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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 is a Minneapolis native. 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. She received her B.A. from Occidental College and her M. Ed from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to becoming ED at MOI, she had been living on both coasts for the last ten years and is ecstatic to be back landlocked in the Twin Cities. Samantha loves singing karaoke, particularly anything by Usher.

Favorite Book: On Beauty by Zadie Smith


K. CROSS, Program Director

Cross is a former middle school science teacher with an insatiable appetite for hands-on learning, regardless of the subject. They are a proud University of Minnesota and Kansas State University alum. Cross enjoys soccer, boxing, and storytelling. Cross has two cats, Mack and Anonyme, and a knack for making highly accurate animal sounds.

Favorite Book: The Giver by Lois Lowry

ELLEN FEE, Writer-in-Residence

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. Previously she has worked for the Minnesota Daily, the University's College of Education and Human Development, and the Minnesota Literacy Council. In addition to her work at MOI, Ellen loves gardening, cooking, camping, and crossword puzzles. This year she learned how to juggle.

Favorite Book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


DANIELLE JACKSON, Community Outreach Coordinator—AmeriCorps VISTA

Danielle is from Erie, Pennsylvania, but went to college in Michigan. While at the University of Michigan, she studied English and Social Theory & Practice with an emphasis on educational disparities. In the evenings, she edited for The Michigan Daily, the student-run newspaper on campus. She also volunteered as a tutor at the Liberty Street Robot Supply and Repair Shop (826michigan) once a week. She's used to living right by Lake Erie and loves water, so she's glad to be in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. In her free time, she likes yoga and pilates, writing, and hiking.

Favorite Book: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


NATALIE BOURMAN-KARNS, Volunteer and Evaluation Coordinator—AmeriCorps VISTA

Natalie grew up just outside of the Twin Cities area before heading off to Pennsylvania to study at Lehigh University.  While completing her B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology at Lehigh, she worked with an after-school tutoring program that served the local students with all of their homework needs. This experience led her down the path to MOI, where she continues to work with K-12 students. In addition to working with the students and volunteers involved with MOI, Natalie enjoys canoeing, camping, hiking, and any other outdoor activity that will tire out her two energetic dogs. 

Favorite Book: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison


Interested in working with us? 

We're hiring an AmeriCorps VISTA to help us pilot our Writers' Room at South High School next year. The ideal candidate will have a passion for writing, sensitivity and awareness of the diverse communities of students represented at South High School, and the flexibility and initiative needed to navigate the pilot year of a program. Learn more here.

We offer part-time internships, which can be for college credit. Candidates who are multilingual are preferred. Learn more here. 


Board of Directors

RILEY KANE [Mono Advertising]

MATT MITHUN [Somerset Amphitheater]

JENNIFER THAO [Amherst H. Wilder Foundation]

KATHY THOMFORDE [Nonprofit consultant & volunteer]

PAUL VON DRASEK [Capstone Publishing]

ZACHARY WILSON [Peace Presbyterian Church]

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]