The Sea|mester Team
This isn't our first circumnavigation... We've been sailing the world's oceans for over 30 years. We do it because it's not just what we love- it's who we are.
Like you, we're curious--so seeing and doing are part of our learning curve.
So is the commitment to continuously push ourselves to achieve higher standards. And like you, we're as diverse as the destinations we travel. We come from all different backgrounds--Captains, Marine Engineers, Marine Biologists, Oceanographers, ... Some of our team came to Sea|mester to study abroad in college and found their way back realizing that their life's work was right here. Regardless of how we arrived or where we came from, we share a desire to reach, discover and evolve. It's probably why we chose Sea|mester over teaching in a regular classroom in the first place. Deep down, everyone wants to set their own course.
Office & Management Team (click to learn more)
Operational Team (click to learn more)
- Michael Meighan - President
Experiential educator and adventurer, British-born Mike Meighan learned scuba diving and sailing at 15. He then traveled the Mediterranean teaching scuba and sailing before entering Southampton University in the UK. There he took a First Class Joint Honors degree in Oceanography and Marine Biology. In 1995, Mike joined Jim at ActionQuest as the program's biologist, oceanographer and scuba instructor.
His passion for the water and for experiential academics led him, in 1998, to develop a sister program to ActionQuest, one for students 18 and up. With the acquisition of the schooner Ocean Star in 2000, Sea|mester's year-round 20, 40 and 80-day Caribbean program of sailing and college-level academics was under sail.
- Travis Yates - Director of Operations
Travis joined the team in 1995 having graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with a degree in Marine Engineering. Always a sailor, Travis competed at both national and international levels, culminating in a bid for the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team in 1996. Travis holds an MCA/IYT International Master of Ocean Yachts, US Coast Guard Captain's License and is an Instructor Evaluator for US Sailing. He is also a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer.
As Director of Operations and Marine Superintendent, Travis is responsible for day-to-day operations as well as all Sea|mester vessels and equipment.
- Kyle Busacker - Director of Enrollment
As a Business and History student at the University of Oregon, Kyle decided to study abroad his Junior year by attending a fall voyage with Sea|mester. Kyle attests that the experience was so life changing, that soon after graduating he made it his goal to return. In the summer of 2006, Kyle became part of the ActionQuest team as an operational staff in the British Virgin Islands, while over the next three years also working for our Lifeworks and Sea|mester programs.
During this time, Kyle attained his 200 gross ton Master of Yachts Offshore captains license and his PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor Certification. After taking a year's hiatus working in the field of enrollment services in High Education, Kyle brought his knowledge and passion for experiential education back to our organization and is now running our west coast office in Portland, Oregon as the Director of Enrollment.
- Gina Barnaba - Registrar and Director of Financial Aid
Gina joined Sea|mester and ActionQuest in December 2003. She earned both a Bachelor's degree and Associate of Applied Science Degree while studying and working in New York City. She brings to Sea|mester her extensive managerial experience which allows her to oversee the admissions process as well as an ability to work with each student's individual needs and interests. Gina's passion for our program and for the happiness of our students makes her an invaluable part of our team and a great advocate for our shipmates. When not working at Sea|mester, Gina enjoys spending time with her children, Marisa and Tristan.
- Kelly Swartzbaugh - Admissions & University Relations Coordinator
Kelly grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and began scuba diving while attending the University of Arkansas. She sailed on Argo in the fall of 2012 and returned to complete her IYT Master of Yachts 200 ton, Dive Master certification and B.A in communications. Kelly joined the team in the Sarasota office in the spring of 2013 and loves sharing her experience with incoming and future shipmates.
- Blair Williamson - PR and Alumni Relations
Blair is from Richmond, VA and grew up sailing in Wilmington, North Carolina. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 2008, having sailed with Sea|mester on S/Y Argo for her 2006 maiden voyage in Thailand. Blair has spent the last four summers with Global Expeditions Group in the British Virgin Islands as a dive instructor and captain. She has also spent time living and working aboard privately owned yachts in the Bahamas and in SE Asia, following her passion for travel and the ocean. Blair joined the company full time in the beginning of 2011 and works in the office with our Public Relations team. Blair's professional credentials include PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer and IYT Master of Yachts 200 tons.
- Jim Stoll - Co Founder
As a young man Jim Stoll was an avid ocean racer, crewing aboard legendary yachts like Jack Eckerd's Panacea, S.A. Long's Ondine and Jim Kilroy's Kialoa. In 1970, Jim became the owner and captain of the 156-ft. school ship Te Vega and her sister ship, the 175-ft. Te Quest. It was aboard these two vessels that Jim first began to develop his programs to teach young adults, 13 – 17, sailing and hands-on academics. After 12 years and 50,000 miles of cruising throughout Europe, the Mediterranean, South American and Caribbean waters, Jim returned to his childhood home in Sarasota, Florida and began ActionQuest, a non-traditional summer program that challenged teens with high-action adventure on summertime voyages aboard 50-ft sailing yachts through the Caribbean.
