Alice Ferguson Foundation Staff

Theresa Cullen, Executive Director

Amanda FosterDirector of Fiscal & Operational Effectiveness

 

Programs

 

Land and Heritage

 

Communications

  • Varya Zhigilei |Director of Communications & Engagement
  • Tori Avvenire | Marketing & Communications Coordinator

                                                  


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Theresa Cullen, Executive Director
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Theresa is a Prince George’s County native having spent her childhood in Hyattsville (Adelphi), attending and graduating from Prince George’s County public schools.  She spent summer vacations at state parks in Maryland and West Virginia and has continued this tradition with her own family. She fondly remembers canoeing with her family’s Grumman along the Potomac River.  She has spent 27 years in the field of education with 12 of those years teaching outside of the United States, most recently in Switzerland where she was the Head of The American School in Switzerland (TASIS). She holds two Master’s degrees in Leadership and in Education.  Environmental education and sustainability have been a focus of Theresa’s work with students and teachers and she is thrilled to be a part of AFF supporting its mission to the greater DC and Maryland regions. When not at AFF, Theresa is busy with her high-school aged son and middle-school aged daughter.  On and off the farm, Theresa can be seen with her close friend and companion, Sadie, a poodle/pointer mix rescue.


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Amanda Foster, Director of Fiscal & Operational Effectiveness
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Amanda (Mandie) Foster serves as the Director of Fiscal and Operational Effectiveness for the Alice Ferguson Foundation. She joins the Foundation with 15 years of experience in accounting, having worked in both public accounting firm, as well as private accounting, with a focus on the non-profit sector. Previously, Mandie was the Associate Director of Accounting at Women for Women International and an Assistant Controller for Managed Organizations at Arabella Advisors. Driven by a passion for quality mission-oriented work, she has spent her career focused on non-profit accounting and financial management.


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Tori Avvenire, Marketing & Communications Coordinator
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Tori grew up in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Her passion for agriculture developed during her years as an FFA member throughout middle and high school. Before attending college, Tori was nominated to serve on the Virginia FFA State Officer team, in which she deferred her education and traveled the Commonwealth visiting agriculture programs and speaking with students about the importance of leadership, opportunities in the FFA, and careers in agriculture.

Tori graduated from Virginia Tech in 2016 with a Bachelor’s in Agricultural Sciences and Bachelor’s in Public Relations, along with a minor in Leadership and Social Change. Pursuing an opportunity to educate, Tori spent three years as a middle school agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor before joining AFF in summer of 2019. Though she is not directly in the classroom, working for AFF allows her to combine her loves for promoting hands-on education and communicating to others about such opportunities and their importance through a variety of media channels. Her marketing and communications experience comes from interning with the National Association of Agricultural Educators and working as the Media Specialist for the Virginia FFA Association for several years.

Currently, Tori lives in Winchester, Virginia with her fiancé. When she is not in the office, you can find her cheering on the Virginia Tech Hokies, traveling or crafting the latest Pinterest-inspired DIY projects. 


Samantha Battersby, Program Coordinator, Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative
[email protected]nfoundation.org

Born and raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Samantha knew from a young age that she wanted to make a difference and inspire people to love and care for the planet as much as she does. When she is not at work doing what she loves she is usually hiking (and taking pictures) at State and National Parks with her fur children and fiancé.

 

 


Karen Jensen Miles, Land Use & Facilities Manager
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Karen has acted as a mentor to teachers and students alike in the fields of biology and ecology. Using her broad background and skills, Karen was project leader for a living shoreline restoration along the Potomac River and is currently Land Use/Facilities Manager at the Foundation, where she acts as staff liaison for a Living Building project at Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center. She was a consultant to the Office of Horticulture at The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and, prior to that, Project Coordinator and Field Station Manager for a large environmental assessment project at a 1,400 acre proposed nuclear power generating facility site. Karen has authored and illustrated a field guide to invasive plants of the mid-Atlantic region and has extensive photographic images used in publications for The Smithsonian Institution and DK Books.


