Leaders in environmental education and community-based learning

The SEMIS Coalition Steering Committee has diverse experience and deep expertise in community partnerships, education and curricula. We’re committed to finding and advancing ways of learning that provide a sustainable future for our communities and world.

Ethan Lowenstein, Ph.D.

EthanLowenstein_sqDr. Ethan Lowenstein is a Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at Eastern Michigan University (EMU). He has close to two decades of experience in school systems reform, educational leadership development, and teacher professional development in moral and civic education.

In recognition of his work in teacher education, he received the 2007 Michigan Campus Compact Faculty/Staff Community Service-Learning Award and the 2006 Dean’s Award for Innovative Teaching. Dr. Lowenstein and the SEMIS Coalition received the 2014 Dale Rice Award for Academic Innovation in AS-L and Community Engagement.

Before his career in higher education, Dr. Lowenstein taught high school Social Studies at Park East H.S., an alternative high school in East Harlem, New York City. Dr. Lowenstein was the 1996 New York City Board of Education Teacher of the Year for alternative schools.

Rebecca NielsenRebecca Nielsen
Program Director 

Rebecca Nielsen is the Director of Programming for the SEMIS Coalition. Her responsibilities include coordinating the planning and facilitation of Coalition wide professional development experiences and whole-school instructional support for SEMIS Coalition schools, participating in strategic planning and fundraising efforts for the organization, and providing professional coaching support to the SEMIS coaching team and SEMIS members. She also serves on the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI) Evaluation team, and holds leadership positions with the Board of Directors of the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum and Leslie Science and Nature Center. She holds a BS in Science from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Teaching from the University of Virginia.

Rebecca has worked as an Education Manager at the Detroit Science Center and the National Wildlife Federation, and has also taught high school biology and ecology. She is trained in many of the prominent environmental education curricula including Project Wet, Project Wild, and Project Learning tree, is a facilitator for the Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum Support (MEECS) series, and is a certified Habitat Steward for the National Wildlife Federation. She has also served as an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Teacher Education at Eastern Michigan University.                                                                                                                            

 Lisa Voelker, Assistant Director

Lisa work image

Lisa Voelker serves as Assistant Director for the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition. Her role is to work with teachers, community partners and field coaches to support Place-based and Eco-Justice Education inquiry projects; supporting the planning and implementation of the SEMIS Coalition annual professional development sequence. Lisa holds an undergraduate degree in Visual Arts Education with Teaching Certificate, and a MA in Social Foundations of Education, both obtained through Eastern Michigan University. Prior to joining the SEMIS Coalition she taught Pre K-8 Visual Arts in Ypsilanti, MI. She also served as SEMIS Coalition Graduate Assistant during her MA program studies.

SEMIS Coalition Field Coaches

SEMIS Coalition Field Coaches add tremendous energy to the organization as they offer their expertise in guiding us on new initiatives, classroom content, school inquiry projects, teacher tools and multimedia resources, and connecting with our partners.

Laura Florence, Great Lakes and STEM education

Laura Florence is a curriculum coach focusing on Great Lakes alflorencepicnd STEM education. Her responsibilities include supporting SEMIS teachers in expanding their Great Lakes literacy and connecting them to community partners with expertise in Great Lakes science and education. Laura holds a B.S. in Biology and Anthropology and a M.S. in Aquatic Ecology, both from the University of Michigan. Prior to joining the SEMIS coalition, she worked at the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab and Michigan Sea Grant doing research, outreach and education. Laura is also an experienced environmental educator, trained in Project WET, Project WILD and Project Learning Tree.  She serves on the Board of Trustees at the Leslie Science and Nature Center and Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.                                                                  

Sarah Halson, Earth Force and Outdoor Classroom Learning

Sarah serves as a Field Coach for the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition and has been a member of the coalition since 2009.  sarah-halsonHer role is to support teachers in their Place-based and Eco-Justice Education inquiry projects specializing in the student driven Earth Force curriculum and Outdoor Classroom Learning. Sarah received an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and Science, Technology and Society from Pitzer College in 1998.  She has over 15 years of experience in field-based and school-based environmental education program development and management at several Metro Detroit nature centers and as the Environmental Education Director at The Greening of Detroit.  She was selected as the Informal Science Educator of the Year by the Michigan Science Teachers Association in 2012.

Matt Siegfried, History and Social Landscapes

Matt is a historian, writer and researcher. A graduate of Eastern Michigan University with degrees in History and Historic Preservation, much of his work has been on connecting local history to broad historical moments. With a focus on race,  class, gender and power in our social landscape, Matt believes that the ground and built environment we walk through every day is alive with worlds of history and can speak to us about why we live the way we live. Matthew specializes in African-American history and genealogy and has done extensive research on Ypsilanti’s historic African American neighborhood and communities, including a website, South Adams Street @ 1900 (here). For more about Matt’s work, or to contact him directly go to https://msiegfriedhistorian.com/.

Contact Field Coaches. If you’d like to talk with any of our Field Coaches about SEMIS Coalition partnerships or initiatives, please contact us, and we’ll make sure you connect.

A coalition's primary strength is in its members