Graduate Students

Graduate Students

We're creating a new generation of leaders for communities throughout North America

Many of the Institute's graduate students are professionals with strong educational background who are looking to expand their horizons with non-traditional teaching opportunities. The Institute offers an alternative graduate program that blends theory and practice -- interdisciplinary, field-based education – where you’ll learn best practices in real-world settings. Each graduate student gets to experience four seasons in the North Cascades, including a summer full of backpacking and naturalist studies, an autumn spent designing curriculum and teaching in the award-winning Mountain School environmental education program and a winter studying place-based education and nonprofit administration. During your free time in the North Cascades, there are countless opportunities for hiking, boating, skiing, climbing and other incredible recreation pursuits in one of the wildest settings in America.

Graduate Class of 2014

Liza Dadiomov
Liza was born in Russia, grew up in Israel and moved to the Seattle area at the age of 10. She attended Santa Clara University in Northern California, studying Environmental Studies and Psychology. During college, she spent every summer on beautiful Orcas Island in Washington's San Juan Islands, working for YMCA's Camp Orkila and experiencing the joys of teaching environmental education. Liza then studied abroad in Denmark, where she was an assistant at a forest preschool and realized that she could make environmental education a career. After college, she returned to the glorious Pacific Northwest, spending two years teaching outdoor education at Camp Seymour and Camp Orkila, traveling, and exploring the outdoors. Liza loves to play games, sing silly songs and witness kids be excited about learning outside. She also enjoys skiing, hiking, reading books and anything involving food!


Cait McHugh
Cait grew up catching lightning bugs and salamanders just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. During her undergraduate work at Wesleyan University, she majored in environmental studies and English and sought out opportunities in the community to work with children in the outdoors. Following graduation, Cait took on environmental science instructor positions in Tennessee, North Carolina, and, most recently, southern California. Cait loves bananagrams, birds and aquatic macroinvertebrates!


Kim Hall

Born and raised in Kentucky, Kim discovered her calling as an environmental educator while volunteering for a local nonprofit in her college town.  Following graduation from Centre College where she studied Anthropology, Kim’s passion for environmental education led her to New Mexico where she volunteered with Americorps as an environmental educator and youth conservation corps crew leader.  After her Americorps stint, she moved to Alabama to work at a residential environmental education center called Camp McDowell.  She joined the Peace Corps in 2010 and served as an Environmental Education Extension Agent in a small village in Senegal, West Africa, providing her with a global perspective to nature education.  Kim loves working with kids of all ages, but hopes to one day open a nature preschool in the Southeast.


Hillary Schwirtlich
Hillary grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, where she spent much of her youth finding hidden natural places in a city known for its groomed beaches, strip malls and oil refineries. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Linguistics, she served on an AmeriCorps trail crew in Washington State and realized that she wanted to make a career out of helping people connect with the natural world. After serving eleven months as an AmeriCorps Community Service Coordinator for the Mt. Hood National Forest, she decided to follow a dream and hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Hillary is excited to learn ways to foster a sense of place, wonder and respect for the natural world in others. When not exploring the wild places of the Northwest on foot, she enjoys rock-climbing, reading, cooking and traveling, especially when friends are involved.


Sahara Suval
Sahara moved to Stanwood, Washington from California when she was 11, and considers herself a "proper Washingtonian." With a degree in American History and Journalism from the Evergreen State College, she hadn’t intended on pursuing Environmental Education until she got a job working trails with the Washington Conservation Corps. After two backcountry seasons of trail maintenance and a season working as an interpretive ranger for Olympic National Park, Sahara decided to fuse her communications background with her love of the outdoors. A true Pacific Northwesterner, Sahara enjoys hiking, biking, trail running, swimming, snowshoeing and nearly all things outdoor recreation. Her true passion is horseback riding and she has been riding for over 15 years and enjoys several different disciplines including hunter-jumpers and trail-riding. Sahara is excited to share her love of the natural world with others and hopes to someday work with a therapeutic wilderness program focusing on juvenile rehabilitation.


Andrea Reiter
A genuine Pacific North Westerner, Andrea grew up in Selah, Washington spending as much time outdoors as possible.  Andrea graduated from Yakima Valley Community College with an associates degree in Science, then moved on to Central Washington University where she got her bachelors degree in Exercise Science. She has worked for the past three years prior to coming to NCI in a physical therapy clinic.  From an early age Andrea has always been interested in animals and nature; she always had a dog and became a junior forest ranger in the Mt. Rainer National Park. Andrea has gone on many adventures with her family including cycling, white water rafting, hiking, and canoeing. Shortly after high school, Andrea discovered scuba diving. The love for underwater life drew here to the North Cascades Institute to learn how to protect the waters of the Salish Sea. When Andrea is not underwater, you can find her hanging out with her dog Annie.


Lindsay Walker
Lindsay grew up sniffing flowers and pulling crawdad’s out of the creek in Richmond, Virginia. Her formal place-based education began in 8th grade with a 3-day Chesapeake Bay Foundation program on Smith Island followed by a year of integrated curricular activities focused on the bay. Lindsay earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from Belmont University. Her experience in environmental education includes a summer interpretation internship at an urban nature center in Nashville and teaching programs on trees and recycling in Nashville elementary schools. Prior to beginning graduate studies, Lindsay coordinated Vanderbilt University’s campus recycling program. Lindsay dreams of starting a nonprofit environmental education center in the southeast upon completion of her Master’s degree. In her spare time, Lindsay likes to play outside, square dance, cook veggies and play the kazoo.


