Board of Directors

Sami Aaron, Chair and Treasurer

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

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.

Pam Hausner, Secretary

Pam is a mindfulness meditation teacher who integrates creative experiences using mixed media for visually accessing personal insight. Pam brings mindfulness to her professional work both through activism and as the owner of Big Vision Design, a marketing agency that serves businesses and nonprofits who are committed to making a positive impact in the world.

“For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” Amanda Gorman

Tobi Holloway

Tobi is on the board of The Resilient Activist, a presenter in the speaker’s bureau, and a resilience and meditation teacher. Tobi is motivated by the growth mindset and the mutual enhancement among self-care, service, and community.

I am a lifestyle-as-medicine devotee, a move-your-body enthusiast, a meditation teacher, and I’m passionate about The Resilient Activist’s vision and purpose.

Brenda Bennett-Pike

Brenda Bennet-Pike

Brenda is a retired social worker and educator. She is descended from Plains indigenous peoples and immigrant farmers and feels intrinsically tied to the earth.

I believe we have a responsibility to steward its care for future generations.
In The Resilient Activist, I have found a community whose values match my own. A community which provides support, education, and inspiration in our work toward common goals.

Anna Graether

Anna Graether

Anna has worked at the intersection of design, facilities, and sustainability for corporate, non-profit, and government employers for thirty years.  In this, she is happiest when focused on good design that supports people in the workplace, and on reducing the impact of buildings on the environment through improved efficiency.  At her home in Kansas City, she has worked to create a landscape that is not only beautiful but sustains wildlife.

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

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

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, PsyD, RYT-200

Tracy Ochester

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.

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.

Kayla Williams, RN

Kayla Williams

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 wellbeing 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. 

Joshua King

Joshua King serves as the Director of Grant Development at the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA). He has worked in the nonprofit sector in grant writing, project management, quality assurance, and evaluation for over ten years. His work spans domestic and sexual violence and environmental advocacy, with consulting clients across the United States. Mr. King is a member of the Grant Professionals Association and holds a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

I’m interested in advancing the financial resilience of people in the climate movement, and creating a nonprofit-sector field for climate action. I believe financial security for activists is a fundamental component of resiliency, and through my work I hope to provide climate volunteers a pathway from passionate activism to career opportunity.

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.

Courtney Masterson

Courtney Masterson

Courtney is the Owner/Operator and Ecologist for Native Lands LLC, a local organization focused on restoring native landscapes on public and private land while providing hands on, educational experiences in the community. She also teaches Field Botany at the University of Kansas and works with students in local grade schools to develop their field skills. Courtney is on the board of several local, non-profit organizations and strives to collaborate with environmental groups to support their work in the region.

I am passionate about The Resilient Activist’s mission because I believe self-care and a strong network provide the strength we’ll need to build and cross bridges as we work to heal our ecosystems and our communities.

Meredith Evans McAllister

Meredith McAllister

Meredith, founder of Compost Collective KC, is dedicated to helping others take small (or big!) steps to care for the environment. She has started numerous projects to improve her community since graduating from the University of Arizona in 2010. She believes deeply that we all have the power within us to create change using the skills we’re given.

The Resilient Activist holds a special spot in my soul, as it’s a place to create community that is centered around openness, vulnerability, and compassion towards the Earth – in a time when we all need a little bit more of all of that. 

Beverly McAuley

Beverly McAuley is a graduate of the accredited Interior Design program at Kansas State University and has worked in the A&D community for 28 years. She is an advocate for nature connection and sustainability in the built environment. Beverly presents regularly to architects, designers and manufacturers as the Director of Education and Sustainability with Moore & Giles and as an Ambassador for the International Living Futures Institute. Her passion is guiding others to renew their relationship with nature and to find their unique way to make a positive impact in the world.

I’m inspired to be part of The Resilient Activist in an effort to raise awareness to climate change. I hope to be part of a movement that helps people find their purpose and make a positive impact on the environment. 

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.

Neely Atha

Neely Atha

Neely Atha is a volunteer, landscaper, project design and social media coordinator, but mainly she is an environmental activist who aspires to respect and help improve the environment and our quality of life.

I resonate with The Resilient Activist’s mission and am thankful for being able to be a part of an ever-growing community that offers growth and satisfaction through positive environmental resources. I’m constantly reminded that there is something good in every day. I truly believe we can make a difference together and address genuine, efficient, and revitalizing work to address the climate goals for the future. The Resilient Activist is a place where I can use my skills in an atmosphere that offers both professional growth and personal satisfaction while being sustainable, innovative, and ethical. 

Victoria Frank

Victoria Frank

Victoria (she/her) is a recent Oregon State University graduate, making a career transfer from the HVAC/R industry to sustainability and climate consulting. She works for a private company, doing independent greenhouse gas emission and sustainability verification in Kansas City. Growing up with the weight of environmental and ecological issues, taking action has looked different for her within each stage of her life. She is also a Kansas Master Naturalist, certified emergency scuba diver, native gardener with a passion for food forests and prairies, and a returning yoga practitioner. 

“In nature, nothing exists alone.” ― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Phoebe Mussman, 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 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.