“We come together at the Whidbey Institute because we need each other. The work of maturing ourselves, our structures, and the cultures into which we invite new generations is urgent and ongoing." —Heather Johnson


“If you take care of what’s in front of you, close by, then by extension you’re helping to take care of the world.”

—BEno Kennedy, Facilities manager


Staff • Board • Contractors & Volunteers • Senior Fellows

Staff Members

Small team, big hearts, hard work. Our staff works to care for this organization, its spaces and programs, and its future every day. We love what we do, and bring our fullest selves to work for you and for our shared future.

Thomas Arthur

Resident Caretaker

Thomas lives onsite and works with the team to ensure all participants and visitors find a welcoming home at the Institute. He supports the land and facilities, helping to create an environment that facilitates the life-affirming work happening here. As a photographer, filmmaker, contemplative juggler, and teacher of movement awareness, Thomas seeks to inspire a sense of wonder and delight in our relations with Earth and Other.

Noel Bain

Operations Manager

Noel has a strong interest in continuous improvement and making sure processes work. In addition, he is passionate about addressing homelessness, dysfunction in the foster care, system and college debt. Away from work you may see him hiking, sleeping at a musical, or engaged at a community event.

Lynne Carlson

Housekeeping Manager

Lynne oversees our housekeeping team and helps tend our lodging and communal spaces onsite. Horses and horse rescue have a special place in her heart. She enjoys spending time with her human and animal family, being physically active, and drinking gigantic smoothies.

Jessica Fuller

Housekeeping Assistant

Jessica is a member of our housekeeping team. In her spare time, she enjoys sewing, painting, and baking. Jessica also loves gardening, spending time with family, working out, hiking, and enjoying her dog and birds.

Photo © Heather Ramirez

Holly Harlan

Development Lead

Holly is a mission oriented, passionate, and experienced business strategist. Her academic and professional expertise ranges from industrial engineering, manufacturing, and marketing to economic development, business development, and grassroots network development.

Erik Isaacson


Erik joined the team in summer 2017, working on a variety of building maintenance, landscaping, and forest stewardship projects. Erik has a degree from Evergreen State College in business and natural resource stewardship with a minor in land use planning, and recently completed an internship at Sound Experience doing online marketing for their summer programs aboard the schooner Adventuress. He also holds roles with Whidbey Island Waldorf School and Island Athletic Club.

Marnie Jackson

Communications Manager

Marnie has a background in teaching, journalism, editing, blogging, and graphic design and a B.A. from Suffolk University. She has three daughters, a partner, and a number of four-legged family members. Her interests include gardening, boxing, home renovations, rock hunting, vegan cooking, and photography. Her favorite photographic subjects are her dogs, cats, mules, rabbits, and cow.

Heather Johnson

Executive Director

Heather is passionate about ongoing adult development and growing organizations that are committed to positive change. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance, is a graduate of Pacific Integral’s Generating Transformative Change leadership program, and has held previous roles with Sustainable Connections in Bellingham (as founding staff), Sustainable Seattle (as Interim Director), Excellence Northwest (as Interim Director), and Blue Marble Biomaterials (as Director of Finance and Accounting).

Beno Kennedy

Facilities Manager

Beno lives according to a simple philosophy: “if you take care of what’s in front of you, close by, then by extension you’re helping to take care of the world.” Beno has been involved for decades as a volunteer and for several years as a staff member, serving as a handyman/go-to-guy with extensive skills, a creative outlook, and a contagious attitude of honesty, service, and dedication.

Jules LeDrew

Westgarden Steward

Jules LeDrew grew up near Boulder, Colorado and loves nature, plants, and people. She is an instructor at Half Moon Yoga in Langley as well as a clinical herbalist, and holds a premed degree in Herbal Science from Bastyr University. She brings her passion for botanical medicine, Ayurveda, and the potential for thriving human/plant relationships to her work as our Westgarden Steward.


Robert Mellinger

Land Steward

Robert’s academic and professional background includes experience in holistic science, wilderness ecology and education, transformative learning for sustainable living, permaculture design and landscaping, and ecological literacy. In addition to stewarding the land. Robert engages in collaborative organizational strategy, community engagement, and land-based education.

Marta Mulholland

Volunteer Coordinator

Marta is a part-time Volunteer Coordinator for the Whidbey Institute as well as Power of Hope Camp Manager, landscaper, and board member of Sister Island Project and South Whidbey Youth Soccer Club. Her past experience includes co-founding and coordinating volunteers for Calyx School, volunteering with the Peace Corps, teaching English in Guangzhou, China, and working as volunteer coordinator at the Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services. She is active in local arts and theater and is a nationally certified Sign Language interpreter.

