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Our Team

Ciarán Willis
Ciarán is the founder and lead instructor of A Place Beyond. He started A Place Beyond to help make balance and growth easy. Over the years, Ciarán has learned a great deal from his students and colleagues: He was the Head of Boys Camp at Four Winds Westward Ho camp; he lectured English at the University of Finance and Economics in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; and he instructed and developed curriculum for NOLS. His passion is to make it easier for any person to make wonderful and balanced choices about how they learn and grow.
Joan Travers
As a guide and experiential wilderness educator, Joan has been fortunate to work all over the world, from Alaska to the Caribbean. She’s found a real home playing on water, spending ten years exploring and sharing wild places as a classroom. Most recently, Joan has been working for NOLS as an instructor and Alaska Alpine Adventures as the operations and logistics coordinator. She’s excited to be a part of this new team that's passionate about the environment, learning, and sharing their experiences and mentorship fostering a new generation of empowered leaders.
Julia Pinney
Julia Pinney is a recent graduate of Georgetown University. Julia finished writing her 80-page senior thesis on masculinity while distance learning from home. She has been spending the spring and summer designing curriculum and serving as a teaching assistant for a course about Title IX and campus culture surrounding sexual respect. She spent a summer as a counselor at Four Winds Westward Ho in Orcas Island, WA teaching cooking and gardening classes, and ensuring the campers in her care were happy and safe.
Micah Leslie
Micah has spent the last several years exploring his creative passions in New York and Los Angeles through stand up comedy and television writing. Prior to that, he was fortunate to lead outdoor trips in some of the most beautiful areas the country has to offer, from the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire, to the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, to the Alaskan wilderness. Micah comes to A Place Beyond excited to share his passions of the outdoors, creativity and community with our students.
Brandon Wong
Brandon lives for community and creating the opposite of loneliness. For the past two years, he’s traveled around the country and worked at different summer camps like Calleva, Gakko Project and Seeds of Peace—including a pilot of his own camp program for recent high school graduates. He previously worked at Pana, a travel technology startup in Denver, CO, as employee #6 and head of customer success as they grew to their first million in revenue.
Rachel Liu
Rachel has worked as a science educator in Thailand and Wyoming. Having studied biology at UC Santa Barbara, she finds delight and wonder in the natural world and is frequently found birding or botanizing. You may also spot Rachel dancing or hanging out on an aerial silk.
Noah Elbot
Noah is a senior strategy consultant with Dalberg Global Advisors working on social impact projects. He previously worked at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, Bain & Co. in Beijing, and green energy finance programs in Mongolia and Myanmar. He was Director of Whitewater Sports at the BSA's Wyoming High Adventure Outpost and is an alumni of Outward Bound and NOLS. Noah did his graduate studies with the inaugural class of Schwarzman Scholars in Beijing.
Grace Gorant
Grace is on a leave of absence at Barnard College in New York City, where she studies environmental anthropology. She has worked for four years as an overnight staff member and assistant village leader at YMCA Camp Mason in New Jersey and most recently served Teton Science Schools through their Americorps Field Education program.

