Staff and Board

Staff

Peter Bradley

Peter Bradley

Peter Bradley is the executive director of the Island Institute. Peter joined the organization in 2013 and has since lead the organization through its first leadership transition after  spending a year working with outgoing Founding Director Carolyn Servid. He moved here after working for six years at a community radio station in Guelph, Ontario, where he also hosted a books-focused radio show and was involved in a publishing initiative, among many other community and arts-based initiatives. His time at the radio station instilled a belief in the power of story to strengthen community. Peter has experience in various forms of journalism, most notably radio and print media.

 

 

 

 

Annika Ord

annika

Annika Ord joined the Island Institute in fall 2015 as part of the Sitka Winter Fellows Program. A lifelong resident of Southeast, Alaska, Annika graduated from Carleton College in 2014 with a degree in biology and an emphasis in climate change and studio art. She most recently worked as staff for the Juneau Icefield Research Program, where she taught glacial safety, led expeditionary traverses, and managed the field component of the Juneau Icefield's 50 year mass balance record. She has been a lifelong contributor to her family's commercial fishing operation in Juneau, Alaska and spent many summers living at their remote homestead at Point Couverden, Alaska. Through her experiences teaching environmental education on a tall ship on the Hudson River, researching and compiling the story of the land at Point Couverden, and supporting field operations on the Juneau Icefield she has explored the ways that people engage and relate to their environments. At the Island Institute, she will work with Peter to connect with the many diverse voices of Alaska through story, education, livelihood, and natural sciences. 

 

 

 

Sarah Swong

Story Lab Coordinator Sally HelmSarah is the Story Lab Coordinator, here for the year as a Sitka Winter Fellow. She graduated from Yale in May 2015 with a B.A. in History. Her thesis united her interests in the global Cold War, literary politics, and social movements. It examined the way the Sandinista government used Nicaraguan poetry to persuade artists and intellectuals around the world to support its revolution in the 1980s. In New Haven, Sarah played cello in the orchestra, reported for the school newspaper, wrote and performed feminist sketch comedy, and participated in community organizing around socioeconomic inequality at Yale and in the city. Sarah's experience teaching middle school students in New Haven through activity based classes inspired her to take the helm of Story Lab. These days, Sarah runs in the woods before dawn, plays old time folk music, and knows where to spot an octopus. 

 

 

Board

 

Linda Benkhen

Linda Behnken photo

Linda Behnken first traveled to Sitka in 1982 as a college student, hoping to find a job on a fishing boat. After a summer of longline fishing, she knew she wanted to be part of the fishing community and work to sustain it. Linda worked as crew on a number of different boats from Sitka to the Bering Sea and has earned a livelihood as a commercial fisherman on her own boat since 1991. She has been Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fisherman’s Association since 1998, as well as serving on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the National Academy of Science Individual Fishing Quota Review Panel, among others. Linda has been instrumental in a number of conservation initiatives and fisheries management measures, including creating a Sustainable Fisheries Trust in Alaska. The Trusts’ mission is to achieve triple bottom line objectives—economic, ecological and social— by investing in access opportunities for community-based fishermen dedicated to sustainable fishing practices. Linda’s involvement in the Island Institute comes from a deep commitment to place and community, and the desire to improve her relationship with both.

 

 

Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins

Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins photoJonathan Kreiss-Tomkins represents Sitka and rural Southeast Alaska in the Alaska House of Representatives.  He is the youngest member of the Alaska Legislature, and was elected in November 2012 at the age of twenty-three. Jonathan was born and raised in Sitka, graduated from Sitka High School, and is deeply invested in Sitka and Southeast. While in college at Yale, he started two programs in Sitka. The first, Bulldogs on Baranof, brings college students from the Lower 48 to Sitka to work for local nonprofits and organizations. So far, over 50 students, mostly from Yale, have spent a summer in Sitka. The second, the Sitka Fellows Program, is a multidisciplinary residency on the Sheldon Jackson Campus. It brings together top American talent under the age of 30 across all fields and disciplines to spend seven weeks in Sitka working on projects that will change the world, in ways big, small, or subtle. Jonathan is a musician and has performed as symphonic soloist on his cello and also toured as a chamber musician on both cello and double bass. Prior to the legislature, he worked as a substitute teacher, a deckhand on a troller, and did public policy work, and served as interim manager of Sitka's recycling program.

