Key Staff

Ford Church, M.A., Founder and Executive Director

FordChurchFord is ultimately responsible for the success of the Cottonwood Institute. Ford has 18 years of professional experience working for a variety of nonprofit environmental education organizations, for-profit outdoor companies, and public schools in Colorado. Ford received a M.A. in Adventure Education Program Management from Prescott College in 2003 where he designed the Community Adventure Program as a culminating project of his thesis. He received a B.S.B.A. in Marketing from the University of Denver in 1998.


Madeline Bachner Lane, M.S., Program Director

Madeline is responsible for making sure Cottonwood Institute delivers high quality, high impact programs. Madeline has been with the Cottonwood Institute for 6 years and has over 17 years of outdoor education and guiding experience along with a passion for sharing her love of nature and adventure with others. She earned a B.A. in biology at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana in 2002 and completed an M.S. in Environmental Education through Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts with the Audubon Expedition Institute in 2007.



Taryn is responsible for managing the logistics and producing effective CI programs. She is an outdoor adventure enthusiast and brings a passion for providing youth the opportunity to connect with the natural world around them.  Taryn has over 9 years of experience working with a variety of environmental education and outdoor youth organizations nationwide.  She earned her M.S. in Natural Resources with a certification in Environmental Education from the University of Idaho in 2012.  She received her B.S. in Environmental Geography from Ohio University in 2009.


Vicki Whisenhunt, B.S., Administrative & Logistics Coordinator

Vicki WhisenhuntVicki is crucial in supporting our programming needs.  In addition to helping with administrative demands, she works alongside our Program Manager, Taryn Longberry, to make sure our field programs are executed smoothly as well as our event planning efforts. Vicki graduated from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke with a degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Spanish. She has spent the last 3 years working outdoors with students of all ages as a field trip leader and summer camp director.




Cindy Allen, M.S., Board Member, Regulatory Policy Manager,  Anadarko

Jessy Clark, M.S., Board Member, Chief Operating Officer, Swallow Hill Music

Eric Ellison, M.S., Board Member, Research Scientist at University of Colorado-Boulder and Cottonwood Institute Alumni

Joel Frank, B.A., Board Member, Senior Tax Advisor, Timberline Tax Group

Bill Kelly, J.D., Board Member, Founding Member and Lawyer at Kelly & Walker LLC

Kevin Lambert, B.S.B.A., Board Chair, Director of Sales – Sumo Logic

Joshua Peterson, M.B.A., Board Treasurer, Financial Analyst at USAA, United States Army Veteran

Ana Soler, M.A. Ed., Board Member, Program Director, Gates Family Foundation

Rivers Stilwell, Associates Degree, Board Member, Director of Management Training and Leadership Development at Snooze an A.M. Eatery

Wendy Stockholm, B.A., Board Member, Practice Director – Business Applications, K1 Operations

Jake Tiernan, J.D., Board Member, Attorney at Moye | White

Advisory Board

Jeni Arbuckle, B.A., Advisory Board Member, Senior Account Executive, Under Armour Connected Fitness

Mikal Belicove, Ph.D [hon.], Advisory Board Member, ‘Business Thinker,’ book author, Columnist for Entrepreneur magazine

Linda Bjork, Advisory Board Member, Vice President, Board of Directors at YAYA, Inc.

Eric Curry, Advisory Board Member, VP Communications Department for CoBiz Financial

Paul Dreyer, M.A., Board Member, Director of Risk Management at Avid 4 Adventure

Andrew Ekberg, M.B.A., Advisory Board Member, Financial Representative at Northwestern Mutual

Adam Fiedor, M.B.A., Advisory Board Member, Director at KPMG Corporate Finance, LLC

Fay Hartman, B.S., Advisory Board Member, Intermountain West Blue Trails Manager

Matthew Keeney, B.A., Advisory Board Member, President at Agency Off Record, Inc.

