Meet the Gap Faculty

Chris Barlow, Co-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 Term. Chris works with his wife Becca who shares his passion for the outdoors and teaches him humility as she out-skis, out-hikes, and out-runs him.

Becca Schild, Co-Director of HMI Gap

As a Colorado native, love for adventure and the mountains are in Becca’s blood. After taking a gap year exploring India with NOLS and skiing the Rocky Mountains, she attended Colorado College to earn her degree in International Sustainable Development. Becca is an educator at heart, leading NOLS wilderness expeditions and climbing courses, directing the Environmental Center at Fort Lewis College, and teaching students to grapple with environmental issues in her courses at Colorado College and the University of Colorado Boulder. Becca believes strongly in the power of intentional communities and immersive learning environments as a transformational moment in a student’s journey, which is what compelled her to work for HMI. Along with her work at HMI, Becca completed her PhD in Environmental Studies at CU Boulder, where she researched the link between outdoor recreation and environmental values. When not teaching or in school, Becca is an avid outdoor enthusiast and can be found spending her free time scaling rock faces with her husband, Chris, or going on long mountain runs.

Claire Sutton, Admissions Associate and Gap 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 Bengston, 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 spent a summer working in Guatemala, and a semester studying and traveling through Chile; it was during these first forays to Latin America that John discovered the joy of international travel and exploring new places and cultures. 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. In his free time, you can find John skiing, kayaking, woodworking, rambling through mountains, or attempting to convince just about anyone that will listen that the completo is the ultimate food.

Shona Etsey-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 backpacking instructor, whitewater rafting guide, dance and yoga teacher, and environmental educator in California, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. In 2016, Shona worked with the HMI Summer Term as an intern and is thrilled to return to the HMI community as part of the Gap team. 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.

Sam Gilbert, Gap Faculty

Sam discovered a love for the outdoors at a young age through countless family camping trips throughout the Midwest. As a student on a NOLS semester course after high school, Sam became dedicated to the pursuit of a career path in adventure. Through work in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and Minnesota, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the mountains, lakes, and rivers of California, Sam has continued to develop his passion of sharing interactions with the natural world alongside students. As he continues to be amazed by the educational power of the wilderness, his relentless desire to teach and process with students grows as well and is excited to return to HMI, where he was a Summer Term Faculty, to work with the Gap team. When not adventuring, Sam can be found shooting hoops, finding ways to the tops of tall structures and refining his creamy sundried tomato gnocchi recipe.

Gabe Kiritz, Gap Faculty

Gabe grew up exploring the landscapes of northern California. While studying Environmental Science and Arabic at UCLA, he became a guide with the Outdoor Adventure program, discovered climbing, and pursued his passion for connecting people with nature as an outdoor educator. He then went back to school for a Masters in International Environmental Policy. He has evaluated coastal resilience to climate change in California, supported marine conservation in the Middle East, advocated for sound renewable energy policy in Chile, organized businesses to protect public lands in the American West, and taught students the back-country gourmet lifestyle on NOLS expeditions. Along the way, he discovered that he feels like his best self when working as an educator, mentoring students, collaborating with talented colleagues (and baking bread and pizza for any and all). When not working on his growth mindset, he loves to spend his time cooking for friends, running through the hills, climbing cracks, trying to bake the perfect loaf of sourdough, and defining a feeling of home.

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 taking a degree in International Studies at Hanover College he developed a strong desire to explore, grow, and never stop learning. He has been at it every 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. Most recently he has been instructing 3-month service gap semesters in East Africa and South America. JP is ecstatic about joining the HMI team for the Spring Semester in Patagonia. Fun and laughter await.

Steph Subdiaz, Gap Faculty

Steph was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She is an alumna of the HMI Semester Program, which she completed during her junior year in high school. Steph worked at the UC Santa Cruz Recreation Department while in college while not getting too distracted by the amazing outdoor opportunities to work on her B.S. in Earth Science, which she completed in 2016. Since graduating, Steph has filled most of her time working in the field of outdoor education and going on long adventures with friends. Steph rejoined the HMI community as a math apprentice in the spring of 2017, and she’s excited to return to work for the Gap program. While Steph absolutely loves California, something about the Rockies (or maybe Leadville) keeps bringing her back to the 2 mile high city. When she’s not camping or climbing, Steph likes to read, paint, run, bike and make 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.