Meet the Leaders

Whittemore School of Business and Economics, M.B.A.
University of New Hampshire, B.A., Communication (Media Practices)

Tavia is a teacher and a freelance film and video production artist. She specializes in editing short-form documentaries for non-profit organizations. She has also edited several locally and nationally distributed feature-length documentaries, television commercials, and radio commercials. She is a 2008 Undergraduate Research Conference Award of Excellence winner for a rhetorical criticism of film research project, and a 2007 Undergraduate Research Conference honorable mention for a short-form documentary. She is also the 2008 recipient of the Wilburn Sims Memorial Award, the highest honor awarded by the University of New Hampshire Department of Communication. Tavia is actively involved in theatre and her acting resume ranges from Shakespeare (Twelfth Night) to modern theatre (How I Learned to Drive). She most recently studied voice for actors at the Berkeley Repertory School of Theatre in Berkeley, California, and performed in the original cast of a local production. She is currently an Academic Instructor at the Lenôtre Culinary Institute in Houston, Texas.  This is  Tavia’s sixth summer with Putney and her second year as Director of Pre-College Amherst.

NIKOLAS SPARKS | Assistant Director
Duke University, Ph.D., English (candidate)
Columbia University, M.A., African American Studies
University of California, Santa Cruz, B.A., American Studies and Modern Literature

Nik was born and raised in San Francisco, and has long had a passion for exploring the intersections of art and politics. Earning his B.A. at UC Santa Cruz, he majored in both Literature and American Studies. While at Santa Cruz, Nik taught a variety of community classes about the prison system and political organizing. In addition to his interest in politics, Nik has extensive experience in the world of publishing, working in the editorial departments of City Lights Bookstore and Publishing, Grove/Atlantic Press, Souls Journal, and Duke University Press. After leaving San Francisco, Nik spent two years earning his master’s degree in African American Studies at Columbia University in New York. Since completing his degree at Columbia, Nik has begun work on his doctorate in the English department at Duke University. Nik has worked three summers at the Putney Pre-College program at Amherst College.

HENK ROSSOUW | Writing in College, Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry
University of Houston, Ph.D., Literature and Creative Writing (candidate)
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, M.F.A., Creative Writing
University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, B.A., Journalism

A poet, Henk grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. His poems have appeared in The Paris Review, The Boston Review, The Massachusetts Review, and Transom. During the academic year, he teaches college writing and creative writing at the University of Houston, where he serves as a poetry editor for Gulf Coast literary journal. For the non-profit Inprint, he teaches creative writing to the general public and to older adults. While at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Henk won the Poetry Society of America’s Bright Lights Big Verse contest, judged by the former poetry editor of The New Yorker, and read his winning poem at a public event on Times Square. In 2006 and 2008, Henk attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Middlebury, Vermont. As a Sauve Scholar at McGill University, in Montreal, Henk was given a sabbatical to write, and published a personal essay in The Threepenny Review, an interview with Nadine Gordimer in The Virginia Quarterly Review, and a short story in Tin House, which won a Summer Literary Seminars first prize: a trip to a literary festival in Kenya. Henk gave lectures across Canada on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in rural South Africa. From 2001 to 2005, he traveled to Rwanda, Uganda, Liberia, and Congo as the Africa correspondent for Washington, DC’s The Chronicle of Higher Education. His reporting on former child soldier Grace Akallo led to her becoming a spokesperson on Capitol Hill about the conflict in northern Uganda, and eventually completing a master’s degree in the United States. Henk also wrote on the arts and covered Zimbabwe for Newsweek. Henk has been both a teacher and director on Putney’s Pre-College summer program at Amherst College. In 2014, he co-led Putney’s Writing in Prague program.

University of New Haven, B.S., Forensic Science, B.S., Pre-Medical Biology

Avery graduated from the University of New Haven (UNH) with two Bachelor of Science degrees, one in Forensic Science and the other in Pre-Medical Biology, as well as a minor in Chemistry. While at UNH, her research focused on the effects of particulate-laden water on skeletal trauma, and was presented at several national conferences. In the past, she was an intern at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Concord, New Hampshire, in which she observed and participated in autopsies,  completed data-gathering assignments, processed forensic evidence, and aided in investigations with the New Hampshire Cold Case Unit. Starting in her sophomore year, Avery organized and led a campus organization called the Coalition to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which actively works with a professional NGO to complete overseas rescue missions. She continues to be a part of this group even after graduating because working against trafficking is something that she is very passionate about. Avery hopes to continue her studies in medical school and obtain a medical degree in the areas of forensic pathology and neuropathology.

