Faculty & Staff
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Our Faculty & Staff

 

The below reflects Usdan's year-round staff. Faculty and staff working in Summer 2023 will be added closer to the camp season. Please enjoy getting to know us!

Alice Clancy

Manager of Operations

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Cory Benson

Manager of Buildings & Grounds

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Courtney Kassinger

Transportation Manager

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

David Lake

Chair, Recreation

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

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Diana Crum

Interim Director of Education

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Javan Howard

Coordinator, Creative Writing/Chess & Faculty, Creative Writing

Year-Round Faculty & Staff, Camp Faculty & Staff

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Jennifer Becker

Director of Donor Relations

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Jim Incorvaia

Department Chair, Theater

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Usdan Theater Comedy Mask Icon

Jodie Embleton

Department Chair, Art

Year-Round Faculty & Staff, Camp Faculty & Staff

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Joe Levy, CVE

Chief Operating Officer

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Johan Van den Berghe

Controller

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Julio Garcia

Senior Groundskeeper

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Kerry Barnhart

Senior Director of Student Affairs

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Kyra Leeds

Community Relations Coordinator

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Lafiya Watson Ramirez

Marketing and Communications, Consultant

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Lauren Brandt Schloss

Executive Director

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Lauren Kinane

Senior Enrollment Coordinator

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Mark Bligh

Department Chair, Music

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

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Olivia Wise

Senior Manager of Marketing & Communications

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Sadie Friedman

Discovery, Department Chair

Year-Round Faculty & Staff, Camp Faculty & Staff

Usdan Discovery U icon

Stella Shepherd

Manager of Donor Relations

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Victoria Ellerbe

Director of Administration

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Lauren Brandt Schloss

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Executive Director

Administration

Lauren headshot

Lauren Brandt Schloss joined Usdan in 2015. With her appointment, she became Usdan’s third leader in a half century and the first woman to hold the position. Bringing 20+ years experience in arts education, at the Queens Museum, MoMA, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Lauren is committed to ensuring that Usdan is at the forefront of educational and artistic practices. 

Lafiya Watson Ramirez

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Marketing and Communications, Consultant

Administration

Headshot of a smiling Lafiya Watson.

Lafiya Watson Ramirez is a multidisciplinary artist, web and mixed reality developer, and graphic designer. She began working for Usdan in 2011. Formerly Usdan's Marketing and Communications Coordinator she now brings her talents to Usdan as a consultant. Her work has been used for Vandoren, BET, NPR.org, and countless other publications, websites, and album covers. She has recently begun to pivot to creating Augmented Reality experiences. At the beginning of 2020, she was accepted for the MIT Reality Hackathon and spend a week working with a team to build an AR experience using Nreal glasses. In October 2020, she was chosen for a Snapchat residency and created an AR game based on the game Simon Says. Lafiya continues to work in the realm of Immersive Design focusing on using AR for storytelling in her own work and beyond. 

 

 

Kerry Barnhart

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Senior Director of Student Affairs

Administration

Headshot Kerry Barnhart

Kerry Barnhart is a proud alum of Usdan. Here is where she discovered her passion for music and theater as a child, going on to study vocal performance at The George Washington University. After several summers spent in the Usdan administrative office during college, she became part of the year round staff in 2005 as Registrar. Following her work as Registrar, Kerry oversaw student admissions as Director of Admissions, and has now added student affairs and operations as Senior Director of Student Affairs. She is happy to share the magic of Usdan with her son who attends as a student.  

Courtney Kassinger

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Transportation Manager

Administration

Headshot of Courtney Kassinger

Courtney Kassinger has spent her summers at Usdan since 2002 when she first attended as a student. She has served as Discovery counselor, transportation staff, and is now Transportation Manager. Courtney is a teacher (and proud alum!) at Harborfields Central School District, teaching band, chorus, and music, as well as director of the annual Variety Show. She is a member of SCMEA and NAfME.

Julio Garcia

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Senior Groundskeeper

Administration

Headshot Julio

 

 

Olivia Wise

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Senior Manager of Marketing & Communications

Administration

Headshot Olivia Wise

Olivia (she/her) joined Usdan’s full time staff in 2017. She has worked as an administrator at arts and culture organizations in the NYC region since 2011 and brings her knowledge of programs, project management, and communications to her role. Raised by a professional muralist and actor, Olivia was nurtured in a creative environment and firmly believes that art making can build confidence and empathy, helping us to see the world in new and impactful ways. While her expertise lies in administration, Olivia’s personal art making practice includes mixed media collage and cooking. She holds a B.A. in Urban Studies from The New School.

Diana Crum

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Interim Director of Education

Administration

Headshot Diana Crum

Diana Crum works at the intersection of dance and education. She currently serves as Program Director for Movement Research’s Dance Makers in the Schools and teaches dance in NYC and NJ public schools with ArtsConnection, Brooklyn Arts Council and New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Her choreography has been presented in New York, Atlanta, Mexico, and across Europe. Recent honors and awards include Brooklyn Studios for Dance Artist in Residence position (2018), Su-CASA artist residency (2017), and Foundation for Contemporary Art Emergency Grant (2015). Diana started at Usdan in 2018, where she enjoys dancing in the woods with young people.

