A welcome message from our Founder: Why and How I Got Here

Since I was a child, I found myself enamored with wildlife. My entire professional and educational careers revolved around understanding and communicating across perspectives on all sides of many issues in order to find solutions. Now I get to apply that passion and all my experiences, along with my film and multimedia skills, to explore human-wildlife conflict and common ground issues with you. I'm honored to meet amazing experts, people and wildlife. I get to share their stories. Join me on my dream journey, WildSides, as we take documentary and educational multimedia to a new place!


Jeffrey Mittelstadt

Jeff is the founder and President of WildSides. His goal is to use his background in policy, economics, business, higher education and documentary journalism to cover human-wildlife conflict issues like they've never been covered before. He has worked in many different sectors and has always emphasized stakeholder engagement and understanding.

Jeff was Davidson College's first Director of Sustainability. He worked for the U.S. EPA's Office of Inspector General in Research Triangle Park evaluating national air quality programs. He was a vice president and senior analyst at Bank of America working on green building, sustainable purchasing, green cleaning, renewable energy and more. Jeff designed, implemented, and managed a national sustainable manufacturing initiative for a D.C. nonprofit, the National Council for Advanced Manufacturing. The U.S. Department of Commerce appointed him to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Advisory Expert Group on Sustainable Manufacturing and Eco-Innovation. He is very excited to teach at Winston-Salem State University; including Food and Sustainability Communications, Media Writing and Law & Ethics of Mass Communication.

Jeff is honored to currently serve on the High Point Theatre Advisory Board, the leadership of the Food Security Fund in High Point, and has served on boards such as the Davidson Farmers' Market and the start-up incubator Project for Innovation, Energy and Sustainability (PiES). He earned a master's degree in journalism and mass communication at UNC-Chapel Hill where he worked on the 2011 Powering A Nation team to make the award-winning interactive documentary Coal: A Love Story. He holds the following degrees: B.A. in Psychology from Davidson College (1999); Master of Environmental Management, concentrating in Resource Economics and Policy, from the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Science at Duke University (2003); M.B.A., concentrating in Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Enterprise, from Kenan-Flagler Business School at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2007); and M.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2012).

Awards and Film Festivals

Staring Down Fate

  • Official selection and winner of "Best Feature Film" across all genres at the Sunrise 45 Film Festival in Alpena, MI.

  • Official selection, winner of Atman Award for Diversity, and nominated for Best Feature Documentary and Best Southern States Film at the Southern States Indie FanFilmFest in Biloxi, MS.

  • Official selection and Honorable Mention (2nd Place) Feature Documentary at the Southern City Film Festival in Aiken, SC

  • Official selection by the Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles, CA.

  • Official selection by the Canadian Diversity Film Festival in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

North Atlantic Right Whale

Part of Powering A Nation team that created CoalALovestory.com

WildSides Action Board

We have put together an all-star Board of Advisors! We call it the WildSides Action Board.

 Penny Abernathy

Penny Abernathy

Penelope (Penny) Muse Abernathy, a journalism professional with more than 30 years of experience as a reporter, editor and media executive, became the Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the UNC School of Media and Journalism July 1, 2008.

Abernathy, a Laurinburg, N.C., native and former executive at The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, specializes in preserving quality journalism by helping the news business succeed economically in the digital media environment. 

At Carolina, Abernathy focuses her expertise on 21st-century economic models that will improve the ability of journalists to produce news in the public interest. Her book, Saving Community Journalism: The Path to Profitability was published by UNC Press in 2014 and is based on five years of research, involving more than two dozen newspapers around the country.

As a senior executive, Abernathy oversaw the launch of new enterprises and helped increase revenue at some of the nation's most prominent news organizations and publishing companies, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Harvard Business Review. Prior to joining the school, she was vice president and executive director of industry programs at the Paley Center for Media in New York City. 

Before moving to the business side of the industry, Abernathy served as a newspaper reporter or editor at several daily newspapers, including The Charlotte Observer, The Greensboro News & Record, The Dallas Times-Herald, The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, The Fayetteville Times and The Laurinburg Exchange.

