Mark A. Smylie is Professor of Education, Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Visiting Professor at Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University. Mark studies and teaches in the areas of educational leadership and organizational improvement. A former high school teacher, he works with schools, school districts, and regional and national educational organizations concerned with leadership development and school improvement. He enjoys kayaking and hiking with the family Labrador. Mark and his wife live in Oak Park, IL and have three daughters each of whom traveled and studied abroad as high school and college students. Their daughter, Rachel, is a Road Less Travelled alum, a participant in the Hujambo trip to Tanzania. The Geography of Hope’s Rachel G. Smylie Memorial Scholarship was established in her memory and provides opportunities for high school students to experience the greatness of the people and natural environment of Africa.
Barbara Allison Baum loves the outdoors. Waking up to a view of Lake Michigan and walking to & from work in Chicago’s “Loop” is a daily passion, no matter the weather. When she is not walking, she is running or biking or skiing or swimming or hiking or traveling or reading or designing or baking birthday cakes. Originally from Southern California, she has lived in the Chicago area the majority of her years believing that Lake Michigan is really just a mini-Pacific. She remembers traveling to Greece and Israel at age 12 (almost 13) and didn’t realize until she became an adult how that adventure, during those critical development years, shaped her personal core values to be open-minded and inclusive of others. It’s no mystery then why she is committed to Geography of Hope’s mission to provide the opportunity of educational travel and adventure to youth 13-18 (our future leaders) who are in financial need. When she is not gushing about all this, she works in the field of marketing communications, currently in financial services and previously in technology and health care and sports, after a two-decade career-opener as a graphic designer/business-owner who embraced the change to digital technology with zeal.
Emily A. Benfer is a former Road Less Traveled wilderness venture instructor. In her every endeavor, she draws upon her outdoor adventures and international travel experiences. In particular, her experiences exploring the western mountain states and eastern shoreline and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zimbabwe, Belize, and Thailand remind her of the interconnected aspect of humanity and the importance of providing opportunities to rejuvenate in nature.
Currently, Emily is a Clinical Professor of Law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and the School of Medicine Graduate Department of Public Health. As the founding director of the Health Justice Project, Emily and her law, public health and medical students address the root causes of health disparity and injustice among low-income and minority communities. Emily was named one of Chicago’s top 40 lawyers under 40 by the National Law Journal and has received numerous awards for her social justice work. Emily is a graduate of the Second City Improv Program. Her favorite audience includes her husband, two children and dog.
Tom Huntoon is a high school teacher as well as a past participant and longtime leader with The Road Less Traveled. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Teachers College at Columbia University, Tom is passionate about education equality and access to life-changing experiences for all students. During his time teaching at two charter high schools in Brooklyn and Harlem, Tom did private fundraising to provide scholarships to students for summer travel and adventure. He now lives in San Francisco and enjoys all of the outdoor experiences that Northern California has to offer. In addition to his role in training staff for The Road Less Traveled, he has led numerous trips for students in the western U.S. as well as in Ecuador, India, Tanzania, and Belize. Tom is excited to bring his long experience with The Road Less Traveled to his work on the Geography of Hope board as he continues to provide life-changing experiences to deserving young people.
Donna Stein has been seeking adventure, perfecting travel, and teaching youth over 30 years. In 2013 she brought new life to Geography of Hope: reestablished the organization in Chicago and refueled it’s purpose with her passion. Donna’s love of the outdoors began while growing up in Detroit, Michigan. At an early age, during the turbulent ‘60’s, Donna escaped the hot summers of Detroit and found respite in the north woods of Michigan, where she discovered independence and solace in the outdoors. Donna gained extensive business experience in corporations and non-profit organizations before leaving the corporate world to found The Road Less Traveled, with her husband Jim Stein. She manages all development, operations, marketing, and upholds the rigorous standards that support the mission, training, and policies of RLT. Donna is most happy during RLT’s intensive and in depth 10 day staff training in MI and anytime she can play with her three children: Ben, Callie and Emma.
Christopher B. Mann, PhD, Yale University, alumni staff of The Road Less Traveled founder of Geography of Hope and native Chicagoan, Chris shares a deep passion and commitment to providing life changing outdoor experiences for ALL children. Chris founded Geography of Hope in 1997 to share the value and enjoyment of the wilderness with young people who were not blessed with the opportunities he had to explore the wilderness as a child. Chris began backpacking in Colorado at the age of four with his grandfather and other family members. In addition to countless (but never enough) personal trips, he was a participant on Outward Bound, a leader for the Road Less Traveled, head ski guide, and is still working on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. Chris now lives in Saratoga Springs, NY with his wife and two children and is a professor of political science at Skidmore College.