Who We Are
The Center for Inquiry
Camp Inquiry is one of many educational initiatives offered by the Center for Inquiry, a research institution devoted to the appreciation of science and reason, and their applications to human conduct.
The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.
Center for Inquiry—Transnational
3965 Rensch Road
Amherst, NY 14228
Camp Inquiry is funded in part by a grant from the
Newburger/Schwartz Family Foundation.
2015 Special Guests include:
David Willey, Physicist
David Willey was born in England and has degrees in both Physics and Education. Willey teaches for the University of Pittsburgh, where he has received the “Teacher of the Year” award and the “President's Excellence in Teaching” award. He works as a scientific consultant for CSI and designs physics apparatus for V.W.R., a global laboratory supply and distribution company. Willey set a world record for the longest firewalk, 165 feet. He has his own live show “How Does A Thing Like That Work?” that has been seen by over 100,000 people. Willey has appeared on numerous TV shows worldwide and is best known as “The Mad Scientist” for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Michelle Morand, Psychologist/Counselor
If you have ever tried to understand why people do the things they do, and think the things they think, you’ll find a kindred spirit in Michelle Morand. She has always been curious to understand why people think, feel and behave as they do and has dedicated her life to this cause. During her 23-year career as a counseling specialist in the field of eating disorders, addictions and trauma Michelle developed a set of tools to help her clients learn the core steps to clear thinking and repeatedly observed that this new approach to thinking resolved her client’s anxiety, depression, eating disorder and substance abuse issues.
This inspired Michelle to bring these tools to the world at large. It is her experience that when we hold ourselves accountable to clear thinking we profoundly change the way we feel as individuals and how we behave towards ourselves and others. Clear thinking, therefore, is the simplest and most effective tool we have against the biases in our own brain and in the world around us.
Michael Cardus, Founder, Create-Learning
Michael Cardus founded Create-Learning, a consulting, training & coaching firm that provides team building, leadership and experiential development to create great experiences for improved performance and lasting memories. Mike’s knowledge spans team building, team development, leadership development, creativity, and organizational process management. He combines a unique mix of experience, theory, creativity and organizational psychology to ensure his presentations are hands on, fully involving and educationally powerful. Mike’s practice focuses on developing accountability and collaboration amongst and within teams, and on leadership development.
Stef McGraw, Community Organizer
Stef McGraw is a campus and community organizer at CFI and has degrees in philosophy and Spanish from the University of Northern Iowa. She spent four years on the executive team of the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers, which in that time became one of the most successful and active groups on campus. In addition to her experience at UNIFI, Stef served as the Speaker of the Senate for the Northern Iowa Student Government, and was active in LGBT rights and other progressive causes in Iowa.
More Special Guests will be announced soon.
Staff members for Camp Inquiry 2015 include:
Karen Strachan, Camp Director
Karen Strachan is Director of the Center for Inquiry’s Camp Inquiry, where she is responsible for the development, coordination, and operation of a weeklong overnight camp for young skeptics ages 7 to 16. Programming includes integrated activities and special guest sessions that challenge campers to ask hard questions and search for answers. She works with staff to foster an environment where youth can be themselves as they explore the arts and sciences, the skeptical perspective, and ethical character development.
Karen is also the Girls University Coordinator for Girls Incorporated of Memphis, where she manages and facilitates youth development programs for girls ages 6-18. Karen has over 15 years of leadership experience in education, science, and art. This includes three years as Lead Educator and Camp Director for the Memphis Zoo, where she taught inquiry-based classes and oversaw program development and administration for grades Pre-K through 12. Karen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Sociology from Rhodes College in Memphis.
Levi Sponeybarger, Camp Coordinator
Levi must really like this camp gig, because he's back again for his sixth year (fourth summer as Camp Coordinator). You've seen him all over, cooking, and making sure Karen is drinking the right amount of coffee! This truly is a pleasure to be around amazing young people for a week out of the summer, and he looks forward to it every year. Levi just changed career fields from working in a public high school to now working for Southwest Airlines as a Customer Service Agent. The career change was HUGE, but he enjoys every minute of it.
Joelle Hester (RN, CNOR, BSN, MSM), Camp Nurse
Joelle Hester is a Registered Nurse with more than 20 years experience in the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Industries. Over the course of her career, she has worked as a Surgical Nurse, Labor and Delivery Nurse, Clinical Educator, Clinical Trials Researcher and Manager. Joelle has always demonstrated strong leadership, attested to by the many awards and recognitions she has received. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Healthcare Management. Joelle has served as Camp Nurse for Camp Inquiry for the last three years.
David Hester, Camp Assistant
Mr. Hester has more than twenty-five years of experience in advanced technology deployment with a focus on design and adoption of Identity and Access Management solutions, smart card technologies and emerging security modalities. He has participated in a wide range of high-profile projects for large customers including the NSA, US Department of Defense, the US Navy, and NASA. Internationally he has provided services to Groupe AXA (France), Lukoil (Russia), ING Bank (Netherlands), and The International Criminal Court in Den Haag (Netherlands). Based in Florida, he currently provides support for The BBC’s Global Identity and Security Management practice.
