits of membership with the organization.

Megan is passionate about expanding The Collider’s impact on climate resiliency, both locally in Asheville and globally. Prior to joining The Collider team, she was a consultant with LMI, a nonprofit consultancy, and was the program and policy analyst for the Deputy Director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Megan earned her Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and her Masters of Science in Environmental Science from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Megan also serves on the board of The RUN828 Foundation, a nonprofit working to promote healthy, active, outdoor opportunities for individuals and families in Western North Carolina.


Kathi M. Petersen, Director of Communications

Kathi PetersenKathi Petersen oversees internal and external communications for The Collider and serves as the organization’s media and speaker’s bureau contact. Prior to joining The Collider, Kathi served as Executive Director of Operations and Senior VP of Corporate & Public Relations for the 23-county economic development commission AdvantageWest, whose programs included entrepreneurial funding and development, the green and clean-tech economy, food and natural products, and advanced manufacturing, among others.

With a Master’s degree in Public Administration and a B.S. degree in Communications Media, Kathi’s previous positions also include Director of Corporate Communications for the 1,000-employee CarePartners Health Services and Director of Advertising & Marketing at WLOS-TV. In addition, she provided communications services for a wide variety of industry segments across the country for more than a decade through her consultancy, KP Communications, from film and food festivals to green building, tourism, natural products, environmental groups, medicine, and the outdoor industry.

Kathi is a graduate of Leadership Asheville and the recipient of numerous awards for her work. She has volunteered her communications expertise for countless nonprofit and community organizations. A former member of the Asheville Hub Alliance Board, she volunteers with Mountain Area Radio Reading Service and Asheville Downtown Association.


Leah Donatelli, Office & Events Manager

leah-donatelli-website-11-16Leah Donatelli plans and manages events for The Collider including venue rentals for meetings, conferences, workshops, and receptions. She also coordinates the weekly PercCollider gathering, an informal coffee hour for those in climate services and the community at large, as well as events ranging from the monthly State of the Climate briefing to Beer City Science Pub with Asheville Museum of Science and the new Oskar Blues Presents Movie Night at The Collider.

Leah earned a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in design, business, and entrepreneurship from Appalachian State University and has served as a wedding planner for the past three years. Before joining The Collider, Leah worked in Asheville with the advertising agency, Market Connections, as Special Projects Coordinator in the PR department, focused in communications and event coordination.

Outside of The Collider Leah can be found with the Blue Ridge Alumnae of Zeta Tau Alpha as Vice President of Collegiate Relations collaborating alumnae support with regional collegiate chapters. She also enjoys serving her time on a discernment committee with The Cathedral of All Souls and participating in Integrare, an integration of young adults across the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina.


Jacqueline Lowe, Membership Coordinator

Jacqueline LoweJacqueline Lowe is The Collider’s Membership Coordinator, facilitating connections among members and helping to ensure that members benefit from their association with The Collider. She is a contact for those interested in membership, and for members with questions or ideas.

Jacqueline grew up in Germany (thus, the pronunciation of her name as “Jac-que-LEEN”). She moved here to attend UNC Asheville, where she graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Policy and Management. She is certified in GIS (Geospatial Information Systems), and interned with NEMAC to interpret, create, and deliver geographic data. Prior to joining The Collider, Jacqueline worked as a GIS Technician with Clark Nexsen in Virginia Beach. She has been a volunteer with the Sierra Club and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and in her free time enjoys singing first soprano with Asheville Symphony Chorus.


Meredith Miles, Administrative Assistant

Meredith MilesAs a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, The Collider benefits greatly from Meredith’s experience helping lead other nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining The Collider, she was a founding board member of the nonprofit Cherokee Seed Corn, Inc., a homeless veterans housing project, and of Solid Rock Outreach, a nonprofit food pantry.

Meredith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with focuses on psychology, sociology, and philosophy. During her studies at the University of Texas, Meredith was involved with various student organizations serving as coordinating fundraiser. She has also worked professionally in the community mental health and the criminal legal systems.


Cory Thompson, Communications Intern

Cory Thompson assists The Collider with digital communications, event promotion, writing, photography, and other communications tasks. He was provided to The Collider with funding through the Backpacks to Briefcases program, the goal of which is to keep talent in our region while also helping recent college graduates who are unemployed or underemployed.

Cory earned a degree in Mass Communication from UNC Asheville, where he was a former editor with the student newspaper, The Blue Banner, and started his own publication, The Asheville Current. Outside of The Collider, Cory splits his time between performing as a stand-up comic and working to perfect his North Asheville garden, which he documents as a comedy sketch on YouTube.


Luke Shealy, Office & Event Assistant

Luke Shealy is a senior at North Buncombe High School. He assists with various Collider functions both behind the scenes and at official events.

Luke was the head organizer for the Asheville March for Science in April 2017, an event that gathered more than 1,200 people to learn about and support science in Western North Carolina. Luke also set up the composting program at his school that mitigates over 350 pounds of food waste from ending up in the landfill each week.

Luke is interested in and concerned about how climate change will impact global water availability in the coming years. He will be studying engineering at North Carolina State University with plans to focus on environmental engineering.