Academy for the Love of Learning

About Us


Hover over the portraits and you will find out something about each individual.

Aaron Stern, Director and Founder Aaron Stern - Academy Founder and Director, Leader of Core Faculty

Aaron Stern conceived the Academy with famed musician Leonard Bernstein, and serves as its President. As educational leader of the Academy, Stern designed and directs the Academy's core curriculum and foundational program, Leading by Being®.
Aaron is a composer, teacher, and internationally recognized consultant on learning. He conducts consultancies and seminars throughout the United States and in Europe, and is a board member of the Mind & Life Institute.

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James Bampfield James Bampfield - Core Faculty and Senior Consultant, Ventana Group

James is a member of the core facilitation team and leads the Leading By Being® training in Europe. He is also a Senior Consultant with the Ventana Group. He is the co-director of the Europe-based consulting partnership, Quinx.

A graduate of Cambridge University and the University of Surrey, he has an MS in Change Agent Skills and Strategies.

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Acushla Bastible, Lifesongs Acushla Bastible - Lifesongs Co-Director, Faculty

Acushla is the co-director and co-founder of Lifesongs, the latest addition to the Academy’s Arts and Community Engagement programs.

A multidisciplinary performance artist – actor, stage director, writer, animateur, and educator - Acushla is also an Artistic Affiliate with Littleglobe, and was until recently an Artistic Associate with The Santa Fe Opera. She is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris.

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Seth Biderman Seth Biderman - Manager, Academy’s Institute for Teachers

Seth works with the Academy’s programs for teachers and schools, including Teacher Renewal and El Otro Lado in the Schools, and researches emerging forms of education.

A graduate of Santa Fe’s public schools, Seth holds a BA from Brown University and a Master’s in Writing from the University of New Mexico. He has over ten years experience as a classroom teacher and administrator in public and private schools.

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Eleanor Boehler Eleanor Boehler - Staff and Advisor Emeritus

Eleanor has been staff, friend and advisor for the Academy since its inception. She was part of the circle that supported the early development of the Academy.

She is involved with staff development, research and developing practical applications of Academy philosophy within her own home community of Galena, Illinois.

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Kevin Brown - Graphic Design

Kevin works closely with Communications to assist Academy staff, program coordinators, and facilitators in the creation of various forms of marketing collateral.
A recipient of the Joseph A. Breaux Scholarship, Kevin earned a Master’s degree in Architecture from Tulane University in New Orleans, an ideal locale for the study of art and architecture. He has spent the past 15 years in the graphic design profession creating innovative designs.

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Kim Carr Kim Carr - Administrative Assistant 

Kim supports all aspects of the Academy’s day-to-day operations, including key assistance with facilities and public relations.

Kim holds a BA in Writing and Literature from Vermont College, via Union Institute & University. She has over 10 years’ experience in high-level administrative support. Her background includes music, theater, writing, and the healing arts.

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Lisa Faithorn Lisa Faithorn - Adjunct Faculty 

Lisa is a research anthropologist, organization consultant and educator.

She works with groups and organizations in the US and abroad, focusing on individual and organizational transformation, collaborative group problem-solving and the development of effective team dynamics.

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isoke Femi Isoke Femi - Adjunct Faculty 

Isoke is co-founder and director of the Todos Institute. She co-authored No Boundaries, a manual for intercultural alliance building, and developed Leading With Soul, a curriculum for cultural leadership.

For over 25 years Isoke has worked with hundreds of groups throughout the United States, supporting them to appreciate and engage difference.

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Matthew Fox Matthew Fox - Visiting Scholar

Matthew has been the Academy’s Visiting Scholar since 2007. He is a key advisor to Aaron Stern in the development of the Academy’s core curriculum and programming.
A spiritual theologian, Episcopal priest and activist, Matthew is internationally acclaimed for renewing the tradition of Creation Spirituality. He has authored thirty books and been translated into 48 languages. Works include the best-selling Original Blessing and The A.W.E Project, which lays the elements for a revolution in education.

