Board of Directors

Sami Aaron, founder of The  Resilient Activist

Sami Aaron, Chair, Executive Director

Sami is a retired software developer, meditation & yoga teacher, Extension Master Naturalist, and Climate Reality Leader.

Learn more about our founder.

The Resilient Activist organization was a gift that emerged through my studies in meditation, Yoga Nidra (yoga sleep), yoga for trauma, nature-connected teachings, and the benefits of time spent in nature. I have a heartfelt desire to share these gifts with others and to build a community that will nurture, uplift, and support those who strive to live in conscious harmony with Earth.

Anne Melia

Anne Melia, Vice Chair, Treasurer

Anne is an environmental scientist with experience working in environmental compliance and site assessment. She is active in a number of environmental and sustainability-focused organizations including The Resilient Activist, the Green Business Network, and the Metropolitan Energy Center. She is currently re-evaluating her life goals and actions towards a path of deeper self-discovery and increased environmental and social activism. 

The challenges of 2020 crystallized in my mind both the desire to become more actively involved in efforts to address climate change and social equity issues, but also the need for a nurturing community to provide safety and respite. Through the Resilient Activist, I have found opportunities for activism as well as connectedness and community. I am excited for the opportunity to join with Sami and others to further the vision and mission of the organization.

Anna Graether

Anna Graether, Secretary

Anna is a lifelong learner and leader, currently working to create and encourage landscapes that are not only beautiful but sustain life, sequester carbon, feed pollinators and manage water. She is completing her Kansas Master Naturalist training and internship. Trained in commercial interior design, Anna worked at the intersection of design, facilities and sustainability for corporate, non-profit and government employers for thirty years. In this, she was happiest when focused on good design that supports people in the workplace while reducing the impact of buildings on the environment. Anna has been on the boards of Burroughs Audubon, Kansas City Community Gardens and MainCor.

As a human drained by daily news of the onslaught to our planet and wondering if anything I do will make a single bit of difference, I was heartened to learn about the creation of The Resilient Activist – a toolkit and resource for those who are discouraged, yet not wanting to give up. Thanks Sami, for creating such a community. “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” –Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Briana Anderson

Briana Anderson is on a journey to find her place in environmental activism. Wildlife has been her passion since childhood, and she is on a continuous quest to learn everything she can about plants, animals, fungi, microbes, and the environment. She has researched best practices for coral reef conservation in Belize, pioneered non-harmful methods of researching bats with white-nose syndrome, and the relationship between the microbiome and cancer. She currently works as a veterinary technician at her local animal shelter and a teacher who gets to talk about wildlife all day. In her free time, she loves hiking, kayaking, cooking, drawing, and finding new ways to be plastic-free/zero-waste.

Professional Advisory Board

Glenn Adams, Ph.D.

Glenn Adams, Ph.D. is the Faculty Supervisor at the University of Kansas, Department of Psychology, for the True Power for Climate Resilience and Recovery Focus Group Research Discussions, in collaboration with The Resilient Activist.

Barbara Gilbert, Ph.D.

Barbara Gilbert, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist currently in private practice in Lawrence, Kansas. She has practiced clinically for 35 years. She also has experience addressing larger-scale barriers to healthy functioning of the whole community.  She offers a psychology-based path to True Power for Climate Resilience and Recovery.

The process of how we go about developing community is integral in effectively responding to the climate crisis.

Erik Hulse

Erik retired from the Overland Park Police Department in 2016, after 25 years of service. He is a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher and teaches for the Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness (MAM), the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, and Pause First Academy. Erik is also in a 2-year chaplaincy training program through Upaya Institute and Zen Center. 

Compassion doesn’t mean we don’t fight; it means we don’t hate – Sharon Salzberg

Pam Hausner

Pam Hausner is a mindfulness meditation teacher who integrates mindfulness and wisdom teachings with creative experiences for personal development. She is a graduate of Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield’s Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program (MMTCP) and their Mindfulness Mentor Training Program. Pam completed her Socially Engaged Buddhist Training certification through the Upaya Buddhist Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She combines her mindfulness training with heart-centered work as a certified SoulPages® Mentor. Pam is enrolled in a dharma teacher training program through The Buddhist Institute.

