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?

Nathan Landis - NZ Community Coordinator B.A.

Nathan Landis - NZ Community Coordinator

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.

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.

Sarah (Essie) Fenstermacher - NZ Kitchen Manager B.A.

Sarah (Essie) Fenstermacher - NZ Kitchen Manager

Essie is a graduate of Houghton College and she attended CCSP in fall of 2015. Her home is in southeastern Pennsylvania where her parents, younger brother and cats hold down the fort in her absence. Over the summer she worked with an urban farm in Buffalo, NY as the Farm-to-Table coordinator where she supervised teens in the making of meals that used ingredients grown on the farm. She likes reading, sewing, playing ultimate frisbee and knowing where her food comes from. Easily delighted by God’s marvelous creation, she loves dusky dolphins and pretty much all animals.

Matthew Wicks - NZ Grounds and Garden Manager B.A.

Matthew Wicks - NZ Grounds and Garden Manager

Matthew holds a B.A. in History from Messiah College. During his time there he also studied as a student in Kaikoura in 2008, CCSP NZ's first year in the town. Matthew’s work experience ranges from rig work and landscaping, to environmental contracting and commercial building. In September of 2014 Matthew embarked on the great adventure of marriage.  He and his new bride rode their motorcycles from New York to California, before continuing west and arriving in Wellington, New Zealand in February 2015. A year later, Matthew is excited to find himself back at the Old Convent, where the air is clean and the mountains are tall.