Chris Elisara - Executive Director Ph.D.

Chris Elisara - Executive Director

A visionary educator, social entrepreneur, and filmmaker, Dr. Chris Elisara and his wife Tricia founded CCSP in 2002.  A native New Zealander, Dr. Elisara earned a B.A. from the University of Auckland, an M.B.A. from Eastern University, and a Ph.D. in cross-cultural education from Biola University, CA.   More recently he founded the Center for Environmental Leadership in Buffalo, NY, and in late 2011 Dr. Elisara became the inaugural chair of the World Evangelical Alliance's creation care task force. Closer to home Dr. Elisara is a board member of the Volcan Mountain Foundation, a conservation organization which has preserved over 17,000 acres of critical habitat in San Diego County.  

Courtnay Wilson - NZ Program Director B.A., M.T.S.

Courtnay Wilson - NZ Program Director

Courtnay is a Canuck from Dundas, Ontario, Canada.  Did you know that, with over 100 waterfalls, Dundas claims to be the “waterfall capital of the world”? Courtnay joined the New Zealand team four years ago after spending two years working for SoPac’s sister program in Belize.  Although she sometimes misses the escabeche and Johnny cakes, she definitely does not miss the cold showers!  Prior to working with CCSP, Courtnay spent three years in Japan teaching English in a public high school.  Before that, she completed a Master’s in Theological Studies at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario, where she also did an undergraduate degree in History and Political science. It was at seminary that Courtnay found her theological home in the Mennonite Church.  Recently, Courtnay joined St. John Ambulance in Kaikoura and is excited about her training to become a volunteer ambulance officer.   Her favourite activity in Kaikoura is communing with the acrobatic dusky dolphins from the comfort of her kayak.  You can call her “The Dolphin Whisperer”. Things you’re likely to hear Courtnay say:  Boggle anyone?  Is there coffee made?  Are you going to eat that piece of chocolate?

Emma-Jane - NZ Kitchen Manager B.S.

Emma-Jane - NZ Kitchen Manager

Emma began working at CCSP at the start of 2010.  She is a born and bred kiwi, her hometown being Nelson, which is situated at the northern end of the South Island.  She has spent most of her life in the Marlborough Sounds, an area in the Nelson region known for its green native bush and abundant seas. Emma has also spent a bit of time in Australia.  She loves ethno-botany, photography and art, and she also loves to cook, garden and go on road trips.

Her background is mainly in the food industry, she also has a BS in Botany and a certificate in natural therapies.

Nathan Landis - NZ Program Administrator B.A.

Nathan Landis - NZ Program Administrator

Nathan grew up amidst rolling fields of corn in small town Iowa; moved to Almaty, Kazakhstan in middle school and graduated with a history degree from Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. That trend of moving far away is continuing with a move now to New Zealand!

He easily gets excited about the power of experiential education, the challenges of sustainable living, the built environment, long-distance running, climbing mountains, working with reclaimed wood, drinking coffee (or tea!), playing ultimate Frisbee (and rugby!) and reading good books (most recently some on environmental history, Christian social ethics and desert monks).

Although not a music aficionado, a recent favorite song has been Of Monsters and Men’s “Winter Sound” and “Empire.” He enjoys lyrics and melodies (poems and novels too) that speak of journey, challenge, growth and wisdom. He looks looking forward to experiencing those things in his life and the lives in community around him this year in Kaikoura.

Leah Werkhoven - NZ Sustainable Food Coordinator B.A.

Leah Werkhoven - NZ Sustainable Food Coordinator

Leah was raised on the family dairy farm in Monroe, Washington, surrounded by rivers and the Cascade Mountain Range, Living within creation is second-nature to Leah. Hiking mountains and exploring the backwoods was a favorite pastime after chores. Leah attended Dordt College (2014) graduating with a degree in Environmental Science with an emphasis in Agriculture. Through service trips and internships, Leah found her love for God's people and nature; as a student herself of CCSP Fall 2013, she discovered how these passions are a way of life at CCSP. Since graduation she has been exploring the states from California to New Hampshire by seasonal work centered around outdoor education; teaching youth about the beauties of creation through empowerment and education. She enjoys getting her hands dirty, living the simple life, loving others, adventure in each day, and telling others all about the fun of growing up on a farm.

Bennett Mabee - NZ Student Life Coordinator B.A.

Bennett Mabee - NZ Student Life Coordinator

Bennett grew up in Yankton South Dakota with his twin brother, a sister, and two supportive parents. Bennett graduated from Northwestern College with a biology pre-health professions degree. He spent the last year working with adults as a counselor at South Dakota’s mental health hospital. Bennett’s interest in the outdoors started when he began hunting with his father and brother in South Dakota. Fly-fishing is currently his greatest outdoor passion which he will pursue while in New Zealand. Bennett has started learning to play the banjo and hopes to jam with his “kiwi” friends. Bennett is an alumni of CCSP and  wishes to help students enjoy the CCSP experience as much as he did. Bennett is always up for a good laugh or meaningful conversation.

Lauren Berg - NZ Student Life Coordinator B.A.

Lauren Berg - NZ Student Life Coordinator

Lauren is a recent graduate from Gordon College, located in Massachusetts’ north shore, though she originally hails from New York. She graduated with a degree in English, but often gets more excited talking about her minor in sustainable development. She blogs, fiddles, and has a one hour-long podcast on the topic of home, which she conceptualized based on her learning and experiences in New Zealand. Lauren studied abroad in New Zealand with CCSP in the fall of 2014, and is very excited to be able to return and reconnect with people in the community while creating new friendships.