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David Gordon David Gordon - Director of Academy Center Development

David is the Director of Academy Center Development, a member of the Board of Directors and a 30 year practicing fine artist. He was part of the circle that supported the early development of the Academy.
David oversaw the construction and collaborated with Aaron on the Academy Campus, as well as designing and making by hand the mosaic waterfall in the lobby. Currently, he continues to beautify our buildings and grounds.

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Anja Hueber Anja Hueber - Adjunct Faculty

Anja co-facilitates Leading by Being® in Europe, and is on the Ventana team. She is co-founder of the Europe-based consultancy, Quinx, and she is active in a range of innovative training and consulting projects.

A graduate of the Institute of Applied Sciences in Utrecht, Anja completed post-graduate studies in transpersonal psychology, also in the Netherlands.

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Thomas Jaggers Thomas Jaggers - Academy Steward and Faculty

Thomas has been at the Academy for more than 11 years, and during that time has been involved in every aspect of the Academy’s programs and management. He is now a member of the Academy’s Stewardship Team, sits on the Academy faculty, and is a Ventana consultant. With Molly Sturges he is developing new programming at the Academy: Our Sacred Bodies program series will explore the relationship between our individual bodies, the body of humanity and the body of our home, the Earth.

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Reta Lawler Reta Lawler - Adjunct Faculty, Advisor

Reta is a member of the Academy’s adjunct faculty and was part of the circle that supported the early development of the Academy.

Her Coming Full Circle training, exploring a contemplative approach to death and dying, is part of the Academy’s core curriculum. Reta is fully ordained in the Zen Buddhist lineage.

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Patty Lee Patty Lee - Teacher Renewal Faculty

Adopting the curriculum developed by Aaron Stern, Patty coordinates and serves as lead facilitator of the Academy’s Teacher Renewal Program.

Patty holds a doctorate in Special Education and Educational Leadership from the University of Kansas. She was a teacher for over 40 years in public schools, higher education, and most recently at the Santa Fe Community College.

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Catherine Messier Catherine Messier - Operations Manager

Catherine joins the Academy team filling a new operations management role for the organization.

She has worked extensively with non profit organizations, national park and government projects as well as international hospitality corporations.

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Marianne Murray Marianne Murray - Core Faculty

A core facilitator and member of the Academy Board, Marianne co-facilitates Leading by Being, and designs and leads the Heart of Action workshop series.

For the past 14 years, Marianne has been intimately involved with the development of the Academy’s core curriculum. She has a Ph.D in Transformative Learning and Change in Human Systems and a MA in Transpersonal Psychology.

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Patty Nagle Patty Nagle - Managing Director, Faculty

Patty oversees coordination of all operations at the Academy, and facilitates workshops focused on disorientation and the “power of slowing.”

Patty has extensive experience in the areas of event production, management and operations within the non-profit sector. She received her B.S. in  Health, Physical Education and Recreation – Exercise Science from Pennsylvania State University.

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Mark Nicolson Mark Nicolson - Senior Consultant, Ventana Group

Mark Nicolson is a Senior Consultant with the Ventana Group. He has been consulting and teaching for the last two decades on transformative leadership in organizations and individuals. His clients include corporations, partnerships, VCs, and social change visionaries.

Mark has recently worked with IDEO, BALLE, Humanity United, and the Ella Baker Center, as well as with Desmond Tutu and his family foundation.

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Tina Olson Tina Olson - Finance and Administration

Tina oversees the Academy’s finances, and plays a key role in supporting administrative decisions.

Tina holds degrees in Art, Music, and Industrial Design. Her background and experience are in graphic art, book and product design, production, and project management, bookkeeping and finance. 

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Chrissie Orr Chrissie Orr - Director, El Otro Lado; Faculty

Co-conceiver of El Otro Lado, a cornerstone of the Academy’s Arts and Community Engagement work, Chrissie facilitates various Academy programs and workshops.

