looked after my safety
warm & welcoming
were great teachers
The AQ Team
We've been sailing the world's oceans for over 40 years so this isn't our first rodeo... or even our first global circumnavigation!
So often we are asked "what is it that sets ActionQuest apart?" Simply put, we believe that it's our inspirational team.
It's our culture, our devotion our dedication and commitment to continuously push ourselves and our students to new heights that makes all the difference in the outcome of a trip.
Like you, we're as diverse as the destinations we travel. We come from all different backgrounds--Captains, Scuba Instructors, Marine Biologists, EMTs... Many of our team came to AQ as a teen or even to Sea|mester to study abroad in college before finding their way back, realizing that their life's work was right here. Regardless of how we arrived or where we came from, we share a desire to teach, discover and evolve. Deep down, everyone wants to set their own course and ActionQuest provides a place to do just that.
Every summer we ask our alumni a series of questions about their staff. This is what they told us from their experiences last year...
Mike Meighan - Director
Mike's love of the sea lured him to scuba diving and sailing at the age of 15. At 18, he
voyaged throughout the Mediterranean and taught diving internationally before entering Southampton University
in the UK. He graduated with a First Class Joint Honors degree in Oceanography and Marine Biology.
In 1995, Mike assumed the role of ActionQuest marine biologist, oceanographer and scuba instructor. Over the years, his love for experiential learning and the AQ programs led him to become involved in all aspects of operations. His passion for teaching traditional academics in an experiential way led to the development of Sea|mester in 1998.
Today, Mike directs all operations and activities in addition to developing new voyages, programs and course curriculums. He sails with the BVI ActionQuest and GoBeyond programs full-time each summer.
The Meighan family has a deep-rooted affection for the water. Mike's wife, Jo, spent several summers as a PADI diving instructor with AQ in the BVI, and works in the Sarasota office part-time. Mike and Jo live in Sarasota with their sons, Joshua and Kai, who are naturally fond of the water and sail with the family in the BVI each summer.
Management, Office & Operational Team
Many of our USA office team are key operational directors during the summer time. Click on our team members below to learn more about them.
Click on our team members below to learn more about them.
- Jim Stoll - Founder
Jim spent much of his youth aboard boats. As a young man, he became an avid ocean racer crewing many times aboard legendary racing yachts like Jack Eckerd's Panacea, S.A. Long's Ondine and Jim Kilroy's Kialoa. In 1970, Jim and his wife, Elske, became owners and captains of the 156-ft. schoolship Te Vega, sailing with her sister-ship, the 175-ft. Te Quest. This is where Jim first combined his passion for the ocean and years of experience to teach young adults sailing and hands-on academics. After 12 years and 50,000 miles of cruising throughout European, Mediterranean, South American and Caribbean waters, the Stolls moved ashore with their children, Carina and Jason.
Jim revisited his passion for working with teenagers when he established ActionQuest. The non-traditional programs challenged young adults with high-action adventure and personal growth. The concept was so successful that similar programs like Sea|mester and GoBeyond were developed to further serve teenagers and young adults.
- Travis Yates - Director of Operations
Travis joined the team in 1995, having graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with a degree in Marine Engineering. Always a sailor, Travis competed at both national and international levels, culminating in a bid for the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team in 1996. Travis holds an MCA/IYT International Master of Ocean Yachts, US Coast Guard Captain's License and is an Instructor Evaluator for US Sailing. He is also a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer.
As Director of Operations and Marine Superintendent, Travis is responsible for day-to-day operations as well as all AQ vessels and equipment.
- Kyle Busacker - Director of Enrollment
As a Business and History student at the University of Oregon, Kyle decided to study abroad his Junior year by attending a fall voyage with Sea|mester. Kyle attests that the experience was so life changing, that soon after graduating he made it his goal to return. In the summer of 2006, Kyle became part of the ActionQuest team as an operational staff in the British Virgin Islands, while over the next three years also working for our GoBeyond and Sea|mester programs.
