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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









Program Director

We are currently hiring for a Program Director. Do you have a passion for youth, creative writing, and nonprofit management? Apply today!


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. 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


KAREN JOHNSON, Community Outreach Coordinator—AmeriCorps VISTA

Karen is a native Minnesotan who has lived in Arizona, Michigan, New Jersey and Peru.  She is a retired Geography professor who loves to tell stories about her travels and she loves to listen to your stories about anything.  She is also a writer and a mother to 2 sons and 2 incredible grandchildren.  When she is not at MOI she is probably taking a walk with her 2 dogs, Freya and Aina or planning the next adventure!

Favorite book:  Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

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 hiring for the 18–19 school year! Click here to apply to be our Program Director next year. In addition, we do offer part-time internships, which can be for college credit. Candidates who are multilingual are preferred. 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]