BENJAMIN BRINK | Business & Economics
Suffolk University, Madrid, B.S., Communication and Media Studies

While at Suffolk University, Ben wrote for the school newspaper, played on the Baseball team and worked part-time as a door-to-door salesman. He finished his undergraduate degree in 2012, and decided to use his door-to-door experience to launch a career in business development.  Since then, he has worked with some of the best companies in Boston as a business development executive, a digital marketing consultant and a sales trainer for entry-level hires.  This fall, Ben will be working as an independent business development contractor, and pursuing a MBA in Entrepreneurship.

KAIA DE BRUIN | History: the Rise and Fall of Empires
Bates College, B.A., History

Kaia focused on European history at Bates College, and also studied art history and philosophy. While at Bates, Kaia had the opportunity to mentor and tutor elementary school students in Lewiston Public Schools and assisted in running a British Studies conference held at the college. She wrote her senior thesis on religious asylums for women in nineteenth-century Ireland. Kaia spent a semester in Prague, where she studied Central European history, picked up some Czech, and traveled throughout Europe. She’ll be back across the ocean again after graduation, farming in Ireland before coming to Amherst.

JULIENNE ALEXANDER | Graphic Design, Studio Art
Davidson College, B.A., Literature

Julienne attended Davidson College in her home state of North Carolina where she discovered while working for a series of campus publications that her knack for art and design could be quite useful, and upon graduating she began putting these skills to work for a long list of magazines, creative firms, and political campaigns. After some years living in Oregon and a stint in Washington, D.C., Julienne’s home base is back in North Carolina, where she lives and works as a graphic designer, muralist, and artist in Durham. When she’s not at home, she travels as often as she can for work and for pleasure; after teaching Studio Art and Graphic Design courses this summer at Amherst, she will move to Germany for the autumn to paint, eat dense breads, and continue working for her clients remotely.

CLAIRE GERETY-MOTT | Entrepreneurship, Filmmaking
Columbia University, B.A., Film Studies (minor in Creative Writing)

Claire majored in Film Studies and minored in Creative Writing at Columbia University. She currently resides in Los Angeles and has written seven features, two T.V. pilots, a web-series, a play, and a children’s book entitled Nathaniel T. Culpepper is Missing a Sock. She has also directed five short films. With her experience working on studio films such as North Country, Torque, and Rumor Has It in multiple capacities including assistant to the director, she has gained knowledge of the workings of the studio system. In the independent world she worked as apprentice to Joan Scheckel, writing and directing coach to the filmmakers of Little Miss Sunshine, Whale Rider, and Beginners. Her gritty period-drama pilot, The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, is currently in development by producer/actor Vincent Piazza from Boardwalk Empire. Her web series The Hub was optioned by IFC last year, and she and her writing partner Katie Locke O’Brien are currently pitching new television comedies to places like ABC and Showtime. Claire not only has a well-rounded knowledge of the craft of storytelling, life-long passion for the art of cinema, and an understanding of the media of film from many different vantage points, she also works as a tutor for all age groups and is passionate about educating young minds. In addition to her film experience, Claire has lived in Spain and Italy, has worked as a pastry chef for a catering company, has been a food development coordinator for a Trader Joe’s supplier, and is an award-winning pie maker.

KELLY O’CONNELL | ESL, Public Speaking & Debate
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, B.A., Psychology, B.A., Education

During her Junior year at UMass Amherst Kelly studied in Perugia, Italy, where she fell in love with travel and learning about culture. She worked as an International Education Advisor for four years, advising students preparing to study in various countries in Europe and Latin America. She currently lives in Madrid, Spain, and teaches English at an Elementary School. She is still learning Spanish, and loves practicing whenever she has the opportunity. Her favorite thing about traveling is finding off-the-beaten-path places to chat with locals and experience the cuisine. In her free time she loves hiking, yoga, baking, and dreaming of her next adventure.

