Deans & Staff

Shannon Michael “Mike” Wamser
An actor and theater artist by training and trade, Mike has also been working as an educator for over 25 years, and has proudly worked with Putney for nearly 20 of those years. Mike has been leading and directing programs for Putney Student Travel since 2005, when he led his first Putney program, Theater in Britain, which he was co-leader for from 2005 to 2011. He also led a Putney/National Geographic D.C. Summit several times. In addition to his time with Putney, he has worked and traveled extensively in Italy, first as an adjunct professor for University of Hartford, teaching on their Theater in Italy intersession program, and then as a student of Padova Arts in their Pedagogy of the Mask summer intensive. As a theater artist, he has worked as an actor, a writer, a director, a fight director, and producer, and as an arts educator has taught all ages, from kindergarten through college. He is currently a Professor with Molloy University/CAP 21's BFA Musical Theatre Program, where he teaches Actor Movement, Stage Combat, and Acting. He is also a member of the National Alliance of Acting Teachers, and serves on the governing body of Dueling Arts, International, a prestigious stage combat organization. You can find his movie, The Thing Before the Thing on Amazon Prime, which he wrote, produced, and starred in, and which was inspired by his long time work with the good people at Putney Student Travel.
Carla Debbie Alleyne
Carla has worked as a Center Manager, Director of Studies and teacher for ESL Summer Programs in the United States and Italy for the past ten years. She has a BFA and MFA in film and television from New York University, and by profession she is a playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker, director, administrator, and teacher. Carla has also earned a Master of Science degree in middle to secondary school education from Mercy College and she is certified in New York State as a teacher of English Language Arts, English as a Second Language and Drama. For three years, she has taught English and Drama at Frank D. Whalen Middle School in the Bronx, each year producing and directing both the Christmas and spring productions. She also taught high school for two years at New Visions Charter School. For the past eight summers, Carla has worked as a Center Manager to Embassy CES and Oxford House College ESL Summer Camps, structured for international students. In addition, she has worked as an administrator training teachers and developing curriculum at the Storm King Boarding School, where she utilized drama, dance, and performance to teach international students ESL.
Bob Pokorney
A native of Duluth, Minnesota, Bob has led student programs with Putney in France, Morocco, and Switzerland. Before joining Putney, he guided cycling trips in Europe, taught high school and college French, and interpreted for sports events in France and the United States. He speaks French, Spanish, and Italian, and is studying Moroccan Arabic. He currently organizes many of Putney’s programs in Europe. Bob is also a sailboat captain, landscape painter, EMT, and lifeguard.
Susannah Poland
While at Stanford University, Susannah studied social and cultural anthropology with a focus on visual arts and conducted fieldwork among the Chagga people of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. After graduating, Susannah was a curatorial researcher at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art for exhibitions on African feminisms and contemporary female artists. She then shifted to the Himalaya to conduct fieldwork for Umea University School of Business and Economics, studying decision-making in extreme environments while documenting mountaineers' ascents to Mount Everest's summit. She was a program director for Putney Student Travel for four years, overseeing programs in France, Nepal, and Bhutan, and leading programs in Thailand, Italy, and Greece. For the past three years she has been working as an education researcher in Bhutan, helping to build a new holistic education system for the Kingdom based in Bhutanese values and Buddhist philosophy.
Tom Kane
Tom is the head of the arts division at Middlesex School, a boarding school in Concord, Massachusetts, where he teaches theater. A graduate of Northwestern University and the American Conservatory Theater, Tom enjoys working with high school students and using theater as a lens to examine the bigger world. When not creating imaginative worlds, Tom enjoys traveling in the actual world. He has led and directed trips with high school students in Oxford, London, Paris, Florence, and Vermont.
Alessandro Wedeman
Program Assistant
While at Skidmore, Ale focused on land management, Italian food culture, and regenerative agriculture. After graduating, he returned to his home in Italy to grow his own vegetables. He also traveled to Jordan to receive his permaculture design certificate, and then to Spain to participate in a land reforestation project. From January to March of 2022 Alessandro traveled to farms in Sicily to gain practical experience working outdoors, and consulted farmers for better natural resource management. During his time in Sicily, Ale has shared valuable information and wisdom with local farmers to help increase their positive impact, and make their land more resilient to climate change. He now works as a forest steward and landscape designer, helping to keep wild areas growing healthily. Ale is fluent in Italian and English and proficient in Portuguese. Ale has applied to the Peace Corps, and will hopefully be going to Senegal in September.
