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“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, FORMER Facilities manager

Team

Staff • BoardEmployment Opportunities

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. Many hold multiple roles in our self-organizing system. You can click the photos or links below to see all the ways they serve.

Cathy Buller

Donation Caretaker – and more (she/her). After many years as a Whidbey Institute program participant and volunteer, Cathy now works on our fundraising, database, and community event projects. Her past work in eco-outreach, workshop planning, and regulatory compliance helped connect businesses, communities, and agencies to practical changes that made a difference. Cathy’s workmates, friends, and family help ground her passions and hopes. She’s a board member at Sound Circle Center, a Waldorf adult education institute. Rowing on Seattle’s Duwamish River helps keep her happy. Engaging in ways to be a better human keeps her humble and inspired.

Madisun Elizabeth Clark

Madisun is the Director of Operations of the Whidbey Institute after working with the team in a variety of roles since 2016. In these years, Madisun has gained the unique knowledge and skillset to maintain the functionality, efficiency and continuity that impacts every faucet of the Whidbey Institute.

Prior to joining our team, Madisun has had a vast range of experiences including venue management, large-scale festival production, wedding and event planning, dressmaking and costume design, sustainable agriculture, and has held various administrative roles for non-profit organizations.

In the community, Madisun is a well known event organizer and merrymaker. She is involved with a collective of local artists who create larger than life scenescapes and props using repurposed and up-cycled materials, which are installed as imaginariums at events around the region. In her spare time, Madisun cannot be found because she disappears into the forest, down a beach, or into her own garden.

Snow Dragonwyck

Snow Dragonwyck is the bookkeeper here at The Whidbey Institute, and is responsible for all of the internal financial tracking and reporting. She’s been an accounting professional for 10+ years, with a focus on small businesses and nonprofits. Snow has experience in a variety of fields—from working in construction to working for an art gallery—all of which have helped her build a professional knowledge base, as well as provided a great synergy, for her current role.

Andy Fling

Andy is a transplant from New Hampshire who fell in love with Whidbey Island the moment he stepped foot on it many moons ago. He is a writer, game designer, cook, actor, and can balance pretty much anything he can lift with one hand. He started at the Whidbey Institute in the kitchen and is very excited to take on his new roles in registration and administration.

Lety Hopper

Lety’s professional interests range from science and marine biology to climate action and social service work. She is passionate about food security and affordable housing as it relates to homelessness, and explored both during a previous position with a community land trust on Orcas Island. She has extensive international living and travel experience, including as a translator for the Kuna Yala Indians in the San Blas islands during a colleague’s climate impact writing project. She is a proud mom who considers raising an amazing young woman to be her greatest accomplishment, and shares that her daughter is currently attending UW.

Timothy Hull

Timothy has had a long relationship with the Institute. For many years he worked on the land now called “Legacy Forest” building the trail system, the outdoor Theater at Storyhouse, and as the number one helper on the big remodel of Storyhouse itself. Over the years he has welcomed and worked closely with with groups as they arrived on the land including managing the Power Of Hope camps and as theater manager for the birth and first three seasons of the Island Shakespeare Festival among many other jobs and responsibilities.

Timothy is now the Whidbey Institute’s Land Steward as well as a songwriter and performer.

Nick Jackman

Nick first came to the Pacific Northwest 49 years ago as part of the US Coast Guard’s icebreaking service. He has made four trips to the Antarctic and two trips to the Arctic, and has also served as a lighthouse keeper on Lake Superior. Since leaving the service, Nick has worked in the hospitality business here in the Puget Sound region, opening and renovating hotels. He and his husband recently moved to Clinton. He is a father to a 34 year-old son and shares his home with a  four-year-old Australian Cattle Dog named Oliva. Nick enjoys the sea, traveling, and gardening.

Benjamin Johnston

Benjamin works to support the care of the land and facilities at Whidbey Institute. His work weedwacking, cleaning outdoor spaces, caring for trails, and more helps ensure that visitors can feel at ease when on the land, and by extension encourages fruitful experiences in this place. His ever-growing breadth and depth of knowledge in the life sciences and land stewardship and his experience on small farms and gardens are early-career expressions of his commitment to invite more intentional, healthier relationships with our ecological home. Ben lives close to Whidbey Institute and, when he’s not gardening or exploring the forest, he spends time reading, cooking, and sharing meals with his close friends and housemates.

Hillarie Maddox

Hillarie is Co-Executive Director and wears many hats outside of this work including mother of two, community builder, entrepreneur, and aspiring farmer. She was born and raised in Black Hills, South Dakota and has a deep appreciation for sacred lands. She is the descendant of farmers and land stewards, and finds healing in working with the land.

She holds a BS in social work, MS in org development, and spent 10+ years building global, executive-level leadership programs for some of the biggest companies in the world including Amazon, Nordstrom, and Roche. In 2020, Hillarie left Seattle with her family for a homestead on Whidbey Island, and living close to nature changed the trajectory of her life.

