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Our Team


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Our Team


WORKING FOR A SHIFT TOWARDS
A LIFE SUSTAINING SOCIETY SINCE 2005

The Eco-Institute team is filled with Educators, Leaders, Dreamers, Fellows, Community Volunteers, and a lot of people who aren't afraid of getting their hands dirty.


 MEGAN
Toben

 

co-founder & director
 

Meg and her husband, Tim Toben, co-created The Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain as a sanctuary for nature connection, renewal, and Healing the Human-Earth Relationship. Meg has twenty years of experience as an environmental educator, and ten as an executive director, during which time she has learned useful techniques for cultivating balance while keeping a holistic level of awareness. Meg knows and loves the land here deeply, having raised her family on it for the past twelve years.  In 2015, Meg was honored with the Piedmont Environmental Leadership Award. Her love for art, ritual, Earth, and humanity inspire her to offer healing space of deep renewal to all who are working to heal our world.


SARAH
HAGGERTY

The Eco-Institute Environmental Education Chapel Hill NC

 

PROGRAM DIRECTOR 
 

Sarah helps people get in touch with what really matters. In an increasingly fragmented world, we need connection with the deeper aspects of life more now than ever. She has developed her approach over the past 20 years, and has supported thousands of people on the path of deep nature connection and personal growth. Through this work, she has helped remove the grief of disconnection, awaken attributes of leadership, nourish dreams and bring a sense of meaning back into daily life. She was the 2012 winner of the North Carolina Environmental Educators of the Year award. Sarah is the Program Director at The Eco-Institute and she is the Founder and Director of Natural Mystery School.


SIMON
SPIRE

 

INploration Guide
 

Simon’s transformative framework, Emergent Inquiry, invites people into a space in which shifts can happen. He brings to his facilitation years of exploration of self-inquiry, non-dual wisdom traditions, and meditative practices; the perspectives of developmental and depth psychology; and his long experience with artistry and the creative process. Simon holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Auckland; a master’s degree in psychology from Columbia University; is a Certified Trainer of Focusing, a mindfulness-based, somatic approach to psychological healing and development; has completed a yearlong soulcraft immersion and quest with Bill Plotkin and Animas Valley Institute; and is currently pursuing doctoral studies. He has been a director with organizations active in social entrepreneurship, leadership development, and mental health, and was led from his New Zealand homeland to the US by his career as a recording artist and songwriter.


AMY
SCHMIDT

 

Conscious Communication Guide
 

Amy works with people to unweave unconscious patterning and resolve their inner lives so what they truly want flows naturally. Amy’s work with the fellows reaches deep into the human experience and allows for revelation. It goes beyond basic physiology, self-help, and team building- teaching how to identify needs in yourself and others and serve those needs. It is a deep appreciation of the inner workings of human beings. She has her Master's in Transformative Leadership and is a certified Language of Mastery Instructor, Master NLP Practitioner, and Constellations Facilitator and has worked with groups and individuals in California, Seattle, Mexico and South Africa. She also speaks many dialects of the language of dance!


 

COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
 

INDA
LUCIANO

Inda Liza Luciano Communications Manager The Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain Chapel Hill NC Environmental Sustainability Education Permaculture

Inda manages the website, registrations, internal networks, marketing, overall communications, as well as other nonprofit management tasks. She exhibits a natural, clean aesthetic that is fresh and lovely. Inda also helps organizations and individuals with healthy missions in conscious industries metamorphose, clarify, and communicate their message; connect with their audience; and artfully cultivate and nurture new and old relationships. Her academic background is in journalism, communication arts, and modern languages– and she recently earned the nonprofit management certification from Duke University. Inda is also a holistic preventative care enthusiast, and has earned certifications in yoga, children yoga, healthy lifestyle coaching, and aesthetics.


DAVE
POLLMILLER

 

Garden Manager
 

Garden Manager, wild food enthusiast, bee-keeper, mushroom grower, chef, seed saver, grounds keeper, musician, student and teacher – Farmer Dave Pollmiller has many passions in life. It´s not hard to see that his greatest passion in life is food. Dave has an infectious passion for growing food, foraging for food, cooking food and without a doubt, eating food. A native of Kansas, Dave left Kansas University in 2013 in response to his heart´s message to pursue his passions. He found himself working on organic farms in Hawaii and lived there for two years learning the basics of small scale agriculture. Dave came to The Eco-Institute in 2015 for the Odyssey Fellowship program. Fully inspired by the work of The Eco-Institute, Dave stayed at the farm and became staff that winter. You will see the reflections of his passion in both the gardens and the kitchen.


