Aliah is a lifelong writer who left the traditional academic path after receiving a Master’s degree in Irish Studies from New York University. Since then, she has made a career in supporting nonprofit missions through marketing writing and fundraising, from protecting civil rights to conserving wildlife habitats. Aliah is interested in learning from others’ perspectives and experiences, communicating with compassion, and examining her beliefs and values to live each day with intention.
Originally from New Jersey, Aliah moved to Oregon after falling in love with the endless pine forests of the Pacific Northwest. With thanks to an amazing mentor, she has become an active guitarist and singer, and now teaches guitar and ukulele to young students. She is also training to become a certified forest therapy guide. In her spare time she enjoys connecting with nature, developing her meditation practice, petting neighborhood cats, and playing with her band – Sagitttaire!
Lab Program Coordinator | Faculty
Aria is a professional problem-solver and educator from Portland, Oregon. Driven by a roving curiosity and commitment to personal and collective growth, Aria has worked in or adjacent to the education space for 10+ years. Though she always thought she’d teach in a public high school, Aria naturally seemed to gravitate to less conventional educational spaces. She’s worked on an educational farm, with a startup helping universities better serve their students, at an international artists residency and ceramics school, with a career coaching program, in a grassroots community organizing space, with a radical “free school,” and with countless other educational projects as a facilitator, organizer, and program designer.
When she isn’t teaching or coordinating the Labs program at Wayfinding Academy, Aria works as a community-centered consultant, helping organizations to design and develop programs to better meet the needs of their members. In work and life, she believes deeply in participatory design processes, democratic decision-making, and the power of asking good questions. When she isn’t helping start or grow amazing programs, you’ll find Aria relaxing on her front porch or teaching herself to surf on the Oregon Coast.
Carmen Brewton-Denison holds a BFA in Media Studies and M.A. in Critical Theory and Creative Research (now Critical Studies), with a focus on aesthetic and critical race theory from the Pacific Northwest College of Art and the Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies. As an artist and writer, Carmen’s work draws heavily upon histories of social intervention, relational aesthetics, and institutional critique; exploring the potential for art to be a tool for social change. Ultimately, Carmen’s creative practice led to work in social and racial justice and the co-founding the Creative Activism Lab at Pacific Northwest College of Art in 2013. Since then, Carmen has worked on collaborative projects with Portland’s houseless community, youth at Donald E. Long Detention Center, faculty at Portland State University, and youth at Friends of the Children: Portland, to name a few. In addition to this, Carmen supported the development of interdisciplinary and socially engaged -programming in Marylhurst University’s art department. She also teaches Critical Race Theory in the Critical Studies Program at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Her primary gig is as a Director of Community Engagement at Campus Compact of Oregon where she supports the development and implementation of racial justice programming for projects across the state of Oregon.
Christopher is a former screenwriting guru from New York City with passions in teaching, writing, music, and comedy. After graduating from Ithaca College with a BA in Cinema and Photography, he spent one year traveling around Cambodia, Mexico, and Central America working and expanding his cultural competency. When not guiding at Wayfinding Academy you can find him at the Crystal Ballroom working as a Production Assistant. Christopher loves challenging himself and others to think beyond their own idea's comfort.
Director of Community Engagement/Development Director
In the haze of post-grad, Co impulsively moved to Oregon and found herself on the doorsteps of the Wayfinding Academy. She loved the learning, independence, and friendships that came with college, but spent endless hours rereading majors trying to mold herself to fit one. She’s thankful to be a part of a higher education focused on the individual. In her spare time, she likes trying new restaurants, discussing books, and questioning existing hierarchies.
Felipe is originally from Brasília, the capital of Brazil. Felipe received a BS in Environmental and Sustainability Studies from the University of Utah in 2009 and an MS in Educational Leadership and Policy from Portland State University in 2016 with emphases in Leadership for Sustainability Education and Gender, Race, and Nations. Felipe currently teaches Race and Social Justice in the Senior Inquiry program, a dual-credit, year-long learning experience offered in partnerships between Portland State University (PSU) and selected Portland area high schools. As a critical sustainability scholar/educator, his research and teaching interests include productions of nature, popular culture and sustainability, cultural studies, and critical consciousness development. Felipe enjoys geeking out on quantum physics and can often be found in one of Portland's several urban parks meditating on very dense books.
Director of Student Services and Equity & Inclusion and Guide
Jean’s background is in post-secondary education with some dabbling in early childhood and K-12. Throughout her career she has always been passionate about equity and inclusion issues. She has advocated for student access whether it’s been for Latinx high school students to explore careers, or leading diversity efforts at a community college to ensure barriers are removed for all students. She thrives in environments in which all people are treated with respect and dignity and in which all people are provided opportunities to participate, to be fully engaged, and to contribute to their communities. She believes that we learn from each other and that there is hope for a better world.
When she is not working, Jean likes to play hard. She likes to work up a good sweat at the gym, or grab a recipe out of a food magazine and cook up a storm. She loves planning, planting, and harvesting from her garden. And she has OCD – Obsessive Canning Disorder!
Chief Business Officer
Jen is a master artisan of organizational flow. Her consulting work across arts & culture, education, entrepreneurship, health & wellness, and religion & spirituality has gifted her with a broad perspective on how to survive, transform, change and grow effectively, efficiently, and gracefully. Jen loves multi-cultural experiences, world music and ethnic food every day of the week. Jen is very funny she is often told.
