Staff & Board


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Northern Susitna Institute Staff

LargeSquareBetsy Smith, Executive Director
Betsy brings diverse experience working with non-profits, nonformal education, and partnerships throughout the country, primarily within the field of environmental education. Her experience is supported by an M.Ed. in Environmental Education and she also serves as an Adjunct with the University of Alaska Anchorage.


Diane Ziegner, Alaska Folk School Director
Diane made her home in Talkeetna in 1997. She weaves rag rugs and is the owner/operator of Studio Z Yoga. She and her husband Jim Graupmann visited the North House Folk School in Minnesota and were inspired so much that they got involved with starting the Alaska Folk School in Talkeetna.

 Sophie Hainline, Americorp    Sophie is a Resilient Alaska Youth AmeriCorps Member bringing afterschool programming to the Upper Susitna Valley. She graduated from the University of Montana with her Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies and Nonprofit Administration. She has worked the past few summer’s in Talkeetna as a Summer Program Instructor for NSI and a Naturalist for the Alaska Nature Guides. Sophie is passionate about place-based, outdoor education and loves getting kids outside to explore the wonders of our world


Tia Shoemaker,  Field Adventure Coordinator
Tia has been a part of Northern Susitna Institute since 2008, leading trips through Denali State Park, Denali National Park, Lake Clark Pass, Baja, California, and summer camps in Talkeetna, Alaska. Her background is in therapeutic recreation and she believes strongly in getting youth outside to experience leadership and learn to be stewards of the land. Tia is also a fishing and hunting guide in remote Alaska, and enjoys traveling the globe.

Board of Directors

JoePJoe Page, President
For the past 30 years, Joe has been one of our community’s most active visionaries. He has a long and proven track record of making things happen. He is a retired teacher, founder of Northern Susitna Institute and the Denali Arts Council, founding chair of the Talkeetna Community Council, served as chairman of the Talkeetna Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, and co-founder of the CEAL Academy.

Erin Aulman, Vice President

Erin has been an educational leader in the Talkeetna community for over thirty years, serving as principal of Talkeetna Elementary School for twenty years and as the founder and first board president of Northern Susitna Institute. Her energy and passion for life-long learning is an inspiration for all.

BarbMBarb Mannix, Secretary
Barb has been an active member of the Talkeetna community for more than 30 years, specializing in natural history outdoor adventure, gardening, books, and theater. She works as a medical assistant at the Sunshine Community Health Center.


Jim Graupmann, Treasurer
In his capacity as a captain for Atlas Airlines, Jim has flown freight and passengers around the world.  When home in Talkeetna, Jim grooms ski trails, hockey rinks, and has been the catalyst and inspiration for the creation of the Alaska Folk School.

Sarah Kehoe, Board Member     Born in Britain, Sarah moved to Alaska at age 23, first to Fairbanks then to Talkeetna. She feels lucky to have worked at Sunshine Community Health Center in its early days and to have three children in her life. She believes in fair and equal access to nature, good education, excellent healthcare, meaningful work, and strong community.  She is happy to be serving on the board of Northern Susitna Institute.

Ashley Kaso, Board Member
Ashley came to Talkeetna in 2003 with the intention of only spending a summer working at Talkeetna River Guides after graduating from the University of Connecticut. Fast forward 14 years and she’s the general manager of Talkeetna River Guides and clearly spent more than just that “one summer!” She loves to travel and in doing so has truly come to believe that she lives in one of the best communities around! There’s no perfect place but Talkeetna is pretty darn close (at least from March-October).

Mark Wildermuth, Board Member
Mark Wildermuth has been enjoying the Alaska outdoors for more than 30 years, as a wilderness guide for rafting, fishing and dog mushing. Mark culminated his dog mushing career by finishing 22nd as a rookie in the 1995 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. More recently, he has enjoyed the challenge of business development with a strong commitment to renewable and environmentally-conscience land development, including Denali Zipline Tours, Talkeetna Camper Park, and the Wildflower Café/Main Street Suites.

Scott Patridge, Board Member

Among Scott’s background credits are teacher, Eagle Scout, raft guide, and intrepid traveler.  He works as a ski instructor at Alyeska in winter and for Talkeetna River Guides in summer.

Nonprofit Organization Status

The Northern Susitna Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. For more information, please contact us.  Please use the links below to view the NSI’s public documents.

Conflict of Interest Policy
Disclosure Statement
Board Roles and Responsibilities
Board Member Reimbursement Procedure

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