During this time, Kyle attained his 200 gross ton Master of Yachts Offshore captains license and his PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor Certification. After taking a year's hiatus working in the field of enrollment services in High Education, Kyle brought his knowledge and passion for experiential education back to our organization and is now running our west coast office in Portland, Oregon as the Director of Enrollment.
- Gina Barnaba - Registrar
Gina started with ActionQuest in December 2003. She earned both a Bachelor's degree and Associate of Applied Science Degree while studying and working in New York City. Gina's passion for our program and for the happiness of our students makes her an invaluable part of our team and a great advocate for our shipmates. When not working at ActionQuest, Gina enjoys spending time with her children, Marisa and Tristan.
- Jo Meighan - CFO
Jo joined ActionQuest in 1997 as a full-time office staff member and PADI dive instructor. Having spent six summers teaching with ActionQuest in the BVIs, she works in the Sarasota office as CFO. The rest of her time is devoted to raising sons Joshua and Kai. She has a Bachelor's degree in French from Southampton University, UK. Born in Jamaica and raised in Britain, Jo has traveled extensively, having lived and worked abroad in several countries. She loves ballet, SUP and working with ActionQuest to provide life-defining experiences for young adults.
- Sam Williamson - Operational Staff HR | Operational Director
After graduating from Wake Forest University in 2004, Sam followed his passion for the water and travel, working as a Sailing and Scuba Diving instructor in Costa Rica, Thailand, and Belize. Sam joined AQ, in 2007 and is now the director of the BVI Diving program. He holds certifications as an MCA Master of Yachts 200 Ton, PADI IDC Staff Instructor, and Advanced Medic at Sea. An avid traveler, he can be found seeking out new adventures abroad, from paragliding in the Alps to jungle trekking in Sumatra.
- Blair Williamson - Admissions & Customer Journey | Alumni Relations
Blair is from Richmond, VA and grew up sailing in Wilmington, North Carolina. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 2008, having sailed with Sea|mester on S/Y Argo for her 2006 maiden voyage in Thailand. Since 2008, Blair has spent her summers with ActionQuest in the British Virgin Islands as a dive instructor and captain. She has also spent time living and working aboard privately owned yachts in the Bahamas and in SE Asia, following her passion for travel and the ocean. Blair joined the company full time in the beginning of 2011 and works in the office as PR and alumni relations co-ordinator. Blair's professional credentials include PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer and IYT Master of Yachts 200 tons.
- Kate Mitchell - Admissions & Customer Journey Coordinator
Learning to sail and scuba dive at a young age on Lake Erie, Kate always had a passion for the water. As a teenager, she was an AQ shipmate. She then signed aboard with Sea|mester for the maiden voyage. She has been a scuba instructor and skipper since 1999, and an office team member since 2001.
What Kate loves most about working with AQ is being able to give back to the program that impacted her at a pivotal time in her life. Kate holds a US Coast Guard Captain's License and is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer.
- Kelly Swartzbaugh - Admissions & Customer Journey Coordinator
Kelly grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and began scuba diving while attending the University of Arkansas. She sailed on Argo in the fall of 2012 and returned to complete her IYT Master of Yachts 200 ton, PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor and B.A in Communications. Kelly joined the team in the Sarasota office in the Spring of 2013 and loves sharing her experience with incoming and future shipmates.
- Jake Steward - Admissions & Customer Journey | Operational Director
Easily recognizable by the constant smile on his face, Jake is the director of the Divemaster program and coordinates our introductory dive programs. Brought into diving by his mom, Jake has experience diving all over the world, from the murky, freezing waters of the Great Lakes to the warm, clear waters of the Caribbean. After retuning home from a life changing trip with ActionQuest in 2005, Jake knew he had to become involved with the program. Now as a skipper and PADI instructor, Jake strives to provide his shipmates with the same incredible experience he had as a student. Jake recently made the move to Sarasota, and manages enrollment and business development for ActionQuest.