Chrissie was born in Scotland, a descendant of the Picts (the painted ones). She is an artist, animateur and creative investigator focused on developing a relational aesthetic around community and site with issues relevant to both.

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Michelle Oterio Michelle Otero - Adjunct Faculty

Michelle Otero is a writer, actor, teacher, and facilitator, who utilizes creative expression and storytelling as the basis for organizational development and positive social change.
Michelle’s process of engaging individuals and communities through the expression of shared story has found a wide range of applications, from helping conservation organizations better understand the priorities of traditional land based communities to helping people heal from trauma.

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Marita Prandoni Marita Prandoni - Program Support

Marita Prandoni works in program support, ensuring a welcoming reception for program participants and facilitators. She works principally to provide fresh, organic meals for events and programs—choosing local, seasonal ingredients whenever possible.

She holds a BA in German and is fluent in German, French, Spanish and Italian. She also works as a language tutor and medical interpreter for injured workers.

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Marissa Roybal Marissa Roybal - Program and Office Coordinator

Marissa coordinates the logistical operations of the Academy, including providing key support for programs and facilities.

Marissa has 30+ years experience providing customer service, administrative support, bookkeeping, event production and more. Marissa is a native New Mexican, and attended the Art Institute of Seattle and the Santa Fe Community College.

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Alysha Shaw Alysha Shaw - Lifesongs Program Coordinator

Alysha coordinates the administrative aspects of the Lifesongs program, and helps facilitate the evolving artistic directions and growth of the program as directed by the Lifesongs leadership.
Alysha is an interdisciplinary artist, musician, and community organizer. She has studied and worked with performance and music for the majority of her life, as well as video, interactive arts, sculpture, installation, and writing.

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Jessica Smyser Jessica Smyser - Director Marketing and Communications

Jessica works closely with staff and faculty to vision, plan, and implement the Academy’s marketing and communications strategy across all program areas.
Jessica graduated from Smith College with a BA in American Studies. She has several years experience in marketing, communications, events planning and program management in both music industry and the field of higher education. She is a candidate for a Master's Degree in Ethical Leadership from Claremont Lincoln University.

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Molly Sturges, Lifesongs Molly Sturges - Lifesongs Co-Director, Faculty

Molly is the artistic co-director and co-founder of Lifesongs and a member of the Academy faculty.
Composer, artistic director, performer, storyteller and facilitator, Molly is known for her cross-generational work with intermedia performance, storytelling, creative community dialogue, and social/environmental equity and healing. She is Founding Artistic Director of Littleglobe, and has an MA in music composition from Wesleyan University.

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Livia Drapkin Vanaver Livia Drapkin Vanaver - Adjunct Faculty

Livia is a Faculty Member with the Academy, working on projects in Rosendale, New York, and in Sedona, Arizona, in the development of our in-depth teacher/artist exploration, "Teaching from the Art-Part of Ourselves".
She is co-Artistic Director of The Vanaver Caravan Dancers and Music Company and has toured the world offering concerts and workshops in world and contemporary dance with live music.

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Donald VanHowten Donald VanHowten - Adjunct Faculty

Donald VanHowten, or “Van,” is a facilitator in the Academy’s Leading by Being, and an adjunct member of the faculty.

Van is an Ayurvedic practitioner, Feldenkrais® teacher and certified massage therapist instructor. He has been in the field of bodywork and personal development for 40 years, is an associate instructor at the Ayurvedic Institute In New Mexico, and teaches worldwide.

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David L. Witt David L. Witt - Curator, Seton Legacy Project

David manages the preservation and public sharing of the writings, artwork and artifacts related to the life and legacy of artist/naturalist/writer Ernest Thompson Seton.

Founder of the New Mexico Art History Conference (1996) and former curator of UNM’s Harwood Museum of Art in Taos (1979-2005), David has written and produced scores of exhibitions and articles on the art and art history of New Mexico.

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