Founder and President
Aaron Stern, president and founder of the Academy for the Love of Learning, is a musician, teacher, and internationally recognized consultant on learning.
As the Academy’s creative and educational leader, Stern designs and directs the Academy’s core curriculum and faculty, guides program development, and offers select trainings in depth facilitation and diverse aspects of the Academy’s pedagogy.
During the early 1980s, Stern ...Learn more about Aaron Stern
Director and Co-Founder, Lifesongs
Acushla Bastible is the director and co-founder of Lifesongs, a cornerstone program of the Academy’s arts and community engagement work. As an Academy faculty member, she also creates and facilitates programs and workshops on aging, death and dying, creativity, and collective storymaking.
Acushla is a multidisciplinary performance artist – actor, stage director, educator, writer, facilitator, and animateur. Her work in the ...Learn more about Acushla Bastible
Program Coordinator, Lifesongs
Alysha Shaw is the program coordinator for Lifesongs and supports the evolving artistic direction and growth of the program. As an interdisciplinary artist, musician and community organizer, Alysha’s work explores the intersections of art, social action and folklore.
Prior to the Academy, Alysha contributed to multiple political campaigns, social advocacy efforts and community organizing projects. She has a BA in political ...Learn more about Alysha Shaw
Manager, El Otro Lado in the Schools
Barbara Deswood manages the Academy’s El Otro Lado in the Schools program, now in its fifth year with Santa Fe Public School district.
Barbara holds degrees in health and human services and Spanish. She has been a classroom teacher in various settings, including public high, middle and elementary schools, Waldorf and an International Baccalaureate magnet school. As a licensed K-12 teacher ...Learn more about Barbara Deswood
Catherine Messier provides management for daily operations supporting all Academy programs and events, including event logistics, office administration, and facility maintenance.
Catherine has worked extensively with nonprofit organizations, national park and government projects, as well as international hospitality corporations. Prior to the Academy, Catherine served as the general manager for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and The Presidio ...Learn more about Catherine Messier
Director, El Otro Lado; Faculty
Chrissie Orr is the co-founder of El Otro Lado in the Schools, and the co-founder of the Living Story Collaborative. Both programs engage story and its transformative powers to cultivate connection and belonging, strengthen community capacity, and renew our guiding narratives in this time of radical transitions. As a member of the faculty, she facilitates various programs and workshops that ...Learn more about Chrissie Orr
General Counsel and Director of Finance
Dan is a lawyer with a private practice in Santa Fe. For the Academy, he handles matters of finance and law throughout all program, development, and administration departments. His work for other clients includes fostering the right of local self-government and the rights of nature.
Dan studied accounting at Penn State University (B.A. 1990) and law at George Washington University ...Learn more about Dan Brannen
Director of Academy Center Development
David Gordon is a fine artist, who explores, among other themes, how the built environment plays a key role in productivity, learning and wellbeing.
As the director of Academy Center Development, David oversees the facilities and grounds, attending to the constant dialogue between people and the buildings we inhabit. He collaborated with Aaron Stern on the original design of the Academy ...Learn more about David Gordon
Curator, Seton Legacy Project
David L. Witt, curator of the Seton Legacy Project, oversees research, collections, exhibitions, and educational programming related to the art, writings, and philosophy of Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946), the artist/naturalist who once owned the estate where the Academy now stands. David presents lectures, storytelling and art shows onsite at the Seton Gallery and Seton Castle.
David is the founder of the ...Learn more about David L. Witt
Executive Assistant to the Founder and President
Elena Keys is executive assistant to Aaron Stern, Academy founder and president. Elena provides primary support for Stern and his work in visioning and planning programs. She also works with the outcomes of organizational developments and events to assist Stern in shaping future directions and initiatives, and helps maintain key relationships with the Academy’s wider community.
For more than ...Learn more about Elena Keys
Hayley Horowitz, communications coordinator, provides support to the communications and marketing department and for Academy programs. She oversees the Academy’s database operations, electronic newsletters, social media, proofreading, advertising traffic and budget tracking. She is passionate about assessing the media landscape for the most effective messages and delivery systems.
Hayley graduated from the University of New Mexico with a BA in journalism ...Learn more about Hayley Horowitz
Director, Relationships and Reciprocity
Jessica Smyser works closely with staff and faculty to envision, plan, and implement the Academy’s marketing, development and communications strategies across all program areas. Jessica’s experience spans marketing and communications, events planning, and program management in both the music industry and in higher education.
Prior to joining the Academy in 2012, she served as communications and events manager at World ...Learn more about Jessica Smyser
Kevin Brown collaborates closely with staff, program leaders, and faculty to create Academy newsletters, brochures and other communications. An award-winning graphic designer, Kevin has extensive experience in innovative design, art direction, illustration, education and architecture.