- Dan Meyer - Director of Operations | GoBeyond
Dan has been active in the field of experiential education since 2000. Since that time, Dan has facilitated hundreds of groups as an environmental educator, a wilderness trail guide, a high and low ropes challenge course facilitator, a youth-at-risk counselor, and, of course, as an international service-adventure guide for ActionQuest & GoBeyond. Dan is a dedicated academic and holds his Masters in Experiential Education, and an avid traveler with countless stories from North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Dan is responsible for the coordination of all operational aspects of our programs in Ecuador, The Galapagos, and Peru, and aims to deliver the very best experiences for ActionQuest students.
- Elliot Evins - Admissions & Customer Journey | Operational Director
Elliot was born in Southern California and has since lived in North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida, where he currently resides. While a student at New College of Florida, Elliot spent his spring semester with Sea|mester and sailed throughout the Caribbean on S/Y Argo. Elliot joined ActionQuest in 2011 and works as a captain and program director with both the ActionQuest and GoBeyond BVI programs. Elliot loves traveling and meeting new people, and is ecstatic to have a profession that allows him to do both.
- Kris Stevenson - Operational Manager / Assistant Marine Superintendent
Kris was born in Rotterdam, Holland, and spent most of his formative years growing up in the Middle East and England. He graduated from the University of Southampton, United Kingdom, with a Masters degree in Oceanography. Following a strong family connection to the sea, Kris was naturally inclined towards a life revolving around the Oceans. Kris joined the Sea|mester Operational team in 2009 acting as a member of the Marine Science Faculty, Diving Instructor, Mate and Captain. Having spent the last 6 years and over 75'000 nautical miles sailing on board both Sea|mester vessels and teaching with ActionQuest during the summer months, Kris has migrated to Sarasota taking up an Operational Manager's role within the office. Kris' professional credentials include PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, EFR Instructor, IYT Master of Yachts 200 tons Ocean, STCW95.
- Greg Skinner - Technical Director
Greg joined the team after participating in the summer 2002 Caribbean Sea|mester. He was inspired to earn his EMT certification and his PADI Divemaster certification in order to join the team in an operational capacity. Greg spent two summers in the BVI providing emergency medical support, dive support and worked as both a First Mate and Skipper. Greg now provides support for ActionQuest's websites as well as general technical support and guidance for the program. Greg holds a bachelor's degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Information Technology and is currently pursuing his Master's degree at the George Washington University in Computer Security.
- Torin Tofferi - Operational Director | Captain
Born and raised in Vermont, Torin's background is all about snow sports, sailing, and community service. He spends winters coaching alpine ski racing while managing his family's ski shop, and summers directing all of our BVI service programs. Torin has a long history in service, starting alternative youth programs with the local recreation and parks departments, as well as recycling programs in the local schools. Torin holds a 100 Ton Master Mariners License with the United States Coast Guard and is also a PADI rescue diver.
- Anna Johnson - Operational Director | EMT
Anna joined ActionQuest as a shipmate when she was 16 and completed her senior year of high school aboard S/Y Ocean Star. A 2004 graduate from the University of Vermont, with degrees in psychology and sociology, Anna also holds an EMT certification and volunteered on an ambulance while at school. Anna has worked with AQ since the summer of 2000, and in addition to her medical duties she is also in charge of managing the trip update system and ships stores. During the year Anna lives in Washington, DC where she spends much of her free time volunteering for a local dog rescue group.
- Marina Knapp - Operational Director | Marine Scientist
Growing up in Sarasota, FL, Marina's passion for the ocean began at a young age. She joined AQ in 2006 as a shipmate on the Dolphin voyage, and continued on completing two Atlantic crossings aboard S/Y Argo with Sea|mester. Marina graduated from Florida State University in 2013 with a B.S. in Biology. She holds PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, AAUS Scientific diver, WFR, and STCW-95 certifications, and has interned at Mote Marine and Pritzker Marine Research laboratories. Marina has worked with AQ since 2011, and is now the director of our Marine Science program.