 

Dan Henry

Dan Henry photo

Armed with a Master's thesis from University of Oregon on the history of U.S. land use conflict, Daniel Henry moved in 1983 to Haines, Alaska to study frontier rhetoric in vitro. In the thirty years that followed, Henry worked as a deckhand, reporter for the Chilkat Valley News, program director for public radio KHNS-FM, high school English teacher, and debate coach. Over the decades, Henry sustained a quest to understand the clash of arguments over natural resources. To that end, he interviewed community members from all camps, moderated dozens of local meetings, and published many related essays and articles. As a Board member, Henry brings his passion for the ways we talk about the Earth, also a central theme for the Island Institute. Henry lives with his wife Robin Grace, and their 15-year-old son Charlie in Haines, Alaska, and Eugene, Oregon.

 

 

Reid Magdanz

reid magdanz photo

Reid Magdanz was born and raised in Bush Alaska – 14 years in Kotzebue, four in Nome. He has an enduring interest in Alaska, in particular the challenges and opportunities in its rural areas. That interest outlasted four years of college on the East Coast at Yale and a year abroad in Laos, leading him back to the state and a job in the state legislature with Sitka-based Representative and former classmate Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. Reid's (as yet limited) academic and professional experience has focused on government, public policy, and natural resources. Reid loves the Alaska way of life, and does his best to keep connected to it in both the Northwest and Southeast reaches of the state. He was drawn to the Island Institute by its focus on place and community, which together comprise a huge part of what makes Alaska special. 

 

 

Brenda Campen

Brenda Campen photo

Brenda Campen came to Alaska in 1977 and began a 33-year social-studies teaching career in Alaska Native communities in the Alaska Interior and southeast Alaska. For 25 years she taught at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, the state residential school for rural and Alaska Native students. Her expertise in Alaska History and contemporary Alaska Issues earned her multiple awards, including the first “Governor’s Award in the Humanities for Alaska History Teaching” and the Alaska Historical Society’s “Contributions to Alaska History” award. Passionate about the subject, Brenda has also been instrumental in Alaska history and culture studies teacher-training. She has watched the Island Institute enrich Sitka and the region with the Symposium and the residency program, as well as serve the community with opportunities for discourse during times of division and stress. Brenda is delighted to be involved in and share the exciting work of the Institute. She divides her time between Sitka and a cabin near the Admiralty Island village of Angoon.

 

Senior Fellows

Carolyn Servid & Dorik Mechau

Dorik Mechau, Senior Fellow, arrived in Sitka some twenty years ago as a result of his duties at theAlaska Humanities Forum. Then, having fallen in love with Carolyn Servid and Sitka, he could not help himself from engagement with the Island Institute. His early formative years included schooling in a Colorado ghost town and New York City, followed by a rare liberal education at St. John’s College. Carolyn and Dorik photoHis subsequent experience includes a decade-long stint at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory before coming to Alaska in 1968. Here, he found himself absorbed in issues related to cultural conflict: oil, land claims, rural education, and community. Participating in the work of the Island Institute has proved to be a wonderful continuation of an exploration of our place on earth.

Carolyn Servid, Senior Fellow, moved to Sitka in 1980 after falling in love with Alaska’s wild country on a trip the previous summer. Her interest in the literary arts quickly connected her to Old Harbor Books where she and other employees dreamt the Sitka Symposium into being and gave the Island Institute its foundation. Her work with the Institute earned her the 2001 Governor’s Award for Distinguished Humanities Educator. Her memoir/essay collection Of Landscape and Longing chronicles her childhood in India and her unexpected attraction to Alaska as a place that would become her home. It was that move that galvanized her interests in issues of place, community, and the natural world. Carolyn retired in August 2014 after serving for 30 years as the Executive Director of the Island Institute.