Kevin earned a master’s degree in architecture from Tulane University in New Orleans and has published a retrospective of his graphic work, entitled The Poster Art ...Learn more about Kevin Brown
Support and Serenity
Kim Carr supports all aspects of day-to-day operations at the Academy, including assistance with programs, facilities and public relations.
Kim holds a BA in writing and literature from Vermont College via Union Institute & University. She has a diverse background in music, theater, writing, and the healing arts, along with more than 10 years’ experience in high-level administrative support.
In 2014, the ...Learn more about Kim Carr
Laura Pancoast provides support to the staff and faculty by connecting with individuals, businesses, and foundations to support the Academy’s mission and programs. Laura is passionate about finding sources to help sustain organizations that have the power to be positive agents of change in the world.
Prior to the Academy, Laura served as the Development and Marketing Assistant at the Santa ...Learn more about Laura Pancoast
Lisa Faithorn is a research anthropologist, organizational consultant and educator. Her work with groups in the US and abroad focuses on individual and organizational transformation, collaborative problem solving and effective team dynamics.
As a member of the Academy faculty, she co-facilitates programs for teachers in the Institute for Teaching and community workshops.
Lisa co-founded and taught in the anthropology graduate program at ...Learn more about Lisa Faithorn
For more than a decade, Marianne Murray has been a member of the core faculty and Academy Board. She has been intimately involved with the development of the core curriculum, helping to establish the Academy’s pedagogy. She has a Ph.D in Transformative Learning and Change in Human Systems from the California Institute of Integral Studies, an MA in Transpersonal Psychology, ...Learn more about Marianne Murray
Program Support and Community Outreach
Marissa Roybal provides vital support for Academy programs, events and outreach to the community.
She has been a crucial team member in the Academy’s Leadership Initiative and coordinates partnerships and relationships with community members and organizations. A seeker and thinker, Marissa is energized and intrigued by the Academy’s mission, and finds that being part of the Academy allows her to ...Learn more about Marissa Roybal
Marita Prandoni provides a welcoming reception for Academy program participants and facilitators. She creates fresh, organic meals for events and workshops, sourcing local, seasonal ingredients whenever possible, as contracts with local chefs. Through her attention to the quality of food offered to Academy guests, she works to promote social and environmental justice and the local living economy.
Outside of the Academy, ...Learn more about Marita Prandoni
Director, Living Stories Collaborative; Co-Founder, Lifesongs; Faculty
Molly Sturges is the co-founder of Lifesongs, The Creative Action Team and the Institute for Living Story. As a faculty member, she creates and facilitates various programs, creative projects and workshops on aging, death and dying, and participatory story-making.
A composer, artistic director, performer and facilitator, Molly is best known for hybrid projects integrating performance, creative exchange, and social and environmental ...Learn more about Molly Sturges
Director of Programs
Patty Nagle, director of programs, collaborates with Aaron Stern to guide the design, facilitation, and operation of Academy programs to ensure their alignment with the organization’s mission and pedagogy. Patty completed two Leading by Being trainings, and now oversees the Academy’s leadership initiatives and the many community programs offered as a part of the core curriculum. These include Evenings of ...Learn more about Patty Nagle
Roshi Sanchi Reta Lawler is a core member of the Academy faculty and was an integral part of the Academy’s early development. She has deeply informed the Academy’s approach to transformative facilitation and pedagogy and continues to facilitate the Coming Full Circle Training, a program she created.
Reta is the Founder and Director of the Morningstar Zen Center. Fully ...Learn more about Reta Lawler
Manager, Institute for Teaching
Seth Biderman is an educator and writer dedicated to exploring emergent forms of education and learning and their intersections with social justice.
At the Academy, Seth manages the Institute for Teaching. The Institute’s programs, including Teacher Renewal, Wisdom Circles and the Summer Institute for Teachers, ennoble and elevate the art of teaching both inside and outside of schools and ...Learn more about Seth Biderman
Academy Steward; Faculty
Thomas Jaggers is a teacher, facilitator, and community leader and activist. He has been a key staff member at the Academy since 2004, and 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 an organizational consultant for the Academy’s Ventana ...Learn more about Thomas Jaggers
Finance and Administration
Tina Olson oversees the Academy’s finances and plays a key role in supporting administrative decisions.
She holds degrees in art, music, and industrial design. Her background and experience are in graphic art, book and product design, production, project management, bookkeeping and finance.
Tina is the mother of two young men, an avid telemark skier and a certified yoga teacher.Learn more about Tina Olson