- Viktoria Low - Operational Director | Captain
Born and raised in Northern California, Tor knew she was meant for a life full of adventure. Growing up she spent a her summers traveling to Sweden to visit family and learning how to sail out in the archipelago. After high school, Tor headed north and attended University of Oregon. In the fall of 2008 she sailed with Sea|mester from Australia to Thailand. Upon returning to University, Tor attained her Bachelors of Science Degree in Human Physiology and also discovered her true love of diving in the murky giant kelp forest-waters off the California, Oregon and Washington coast. After receiving her instructor certification in Oregon, she spent time gaining experience as an Instructor teaching diving in Honduras. In 2010, Tor joined the ActionQuest team and now works with ActionQuest and Sea|mester as a captain, operational director and diving instructor. With Sea|mester and AQ, Tor plans to advance her sail training and continue to develop her teaching style and career as an outdoor educator.
- Nick McGinty - Operational Director | Captain
Nick was born and raised in Sarasota, Florida. Because he grew up in a coastal city, he easily found himself attracted to anything and everything on the water. Nick began sailing at the age of 15 as a student at ActionQuest. He studied criminal justice at the University of Mississippi where he graduated in 2010. After graduating he followed his love of the water to a career in the maritime world. He began working on mega yachts as a deckhand and worked his way up to 1st mate, earning his RYA Yachtmaster 200 ton, and Officer Of The Watch certifications. Nick joined the ActionQuest team in 2008, and is also the first mate on our Sea|mester boat, S/Y Argo.
- Bryant Turffs - Captain | Dive Instructor
Bryant was born in Sarasota, FL and grew up exploring the Gulf Coast waters. He started sailing at age 8 and earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification at age 14. Bryant studied environmental science at New College of Florida and wrote his thesis on the use of chemical dispersant in relation to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. While earning his bachelors Bryant also achieved his PADI instructor rating, USCG 50 Ton Masters Captains License and interned with Mote Marine Laboratories Center for Shark Research. After graduating in 2011, Bryant traveled Australia, Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia teaching diving and seeking adventure. Bryant joined the AQ team in 2012 as a Skipper and Dive Instructor and in 2014 also started working with our Sea|mester programs in the fall and spring.
- Ben Diamond - Captain | Dive Instructor
Originally from Manchester, England, Ben is an experienced sailor, PADI divemaster, and skiing enthusiast. After earning his masters in Marine Environmental Management, Ben logged over 30,000 miles at sea, earning his 200 ton Yachtmaster Oceans, and has done multiple Atlantic crossings. Ben joined the ActionQuest team in 2013 as a Skipper and marine scientist, and is also the captain of Ocean Star, an 88 foot schooner, for our Sea|mester programs.
- Kevin Johnsen - Captain | Operational Director
- Tina Doran - Mate | Medical Person In Charge
After spending a semester abroad with Sea|mester in 2008, Tina became absorbed with the marine world. She graduated from Bard College with a BA in Environmental Studies in 2010, after which she turned her attention to scuba diving. Tina has worked as a Divemaster and Instructor in Central America, Europe, New York, and the Caribbean. She holds qualifications such as PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, US Coast Guard Medical Person in Charge, PADI Emergency First Response Instructor (including Care for Children), and eleven specialty instructor ratings. Tina joined the ActionQuest team as a dive instructor and mate in 2012 while working towards a MA in Environmental Conservation Education through New York University. Upon graduating in mid-2015, she realized her dream of leaving New York to work for Sea|mester. Tina is looking forward to exploring new shores, diving, and sharing her love of the marine environment with Sea|mester students. When not underwater Tina can be found playing her viola, trying out new recipes in the galley, and editing the photographs from her last dive.
- Carolyn Kovacs - Marine Scientist | Operational Director
Carolyn was born in Delray Beach, Florida and spent her early years near the beach, fostering her love for the ocean. She lived in Richmond, Virginia throughout middle and high school, and then studied biology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia for her undergraduate degree. Carolyn has a Masters of Science in the Marine Sciences from Savannah State University (SSU), where she conducted research on interactions between bottlenose dolphins and the shrimp trawl fishery. Carolyn managed the dolphin research lab and taught marine biology at SSU before joining Sea|mester in the summer of 2013. She is excited to be teaching marine biology for Sea|mester and having the opportunity to share her love of ocean life as well as explore the world. When not teaching, Carolyn is often found leading fitness classes for willing participants onboard or padding around on a stand up paddle board.