Stella Shepherd

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Manager of Donor Relations

Administration

Headshot Stella Shepherd

Stella Shepherd is originally from London, United Kingdom. She moved to New York to study Musical Theater and graduated from The New School with a BFA in Musical Theater and Liberal Arts. Prior to working at Usdan, Stella worked at a few non-profit Off-Broadway Theater Companies in their Fundraising departments. At Usdan she is the Donor Relations Coordinator and loves visiting the studios in the summer whenever possible. 

Lauren Kinane

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Senior Enrollment Coordinator

Administration

Headshot Lauren Kinane

Lauren Kinane is a clarinetist, educator, and currently serves as the Enrollment Coordinator at Usdan. Prior to becoming the Enrollment Coordinator, Lauren worked with the Leadership Institute and Supervision team, and she spent four summers as a camper at Usdan. Her summers at Usdan inspired her to pursue her passion for clarinet further. Throughout the year Lauren can be heard performing with the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra, and she can be found teaching masterclasses and coaching clarinet sections at schools throughout Long Island. She can also be heard on the Massachusetts Chamber Players' album Frank Martin: Music for Winds. Lauren is currently pursuing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Stony Brook University. She also received her Master of Music from the University of Massachusetts - Amherst and her Bachelor of Music from SUNY Fredonia. 

Joe Levy, CVE

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Chief Operating Officer

Administration

Joe Levy headshot

Joe Levy joined Usdan’s team in 2021 bringing with him 30 years experience managing, building, and renovating cultural arts organizations, overseeing multi-million dollar operating budgets, extensive physical plant operations, multi-phased construction projects, and safety and security.

Joe’s professional experience includes leading operations and facilities at The National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Harlem’s World Famous Apollo Theater, Kaufman Center, Jack Morton Worldwide, The Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival, and the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. Levy was also owner and operator of Radiant Construction; a contracting, construction management, and capital project consultancy committed to green-building practices.

Levy is the current chair of the Venue Safety and Security Committee for IAVM, which serves over 7,000 members worldwide. He received the Chair’s Citation at the 2017 annual IAVM conference and his Certified Venue Executive designation in 2018.

Alice Clancy

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Manager of Operations

Administration

Headshot of Alice Clancy.

Alice first joined Usdan in 2019 as the Festival and Gala Stage Manager. As a child, Alice was a serious saxophone player, and jumped from the pit to the wings in the early years of high school. She continued her study of theater at SUNY Fredonia, graduating with a degree in scenic design. Her nearly 30-year career as a stage and production manager has taken her to Santa Fe, Utah, a million hole-in-the-wall theaters in Manhattan, NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival, and Harlem's World Famous Apollo Theater. She is thrilled to return to her roots of music, playing with tools, and running around in the woods in her first official role in an Operations Department. Alice is the proud mother of three budding artists and engineers, lucky wife of a second career Social Studies teacher, and dedicated student (and newly minted certified teacher!) of yoga.

Kyra Leeds

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Community Relations Coordinator

Administration

Headshot Kyra Leeds

Kyra Leeds is an actor and arts administrator from Queens, NY. Kyra was a student at Usdan for ten glorious summers, a Discovery Counselor for three summers, and has worked in Usdan’s administrative offices for the past five years. Kyra has also done some development and fundraising work for DCM, Inc. and, most recently, for the Off-Broadway MCC Theater in NYC. As an actor Kyra has been a part of Royal Caribbean’s CATS (Jennyanydots), Argyle Theatre’s FULL MONTY (Vicki), Hangar Theatre’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Christmas Past), and the REV Theatre Company’s PARADE (Ensemble/Dance Captain).  Kyra holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Ithaca College. 

 

Victoria Ellerbe

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Director of Administration

Administration

Victoria Ellerbe Headshot

Victoria joined Usdan in 2022 and has more than 10 years experience working in nonprofit organizations in HR, Finance, and Administration. She earned a bachelor's degree in Accounting from St John's University and since then has worked with NYC organizations such as Seeds of Peace, Harlem's World Famous Apollo Theater, and the Children's Museum of Manhattan. She currently resides in Brooklyn with her partner and maintains a great appreciation of arts and culture, as an avid cellist and a regular patron of live performances, art houses, and museums. 

 

Cory Benson

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Manager of Buildings & Grounds

Administration

Headshot of Cory

 

 

Johan Van den Berghe

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Controller

Administration

Headshot Johan

Johan joined the Usdan family in 2022. He brought with him over 15 years of experience working and volunteering in nonprofit organizations. His main responsibilities have revolved around bookkeeping, finance and strategic development. He graduated from Baruch College in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Finance. Soon after, he fell in love with the nonprofit world and has not looked back since. He then attended NYU for a course in accounting for nonprofits and followed it with a medical coding and billing certificate from Hunter College in 2016. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from Columbia University. He resides in Chelsea, MA with his partner, two cats and a ball python. He has great appreciation for music, especially live concerts.

