Chris Barlow, Director of HMI Gap

While Chris often claims that he simply loves to play in the mountains, the truth is that he loves wild places for the profound experiences and opportunities for growth they can catalyze. His love for the mountains drew him from his roots in East Tennessee to Colorado College, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing. He has worked as an educator in a variety of venues: teaching Spanish and English in both public and private schools around Colorado (including HMI), instructing rock climbing programs, and leading wilderness trips across the American West. His winding path led him back to Colorado College in 2009 to earn his Master of Arts in Teaching, focusing on secondary language arts instruction and digital literacy. Chris believes that there is a strong connection between exploring wild places and exploring new ideas, perspectives, and one’s own identity, and he is deeply grateful to get the opportunity to help students do all of this through his work with HMI Gap and summer programs.

Claire Sutton, Gap Admissions Coordinator and Faculty

Claire grew up in the Bay Area, but found her true self during free rambles through coastal redwoods and exploits to find the perfect tree to build a fort for her imaginary kingdom of fairies. After high school, she moved East to study Film and Television at Boston University. After graduating Claire created her own post-grad gap year to pursue her favorite question: “what lights your fire?” In pursuit of answering this question she traveled through South America and completed a NOLS Semester on The Borders. Through these experiences she discovered the powerful tool of experiential education, which inspired her to work in an underfunded 6th grade classroom with City Year Denver, serve as HMI’s Semester 38 Marketing Apprentice, and lead international service and cultural exchange programming in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Chilean Patagonia, Cuba, Australia and Fiji. Today, what lights her fire is to create intentional communities of students through shared experiences in international travel and wilderness education. That, and karaoke.

John Bengtson, Gap Faculty

John grew up exploring forests near his home in rural Connecticut. This love of wild places drew him to Colby College in Maine, where he spent weekends exploring the mountains of northern New England. While at Colby, John discovered the joy of travel and exploring new places and cultures while living, working, and studying in Chile, Argentina, and Nicaragua. After graduation, John moved west to teach field science at the Teton Science School before returning to Chile with the Alzar School, where he taught English and Leadership. These days John splits time between HMI and working river courses for NOLS. In his free time, you can find John woodworking, rambling through mountains, or attempting to convince anyone that will listen that the completo is the ultimate food.

Shona Estey-Edwards, Gap Faculty

Shona’s love for adventure and the outdoors is rooted in a childhood spent roaming the foothills and mountains of Northern California, which inspired her to pursue a B.A. in Outdoor Experiential Education and Environmental Studies at Prescott College. During her time living and studying in Arizona, she fell in love with the Southwest’s wild places and developed skills as a rock climber, whitewater rafter, backpacker, and ecologist. Shona has worked as a climbing and backpacking instructor, whitewater rafting guide, dance and yoga teacher, and environmental educator in California, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Patagonia. Shona has been an intern with the HMI Summer Term and worked with the Climbing and Conservation Gap Semester Program in 2018. She is thrilled to continue working with the HMI community and the Gap students. The transformative power of the real-life learning that happens through experiential education, outdoor adventures and an intentionally-cultivated community is what inspires Shona to work with young people in the outdoors. Shona loves the natural world and in her free time enjoys climbing, rafting, hiking, cooking, botanizing, practicing yoga, and exploring new places.

Grace Fowler, Gap Faculty

Grace grew up in Minnesota and New Hampshire, and fell in love with experiential education and the outdoors as a student at The Island School and the High Mountain Institute. Grace pursued those passions at Colby College, where she majored in Environmental Policy and Education and spent her free time organizing backpacking trips and exploring Maine with friends. After graduation, she returned west and worked at HMI for a second summer before moving to teach science at the Keystone Science School. Fond of petting dogs, eating burritos, and exploring Colorado by foot, bike, and ski, Grace is overjoyed to be a part of the HMI community.

Jonathan Presley, Gap Faculty

“JP” grew up in on a farm in rural Indiana; however, the flat land could not hold him for long. While pursuing a degree in International Studies at Hanover College, he developed a strong desire for experiences grounded in exploration and personal growth. He has been at it ever since. Combining a love of travel and the outdoors, JP has split time between living abroad and working in the big sky country of Montana. He spent the last few years instructing 3-month gap semesters in East Africa and South America, for HMI and other programs, while spending summers in Leadville with HMI Summer Term. JP loves interacting with new cultures and languages while exploring the natural world. He spends his free time traveling, cycling, reading, and playing soccer.

Madeline Short, Gap Faculty

Growing up exploring the fields and forests surrounding her family’s farm in rural Pennsylvania instilled in Madeline her love of adventure and deep appreciation for both wild and working landscapes and the tight-knit communities they support. She loves playing in the mountains but also thinks about how to live in symbiosis with the landscape. This, and a search for snowier mountains, is what led Madeline to study environmental studies and food systems at the University of Vermont. Since graduating, she has spent time exploring the Rockies with HMI’s Summer Term and working on an educational farm in upstate New York. When she is not running, hiking, or playing outside, Madeline loves to grow and cook food, spend time with her family and friends, make art, and read really good books. Madeline could not be more excited to spend the fall working and learning with Gap students!

Steph Subdiaz, Gap Faculty

Steph was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She is an alumna of the HMI Semester Program and Apprentice Program. Steph got her B.S. in Earth Sciences at UC Santa Cruz in 2016 while also working at the universities’ recreation office. Since graduating, Steph has filled most of her time working in the field of outdoor education and going on long adventures with friends. While Steph absolutely loves California, something about Leadville and the Rocky Mountains keep bringing her back to the “2-mile high city.” When she’s not camping or climbing, Steph likes to read, paint, run, bike and cook good food with friends.

Hannah Trim, Gap Faculty

Hannah grew up in Chicago, Illinois, constantly yearning for more time in the woods. After falling in love with rock climbing on small Midwestern cliffs, she applied to colleges largely based on their proximity to the mountains. Four years later, she graduated with a degree in Biology from Colorado College, where she was highly involved in the school’s outdoor program and climbing gym. Hannah has since lived in many Colorado mountain towns, where she has been building her experience climbing rock, snow, and ice, skiing, painting, and working as a potter. Hannah has worked as an Outward Bound Instructor for several seasons in Colorado, Ecuador, and Alaska. She spends as much time as possible in the mountains, learning about herself and the ecosystems around her. Hannah loves geeking out about all sort of things, particularly birds, lichens, mushrooms, and compost.

Brad Ward, Gap Faculty

Growing up in New Hampshire instilled the value of small communities and power of the outdoors from an early age. After growing up in the White Mountains, Brad migrated to the West Coast to attend the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. At UBC, he earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in History, with a minor in Japanese language. After university, he developed his skills as a teacher and instructor through work as an English teacher and counselor for students. Brad continued to thrive and use climbing for personal growth, which inspired him to pursue guiding and outdoor instruction. He has worked throughout Alaska, New Hampshire, the Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, and Spain. Brad’s aim with his work is to share the connection, appreciation, personal growth and humbleness he feels in the outdoors with others.