She has a BA in History from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and MBA and MS from Columbia University.  She attended the School of Journalism at UNC at Chapel Hill, also.


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Laura Hajar

Laura created and runs her own photography business: Laura Hajar Photography. She attended the Salt Center for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, where she developed her love of story-telling through photography.

She spent the next 5 years shooting for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. While living in Memphis, Laura also worked with world-renowned fine art photographer William Eggleston and launched her freelance career. A trip to El Salvador to document pediatric palliative care options in the developing world inspired Laura to pursue a master's degree in Public Health at Boston University. Laura completed her MPH in 2012 and continues to photograph issues around public health and social justice for various non-profit organizations.

When she's not behind her camera, Laura can be found spending time with her silly dog Utah.




Shannon Hay

Shannon is currently working as an educator for Oxford Community Schools. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education with endorsements in Math and Science from Oakland University. She began teaching 6th grade math that next year at a charter middle school in Detroit, MI. After two years with that district, she she earned her Master’s degree in Educational Studies with special focus on the teaching methods and philosophies of the International Baccalaureate.

She now teaches at Oxford Elementary School, where she brings her passions for science, technology, and lifelong learning to her 5th grade classroom. Recently, she worked with her students to build a 3D printer and create a bioactive vivarium for one of her many class pets. She also works with students outside her classroom through facilitating the school’s Student Council, after school Code Club, and private math tutoring. Outside of work, Shannon spends her time with her husband and three daughters, and enjoys a myriad of hobbies.


Nora Krol

Nora earned a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and International Business from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) and worked as a Commercial Loan Officer for 5 years. She then obtained certification in Elementary teaching from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and taught Elementary and Middle School Spanish. 

Recently, she earned a Master’s degree in Educational Studies through Oakland University. She was part of an International Baccalaureate Cohort there and applies the inquiry-based, student-centered teaching methods in her classroom. She has been impressed by the deep thinking and conversations that WildSides’ documentaries have inspired in her students, as well as by the action that her students desire to take to make this world a better place. 

Nora now teaches Spanish at Lakeville Elementary in her hometown of Oxford, Michigan. She and her husband Gary are also kept busy enjoying life with three amazing and talented young adult children.


Henry McKoy

Henry McKoy is a seasoned professional in community and economic development, policy, government, finance, corporate, and nonprofit leadership. He is the former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for the state of North Carolina. Prior to entering government, Henry was an award-winning business and banking leader with more than fifteen-years of banking experience and community financial development at the local, regional, and national levels. He spent more than a decade as an executive with Central Carolina, National Commerce, and Suntrust Banks, as they grew from small regional state banks to one of the top 15 largest financial institution in the United States.

Since leaving Suntrust (National Commerce) in 2004, Henry has served as founder and President of a national consulting and financial advisory firm. Henry has served on over three dozen public and charitable boards and commissions from the local to the international level including the NC Economic Development Board, the NC Energy Policy Council, Stop Hunger Now, the Durham Workforce Development Board, the Southern Growth Policies Board, NCCU Business School Board of Visitors, and the White House Business Council, among others. He is considered a thought leader on social entrepreneurship, sustainability and impact investing, being invited by various organizations from local chambers to the White House to discuss the topic. 

In 1999, Henry co-founded a nonprofit think tank (OneVoice Institute of Business and Entrepreneurship – OneVibe) focused on educating and introducing low-income and underrepresented youth to entrepreneurship careers after completing research on the incredible disparity and gaps between investments and operations of minority-led firms versus non-minority-led firms. Over the years he has worked with the National Science Foundation, numerous school systems and universities, organizations like the YMCA, and public housing authorities on these efforts, along with major corporations like Cisco Systems, SAS, private equity firms and banks. 

Henry studied computer science, economics, and business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; holds a Master’s Degree from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment; and is currently ABD towards a Doctorate in Economic Development and Impact Investing at UNC-Chapel Hill.


