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Board of Directors

The foundation is composed of volunteer parents, alumni, and faculty interested in the success of the School of Environmental Studies and its students.

Interested in joining the board or more info? 

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Jake Rylander


Jacob Rylander currently serves as a Co-Chair to the board, is a SES Class of 2000 graduate, previous SES staff member, and advisor to the SES Outdoor Adventure Club.  Jacob is a retired service-connected disabled Veteran of the United States Air Force, a non-commissioned officer, and additionally works as a Fire Investigator for Fire-pi, Inc.


Jacob currently resides in Rosemount, Minnesota with his wife of 17 years and 2 daughters, one of which is currently attending SES.  During his down time, he enjoys hiking, trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and creating metal sculptures.  He holds an AAS degree in Technical Management, numerous certificates, and has studied criminal justice, health sciences, and engineering – drafting and design at the postsecondary level and is currently finishing his BA in Forensics.


We’re excited to have Jacob as an addition to our team and know he will bring his collective experience and professionalism to help us better serve our SES community.


Jennifer Schmidt

Vice Chair

Jennifer graduated from SES in 2000, and went on to earn a BS in Environmental Engineering from the University of Southern California and an MBA from the University of Illinois. She currently works as a sustainability manager for Avient Corporation, a specialty materials company. Prior to that she worked for several years in strategic marketing, and as an environmental engineer. Jennifer is a Professional Engineer, registered in the st 

The unique experience at SES has left a lasting impression - from selecting a college major to sparking an interest in the outdoors and international travel. Jennifer is excited to have the opportunity to give back to the SES community for many years to come.

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Kate Owens

Executive Director

Kate joined the SESEF board in 2019 and currently serves as Board Chair. Since her graduation in 2009, Kate has obtained a bachelor's degree in anthropology and an associate degree in baking and pastry. She currently works as an office administrator but puts those baking and pastry skills to good use any chance she gets. She is excited to jump into SESEF and give back to the SES community.

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Elise Reller


Touring the globe with SES’s unique learning opportunities made a huge impression on Elise; after graduating in 2009, she spent the next ten years living outside the mainland US. During that time, Elise sang the praises of SES’s educational philosophy and hoped to someday give back to the institution that gifted her with an expanded mind at a young age.


The opportunity to serve on the board came when she moved back to Minnesota in 2019, and she endeavors to aid the organization well.


Bailey MacDonald


Bailey was a Class of 2009 graduate from SES before earning a degree from Minnesota State University- Mankato. She has had years of event experience before recently transitioning to the mortgage industry. With that transition, she has turned back to the school that gave her the tools to decipher and navigate an ever more complicated world by becoming involved in SESEF.

In her free time, she enjoys gardening, spending time in the kitchen with family, and planning trips up north.


Erin Derwin

Board Director

Erin graduated from the School of Environmental Studies in 2010. During her time at SES, she had the opportunity to experience the first field study in Peru where she visited Machu Pichu and The Amazon. After SES, Erin studied English and Philosophy at Hamline University. Her passion for education has never faded. She taught English in Japan and has been working in higher education since 2018. 


Currently, Erin is a One Stop Counselor for the Academic Resources Department at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. In her role, she helps students understand their financial aid and student accounts. She is now part of the Financial Wellness Committee that helps students look at their overall budgets to afford college. Erin is currently studying for her Master's in the Study of Law with a Concentration in Education Law Compliance. She will graduate with her Paralegal Certificate in Spring 2022 and is expected to graduate with her Master's in Fall 2022. 


Erin is passionate about equity in education and hopes to continue advocating for students to enjoy the same priceless education she received at SES. 


Tom Goodwin

Board Director

Tom Goodwin taught biology for 27 years before helping to develop and then teaching at SES for eleven years until he retired from the school in 2006.  He was one of the house teachers for eleventh grade students in Blue House and Rose House. He views his years at teaching in an inter-disciplinary setting at SES as some of the most important of his career.  

In the years since retirement Goodwin has enjoyed traveling with his wife, fishing hunting, golfing, and volunteering with the city of Lakeville.


Now, he is proud to be a member of the SESEF Board and hopes to make a positive contribution to the continued success of SES.  

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Bob Haider

Board Director

Bob is the proud parent of two daughters, both SES graduates – 2010 and 2013. Their time at SES is an important part of who they are and made the transition to college and career much easier and more successful. Bob has been a board member since 2008 and served as Board Chair for two years.

Bob spent most of his career in retail training and development. While doing so, he developed a passion for all aspects of education. His passion for quality learning, combined with his concern for our environment, makes SES very special to him.

In his spare time, Bob can be found reading, walking his dog, taking pictures, traveling with his family, or volunteering in his local community of Northfield.

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Emily Johnston

Board Director

Emily is a 2000 SES alumni who continued nurturing her environmental passions as she attended UW-River Falls, earning degrees in Field Biology, Marketing Communications, and Animal Science.  A true outdoors enthusiast, she served as a director and naturalist at an environmental science school in the mountains of CA, which eventually led to obtaining her MA in Education. 

Emily has spent the last 10 years as a high school science teacher, encouraging students to observe, preserve, and protect the natural world and spend as much time outdoors as possible. She attributes her fervor for environmental advocacy to her father, an inspiring outdoorsman, and will forever be thankful for the extra push he gave when making the decision to attend SES. The experience was transformative for her, and she is ecstatic to be part of the board.

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Ann Kaste

Board Director

Ann joined the board in Fall of 2022 after her daughter enrolled at SES and she learned about all of the amazing things that happen at our school.

She can see every day that SES is a place where students learn the values and skills that they will need to become thoughtful and informed leaders, shaping the future of our community and planet.

Ann is an electronic resources librarian at Minitex at the University of Minnesota but has also served as a Digital Learning Coordinator at the high school level.  She brings both the teacher and parent lens to her work on the foundation, and is excited to be part of the group!

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Steve Mesmer

Board Director

Steve joined the SESEF board after his daughter enrolled in SES in 2013 and he saw first-hand the school’s innovative approach to education. With its strong focus on academic excellence and project-based learning, the SES program effectively gets students excited about learning and provides them with the critical skills they’ll need for college and career. A proud parent of now two daughters who graduated from SES in 2015 and 2017, Steve is thrilled about assisting SES achieve its goals.


When not working, he can often be found wandering the trails of Lebanon Hills with his family, dogs, and camera.

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Katie Skog

Board Director

Skog is a 2012 graduate from SES. Since leaving, she has graduated from St. Catherine University with a BS in Communications.


She is currently teaching preschool at a Montessori and canvassing for Clean Water Action. As a resident of Red Wing, MN she also sits on the city’s Human Rights Commission board.


Skog feels that her path of education was truly transformed by SES and is dedicated to bringing that same experience to others. 

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Jane Tunseth

Board Director

Jane is proud to have been one of the founding faculty of SES, which has been the most amazing adventure of her life. Over 25 years at SES, she taught Thematic Environmental Studies in all four houses, and helped develop a lot of interdisciplinary curriculum. She also taught AP English (both Language & Literature), Animal Behavior, the Mentor Program, and a variety of field studies, including 25 to Costa Rica and 6 to South Africa. She worked to bring some innovative programs to SES, including AP Capstone Seminar & Research, a Youth Leadership Exchange Program with a high school in Costa Rica, and a Leadership Seminar class that worked to get SES certified as a LEED O+M v4.1 Gold building. She is also the proud mom of two SES alumni, who graduated in 2006 and 2010.

After retiring in June 2020, she is trying to figure out what her next adventures will be. She is happy to continue working with the SES community by serving on the SESEF board.  

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