Amber Reeves

Housekeeping Assistant

Amber works in housekeeping. She is a dedicated mother of four, and enjoys time with her family, knitting, and jewelry-making.

Madisun Stern

Database and Office Administrator

When she’s not at the Whidbey Insistute keeping our office in order, Madisun runs her own brand of community merrymaking as a freelance events coordinator and operates a non-profit program under the Whidbey Island Arts Council. In her free time, she can be found on a historic pumpkin farm, living as a steward of the Reserve with her husband, a rescued street-to-farm dog, and four hilarious ducks.

Board Members

Our working board goes above and beyond, involving themselves as partners in the daily business of running our Institute. Their sleeves are rolled up, their hearts are invested, and they’re pulling with us every step of the way.

Larisa Benson

Larisa Benson is the convener of the Government Joy Network, ushering in new ways of serving the common good. She coaches executive teams in mindfulness practices, unleashing human potential to thrive in challenging conditions.

Joel de Jong

Joel de Jong is a consultant at Limen and host of the Emerging Future podcast. Combining diverse experience, he approaches projects and life in general with an eco-centric, shared commons mindset that leads with authenticity and integrity and creates space for others to make novel contributions.

Mark Forman

Mark Forman is a film maker, writer, and founder of Forman & Company. He has spent decades storytelling on behalf of mission-driven organizations and projects, and has been donating his services to the Whidbey Institute since 2016.

Sheryl Harmer

Sheryl helps non-profits, businesses, and public entities become stronger and more effective through her work as a principal at MacDonald Boyd and Associates. She also has a passion for social and emotional learning, and is a strategist working on awareness, policy, and practice in that field.

Cole Hoover


Cole is a Social Impact Consultant/Bridge Builder at Ponto in Seattle, and has held former roles as a lecturer at University of Washington Bothell, Director of I’mact Partnerships at Unleesh, and Director of Education at Global Brigades. He is passionate about creating equality of opportunity, and wants to make our land and programs more accessible to many.

Christie Lynk

Christie teaches at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and Seattle University. She’s one of the founders and former Vice President of The Seattle School, and has spent over twenty years offering training and consultation to agencies and individuals through the exploration of vocation and group facilitation.

Barbara Schaetti


Barbara lived on five continents in ten countries before age 18. Her work with Transition Dynamics, a consultancy she founded to serve expatriate and repatriate communities, is informed by her global upbringing. Before joining the Whidbey Institute Board in fall 2013, and in addition to her work with Transition Dynamics, Barbara co-founded Personal Leadership (PL) Seminars and the PL Facilitator Community of Practice.

Phyllis Shulman

Phyllis is a consultant focusing on community resilience and organizational renewal. She is a former Senior Policy Advisor to the Seattle City Counsel, and helped found the Puget Sound Regional Food Policy Council and the Washington State Food Policy Roundtable.

Kate Snider


Kate is principal and owner of Floyd | Snider, Inc., an environmental consulting firm, as well as a certified mediator and former Seattle Girls’ Choir board chair. She’s played a key role in fundraising, event production, and strategic leadership.

Ted Sturdevant


Ted is a voice for inclusion, accessibility, and a broader invitation to constituents around the region. He has spent much of his career in public service, with a focus on environmental policy, including as Director of Legislative Affairs and Policy for Governor Jay Inslee through 2014.

Hilary Wilson

Hilary has served the Whidbey Institute since 2012, first as a graduate student-in-service with Bainbridge Graduate Institute—now known as Pinchot—then as a board member. Earlier this year, she brought her background in fundraising and event planning to a short-term role as Development Consultant, seeing us through the simultaneous launch of a development staff office and a capital campaign.

Contractors & Volunteers

Our community includes countless individuals who pour their time, talent, energy, and wisdom into our organization. Those listed below are especially involved in recent and ongoing work.

Mara Grey

Appletree Garden Steward

Mara Grey is a botanist, Celtic harpist, storyteller, master gardener, and author of The Lazy Gardener and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Flower Gardening. Mara has studied Scottish Gaelic for many years, and enjoys experiencing the world from a multicultural perspective. She values the role of storytelling in work and life. 

Christyn Johnson

Executive Chef

Christyn has a great reverence for food as an integral part of a healthy, balanced life. She has had a long career in fine dining and hospitality as well experience and travel in global vegetarian cuisine. In addition to running the Whidbey Institute kitchen, she owns Raw Indulgence, a gourmet organic raw meal service on Whidbey Island.