Shadi Afshar, Teacher/Counselor
This is Shadi's sixth year as a Teacher/Counselor at Camp Inquiry. In addition to holding a Double Honors in Philosophy and Environmental Politics, and a Bachelor's of Education, Shadi is currently pursuing a Masters in Philosophy of Education from the University of Toronto. Her thesis is aimed at identifying the philosophical and practical problems posed to the development of a deliberative and intentional public by the disciplinary divide between the humanities and natural sciences in education. Shadi's academic interests include the study of ethics, epistemic theory, and social and political thought. However, it is the pragmatism of William James and John Dewey, the prose of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the existential literature of Fyodor Dostoyevsky that connect the intellectual and personal of her philosophical experience. Shadi has served as the President of her university's Undergraduate Philosophy Association and as editor for the school's Undergraduate Journal of Philosophy.
Melissa Campbell, Teacher/Counselor
Melissa Campbell is an educator, activist, and organizer. She currently works with sparkmovement, where she trains girls in high school and college to be feminist leaders in their communities.
Justin Craddock, Teacher/Counselor
This is Justin's sixth year as a Teacher/Counselor at Camp Inquiry. Justin spends his time coaching track year round, performing sleight of hand magic, playing chess, and running semi professionally. He briefly ran the University at Buffalo Freethinkers (a campus secular group) and helped co-found Buffalo Freethought (a secular humanist community group based in Buffalo).
Emily Dijkstra, Teacher/Counselor
This will be Emily's second year at Camp Inquiry. She began volunteering with CFI-NYC in 2011 and served as intern there in 2012. Emily's interests range all kinds of art, science, philosophy, and she cares deeply about the future of the environment. She currently works for a solar energy company on Long Island, NY, where she grew up, helping residents to harness the clean power of the sun. Emily holds a degree in Sociology from Amherst College.
Theodore Edwards, Teacher/Counselor
Theodore is acquiring his Associates degree in Physics at Bronx Community College with plans to transfer to a four-year college to pursue his Bachelors in Physics. He has served as the President of the Secular Humanist Club at Bronx Community College and often attends and helps out with CFI events in NYC. Theodore also wants to be a science promoter, making science fun and easy for everyone to learn.
Corey Farach, Teacher/Counselor
Corey earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from Florida Atlantic University in 2009. He now lives in Brooklyn and volunteers for secular nonprofit organizations such as The Impossible Music Sessions, advocating the free expression of music, and the Center for Inquiry New York City branch, advocating reason, science and the freedom of inquiry. Corey was awarded Freethinker of the Year in 2010 by CFI–NYC.
Tony Lakey, Teacher/Counselor
This is Tony's fourth year at Camp Inquiry. He was the President of MU Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, and Agnostics at the University of Missouri - Columbia where he studied Philosophy and Sociology. He is a contributor to Columbia Faith and Values, an affiliate of the Religion News Service. He interned at CFI transnational in 2012.
Syd LeRoy, Teacher/Counselor
This is Syd's seventh year (wow wow!) as teacher/counselor at Camp Inquiry. They live in New York City where they are getting their Masters in Social Work in Community Organizing at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. After they receive their MSW in 2016, Syd is looking forward to mobilizing with youth to fight for social and political justice for marginalized communities. Syd is also the former executive director of Center for Inquiry–NYC. They are excited for another skeptical summer and quirky camp quilt!
Michael Nam, Teacher/Counselor
This is Mike’s second year at Camp Inquiry. Mike has been a CFI-NYC participant and volunteer since 2012, and acts as president of the Volunteer Board. His experience in youth organizing and counseling include serving as a Star-ranked Boy Scout patrol leader and as a resident assistant for University of Massachusetts. Mike is a homepage producer by profession. He enjoys illustrating and is an avid reader and writer. Mike graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a BA in English Literature.
Dean Roth, Teacher/Counselor
Dean holds a bachelor’s degree in K-12 Fine Arts Education from Hofstra University and is currently a middle school teacher at a charter school in Queens, New York. They began volunteering for CFI in 2011 as the Outreach & Promotions Coordinator for the New York City branch. Dean is an activist and advocate for better public education, human rights, and promoting critical thinking and reason among students. They co-founded Beyond Faith: An Ex-Christian Student Support Group. Dean's passions lie in art, food, LGBTQ rights, and ice cream.
Joel Medina Santiago, Teacher/Counselor
This is Joel’s first year at Camp Inquiry. Joel obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Puerto Rico and is currently pursuing a Master's in Social Neuroscience. In the past, he worked as a Youth Leader aiding kids in emotional support meetings. He’s committed to promoting secular values and freethought in the island. Joel’s interests include studies on cognitive neuroscience of music, cross-cultural sensitivity, and environmental psychology. He’s been a passionate self-taught musician for around seven years.