Mary Chasen
Program Assistant
While at the University of Vermont, Mary focused on traditional ecological knowledge and agroecology, studying the intersection of cultural conservation and environmental conservation. During her studies, she spent time in Botswana, where she conducted research in the Okavango Delta and worked with local communities on human-wildlife conflict. After school she traveled throughout Europe, Central America, and Sri Lanka, to understand the diverse ways in which culture impacts the land, as well as learn videography skills for storytelling. Mary first came to know the profound impact of student travel in 2017, when she received a National Geographic Student Expeditions scholarship to study wildlife throughout Australia. While there, she served as editor for a student magazine, and contributed with an article on preservation of the Daintree Rainforest through Aboriginal knowledge. Mary has also learned an array of healing traditions and folk medicine, having studied with teachers in Mexico, Israel, the U.S., and her own lineage in Italy. Aside from her interest in the confluence of tradition and land stewardship, Mary is passionate about working with youth of all backgrounds. For many years she has taught social skills groups to youth on the spectrum, mentored youth in low-income communities, and taught art through immersive curriculum. Mary now speaks throughout elementary schools in New York, educating youth on American Indian culture, through a scope of accuracy and authenticity. This fall, Mary will serve as Project Coordinator for an organization that connects Indigenous Elders around the world, co-creating solutions for global issues that humankind faces today. She is excited to facilitate a conference of the elders this fall in Hawaii, which will be centered on Native perspectives related to climate change.
Olivia Luntz
Junior Dean
When presented with a choice of language to study in high school, Olivia chose the road less traveled by studying Italian. Then, as a student at Amherst College, she literally went the extra mile to continue learning the language, since Italian was not offered at Amherst, but it was at nearby UMASS Amherst. When she arrived in Siena for her semester abroad in January 2020, she quickly acclimated to life in Italy and made plans to see as much of Europe as she could before the semester ended. When she had to leave suddenly due to COVID, she “accidentally” left one of her suitcases at the school in Siena so she could justify returning as soon as it was safe. During Olivia’s senior year, when Amherst welcomed students back to campus, she served as a Community Advisor for her dorm, and worked hard to establish camaraderie among her residents, while also keeping them safe. Olivia is an alum of Putney programs herself, and looks forward to showing students her favorite spots she discovered while living in Siena.
Walker Mimms
Residence Life Dean
While at Oxford, Walker focused on early novels, figure drawing at the Ruskin School of Art, very late coffees with friends on Gloucester Green, and rowing. He then taught English literature to rising seniors at Pembroke College, Oxford, and returned, after years away, to his native Nashville to reignite his love of country music. Walker now teaches history to incarcerated students and writes. He knows small Latin and less Greek. This fall, he would like, finally, to finish David Hume’s History of England and to explore the cave on the Cumberland River where Timothy Demonbreun, the infamous French-Canadian fur trader, once lived.
Sami Ginzberg
Residence Life Dean
While at University of Connecticut pursuing her undergraduate degree in English with a concentration in British literature, Sami studied abroad in London at the height of the 2012 Olympics and fell in love with the U.K. She went on to earn her master’s degree and teaching certification from Teachers College Columbia University; while there, she was selected as one of 12 educators worldwide to be a “player” in Literacy Unbound, an experiential, embodied learning experience centered around Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Sami has spent the last eight years as a devoted high school English teacher, serving in a variety of educational settings, from urban to suburban to international, including the American School of Barcelona. Recently, Sami went back to graduate school to study anti-racism and social justice from historical, sociological, and pedagogical lenses. In her summers, she loves to travel and has visited Israel, Italy, France, Portugal, Scotland, and Ireland. She derives tremendous joy from building lasting bonds with students, inside and outside the classroom. Sami has led student travel trips in Singapore, Spain, and the U.S., and she previously served as a Program Dean at Oxford.