Lead Matchmaker (Director of Student Recruitment) | Faculty
As a small child, Jonathan loved giving hugs and taking risks (his mother will happily tell you the story of how, at under 9 months old, he climbed onto the kitchen counter to turn on the toaster oven). He wouldn’t realize it until much later, but these values are at the core of who Jonathan is and how he lives his life. Jonathan is a genuine, caring person who thrives on forming connections and building community. He is passionate about personal growth and self-discovery and has spent his career as an experiential educator honing his skills to facilitate people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Along the way, Jonathan has received extensive education and training in social and cognitive psychology, social emotional learning, leadership, and group development (at Duke University, National Outdoor Leadership School, and beyond). He has also sought out valuable life experience in various roles such as World Traveler, Mad Scientist, Hug Trainer, Preschool Teacher, and Wilderness Instructor. His most recent (and most challenging) undertaking has been the role of Daddy to his lively daughter Lilah. Jonathan strives to grow and further discover how to be true to himself, and he looks forward to continuing this journey along with his Wayfinding students.
Experience is our greatest teacher. Love is at the center of all things. Always carry duct tape. This is Lauren’s personal ethos. Her passion as both community builder and social entrepreneur has been fed by her global wanderings and her desire to raise consciousness around repair and reuse on a local level. In 2008, she began a 3-year Enterprising Leadership Programme in Denmark where she studied group process, project design and personal leadership. Lauren thrived in a school that focused on the whole person, helped students identify their higher purpose, and cultivated skills to realize their potential. This profoundly shaped the way she walks in the world today and inspired her path toward mediation, group facilitation and outdoor leadership. When not at Wayfinding, she works as an Instructor for NW Outward Bound School, leads team-building programs for adults and young people, and volunteers as a mediator for Multnomah County Small Claims. Outside her professional capacity in these roles, she fills her time organizing Repair Cafés, dancing to live music and frolicking with canine friends in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest.
Founder and President
Michelle is doing her life's work right now, which is exhilarating and terrifying. During her 15 years teaching Leadership and Organizational Behavior courses in the traditional college system, she had a front row seat for what is broken about that system. About 3 years ago, she began gathering a group of like minded badasses around a vision of what a revolution in higher education could look like. After years of helping groups and non-profits organize for social impact as a volunteer (SuperThank, TEDxMtHood, World Domination Summit) Michelle started her legacy project and the Wayfinding Academy was born.
Michelle earned a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology and Leadership from Claremont Graduation University in 2002.
Sarah is a graduate of Portland State University where she studied philosophy and Women's Studies, with a focus on women of color. As a former middle and high school humanities teacher in Chicago and Detroit, as well as a short time spent teaching in Ramallah, Palestine, she has cultivated a holistic and interdisciplinary educational philosophy based on social justice, creative and critical inquiry, and a radical rethinking of our world. Her passion is empowering students of color through radical curriculum, restorative justice, and authentic social and emotional learning. She also spent time in New York in Democracy Now's education department, creating social justice and media literacy curriculum resources for teachers. She enjoys being in nature, writing, reading, and film photography.
TJ, originally from North Carolina, moved to Portland, Oregon to attend Wayfinding in the second cohort of students in 2017. They graduated from Wayfinding in 2019 and during their time as a student, they also worked for Wayfinding as a member of the Matchmaking team. When TJ isn’t at Wayfinding, they are training to be the Curator/ Arts Manager at Ori Gallery. In their free time, TJ enjoys creating art, cooking, going on hikes, and hanging out with their cat Piper!
Todd prides himself on being a bit of a “jack-of-all-trades” with a background in marine science, environmental education, teaching middle school through college-level science, and three years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the coastal desert of Perú (among other varied experiences). He continues to engage in interdisciplinary work by pursuing PhD in Environmental Sciences from Oregon State University with his research is aimed at exploring the relationships between informal science education institutions (places like science museums, zoos, aquaria, and more) and the LGBTQ+ community. Todd enjoys exploring Portland as a pedestrian and cyclist, running, reading, and spoiling his feline son, Keshito.
Marketing and Communications Manager
From professional experiences working as a wildland firefighter, alligator surveyor, newspaper reporter, magazine editor, green RV builder, founder of an educational nonprofit and marketing director, Ty is working on mastering the jack-of-all-trades thing. He has ridden a rodeo bull, helped excavate a fossilized mammoth, built and launched a solar powered food cart, lived in mountain cold of 50 below and desert heat of 120 above and camped in the ruins of an Italian monastery (never again). After all this, he finds deep resonance with the Wayfinding concept of cultivating people to lead passionate, fulfilling and interesting lives brimming with exploration, adventure, community and service. He is very excited to be part of such a purpose-driven team and use his arcane marketing powers for good.
Ty likes to think of himself as a Montexagonian, having spent most of his life in those three states with stints in exotic locales such as Spain, Saudi Arabia and New Jersey. When not consulting the oracles of Google Ads and Analytics, you’ll likely find him at the NE Portland homestead he shares with his wife and two young boys, where mornings start well before sunrise and sometimes involve taming “dragon cats” to the soundtrack of top-volume Tejano music.