Pam is a teacher for the Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness. She is a founder of the Arising Arts Sangha through MMTCP and the Northland Meditation Group located in Kansas City, Missouri. Pam is a member of the Professional Advisory Council for The Resilient Activist. She is also the founder of Guide Garden, an online marketplace for emerging, heart-centered teachers.

Trevor Lies, M.A.

Trevor Lies is a Social Psychology Ph.D. Student at the University of Kansas, Department of Psychology. He is the Principal Investigator for the True Power for Climate Resilience and Recovery Focus Group Research Discussions, in collaboration with The Resilient Activist.

The Resilient Activist offers me a space to engage in work related to the climate crisis and other environmental problems with an eye toward applied, community work. The research that I do means nothing if it is not also in conversation with the real, lived experiences of people at the forefront of these issues. I appreciate the variety of educational and engagement opportunities that The Resilient Activist offers. It is very important that our communities are in conversation with one another.

This is a profile picture for Michelle Merrill.

Michelle Y. Merrill, Ph.D.

Michelle Y. Merrill, Ph.D., has a background in anthropology, evolutionary science and sustainability education. She studied the social behavior of wild bonobos in the rainforests of Congo and orangutans in Indonesia in the late 1990s, gaining a recognition of the importance of social affiliation and cultural learning in all of us apes, while witnessing the loss of rainforests, their inhabitants and indigenous cultures. Michelle is a meditation instructor, and the founder of Novasutras, an organization at the intersection of ecospirituality and activism. Novasutras is growing an egalitarian, nature-based spiritual movement with scientific sensibilities, to support change agents.

We long to reawaken our deepest connection with our living world, to reclaim our joy, honor our pain, grow trusted relationships, and take meaningful action in service to all life.

Tracy Ochester

Tracy Ochester, PsyD, RYT-200

Tracy Ochester is a psychologist, Certified Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Teacher/Mentor, trained Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention Teacher, Registered Yoga Teacher, and the Heart-Mind Coordinator for the Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness.

Although I’ve been a professional caregiver for years, my mindfulness and yoga practice opened my eyes to the importance of being intentional about caring for myself and for the planet we all depend upon. I look forward to playing a role in helping The Resilient Activist support environmental stewards in mind, body and spirit so that our compassionate work of the heart might be sustainable over the long term.

Ashley Radtke, LMFT, LCMFT

Ashley Radtke is a licensed therapist in private practice in Kansas City providing therapy that investigates the whole person and the systems they interact with. Ashley helps people integrate the parts of themselves that want to pursue the heavy work of changing the world and the longing for joy, rest, and alignment. Ashley is on a mission to support change-makers as they pursue ambitious work while honoring their playful, messy, explorative self. Ashley uses the lens she cultivated as a system-focused therapist to find patterns and context that can boost change or maintain stability in the work of environmental stewardship.

Tyler D. Staples, MS

Tyler Staples is a Licensed Master’s Level Psychologist in the state of Kansas, and a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Kansas City University. He has been practicing psychology since 2015, both in inpatient as well as outpatient settings. In addition to his doctoral studies, Tyler currently works as an adjunct professor at Avila University. His dissertation research is on psychological resilience training in healthcare professionals.

Asuquo Udofia Profile Picture

Asuquo Udofia, Ph.D.

Asuquo Udofia (Ph.D.) is a lead Consultant at L’AINE HR Services where he is involved in innovating the world of work in Africa. He is an affiliated faculty at Central University and Daniel Institute Ghana, where he is involved in the training of graduate and undergraduate students, and research in health / social psychology.
He is also a Managing Partner at Quality Trust where he offers consultancy in strategic leadership, executive coaching, corporate governance in businesses, succession planning, and business development. He is a Trainer and a Mentor with over 20 years of professional experience in diverse industries.
He is a multidisciplinary scholar with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, a Master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling, a Master’s degree in Business Administration, and a Master’s degree in Biochemistry. He is a Licensed Counseling Psychologist, a Member of the Ghana Psychological Association, and a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing of Ghana among others.