Ryan Weisberg
Ryan was born and raised in Bellingham, Washington, and spent a lot of time growing up in the North Cascades. In 2009, he graduated from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington with a focus in Queer Studies and Ethnography. Prior to starting the graduate M.Ed. program, Ryan worked for several years as a Seasonal Naturalist for North Cascades Institute, teaching about and exploring the upper Skagit with people of all ages. He is an avid writer, hoping to be a published author someday, and enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing and playing the violin. Ryan loves the grey, rainy weather of the Pacific Northwest and is looking forward to future adventures in this beautiful region.

Graduate Class of 2015

Tyler Chisholm
Tyler discovered her passion for the outdoors at a small summer camp (Camp Varsity) in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. After attending the camp for eleven summers, she proceeded to become a counselor for five more summers, furthering her love for the outdoors and teaching children of all ages.  A “rock hound” from an early age, Tyler obtained her B.S. in Geology and Geophysics from Purdue University in May of 2012.  Along the way, she had some wonderful, and sometimes extremely challenging, experiences working as an intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and participating in geological field work in the East African Rift Valley in Kenya. Since graduation, Tyler has been working at REI and substitute teaching for middle school and high school in her hometown of Brownsburg, Indiana. Whenever she gets a chance, Tyler enjoys road bicycling, backpacking, yoga, kayaking, baking and scuba diving (in warm water, of course).


Annabel Connelly
Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Annabel grew up spending summers in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and developed a passion for being outside at an early age. Annabel continued to foster this interest through environmentally focused classes and participating in school-led camping trips around the state and the country. In 2012, she graduated from the University of Redlands and the Johnston program with a degree in Environmental Humanities. While there Annabel also participated in Outdoor Programs, a student-led organization that puts on hiking and camping trips for fellow students. Annabel loves to travel, read, write, cook, and take photographs. Ultimately, Annabel looks forward to immersing herself in the North Cascades and help young people and adults develop a love and appreciation of the outdoors through education and positive experiences..


Kaci Darsow
Originally from the beautiful wet side of Washington State, Kaci attended Western Washington University where she earned her B.A. in Outdoor Environmental Education and Interpretation in 2011. After graduation, her continued infatuation with Bellingham led her to a yearlong stint as an Americorps Volunteer providing conservation education and energy audits to low-income families. She then scored her dream job at an outdoor science school instructing 5th and 6th graders in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. Although the change of scenery was incredible, Kaci is glad to return home to the grey skies, soggy soil and deep green forests of the Pacific Northwest.


Samantha Hale
Born and raised in the beauty of New England, Samantha’s passion for nature dawned at an early age. Many summers and winters spent along the coastline or in the mountains led to a deep love for biology. Samantha earned a B.Sc. in Marine Biology at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth and subsequently studied marine mammals in Australia and New Zealand. This work led her to recognize another passion: sharing the natural world with others. Knowing that the typical 9-5 job wasn’t for her, Samantha began researching non-traditional styles of teaching. After discovering North Cascades Institute, she realized her dreams of an outdoors teaching career weren’t outlandish at all. In her spare time, Samantha can be found by the ocean or hiking and biking in the woods. Her pack always holds a good book, her trusty camera and some chocolate.


Elissa Kobrin
Elissa graduated from the University of Oregon in June of 2013 with a BA in Planning, Public Policy and Management and a minor in Non-profit Administration. Her academic focus areas included active transportation, bicycle to public transit connectivity and environmental management. She was a participant in the UO’s groundbreaking Sustainable City Year Program. She was a selected to be one of eight members of the Canopy Connections Team within the Environmental Leadership Program at UO wherein she designed and facilitated place-based environmental education curricula for middle school students at HJ Andrews Experimental Forest. Elissa has spent the last two summers as an interpretive park ranger with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Her work experience has also included directorship of summer camp programs for the YMCA, Camp Fire USA and the City of Eugene Recreation Services Department. Elissa has served on the board of the American Camp Association (ACA) and was a presenter at the ACA National Conference in 2005. She loves the outdoors and is deeply passionate about sharing the value of the natural world with people of all ages and backgrounds. Elissa is a Ford Family Foundation Scholar and a Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship recipient.


Katie Komorowski
Born and raised on the shores of Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Katie has always had a passion for the great outdoors. Katie attended Oregon State University for her undergraduate studies where she majored in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Women’s Studies. After graduation, Katie spent a year teaching and mentoring at-risk youth on a ranch in Colorado. Hiking, teaching, and horseback riding with students in the Rocky Mountains led Katie to pursuing experiential education for graduate studies. In her free time, Katie enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, being outside in any capacity and spending time with her dog Maximus the Beast.


Katherine Renz
Raised in a small beach town just south of California’s mystical Big Sur coast, Katie developed a strong environmental ethic from early on. Such bioregional leanings were later articulated among the redwoods at University of California, Santa Cruz and the poppy-laden hills of the Bay Area. She’s spent the last eight years in San Francisco immersed in everything from environmental journalism and music writing to gardening on notorious Alcatraz Island, teaching kids about the sex lives of plants and studying ecopsychology. Katie is compelled by a vision of helping people get connected with the natural world in hopes they ultimately make better decisions about how to treat themselves, each other and the planet. Beyond this, she dreams of one day having her very own Airstream in the California desert where she can sew, make herbal remedies, play electric guitar to lizards and tinker with her bicycle.


Sarah Stephens
Sarah was raised in Poulsbo, Washington and spent summers outside playing and exploring the greenery of the Pacific Northwest with friends and at camp. Sarah’s love of exploring led her to live in France for a year in college. Because of her passion for working with others, she’s been a camp counselor abroad and stateside for the past three summers. Helping people connect with their community and their environment through her work at camp and with local non-profits convinced her that running a non-profit whose goal is to connect people with their environment and each other is what she needs to be doing. She looks forward to connecting with the stunning wilderness of the North Cascades and developing her knowledge and skills.