Robert Keeney


Bob frequently comes to the land for a day or a week at a time to build trails, remove hazard trees, clear windfall, and support our land care team with his labor, skill, and wisdom. “My personal belief has been that everybody who’s any good at anything ought to float a certain amount of that talent on the water,” he said. “Since the thing I’m best at is being a sort of a forest handyman, that’s what I’ve got to donate.” Bob is also skilled as a machinist, model railroader, and student of nature.

Matt McDowell

Web Designer

Matt McDowell designed and maintains our website, working closely with our team to understand our organization’s audience and needs, shape content decisions, and provide great design solutions as well as ongoing technical support. He lives in Langley with his wife and two sons, and provides design and consultation services to a number of other organizations and businesses in our community and around the nation.

photo © McDowell www.screenthumb.com

Senior Fellows

The Whidbey Institute’s Senior Fellows are individuals whose relationships with the Whidbey Institute have been enduring and formative. We thank them for their commitments not only to this place and its mission, but also to the ongoing evolution of our organizational development, programs, and purpose. Our Fellows continue to teach, facilitate, participate in, and learn from our programs and in our communities.

Sharon Betcher

Sharon Betcher, M. Div., M. Phil., Ph.D., works as an independent scholar and writer.She has specialized in disability or “crip” theology, environmental theology, including an emphasis on emergent urbanism, and progressive Christian, secular, and post-religious theologies. Sharon received her B.A. (1978) in Religion from Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD, and her MDiv (1982) from Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN.  She later studied with Dr. Catherine Keller at the Graduate School of Drew University, receiving her PhD in 1998. While at Drew she served as teaching associate at the Theological School, then moved to Vancouver, BC, where she taught at Vancouver School of Theology (2000-2012).

Larry Parks Daloz

Larry served as the first dean of the Community College of Vermont and taught at Lesley, Norwich, and Columbia Universities. A member of the founding group of the Whidbey Institute, he was an Associate Director and faculty member from 1997 to 2006. He is the double-award winning author of Mentor: Guiding the Journey of Adult Learners, and co-author of Common Fire: Leading Lives of Commitment in a Complex World. He helped develop and facilitate several current and former Institute programs, including Powers of Leadership, Leadership for the New Commons, and Cascadia Climate Collaborative.

Kate Davies

Kate Davies, M.A., D.Phil. has worked on environmental issues for more than 35 years. In the 1980s, she set up and managed Toronto’s (Canada) Environmental Protection Office and in 1990 she established a successful environmental policy consultancy. In 2002, she became core faculty at Antioch University Seattle and in 2007 she was appointed director of its Center for Creative Change. She served in this role for 3 years, taking an early retirement in 2016. Kate is also clinical associate professor at the University of Washington. Her first book, The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health Movement, was selected as one of the top ten books on sustainability published in 2013. Her second book, Intrinsic Hope: Living Courageously in Troubled Times will be published in spring 2018.

Diana Gale

Diana is Senior Lecturer Emeritus at the Evans School of Public Affairs, UW. She has spent 20 years as a department director at the City of Seattle—most recently as director of Seattle Public Utilities. Diana has received several awards regionally and nationally for outstanding civic leadership. Diana served on the Institute board for 6 years and is both an alumna and a former teacher of Powers of Leadership. Along with Larry and Sharon, she led the Institute’s Leadership for the New Commons, a program which has since informed many of the Institute’s programs and practices.

Sharon Daloz Parks

Sharon’s publications include Leadership Can Be Taught: A Bold Approach for a Complex World (2005) and Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Emerging Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith (2011). She served for 16 years in faculty and research positions at Harvard University in the schools of Divinity, Business, and the Kennedy School of Government, and now teaches at Seattle University. She served on the Institute’s founding Board, and as Associate Director and faculty. She helped develop several current and former Institute programs, including Powers of Leadership and Leadership for the New Commons.

John Palka

Johnny is a retired professor of biology at the UW with a specialty in neuroscience, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and recipient of two Fulbright Fellowships for teaching in India and a Guggenheim Fellowship for research in England. He co-founded and co-directed the UW’s Program on the Environment and authored My Slovakia, My Family: One Family’s Role in the Birth of a Nation as well as over 60 research papers and book chapters. He served 6 years on our board and was the main organizer of the annual Lyceum Lecture Series, a collaboration of the Whidbey Institute with other organizations.

“One of my greatest passions is to build a sense of belonging in the world—a sense of belonging to ourselves, belonging with each other, and belonging on Earth, and that’s what I get to work on every day! I love bringing people together to have deep conversations about what matters most.”

—Dan Mahle, former staff member