- Jo Meighan - CFO
Jo joined ActionQuest in 1997 as a full-time office staff member and PADI dive instructor. Having spent six summers teaching with ActionQuest in the BVIs, she now works in the Sarasota office as CFO. The rest of her time is devoted to raising sons Joshua and Kai. She has a Bachelor's degree in French from Southampton University, UK. Born in Jamaica and raised in Britain, Jo has traveled extensively, having lived and worked abroad in several countries. She has a passion for the arts and for working with Sea|mester to provide life-defining experiences for young adults.
- Jake Steward - Enrollment
Easily recognizable by the constant smile on his face, Jake is the director of the Divemaster program and coordinates our introductory dive programs. Brought into diving by his mom, Jake has experience diving all over the world, from the murky, freezing waters of the Great Lakes to the warm, clear waters of the Caribbean. After retuning home from a life changing trip with ActionQuest in 2005, Jake knew he had to become involved with the program. Now as a skipper and PADI instructor, Jake strives to provide his shipmates with the same incredible experience he had as a student. Jake recently made the move to Sarasota, and manages enrollment and business development for ActionQuest.
- Greg Skinner - Technical Director
Greg joined the team after participating in the summer 2002 Caribbean Sea|mester. He was inspired to earn his EMT certification and his PADI Divemaster certification in order to join the team in an operational capacity. Greg spent two summers in the BVI providing emergency medical support, dive support and worked as both a First Mate and Skipper. Greg now provides support for Sea|mester's websites as well as general technical support and guidance for the program. Greg holds a bachelor's degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Information Technology and is currently pursuing his Master's degree at the George Washington University in Computer Security.
- Kris Stevenson - Deputy Director of Operations
Kris was born in Rotterdam, Holland, and spent most of his formative years growing up in the Middle East and England. He graduated from the University of Southampton, United Kingdom, with a Masters degree in Oceanography. Following a strong family connection to the sea, Kris was naturally inclined towards a life revolving around the Oceans. Kris first joined Global Expeditions Group in the summer of 2008, working with ActionQuest in the British Virgin Islands before coming on board full time as part of the Sea|mester Operational team in 2009. Having spent 6 years and 75'000 nautical miles sailing on board both Sea|mester vessels in the capacity of Captain, Mate, Scientist and Dive Instructor, Kris has migrated to Sarasota taking up an Operational Director's role within the office.
- Ben Diamond - Captain/Dive Instructor/Marine Scientist
Ben is originally from Manchester, England, but didn't start exploring the sea until he had finished his first university degree. From then on, though, there was no going back. Ben has now logged over 35,000 sea miles and crossed both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. He holds an RYA Yachtmaster Ocean certificate and is an RYA cruising instructor. Ben is also a PADI Divemaster and his keen interest in marine life led him to return to university where he obtained a MSc in marine science from the University of York, UK. He has since worked on coral reef programs in Madagascar and Trinidad and Tobago as well as on marine projects closer to home in the cooler waters of the Irish Sea. Ben enjoys getting the students as excited about the water as he is and teaching them the skills to be able to start to navigate and explore independently.
- Martin Smith - Captain/Chief Mate
Martin, more commonly know as ‘Smudge’ to friends and colleagues, became a RYA/MCA Yachtmaster (offshore) while also graduating as a Master of Science in Sports Coaching in 2014, back home in the UK. Formerly a British Army mechanic and university lecturer, Smudge coaches and plays rugby union when he’s not on the water. Completely sporting mad, he also teaches himself to surf and play golf in his spare time and is determined to learn other languages, starting with French. Smudge’s first major sailing trip saw him participate in the 2009 BVI Spring Regatta as part of a British Army race crew. Other sailing adventures have seen him sail from London, England, to St. Petersburg, Russia on board a Clipper 60 round the world racing yacht. In Spring 2015 Smudge sailed Sea|mester vessel Argo from Cape Town, South Africa, to Antigua in the Caribbean, fulfilling the roles of First Mate, Engineer and Sailing instructor, whilst also achieving his Advanced Open Water PADI diving certificate. As an RYA Cruising Instructor, teaching is his passion and he takes a keen interest in leadership, personal development and various other educational subjects.
- Ian Wiggin - Chief Mate
Ian grew up in Plymouth, UK. He has been involved teaching outdoor education in one form or another for almost ten years. After completing a degree in 'Outdoor adventure, leadership and management' he went on to gain his RYA Yachtmaster Ocean certificate. Working for Sea|mester allows Ian to combine his passions for sailing, the ocean, adventure, and community.