Jennifer Becker

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Director of Donor Relations

Administration

Jenn headshot

Jennifer Becker (she/her) joined Usdan as a full time staff member in 2022. She is dedicated to building an organizational culture of philanthropy and supporting Usdan's donors by aligning their passions and interests with impactful projects. Jennifer has more than 20 years of experience in philanthropy, project management, communications, and strategic planning and has worked at some of New York City's most prestigious cultural institutions. A Usdan alum from the early '90s, her personal experience has informed her strong belief that art inspires empathy and that equity and inclusion are central to building cultural communities that thrive. Jennifer holds a B.A. in Art History from Pratt Institute and an M.A. in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London.

 

 

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Jodie Embleton

Year-Round Faculty & Staff, Camp Faculty & Staff

Department Chair, Art

Art

Headshot Jodie Embleton.

Jodie joined us at Usdan in 2008. Her role has evolved from assistant, to teacher, to art chair representing her dedication to Arts Education and her love of Usdan.  She holds a BFA in Painting and Drawing from SUNY Purchase College and a MSEd in Art Education from CUNY Queens College.  Jodie’s personal work consists of paintings depicting abstract architectural designs with sculptural elements. On the off-season, Jodie is a visual arts teacher in a public school on Long Island. Her favorite experiences at Usdan include working with teachers and children as they reconnect with nature and funnel their creative energy into building a better community. A fun fact about Jodie is that she used to foster hurt wild animals. 

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Javan Howard

Year-Round Faculty & Staff, Camp Faculty & Staff

Coordinator, Creative Writing/Chess & Faculty, Creative Writing

Creative Writing

Headshot Javan Howard.

Javan joined Usdan’s full time staff in 2017. Year round hip hop and poetry are his modes of survival and inspiration. A Bronx born creative that hails from the same high school as James Baldwin, he spreads love one word at a time. He truly believes that the lived experience is the ultimate teaching tool and uses poetry as a social forum to foster discourse about love, culture, and identity. He was recently named a 2022 Aspen Words Emerging Writer Fellow. He also suffers from severe milk chocolate withdrawals and has been diagnosed with a case of the New York Knicks.

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Sadie Friedman

Year-Round Faculty & Staff, Camp Faculty & Staff

Discovery, Department Chair

Discovery

Sadie Friedman headshot

Sadie started working at Usdan in 2008 as a Discovery Counselor and has loved the Discovery program ever since! She currently teachers Elementary School General Music in the Three Village School District. She also teaches Early Childhood family music classes. Her main instruments are voice and piano.

Usdan Music Notes Icon

Mark Bligh

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Department Chair, Music

Music

Headshot Mark Bligh

Mark Bligh is the director of the Denton Ave Elementary Band (Herricks UFSD, New Hyde Park, NY) where he teaches winds, brass and percussion for grades 3-5.  The Denton Ave Band regularly attends NYSSMA Majors and consistently earns Gold and Gold with Distinction honors.  

Mark Bligh is a graduate of the Esther Boyer College of Music at Temple University where he received a Bachelor of Music in Music Education with Honors. He received a Master of Arts from Stony Brook University.  Mr. Bligh was published in Scholastic for his contributions in an article entitled, “10 Best Musical Apps for Kids”. Mark has been honored to conduct the Winds, Brass and Percussion sectional for the NYSSMA All-State Symphonic Orchestra.  Mark was privileged to conduct the 2018 SCMEA Division 1 Central All-County Band and the 2019 WCSMA All-County Elementary Band.  Mr. Bligh has performed with the Long Island Wind Ensemble, Atlantic Wind Symphony, Northwinds Symphonic Band as well as various chamber ensembles.  Mark is the current Music Department Chair at Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts where he has worked since 2005.

mbligh@usdan.org

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David Lake

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Chair, Recreation

Recreational Camp

Dave began teaching at Usdan in 2005 as the Tennis Instructor and is pleased to begin a new role in 2022 as the Chair of Recreation. During the school year Dave is a 5th Grade Teacher in the East Islip School District. Fun fact: Dave juggled a soccer ball 12,600 times when he was 17.

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Jim Incorvaia

Year-Round Faculty & Staff

Department Chair, Theater

Theater

Headshot Jim Incorvaia

Jim began teaching at Usdan in the summer of 1991 and after more than thirty summers in the woods, he is still as excited as when he first started. Jim is an actor, director and producer who has overseen more than three hundred shows in Usdan’s three theaters. He began his professional work in the arts at the age of five as a commercial model. He was bitten by the acting bug for good in high school. Jim obtained his B. A. and his M.S. in Education at Hofstra Univeristy and studied for his M.F.A. at Columbia. He is the founder of the OnStage Strategies Group, a theater consulting firm assisting educational and local theater programs as they work to grow and re-imagine their student offerings. Jim believes that art has the power to break down the barriers that divide us.