I am passionate about promoting awareness of climate change, sustainable strategies, and resilience through psychoeducation aimed at creating a better everyday life experience for people and businesses.

Kayla Williams

Kayla Williams, RN

Kayla Williams is a registered nurse, an ecoAmerica Climate for Health Ambassador, and a 2022-2023 Environmental Health Nurse Fellow with the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE). She works to address environmental and health equity issues in collaboration with communities, agencies, and public health and nursing organizations. Kayla is a project manager at the KU School of Nursing where she co-leads the school’s Climate Justice and Planetary Health Workgroup. With her guidance, the school became an early member of the Nurses Climate Challenge School of Nursing Commitment to educate nurses about the health impacts of climate change. Before becoming a nurse, Kayla served for over a decade as a veterinary technician working in companion animal medicine. She is a beekeeper, tree steward, and community garden leader. Through these experiences, she knows that environmental justice must be species-spanning and center around human stewardship of the earth.

Humanity is part of a living planet, its tissues and organs, and we must reimagine our place as part of this organism for the well-being of the whole earth-body.

Advisory Council

The role of the Advisory Council is to advance The Resilient Activist’s mission and to help guide our strategy, agenda, and funding. This group of professionals, based on their areas of expertise, provide in-depth advice to the board of directors.

Debra Box

Debra Box has been a leader in the Kansas City nonprofit community for over 20 years. She led Support KC for 17 years, working closely with nonprofits to help them define their missions and communicate how their missions’ impact those they serve. During her leadership, SKC became a recognized national model for nonprofit shared services. 

I am impressed with the innovative work and mission of the Resilient Activist.  It’s rewarding to me to be able to be a part of the mission as well as sharing my nonprofit expertise.

Christine Julian

Christine is the owner/senior designer of CJI Design Group. She helps busy homeowners navigate the process of remodeling and furnishing their home, by creating a truly unique look through a stress-free process of achieving it. 

At my core I believe every space should function well for you, promote good health, and spark joy. The Resilient Activist has been the key to achieving all of those three things in a very sustainable way. It started personally at home, and the positive effects of conscious living and connecting with nature are finding themselves at the core of every project I now design. 

Dena Klein

Dena is the retired CEO of a niche PR company responsible for the day-to-day leadership and strategic direction in sales, operations, and marketing. She worked with owners and employees to build the company and develop client and media relationships over 28 years of employment.

I am inspired to be part of TRA to help preserve, protect, and regenerate our environment for current and future generations through positive steps and specific measurable actions that support environmental activists as well as “lay” people like myself who are greatly concerned about protecting and nurturing our Earth. And also to learn more about environmental issues,  actions/steps I can incorporate into my activities, and teach my grandchildren.

Core Team

Our core team is a group of dedicated and inspired volunteers who provide time and energy to keep our programs going and the spark to come up with new ideas.

Sarah Beier, Operations Support Specialist

Sarah (she/they) is an educator, consultant, and designer living and working in Kansas City, MO. They are a graduate of Missouri State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, and own a small local business. She loves sharing her passion for the natural world with others, and has a constantly growing collection of weird nature facts.

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.” ~ Baba Dioum

Phoebe Pinkner, Visual Media Strategist

Phoebe is a photographer, videographer, and aspiring environmental activist based in St. Louis. She sees her life’s work as amplifying the vision of a hopeful, intersectional, and irrepressible eco-revolution.

“The best way to take care of the environment is to take care of the environmentalist.” ~ THICH NHAT HANH

Shaina Noll

Shaina was introduced to Sami through her Courageous Conversations interview. Deeply moved and inspired by her story and the intent of The Resilient Activist, she contacted Sami to see if she might have something to offer in support of the organization. 

I am a singer/songwriter and spiritual coach; it is my experience that a spiritual perspective on our lives as humans can deeply support resilience as we tend to the larger issues we are facing on our beautiful planet. It is my privilege to be a bearer of this spiritual perspective in ongoing conversations with Sami.