- Eric LaMastro - Chief Mate / Medical Responder
Born and raised in New York, Eric first developed his love for the ocean in the waves off of the south shore of Long Island. During the summer after his junior year of college, Eric joined Sea|mester as student aboard Ocean Star, an experience he claims changed his life and set him on a new path for his future career goals. He graduated from the University of Miami in 2013 with a B.A. in Marine Affairs and Policy. Eric has worked in several different facets of the maritime industry. He was a launch operator in a Miami sailing club, a deckhand on the Schooner Mystic in Mystic Seaport, Connecticut, and a Mate/Educator for the World Ocean School aboard the schooner Roseway sailing in the Caribbean and New England. Eric's professional credentials include an MCA endorsed 200t Masters License, USCG 100t Masters License and a Wilderness First Responder qualification
- Ian McGoldrick - Mate / EMT
Hailing from the city of champions, Ian enjoyed his childhood adventuring in Boston’s suburbs and learned to sail on the waters of the mighty Charles River. From there he attended the University of Rhode Island, where he graduated from in 2013 with a B.S. in Ocean Engineering with a specialization in autonomous vehicle and instrumentation design. While at university Ian got involved with the volunteer emergency medical services corps on campus and earned an EMT-B license. Since graduation he has been working on the water for the Block Island Ferry Company and working on the streets of Providence, Rhode Island as an EMT.
- Carolyn Kovacs - Program Manager / Marine Scientist
Carolyn was born in Delray Beach, Florida and spent her early years near the beach, fostering her love for the ocean. She lived in Richmond, Virginia throughout middle and high school, and then studied biology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia for her undergraduate degree. Carolyn has a Masters of Science in the Marine Sciences from Savannah State University (SSU), where she conducted research on interactions between bottlenose dolphins and the shrimp trawl fishery. Carolyn managed the dolphin research lab and taught marine biology at SSU before joining Sea|mester in the summer of 2013. She is excited to be teaching marine biology for Sea|mester and having the opportunity to share her love of ocean life as well as explore the world. When not teaching, Carolyn is often found leading fitness classes for willing participants onboard or padding around on a stand up paddle board.
- Steve Greaves - Mate / Dive Instructor / Marine Scientist
Steve is from Essex in the UK and begun his journey into the marine work undertaking a try dive on family holiday in Australia when he was 16, he later went on to become a PADI Instructor at 18 and started his own dive school which he ran for 5 years. He completed his Undergraduate in Marine and Freshwater Biology at the University of Essex and later completed his Masters in Tropical Marine Biology also at Essex. During this time he participated in various excursions to Indonesia, where he was later placed in charge of the Diving operations for one of the busiest marine research stations in the South Asia area and also taught the Scientific Diving Course for all new divers.
- Tina Doran - Mate / Medical Person In Charge
After spending a semester abroad with Sea|mester in 2008, Tina became absorbed with the marine world. She graduated from Bard College with a BA in Environmental Studies in 2010, after which she turned her attention to scuba diving. Tina has worked as a Divemaster and Instructor in Central America, Europe, New York, and the Caribbean. She holds qualifications such as PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, US Coast Guard Medical Person in Charge, PADI Emergency First Response Instructor (including Care for Children), and eleven specialty instructor ratings. Tina joined the ActionQuest team as a dive instructor and mate in 2012 while working towards a MA in Environmental Conservation Education through New York University. Upon graduating in mid-2015, she realized her dream of leaving New York to work for Sea|mester. Tina is looking forward to exploring new shores, diving, and sharing her love of the marine environment with Sea|mester students. When not underwater Tina can be found playing her viola, trying out new recipes in the galley, and editing the photographs from her last dive.
- Marina Knapp -Program Manager / Marine Scientist / Dive Instructor
Marina was born and raised in Sarasota, Florida and was previously a student at both ActionQuest and Sea|mester. Marina joined the ActionQuest team in 2011 as a dive instructor and scientist and has been with us every summer since. She studied biology at Florida State University while teaching diving in Florida’s freshwater springs and teaching sailing for the university team. After graduating from FSU, Marina spent a year working as the research manager for an NGO in Cambodia before joining the Sea|mester team in the fall of 2014. Marina has recently finished her MSc in biodiversity and conservation at the University of Southampton in the UK before returning to the sunnier lands ActionQuest and Sea|mester programs.
- Stephanie Villalobos - Marine Scientist / Diving Instructor
Growing up in Dallas, Texas, Stephanie didn’t have access to the ocean, however, from a young age she knew marine biology was what she wanted to study. After high school she moved to Tampa, Florida and became certified as a scientific diver during her undergraduate studies at the University of South Florida in order to work in a marine natural products research lab. Though diving was not what sparked her interest in marine biology, it amplified her interest and passion for it. She graduated in December 2013 with a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Music Studies, and before beginning her graduate program she held a coral reef ecology intern position, assisting with academic and research programs in Bonaire. Stephanie has a M.Sc. in Marine Biology from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), where she studied the distribution and population dynamics of ascidians found in North Carolina harbors and marinas. After graduating with her Master’s, Stephanie completed her PADI Open Water SCUBA Instructor certification. She spends as much time as possible outside, both in and out of the water, and loves traveling to new places. Stephanie is delighted to be part of the Sea|mester crew, where she hopes to share her knowledge of and passion for the ocean with others.