She left her corporate career to launch Black Girl Country Living where she writes a newsletter and produces a podcast about rewilding as a path to healing. Hillarie is the co-founder of Heavy Nettle Farm Collective on Whidbey and is deeply invested in the wellbeing of local farmers. She continues to support her community through Rewilding Workshops that focus on breathwork and community wellness.

Nia Martin

Having gravitated towards storytelling her whole life, Nia is excited to serve as Whidbey Institute’s Communications Manager. She has a background in various forms of storytelling, including in film theory and production, freelance photography, events and promotion, writing and editing for publications, journalism, working in development and communications at a literary nonprofit, and co-founding the former newsletter, Parts & Labor, which examined the often unseen, grassroots-level work that women and non-binary people do for their communities in Washington state. Outside of work, you can find her at the movies, on a walk with her husband and dogs, slowly working through her overstuffed bookshelf, attending a community event or performance, trying to figure out the secret to getting the perfect Polaroid picture, or enjoying a martini.

Marta Mulholland

Marta brings a lifetime of experience in the performing arts to her work at the Whidbey Institute. She is a facilitator of movement-based expressive arts and holds a masters in psychology. She sees the creative process as a bridge to helping us understand life experiences and build more intimate and trusting relationships which can lead to individual and collective healing.

Her work history is an eclectic mix which includes Sign Language interpreting, co-founding a nature-based elementary school program, working with deaf survivors of domestic abuse, choreographing, landscaping, and short-term working stints in China, Dominican Republic, Nepal, and Jenin, Palestine where she taught expressive arts classes to students of The Freedom Theatre. Her most profound journey is that as a parent to her now teenage son.

William Noble

Whidbey Institute Onsite Caretaker and Program Host. Manifesting works. The Universe listens. Everything that Will is has led him to everything that is Whidbey Institute — the serenity of nature, open and hopeful people, and a respectful symbiosis of both. Life is a journey (trite but true!), whether it be a leisurely walk alone in the woods or a deep conversation with fellow humans. Life as a routine is uninspiring. Will knows. Thirty years in advertising on the east coast was always exciting, sometimes routine, and often chaotic. Change is a positive thing if it makes life better. Then, the journey is fun and inspiring. Will loves to hike, assist others, foster optimism, and encourage smiles and laughter as much as possible. Life should always be fun and inspiring, for everyone. Manifest it. The Universe answers. Just ask Will.

Larry Rohan

Larry brings a lifetime of interest in the natural world to his role as Forest Steward. He has spent years studying the interconnected relationship of the forest and soil, and how a changing climate is impacting this delicate balance. Among his duties as Forest Steward is the responsibility for maintaining the extensive trail system at the Whidbey Institute, and coordinating the amazing volunteers who help care for the trails.

Larry has a BS in Forestry from Purdue University and has worked throughout the Pacific Northwest and Alaska with the US Forest Service and Alaska native tribes. He has owned and operated Rohan Designs, a custom woodworking business serving Whidbey Island and beyond. 

Larry is a longtime volunteer with the non-profit Hearts and Hammers, using his building and leadership skills to improve the lives of island residents. He has planted hundreds of conifer and hardwood trees on Whidbey Island and the Olympic Peninsula. He is married and is the father of two wonderful children. His interests include skiing, hiking, trail running, and calling to owls.

Joe Sendek

Joe is Whidbey Institute’s Facilities Steward. Inspired by the writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass, and paraphrasing the words and ideas of Evon Peter, a GWICH’IN elder and Chief of Arctic Village, Joe would say that he is “just a boy raised by a creek” in the eastern mixed hardwood forests.

This upbringing has led Joe through the cornfields of Indiana into the valleys of Southern California where he worked as a Materials Engineer in the hot glass container industry. A sharp turn of course led him to the foothills of the Rockies where science was transformed into the skills of a potter. Traveling into the Southwestern desert completed the preparation needed to pursue the career of a teaching artist and professional potter. Returning back to the mixed hardwood forests, this traveling current nurtured more than 25 years of teaching and working with students from preschool through university age.

As this current continued its flow, Joe was led to Whidbey Island. He relocated to the tall evergreens and has spent the last 14 years working as an Independent General Contractor, during which he continued to teach college level courses and high school workshops. A true lover of the outdoors, he spends as little time inside as possible. Joe considers his position at Whidbey Institute to be the most amazing job site imaginable, and invites everyone to come and visit.

Rose Woods

Rose Woods ~ Co-Executive Director. Writer. Theatre director. Teacher. Former Founding Artistic Director of Island Shakespeare Festival. Former Artistic Director for Whidbey Children’s Theatre. She has served as Artistic Director for three theatre companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and has worked across the country with both professional and youth theatre companies. She is a professional screenwriter and playwright. Believes in Art as Activism. Awarded a commendation from Barbara Boxer for her work in teaching tolerance with youth theatre and is the recipient of a number of awards for both her writing and directing, including the Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, Humanitarian Teacher Award from the Humane Society, and a variety of national and international awards for her writing.