Brandon Long, B.A., Advisory Board Member, Financial Advisor at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Josh Maida P.M.P., Advisory Board Member, Manager of Project Development at Samuel Engineering

Rick Medrick, Ed. D., Advisory Board Member, Ph.D. Program Director at Prescott College

Byrne Reese, Advisory Board Member, Product at BuildingConnected

Kalpana Singh Rhodes, Advisory Board Member, Co-Owner at Larksen, LLC

Emily Vercoe, M.N.M., M.S., Advisory Board Member. Education, Outreach, Diversity Coordinator Wyoming NSF EPSCoR

Featured Instructors

Amy Atkins, M.S.

Amy is passionate about creating change in the world by working with teens on environmental projects and on self-actualization through a connection to the outdoors, so clearly, being an instructor with CI is her perfect job!  She has spent the better part of the last 20 years working at summer camps, boarding schools, and universities doing outdoor and environmental education and coming-of-age work.  She has an ABJ from the University of Georgia in Public Relations and an M.S. in Recreation Resources with a concentration in Environmental Education from Colorado State University. In her free time, she loves hanging out with her daughter, biking around town, and doing escape rooms.


Erin Angel, M.S.

Erin believes that life should be super fun and full of adventure and growth.  Her own childhood was filled with long days playing with friends in the woods and fields around her house and punctuated with zany summer camp adventures.  After college at Indiana University, a job as an environmental educator sealed her fate!  Since then she has been guiding and teaching in the U.S. and abroad.  She got her masters’ degree in Recreation Administration at Chico State and did her masters’ project in Nepal developing a Wilderness First Aid and CPR course for Nepali guides.  After working for American Red Cross for a few years and having adventures with her own family, Erin is thrilled to be teaching CAP classes for CI where she strives to push her students to squeeze the most out of each day they are given.


Corey Engle, B.A.

While facilitating youth education at an after school program and a youth treatment center, Corey has developed a strong passion for encouraging the development of youth voice and activism, through experiential learning.  Two years ago, Corey began leading youth on hikes and mountain biking trips as a mental health counselor, and discovered how fulfilling it was to combine his two greatest passions. He is excited to be joining the CI team as a CAP Instructor! Corey’s passion for youth development began while he earned his B.A. in Psychology from the Metropolitan State University of Denver. On the weekends, you can find Corey sleeping in a tent, hiking, riding his bike, or attending a live music or comedy show. His dream is to develop an environmental education and wilderness therapy program for youth at risk.


Christina Guevara, B.S.

Christina is a first-season CAP instructor from Florida. Although she has grown up in an area surrounded by ocean life and a subtropical climate, she enjoys learning about and experiencing the mountains and prairies of Colorado. Within the last three years, Christina has served as an educator in middle school and high school science classrooms, museums, and outdoor environmental education centers. While studying marine science and science education at the University of Florida, she discovered her passion for engaging young people in settings that inspire curiosity, appreciation for the natural world and lifelong learning. When not studying and working towards her Master’s Degree at the University of Colorado Denver, Christina likes to dance, find new vegan recipes to cook, drink a good cup of coffee, and hike.


Zach Booz, B.A.

Zach has dedicated his professional career to youth development and experiential learning. These pursuits have taken him in and outside of classrooms all over the world and have instilled in him a sincere appreciation for travel, cultural exchange, environmental stewardship and play. Zach joined the CI team because he’s passionate about creating opportunities for Denver youth to foster relationships with the natural world and to feel empowered about impacting their communities in positive ways. He aspires to root this work in the pursuit of equity and social justice and he’s constantly inspired by young people’s ability to imagine a world that doesn’t yet exist. When not at work, you’ll likely find him throwing a frisbee, cooking tasty food with friends or resting in a shady location. ​​


JOhnny English, B.S.

Johnny has been living in Denver and working with youth in education since completing his undergraduate degree at Hendrix College four years ago.  Johnny enjoys reading, gardening, camping, hiking, snowboarding, running, and spending time with friends on the weekends.  Johnny says his favorite part of instructing for CI trips is getting to know new people and having an excuse to practice primitive fire-making skills.  Johnny recently added a new chocolate Labrador to his family named “Grizzly” and claims that a top priority will be training his puppy to be respectful of other hikers and develop a love for camping!