Meet the Team

Get to know the Putney team.

Jeffrey Shumlin: Wesleyan University, B.A. Jeff first traveled on his own to Guatemala when he was nine years old to spend the summer on a coffee plantation. Travel has been the primary focus of his life ever since. He has worked in France and Spain, ridden a horse across the Patanál in Brazil, and cycled almost everywhere. As a director of Putney Student Travel for 31 years, Jeff has led numerous educational programs for young people, designed programs worldwide, and sent his own daughter and son on Putney programs.

Peter Shumlin (not pictured): Wesleyan University, B.A. In November, 2010, Peter was elected Governor of Vermont.  He is on leave from Putney while he serves Vermonters but, after 34 years as Co-Director, he still stays in touch with the goings-on at the Putney Barn. Like his brother Jeff, Peter was born into educational travel. He has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia, and his daughters are alumnae of Putney programs in the Dominican Republic and France.

Patrick Noyes: Georgetown University, B.A., Spanish. After living for five years in Spain, Patrick joined Putney eleven years ago as leader of a high school summer program in Spain. He spent five summers with our Pre-College program in Spain, and has directed Pre -College at Amherst College, Pre-College in China, and Pre-College in Spain. Patrick has an unhealthy fascination with technology, which he tries to balance with the healthier fascinations of camping, adventure races, architecture, and arthouse Spanish Cinema.

Alexandra Parra Bodel: Dartmouth College, B.A., Romance Languages and Environmental Biology; University of Miami School of Law, J.D. Originally from Miami, Alex spent childhood summers in Argentina and Uruguay, her parents’ home countries.  In college, she studied abroad in France and Mexico.  She led her first program for Putney, a language learning trip to Spain, immediately after graduation.  Alex returned to the Barn last year after more than a decade away, during which time she pursued a law degree and worked as a litigator in New York City.  Alex has led programs in Spain, Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Nepal, and has taught at our Pre-College program at Amherst College.  Alex coordinates programs in Peru, Italy, and Greece, and oversees leader hiring for our National Geographic Student Expeditions.  During her free time — when not spending it with her 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son — Alex enjoys playing tennis, yoga and trying out new recipes.

Debbie Derrig: Debbie has been the linchpin of Putney Student Travel’s admissions team for the past 15 years. She also coordinates office management at the barn. Debbie enjoys Vermont in autumn, kayaking with her husband, and spending time with her daughter, a nursing student at a nearby university.

Lauren McDowell: Washington and Lee University, B.A., Spanish, Economics. Lauren lived in Spain during college, and has been on the go ever since. She led Putney programs to Ecuador, Cuba, Costa Rica, and Spain. When not traveling, Lauren enjoys yoga, reading, and being a mom. Her two young sons will one day join Putney Student Travel groups themselves. Lauren coordinates high school summer programs in Latin America and acts as our liaison to the Putney Open Door Fund scholarship foundation.

Kelsey Burns: St. Lawrence University, B.A., Spanish. A Vermont native, Kelsey has led programs in Spain, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Ghana, and has co-directed Putney’s Global Action programs at Yale University. She has worked as an Associate Director at Putney Student Travel since 2003. She currently coordinates programs in Cambodia, Vietnam, The European Alps, Brazil, Iceland, and Ghana. Kelsey loves to travel, ski, dance, and spend time with her new baby boy.

Karen Phillips: St. Lawrence University, B.A., French. Karen caught the travel bug in high school while on a music tour through Europe, and later studied abroad in Switzerland, France, and Senegal. She has led Putney’s language program in France and community service program in Senegal, and coordinates programs in Europe and Africa. Karen spends her free time volunteering as a labor doula at a local hospital, hiking the ADK High Peaks, doing yoga, and running in and creating adventure races.

Jaime Rogstad: Jaime is a member of Putney’s admissions team, coordinates group flights, and facilitates communications for the Putney Open Door Fund scholarship foundation. Jaime has worked with our Pre-College program at Amherst College. She spends her free time with her family, gardening, and cooking.

Hannah Gilkenson: University of Michigan, B.S., Anthropology, Zoology. Before joining Putney as the ecology instructor on a Foundations program, Hannah had spent six years studying monkeys in Costa Rica. She has led programs in Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. She has also served as the Director of the Foundations Costa Rica and the Director of our Pre-College program at Amherst College. Hannah oversees programs in Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji and coordinates curriculum and hiring for our Pre-College Programs. A Vermont native, Hannah loves hiking with her husband and dog, snow shoeing in the winter, camping in the Green Mountains and, of course, traveling.

Dave Lawver: Dave is Putney Student Travel’s bookkeeper. He enjoys working with computers, composing and listening to music, stone carving, working in his permaculture garden, raising animals, and thinks often about his stepson who is a freshman at Rensselaer Institute of Technology.

Maggie Strassman: University of Wisconsin, B.S., Geography, International Studies. Maggie studied abroad in Austria during college and has had the travel bug ever since. After graduation, she moved to the Czech Republic before working at National Geographic as an intern in the Education department. She has led our Community Service programs in Dominica and Fiji, and a Pre-College program at Amherst College. Maggie coordinates Putney programs in India, Thailand, the West Indies, and Massachusetts. She enjoys trivia, riding her bike, playing frisbee, and exclaiming over delicious food.

Troy Shaheen: Kenyon College, B.A., English, Spanish. Troy oversees programming in Latin America, The Caribbean, and Spain, and coordinates Putney’s online outreach. He has led Putney programs in Spain, Costa Rica, and Peru, and has worked in bilingual education and journalism in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, Quito, Ecuador, and Kerhonkson, New York. He enjoys soccer and the outdoors.

Zufan Hagos: University of Vermont, B.S. Secondary Education, Spanish; School for International Training, M.A. International Education (expected 2013).  Zufan fell in love with exploring far-away lands during high school, when she participated in exchange programs in Costa Rica and Honduras, and later in Granada, Spain, where she studied during college. She moved to Prague after her graduation, where she taught for two years before returning to her native Vermont.  Zufan is part of the outreach team and directs programs in Spain, South Africa, Costa Rica, and the Czech Republic.  In her free time, she enjoys hiking, skiing, and everything to do with food.

Mike Oster: Elon University, B.S., Biology, Philosophy. Before joining the Putney team, Mike worked as a marine science instructor and boat captain in California, Hawaii, and Washington.  During his summers off he led Putney summer community service programs in The Caribbean, and National Geographic Student Expeditions programs in Belize, Monterey Bay, and Australia. Mike oversees leader hiring, and coordinates programs in Australia and the Caribbean. He enjoys playing guitar, road trips, and hiking.

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