IVAN ZEAVIN-MOSS | Program Assistant
Middlebury College, BA (candidate)

While at Middlebury, Ivan has focused on economics, Spanish, and Portuguese. He spent a semester abroad in Montevideo, Uruguay, fine tuning his Spanish and working as an English teacher. He hopes to return to teach English in South America after he graduates. Recently, Ivan started computer programming, and is now pursuing a minor in writing computer code.  Ivan still studies at Middlebury; he is involved with the radio, the Community Friends mentorship program, and various intramural sports. Ivan is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Portuguese and French. This fall, Ivan will be returning to Middlebury for his last year to work on his thesis, focusing on regional integration in South America.

ELIZA HOYLAND | Digital Photography
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, BA Commercial Photography

Originally from Melbourne Australia, Eliza decided to pack her bags and make the move to New York City after visiting and falling in love with its bright lights in her final year at RMIT University. Since then Eliza has worked as a  producer, photographer, and assistant. She has been the on-set producer for publications such as Interview, ID Magazine, and Vogue as well as producing advertising campaigns for Citibank, Old Navy, and Visa. Her passion is fashion and portrait photography and she has shot for several of the top modelling agencies, including Ford, Wilhelmina, One management, Womens, and Major. When she’s not shooting beautiful models in her living room, she is often found watching movies at the Angelika film center or volunteering at Slideluck Youth Initiative Photography Class.

KATIE CARBONARA | Program Assistant
University of New Hampshire, B.S., Environmental Conservation and Sustainability.

Katie is a recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire, where she studied Environmental Conservation and Sustainability with a specialization in Environmental Education. She is a New Hampshire native, but caught the travel bug in high school when she had the opportunity to travel to Italy and France. She also completed two community service trips to El Salvador, where she helped to build houses for impoverished families. This past fall, she had the opportunity to study the unique ecosystems and biodiversity of New Zealand on the UNH EcoQuest program. While in New Zealand, Katie went bungee-jumping, sky diving, caving, and sea kayaking. As a camp counselor, student teacher, and after-school program volunteer, she discovered her love of working with students, especially teaching them about the natural world and environmental sustainability. In her free time, she loves being outside, hiking, cooking, reading, and running.

ADAM COGBILL | Marketing
University of New Hampshire, Durham, Ph.D., Rhetoric and Writing (candidate)
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, M.F.A., Fiction
Franklin and Marshall College, B.A., English

Adam is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, where he studies Rhetoric and Writing. He has taught courses in writing and literacy at several institutions, and his research interests include public rhetoric, academic literacy, and genre theory. He writes fiction and essays, and his work has appeared in several publications, including The Kenyon Review, Slow Trains, and Amherst College’s own The Common. When he is not writing or reading, he is usually hiking, drinking coffee, or playing nerdy board games. This will be his fifth summer serving as an instructor for Putney Pre-College at Amherst College.

MESHIA BEGIN | Psychology of the Criminal Mind, Gender Studies
Arizona State University, M.S., Justice Studies
University of Vermont, B.A., Anthropology

Meshia’s love and appreciation for the beauty of New England stems from her childhood in Western Massachusetts and her undergraduate years in Burlington, Vermont. She currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona, where she received her M.S. from the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. The learning environment in Arizona inspired her to be critical of the injustices around her while exploring possibilities for social change. She is passionate about topics such as social justice and diversity, youth studies, identity politics, and educational justice. In her research and involvement in the youth non-profit community, Meshia has explored opportunity gaps in education along lines of race/ethnicity, gender, income, and geography. She enjoys cooking, reading, films, traveling, exploring culture, and engaging social justice topics.

CYNTHIA SHUTTLETON | Psychology of Personality, Psychology of Choice
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Ph.D., School Psychology (candidate)
Marist College, B.A., Psychology, B.A., Fine Arts (Studio Art with a concentration in Photography)

While at Marist College, Cynthia focused on attachment and adjustment in college freshman. During her undergraduate studies, she also spent two summers counseling and advising incoming freshman students at a local community college, as well as working with young adolescents in a mental health setting. Cynthia now works with elementary through high school aged students with PBIS (positive behavior interventions and supports) implementation in schools and conducts research on motivation for secondary students. This fall, she will return to UMass, Amherst, to continue her studies in School Psychology and work toward earning her doctorate degree.