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 a part 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, Program & Volunteer 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
TORI DYLLA, Community Outreach Coordinator—AmeriCorps VISTA
Tori grew up in Rochester, MN and has lived in Minneapolis for the last four years while they finished their degree in Global Studies and Human Rights and Justice at the University of Minnesota. Tori is an androgynous, gender-fluid person who uses they/them pronouns. Before coming to MOI, Tori also taught English in China to low-income students from rural areas, interned with the Advocates for Human Rights, and organized communities of manufactured homeowners with All Parks Alliance for Change to combat unequal systems of power and improve communities. They use creative writing, yoga, and meditation to help relieve daily stress and anxiety, and also enjoy filling their cup with pho from the delicious vegan Vietnamese restaurants the Twin Cities has to offer.
Favorite Works: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston, Terrier by Tamara Pierce, and the poem "My Name is Not Those People" by Julia Dinsmore
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
KATHY THOMFORDE served on the faculty of the University of Minnesota and as a tenured full professor at St. Olaf College where she taught courses in marketing and management for over 20 years. She was elected to the MOI board in 2016 and currently serves as board chair.
TOM RACCIATTI is a director at the Minneapolis office of West Monroe Partners, a multinational management and technology consulting firm headquartered in Chicago. He serves as board treasurer and chair of the finance committee. Tom joined the MOI board in 2018.
MARY BURNTON is the managing director at Newmark Knight Frank Real Estate Incorporated in Minneapolis. Mary serves on the governance committee and joined the MOI board in December 2016.
QORSHO HASSAN is a reading intervention and enrichment specialist for ISD 191 (Burnsville-Eagan-Rosemount). She is also the artist behind the exhibit and book “Urur Dhex-Dhexaad Ah: Community In-Between,” which presents color portraits, first-person video stories, and written narratives detailing Somali immigrants from Columbus, Ohio. She joined the MOI board in 2018.
AL ONKKA is a principal consultant at Aurora Consulting in Minneapolis, specializing in thoughtful evaluation, strategic planning, and organizational leadership development. Al is a member of the finance committee and joined the board in 2019.
PAUL VON DRASEK is a retired sales executive from the publishing industry, most recently at Capstone Publishing. Paul joined the MOI board in 2014 and is an active volunteer in MOI programs.
MATT MITHUN owns Mithun Enterprises, a Real Estate and Entertainment company, and runs Somerset Amphitheater, an outdoor concert venue in Somerset, Wisconsin. He chairs the governance committee and serves as vice chair of the board. Matt joined the MOI board in 2017.
KAREN DYE is the Director of Intercultural Life at the St. Paul Academy & Summit School. She joined the MOI board in 2015 and currently serves as board secretary and a member of the governance committee.
RILEY KANE is a creative director/writer at the ad agency, Mono, in Minneapolis. Riley has been an active volunteer at MOI since 2014 and currently chairs the development committee. He joined the MOI board in 2018.
JENNIFER THAO is the Executive Services Director at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in St. Paul. She joined the MOI board in 2016 and currently serves as a member of the governance committee.
EMILY VALENTINE-GRIMM is an attorney at Mason & Helmers in St. Paul, specializing in estate and trust litigation. Emily is a member of the development committee and joined the board in 2019.