Eric Mittelstadt

Eric Mittelstadt served General Motors for 29 years in various engineering, planning and general management positions for the Corporate Engineering Staff, Chevrolet, and the Overseas Group. The latter included Director of Car Product Planning for Europe and Managing Director of GM Uruguay, which was essentially a stand-alone business. Because he took the latter company to industry leadership, he was asked in 1982 to be the founding CEO of GMFanuc Robotics.  With a culture of “Trust through Caring, Sharing, and Respect”, he also drove that joint venture to become the industry leader in 1984, which it remains to this day. 

He retired as Chairman Emeritus in 1999 to consult and serve on the boards of several companies and volunteer organizations. As president of Mittelstadt Associates, Inc., he has helped both profit and non-profit organizations achieve success in leadership, planning, strategy and implementation, member/customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and financial performance. In 2005 to 2010 he was CEO of the National Council for Advanced Manufacturing (NACFAM), a non-profit policy research/awareness organization in Washington, DC. NACFAM works with all stakeholders to develop recommendations for government actions to improve US manufacturing competitiveness. 

He has been Chairman of seven non-profit boards, and a Board member for seven other non-profits and six for-profit corporations. Mittelstadt has a BME from General Motors Institute, MBA from Wayne State University, completed the Tuck Executive Program at Dartmouth, and was listed in Who’s Who in Manufacturing and Who’s Who in Entrepreneurs.

Emmett Weindruch

Emmett Weindruch is an intellectual property attorney at Moore & Van Allen.  His work focuses on helping clients, which range from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, protect and obtain value from their ideas, inventions, and technology.  He is frequently involved in a wide variety of business transactions that have an intellectual property or technology component and also assists clients with trademark and copyright matters.

Before becoming a lawyer, Emmett was a high school physics teacher in his hometown, Washington, D.C.

Emmett earned a BS in Physics from Davidson College, where he conducted research on the efficiency of solar cells.  He has a law degree from Boston College Law School, and after graduating law school, worked at an international intellectual property law firm in Boston.

Emmett lives in Charlotte with his wife and two daughters. In his spare time, he enjoys listening to live music and spending time outdoors with his family.

Will Witherspoon.jpg

Will Witherspoon

As a 12-year NFL veteran, Will provided invaluable leadership as a linebacker for St. Louis Rams. The versatile defender was a sideline-to-sideline player who was remarkably durable over his 12 years in the NFL. Career highlights include producing 32 double-digit tackle games, a career-best 16 tackles in Super Bowl XXXVIII and in 2007 was named the Rams MVP after leading the team with 136 tackles and tallying a career-high 7 sacks. Will also played for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tennessee Titans. He was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft from the University of Georgia. As a captain with the NFL Players Association he coordinates and assists current and former players in their transition from the game and into life both during and after football.

Will dedicates his time to his business and passion, Shire Gate Farm. As owner of this 500-acre, grass-fed cattle farm in Missouri, Will is vocal about producing organic and healthy products. Shire Gate raises cattle the way nature intended, on grass, and without growth hormones, antibiotics or other unnatural additives. Shire Gate is certified by Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) and has gained notoriety for its use of sustainable farming techniques.

Additionally, Will has been taking MBA classes at George Washington University, is a devoted father to three daughters, has spoken at Congress briefings about the routine use of antibiotics in livestock production and was named one of the 50 Sexiest Environmentalists by Rodale Publishing group in 2012!

Amazing Partners


Mandy Barrett

Mandy designed our logo and branding. She worked diligently and patiently with us as we honed in on the perfect design. The name WildSides conveys our wildlife focus and the attention we give to the many sides of human-wildlife conflict issues. We decided on the play button to illustrate the film and multimedia aspects of our work. Mandy brilliantly led us through this process and provided us with our beautiful logo. She also designed the official movie poster for our award-winning documentary film, Staring Down Fate. Thank you, Mandy!

Prior to launching her own design agency, Mandy worked in the publishing field, in packaging design and at a marketing agency. 16 years of experience, plus an innate ability to identify her clients’ objectives, has helped cement her agency as the go-to favorite for her many clients. Much of Mandy’s success can be chalked up to a single factor: She absolutely loves what she does. It’s more than her career; her desire to create beautiful things is simply part of who she is.