Alison
Sever

Rising Earth Director The Eco-Institute Environmental Education Chapel Hill NC

 

Immersion Program Director, yoga instructor
 

Alison balances curiosity and skepticism when designing programming for a better world. She comes to The Eco-Institute from her native New England, where she facilitated a land-based gap year program at a Waldorf camp and farm. A gap year alumna herself, and current chair of the Gap Year Association Alum Committee, she has mentored dozens of emerging adults—mostly gap students—on diverse experiences all over the world. Her facilitation style is largely influenced by her backgrounds in intercultural and outdoor education, as well as her training in contemplative practices including yoga and the Buddhism-inspired eco-philosophy The Work That Reconnects. Most recently she is growing her edge as a gardener, herbalist, and fermenter's apprentice.


SARAH
BISH

Office Manager yoga teacher book keeper The Eco-Institute Environmental Sustainability Education Chapel Hill NC

 

OFFICE MANAGER, book keeper, yoga instructor
 

Sarah keeps The Eco-Institute’s team and office organized, in mental and physical shape, and makes sure we get paid! She is a smoother, weaving together pieces to create efficient systems. She also keeps guests in balance in her role as yoga teacher, and loves getting her hands dirty gardening. Another multi-talented part of the team!


Ezekiel
Fugate

grants-manager-the-eco-institute-at-pickards-mountain-sustainability-education



GRANTS Manager

Ezekiel is committed to creating a culture in which every person embodies their unique role as an integral member of the Earth community. In his capacity as the Grants Manager at The Eco-Institute, he works to secure funding for the vital work of healing the Human-Earth Relationship. Before joining the team, Ezekiel co-founded and directed Springhouse Community School, a progressive, holistic, and soul-centered secondary school dedicated to supporting young people on their journey to becoming effective innovators, leaders, and citizens of Earth. He lives with his wife and two young daughters on a small permaculture homestead in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, not far from where he grew up and where his family has been rooted for hundreds of years. Ezekiel received undergraduate degrees in engineering and mathematics from the University of Virginia and a masters degree in environmental engineering from Yale University. He is currently working toward a doctoral degree in Philosophy and Religion from the California Institute of Integral Studies.


AUDREY
WILLIAMS

venue-coordinator-the-eco-institute-at-pickards-mountain-sustainability-education-green-venue



VENUE COORDINATOR

Audrey has a passion for connecting people in order to build a strong and diverse community, especially when it involves helping others forge a new path. With years of event planning experience from her time at UNC, she brings a unique perspective to her role as Venue Coordinator. She loves working behind the scenes and witnessing the magic that happens when people get together for a yoga retreat, wedding or informal potluck. Audrey is a lifelong Carolinian with deep roots in this area and ancestors who were farmers. She is part of the movement to bring back the "old" and wise ways of homesteading. She raises chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats and a garden at Happy Chick Farm in Chatham County. 



Julia
kesselman

The Eco-Institute Environmental Education Chapel Hill NC permaculture sustainability ecology



Facilities COORDINATOR

Julia believes that the healing effects of practicing mindfulness and positivity in our communities ripple into the wider world, and that creating an individual relationship between oneself and the earth is necessary in order to achieve true mindfulness. She plans on nurturing her Human-Earth relationship through farm work, because while spending some time tending to the land in Vermont she realized that she's most energetically aligned when her hands are in the dirt–physically forming a connection with the earth. Julia is currently apprenticing in Farmer Dave's Garden Cooperative and plans to continue these cultivation practices for as long as she breathes. In her Facilities Coordinator role, Julia is responsible for keeping The Eco-Institute’s shared spaces beautiful for event rentals and coordinating with renters to make sure their needs are being met. She is grateful to be a part of a wonderfully inclusive team. 


The Eco-Institute Environmental Education Chapel Hill NC