Jessica Miller, Coordinator, Bridging The Watershed
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Jessica grew up in Prince William County, Virginia. She studied geology and geography at George Mason University. Serving with Americorp as a Student Conservation Association intern in various National Parks cemented her desire to work in the conservation field. Before coming to the Alice Ferguson Foundation, she worked in North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia for the National Park Service and the Maryland Park Service. She has a passion for the outdoors and enjoys gardening, hiking, biking, crabbing, and birding.

 


Krupa Patel, Educator Associate
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I love the outdoors, traveling and photography. Joining AFF as an educator, has been exciting, new experience for her. Everyday at AFF, is a new experience – seeing kids reacting to the pig urinating is priceless! To be serious, seeing kids out on the farm and on the habitat walk excited is great. I have also been interning for Port Tobacco River Conservancy for about a year now to develop skills in the non-profit world as well as in the environmental field. Also, I am pursuing a degree in Environmental Management at University of Maryland University College. I hope to transform the growing world into a sustainable world.


Bill Townsend, Educator Associate
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Bill Grew up in Accokeek, working on Hard Bargain farm and exploring the Potomac River. After graduating from Springfield College with a B.S. in Outdoor Recreation Management, he spent several years teaching English as a second language in Taiwan and photographing Asia. When he returned, his love of the great outdoors lead him back to Hard Bargain Farm as a Naturalist and wildlife photographer. When not teaching children about nature and agriculture in southern Maryland, he spends his time kayaking, climbing, hiking, and traveling.


Brenda WrightBrenda Wright, Coordinator, Hard Bargain Farm
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Brenda came to Maryland from Massachusetts in 1983 and purchased an 1800’s farm house in Accokeek. Prior to working at the Alice Ferguson Foundation, she discovered Piscataway National Park, and worked as a student teacher at the Accokeek Foundation teaching students about Colonial life. Brenda joined the Alice Ferguson Foundation in 1994 as a Naturalist and now serves as the Hard Bargain Farm Program Coordinator. Brenda has always loved the outdoors and has fond memories of playing in her “hundred acre wood” as a child. She wants to share that passion with the students that visit the farm. In her spare time, you can find Brenda playing with her beagle, working in her garden, quilting, and spinning wool.


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Jonathan Wright, Maintenance Associate
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A life-long resident of southern Maryland, Jonathan graduated from the University of Maryland in 1982 with a B.A. in Archeology. After spending time in the Middle East as an archaeologist,specializing in mortuary excavations and doing historic excavations in the Mid Atlantic, Jonathan settled again in Prince Georges County. He has worked for the last quarter century at two outdoor education foundations on the Potomac shore. When not working he actively pursues the ever elusive Micropterus Dolomieu.

 


heatherHeather Zdobysz, Bridging the Watershed Program Manager
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Heather is a life-long resident of Southern Maryland. Growing up in the region and participating in a myriad of outdoor activities has instilled in her a love of the natural world and a passion for environmental education and outreach, with an emphasis on local marine and freshwater ecosystems. These interests motivated her to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and a Master of Science in Environmental Management.

Heather has worked with a variety of organizations to help further environmental education and awareness among a wide range of audiences. A few of her favorite examples include organizing and taking area students on three-day trips to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s education centers, working with high school students as an aquatics instructor to help prepare them for the Charles County Envirothon competitions, and helping to run the U.S. Navy’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Robotics Program. Through this program, which is based out of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head, Heather has had the opportunity to teach STEM concepts to elementary and middle school students in classrooms across a wide variety of schools in Southern Maryland.

She is also an active volunteer in a wide range of groups. She is on the board of directors for the Port Tobacco River Conservancy, is a chief participant in administrative and fundraising activities for the Waldorf Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary, and works with Second Chance Dog Rescue to help find homes for dogs in need.