Board Members

Our Board of Directors is comprised of extraordinary people who provide oversight and guidance on financial status, legal matters, significant personnel decisions, and charitable purpose. The distinct and explicitly constrained role of our board differs from conventional nonprofits and supports the healthy expression of our self-organizing governance system. Our directors often choose to volunteer in operational roles or special project work, concurrent with but distinct from their board membership, in order to bring more of their wisdom, passion, and talent into play for the organization.

Susan Balbas - She/Her

Co-founder and Executive Director, community organizer, Susan holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Science in Teaching. Ms. Balbas carries valuable expertise in all levels of nonprofit operations and management. She was a national training and technical assistance specialist for multiple tribal youth programs for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Tribal Youth Programs through Education Development Center. Susan has been an independent consultant working with tribes, artists and nonprofit organizations, the Chief Development Officer at United Indians of All Tribes Foundation in Seattle, Development and Donor Education Coordinator at Changemakers Foundation in San Francisco, Executive Director at the NAYA Youth and Family Center in Portland, Outreach Director at the Western Water Alliance in Seattle where she was the primary researcher on water and related environmental issues.

Mother of three and grandmother of three, Susan has studied extensively with herbalists, is an avid gardener, cook, and a voracious reader of historical novels. She currently serves on the boards of Front & Centered, Washington Progress Alliance and the Potlatch Fund in Seattle.

Karina Bergen, She/They

Karina is the Enrollment & Outreach Director at Whidbey Island Waldorf School. She was born and raised in Ottawa, among 15-foot high Canadian snowdrifts. For 20 years of her career, she worked in Hong Kong, first as an award winning documentary maker and then as a Somatic Movement Educator of youth. She spent 3 years as Administrator of a Waldorf-inspired preschool, moved with her family to Whidbey in 2014 and now enjoys bringing new families into the school and WIWS community. Karina holds a BA in International Development and MA in Journalism. She is a past participant of Partners for Youth Empowerment (PYE), was a Camp Facilitator with two Power of Hope summer camps for youth held here on WI land, and is a graduate of PYE’s Heart of Facilitation Training Program. Karina also holds a certificate in Somatic Movement & Expressive Arts.

Casey Dilloway

Board co-chair, Casey Dilloway, first encountered the Whidbey Institute in 2012 as part of a students-in-service program. He has been visiting Whidbey Island for as long as he can remember despite growing up on an entirely different island in Hawaii. Casey works for a private impact investment firm, is adjunct faculty at Presidio Graduate School, and volunteers on the finance committee for Homestead Community Land Trust. Casey lives in Seattle with his partner Shane.

Jenna Ringelheim

Jenna brings over 15 years of leadership and facilitation experience to the board, having worked to support individuals, teams, organizations, and networks through various projects and evolutions. Jenna is passionate about people-centered HR, personal and organizational change, curriculum and program design, facilitation, coaching, network weaving, and fostering learning communities of practice. At the heart of her work is diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Jenna is happiest when she is leveraging these values to build systems and structures that allow all people to thrive in the workplace.

Diana Sandoval

Board co-chair Diana Sandoval is a Latinx racial justice consultant and restorative practitioner, and a longtime facilitator of groups. She has worked in the fields of early intervention, health policy, parent coaching, and social-emotional development. She was a founding member of Promoting First Relationships, a paradigm-shifting approach to supporting the emotional wellbeing of parents and children. Diana strives to bring compassion, wholeness, and embodiment to her life and work and believes in the power of story.

Matías Valenzuela

Matías Valenzuela (he/him/él) is the Director of the Office of Equity and Community Partnerships at Public Health Seattle & King County. He has been involved in the county’s racial equity work for over 20 years, including as the first director of the countywide office starting in 2015. He is driven by a commitment to social justice and change with and for those who have been most harmed by oppressive systems. Originally from Chile, he has spent significant parts of his life in different parts of the world, including Nicaragua, where he worked as a journalist and a Fulbright professor, and now the Pacific NW. He sits on numerous boards and advisory groups regionally and nationally focused on racism and health, community building and social justice.

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

Whidbey Institute Executive Chef and owner of Pure Indulgence and Pure Indulgence Blooms.

Christyn has a flare for creating decadent, vibrant, and nourishing meals. She has a great reverence for food as an integral part of a healthy, balanced life. Chef Christyn’s professional journey includes formal training as well as a lifetime in fine dining hospitality. She holds a BS in Business Finance and is a graduate of Plant Based Whole Food Nutrition at Cornell University. Chef Christyn carries her vast culinary experiences and travels into Global Vegetarian cuisine and she embraces plant-based, whole-food nutrition. She is also a certified chef/instructor in raw, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free diets. On occasion, she participates as a guest speaker and teaches classes in healthy natural food choices. When not in the kitchen, or with her kids, you can find her in her dahlia fields. You can reach Chef Christyn at PureIndulgenceBlooms.com.

Robert Keeney

Forester

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). Learn more about Sharon here.

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. Learn more about Larry here.

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 UW. Her first book, The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health Movement, was a top ten book on sustainability in 2013. Her second book, Intrinsic Hope: Living Courageously in Troubled Times was published in 2018. Learn more about Kate here.

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. Learn more about Diana here.

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. Learn more about Sharon here.

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. Learn more about Johnny here.

“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