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Our Team

Though we are small, we are mighty! Meet the individuals who captain the seas at Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute.


SAMANTHA SENCER-MURA, Executive Director 

Samantha grew up in Minneapolis. During her time as a student in Minneapolis Public Schools, she recognized the deep inequities inherent in the school system and decided to commit herself to supporting low-income students of color. Prior to her tenure at MOI, she worked as an educator and program director in New York City and the Bay Area. She received her B.A. from Occidental College and her M. Ed in School Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is apart of Global Shapers Minneapolis hub and a board member for New Leaders Council Twin Cities. Samantha loves singing karaoke, particularly anything by Usher.

Favorite Book: On Beauty by Zadie Smith


CRISTETA BOARINI, Program Director

As a child, Cristeta Boarini wanted to be a marine biologist when she grew up. Now as program director for MOI, she thinks that this is the next best thing. Cristeta is a journalist and storyteller based in South Minneapolis. Originally from the Chicagoland area, Cristeta graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota in 2011. Her work has been featured in local media outlets such as the Twin Cities Daily Planet, Radio K, The Growler Magazine, MinnPost and KFAI. Cristeta currently serves on the boards of the Radio K Alumni Association and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. When she’s not searching for that next great story, Cristeta can be found walking her dog around Powderhorn, knitting, or serving pints at the brewery she and her husband co-own in Dundas, Minn.

Favorite Book: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


ELLEN FEE, Creative Writing Programs Coordinator

Ellen grew up in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2016, where she studied English and wrote an undergraduate thesis on literacy development and children's poetry. Before she climbed on board at MOI, Ellen worked for the U’s College of Education and Human Development, the Minnesota Daily, and America Reads. She also teaches in the Loft Literary Center’s summer youth program. Ellen lives in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood and has an apple tree in her backyard.

Favorite Book: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

SAM OPPENHEIMER, Writers' Room Coordinator—AmeriCorps VISTA

Sam is a native Midwesterner who recently moved back to the US from London, where she received her MA in Creative Writing and Children’s Literature. She spent a lot of time selling human snot, bone chunks, and earwax, and working with East London’s monster community. She is excited about her company transfer, and is looking forward to working with the underwater monsters here in Minnesota. As a circus performer, Sam spends most of her free time hanging upside down in the air. She likes boots and the smell of rain and tangy things like cider and pickles. 

One of her favorite books is The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 2, by Diana Wynne Jones.

Interested in working with us? 

We’re not currently hiring, but we do offer part-time internships, which can be for college credit. Learn more here. 


Board of Directors

KRISTIN BLENKUSH [Fredrikson & Byron]

MARY BURNTON [Newmark Knight Frank]

KAREN DYE [St. Paul Academy Summit Schools]

QORSHO HASSAN [Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191]

MARLON JAMES [Macalester College]

RILEY KANE [Mono Advertising]

MATT MITHUN [Somerset Amphitheater]

TOM RACCIATTI [West Monroe Partners]

JENNIFER THAO [Amherst H. Wilder Foundation]

KATHY THOMFORDE [Nonprofit consultant & volunteer]

PAUL VON DRASEK [Capstone Publishing]

ZACHARY WILSON [Peace Presbyterian Church]

Literary Board