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Faculty Advisor Staff

Samantha Oester

SAMANTHA OESTER

Faculty Advisor

Samantha Oester is a conservation biologist, coastal ecologist, and aquatic microbiologist. She is a PhD research fellow at George Mason University in Environmental Science and Policy, currently studying global change vulnerability in the Caribbean. She also examines diversity, equity, equality, and inclusion in STEM fields. Originally from rural WV, she’s a cyborg in Chicago who makes her family cosplay for their holiday cards. You can check her out on Google Street View Antarctica.

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Faculty Advisor Staff

Laura Swessel

LAURA SWESSEL

Faculty Advisor

Laura grew up in Cumberland, Maryland.  She attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she earned an M.S. in Aerospace Engineering.  Upon graduation, she worked for 7 years at Lockheed Martin as a Mechanical Test Engineer, building commercial satellites.  During that time, she earned an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from NJIT.

Laura and her husband, John, moved to Georgetown, Indiana in 1999 where she started a Lean Sigma consulting business with clients in the appliances, automotive, advertising and healthcare industries.  During that time, Laura also started teaching Physics at the local Purdue University campus.  In 2012, she was asked to take on a long-term sub position at Providence High School to cover an Honors Physics class.  She found a love teaching high school and obtained her teaching license through Indiana’s Transition to Teaching program.  She currently teaches Earth Science, Honors & ACP Physics, Intro to Engineering and Intro to Computer Science, coaches the school’s bowling team, and sponsors the school’s hiking and coding clubs.  Laura has also established STEM Clubs and Camps for elementary and middle school students in the area.

She and her husband, John, have four children (Ryan, Adam, Patrick and Amanda), a dog (Gonzo) and a cat (Speedy).

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Brian Schwenk

Faculty Advisor

Brian Schwenk is currently a science teacher at Falls Church High School in Falls Church, VA. He has been teaching there for 3 years. He currently teaches Biology for English Learners and STEM Essentials for English Learners. He obtained his BS in Biology from James Madison University in 2013, and he obtained his MAT from James Madison University in 2015. He is excited for his first summer with WYSE!

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Faculty Advisor Staff

Donna Downing

DONNA DOWNING

Faculty Advisor

Donna Downing is a policy analyst and attorney at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and has served as Jurisdiction Team Leader in EPA’s Office of Water since 2005. Donna works on a variety of issues, with a focus in recent years on which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act (CWA) in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Donna has been with EPA since 1998. She previously worked for the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, and in private law practice. She has a BA from Harvard University magna cum laude, a MPP from the University of California at Berkeley, a JD from Georgetown University cum laude, and a LLM in Environmental Law summa cum laude from George Washington University. Donna teaches environmental law as an adjunct professor at George Washington University Law School, and was awarded the Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Award in 2012. In what’s left of her time, Donna moonlights as a professional potter and an unprofessional horse trainer.

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Faculty Advisor Staff

Jim Poyser

Faculty Advisor

Jim Poyser left his 2-decade career in journalism because of his urgency regarding climate change, joining Earth Charter Indiana as its executive director in September, 2013, to engage Indiana young people in climate leadership. Poyser directs Youth Power Indiana, ECI’s youth program responsible for the passage of climate recovery resolutions in three Indiana cities. He was trained by the Climate Reality Project and has created the world’s first climate change game show, The Ain’t Too Late Show. He lives in Indianapolis on the White River.

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Faculty Advisor Staff

Keni Rienks

KENI RIENKS

Faculty Advisor

Keni Rienks is a high school science teacher from Wilmington, NC. She is advisor to her school’s green club and coaches their National Ocean Science Bowl team. Outside of school, Keni serves on the executive board for the Surfrider Foundation, where she advocates for ocean and environmental protection. When Keni is not working, she enjoys time on the boat and at the beach with her husband and two children.

Keni holds a Masters of Environmental Management degree from Duke University and a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington.

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Faculty Advisor

Caitlin Wall

CAITLIN WALL

Faculty Advisor

Caitlin is currently directing Potomac Conservancy’s Policy program in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C, working to empower a local clean water movement through grassroots engagement and advocacy efforts. She previously worked at Marstel-Day, LLC, leading policy efforts to develop compatible use partnerships between military installations and communities and conducting studies on environmental challenges facing the military. Caitlin earned a B.A. from the College of William and Mary in public policy and environmental studies and an M.A. from Colorado State University in political science. She is a Senior Fellow in the Environmental Leadership Program, is an RYT 200 certified yoga instructor, and enjoys hiking, camping, and triathlons.

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Faculty Advisor

Gary Swick

GARY SWICK

Faculty Advisor

Gary Swick used his BS in Natural Resource Mgt. from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and a MSEd in Outdoor Teacher Education as the foundation for developing a field-based High School Environmental Science suite of eight courses. The related projects have earned numerous state & national acclaim for their innovative approaches and impressive results. Individually, Gary has received several recognitions on the national level as an outstanding Environmental Educator. With the motto, “Environmental Action through Education”, his students have been active agents of change in their communities. His primary focus has been getting students into their local streams as “Watershed Watchdogs”, collecting data and becoming stewards.

In addition to teaching, Gary spent 18 summers as a whitewater raft guide in Wyoming. He currently is an Instructor at Northern Illinois University, focusing on sustainable culture, and is a faculty advisor for the NIU Green Paws and CommUniversity Garden student groups. Gary serves as the President of the Friends of the Fox River, and is a board member on several other non-profit conservation groups. He is an avid outdoor recreationist.

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Faculty Advisor

Tom Reid

Faculty Advisor

Last fall Tom left his position as Senior Manager of Business Development at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) in Boston to pursue a Master of Divinity at Boston University School of Theology. Prior to working at MassCEC, Tom was Director of Business Development for The Vertex Companies, Inc. – a Boston-based international environmental consulting firm. Tom also developed the Energy and Sustainability Division at Vertex and started with the company as a project manager in the International division. Before moving to Boston, Tom spent a number of years living in Europe (UK, Italy, Spain) as a Fulbrighter to the European Union (2006-2007) and working in the program administration of the International MBA program at IE Business School in Madrid. He then spent a couple of years working in environmental and green building consulting in Dubai.

Originally from Kansas, Tom holds a bachelor’s degree with honors in Environmental Studies, Latin American Studies and Spanish from the University of Kansas and a master’s in European Politics, Policy and Society granted jointly by the University of Bath (UK) and other members of the Euromaster’s consortium of European universities.

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Faculty Advisor

Corey Payne

COREY PAYNE

Faculty Advisor

Corey is currently a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Florida studying science education. His primary research interests deal with mentoring, developmental network analysis and inquiry-based science education. He is currently working on an NSF funded project to redesign the chemistry laboratory curriculum for engineering majors to increase the retention and performance of underrepresented students. He is also working with a field ecology lab on the Atlantic coast of Florida studying how information is transmitted in informal educational and research settings. Outside of his educational research interests he has also worked with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the forest ecology lab studying the canopy structures and their relation to global climate change. He also is a volunteer at the Whitney Labs helping study climate change and the effect of the northern expansion of mangroves into Florida.