Guest Lecturers

Andy Paul
Andy is an outdoor educator based in California. Since 2013, he has worked as field faculty for NOLS where he currently works as a program supervisor at the NOLS Alaska and Teton Valley campus locations. Experienced in the field of outdoor accessibility, he worked on the Parks Bond measure in California, specifically on the issue of equitable coastal access for inner city youth. In 2018, he finalized the process to help make San Diego based nonprofit Outdoor Outreach the first program to be accredited via the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics Youth Accreditation program. He holds an MA in peace and justice studies with a focus in environmental justice from the University of San Diego as well as a certificate from the Trans-Border Institute. He is currently completing a post-graduate certificate program in environmental public policy through the University of Denver.
Chris Rivas
Christopher Rivas is an award winning storyteller, essayist: "New York Times, Modern Love, SwipeLife, Level." Actor: "GLOW, Grey's Anatomy, For the People, SEAL Team, Shameless, Rizzoli & Isles, 2 Broke Girls, Rosewood." Rothschild Social Impact fellow, Teacher, film maker, speaker, and creator of "The Real James Bond... Was Dominican." His mission is to share powerful stories that move us forward, blend boundaries, and encourage dialogue. As a storyteller, he has worked with organizations all over the world, The WWE, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Safe Place for Youth, LAMP on Skid Row, The Museum of Broken Relationships, The Skirball Cultural Center, UCLA, CalArts, Upworthy, and SoulPancake
Laura Nelson
Laura Nelson seeks to celebrate and create sites of gathering and study. Over the last ten years, she has worked with activists, artists, and community members to organize multiple experiments in learning, including the Oakland Summer School, Night Poems, and the Library of Study. She is currently researching histories of learning and social movements as part of a Ph.D. in American Studies at Harvard University, where she has taught in the History & Literature program. Last year, she was a visiting faculty member at Deep Springs College. Laura was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and a Jefferson Scholar at the University of Virginia.
Jen Sese
Jen Sese’s eclectic career has taken her from performing on the Broadway stage in the hit musical HAIR, to sailing the high seas managing musical production for Carnival Cruise Lines, to overseeing a New York Fashion startup. As a performer, she has starred in professional stage productions across the country, most recently the National Tour of HAMILTON. Jen is a graduate from the University of Michigan (summa cum laude), having earned dual degrees in Political Science and Musical Theatre.
Adam Joseph
Adam Joseph is an MBA candidate at UC Berkeley Haas, where he focuses on the intersection of human-centered design, sustainable innovation, and brand strategy. Prior to Haas, Adam spent two years on IDEO's organizational design team and previously worked in international development finance in Mongolia. Over the summer, he also interned on LinkedIn's global brand strategy team. Adam is a California native and an avid outdoorsman with a soft spot for wild animals.
Mary Yao
Mary is currently completing her MBA at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. She has focused her studies on design-led courses ranging from innovation consulting to product design. Her past careers include being a technology consultant at IBM, a management consultant at Oliver Wyman, a Chief of Staff of a design thinking business unit within Oliver Wyman and product management intern (this summer) with Adobe. Her top 3 activities outside of work include travelling the world, meeting new people and hosting dinner parties.
Jimmy Cao
Jimmy is a 2nd year MBA student at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. At Haas, Jimmy is interested in pursuing product management and entrepreneurship. Over the summer, Jimmy interned at ZX Ventures, Anheuser-Busch's innovation and VC arm, and prior to Haas worked as a product manager in Visa's Innovation Center. Outside of Haas, Jimmy is a fitness enthusiast and loves traveling.
Alexandra Weiner
Al is an Experience Designer both professionally and personally. By day she focuses on behavior change products at McKinsey and by night she enjoys designing immersive experiences for her friends, family and community. Previously, she start a circular economy ecommerce company that she took through Techstars and a non-profit focused on creating products and community for neurodiverse people. You’ll also find her skiing, hiking, biking and watching short film.
Marcus Edmonds
Marcus currently pursuing a PhD in Computer Science at UCLA with a focus on artificial intelligence and robotics. He studies artificial intelligence and robotics from a perspective inspired by human cognition. His life goal lies at the intersection of intelligence and system design; he wants to create machine intelligence that will increase access to education and further general technological progress. Marcus’ side passion is music; he has an electronic music podcast, Deep End Theory, and DJ for fun and friends.
Sam Teng
Sam is currently pursuing her MBA/MS dual degree at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and School for Environment and Sustainability. In her studies, she focuses on the global food system and how it intersects with health, environment, and business. Prior to graduate school, her experiences include working in data analytics and product management at a healthcare technology company and conducting HIV research in New York City. In her free time, Sam enjoys rock climbing around the world and baking buttery treats.
Eli Martin
Eli works for the Biden campaign, where he has been since Dec-2019. Currently focusing on voter protection, he has also worked on delegates and ballot access during the primary. Prior to this, he spent five years in finance, most recently at an investment bank in London -- focused on healthcare and pharmaceuticals M&A. After graduating from college, Eli spent over a year in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, where he worked for an international development bank. He has also worked as a journalist -- both as an undergraduate and professionally, and is passionate about the outdoors and exploring new parts of the world.