Staring Down Fate Co-Storyline Editor

Bobby Bailey

Bobby Bailey is a filmmaker based in North Carolina. He is best known for his films and contributions as a co-founder to the non-profit, youth movement company Invisible Children and his involvement as co-founder of Global Poverty Project USA. Bobby tends to lead with the heart in his content. Facts have a way of changing over time but that shared place of inwardness that has felt tragedy and warmth wakes up when confronted with a story that fans the flame of our heart.

Youth Storytellers

Corvin and Jakki Davis, D-UP

D-UP Inc. founders Corvin and Jakki, board of directors, staff, and volunteers commit to providing quality, fun, and structured activities for youth and adults in a safe environment that fosters courage, hope, belief, and pride to live healthier lifestyles; take advantage of educational opportunities; navigate through life; and become productive citizens in their communities. D-UP Inc. is a grassroots organization established in 2007 and incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit in 2010 providing services across the Triad. In 2011, D-UP moved to Washington Street in High Point and has operated youth programs in the community offering a variety of services and programs with emphasis on physical activity, nutrition, academics, and character including life and soft skills.

Student Interns, Independent Studies and Class Projects


Andy Caress (Summer, 2018)

Andy Caress is studying graphic design at Virginia Commonwealth University School for the Arts. He enjoys making connections, whether that's through journalism or graphic design. He dreams to work at AKQA, Blind or Pentagram; but for now, he intends on getting the most out of his college experience at one of the best art universities in America.


Erica Krol (Spring, 2018)

Erica recently graduated from Alma College with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a minor in writing. She hopes to pursue a career in science writing and communication in order to reach those who may not be as familiar with the sciences. Erica believes that making prevalent scientific topics available to everyone is especially important in society today. Through her internship with WildSides, Erica explored the process of storytelling through the 5 articles she wrote on the important topic of pesticides and endangered species.


Heather Frankel (Spring, 2017)

Scott Hardesty  (Spring, 2017)


Gabriel Maisonnave (Fall, 2017)

When he was 12 he hosted his own radio show in his hometown in Argentina. Life then took him in other directions and he didn’t touch a microphone until he started a MA in Media and Journalism with a certificate in Conflict Resolution at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill as part of the Rotary Peace Fellowship. Now, Gabriel manages 88.5 WFDD’s Education Programs and helps students of all ages to tell their own stories. It’s been a wild ride but he knows that everything has led him here to help collect stories of people way more interesting than him (his words).


Madison Verrone (Summer, 2016)

Hi! My name is Madison and I am a rising sophomore at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. Currently, I am majoring in zoology and minoring in journalism. Strange, yes. What will I do with that? I am not exactly sure. All I know is that I have a passion for animals, wildlife, writing and media. So here I am, creating a blog for this fantastic organization. I am thrilled to combine my two passions through producing a creative outlet like this.

Katherine Boliek (Spring, 2016)

Katherine is a graphic designer based out of Raleigh, NC. She recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She specializes in web design, motion graphics and infographics.




Ally Levine (Spring, 2016)

Ally is a student studying graphic design in the School of Media and Journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill.  She became interested in storytelling upon discovering its ability to connect people. Through practicing graphic design, she often found that visuals could tell a story better than words.  In addition to visual storytelling, she enjoys climbing mountains and trying new food.


Justin Wynn (Spring, 2016)

Hello name is Justin Wynn and I am from Roanoke Rapids NC. Currently I am studying Multi Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill part of the graduating class of 2018. I am currently unsure of my plans after college, but during my undergraduate time I want to continue making the most out of any opportunities available to me at this prestigious university.


WildSides Champions

Ally Level

An enormous heart-felt thank you to all our anonymous donors at the Ally level and to:

Anne Parsons Muren

Cameron Feaster

DB Bird Estates

Julie Lestrud

The Fisher Family

Susan Bardet

Mark Dunn

In honor of Eric & Susanne Mittelstadt