Aragon Burlingham, Executive Director, has served in executive management roles at a diverse range of Silicon Valley companies for more than three decades, successfully leading teams that have taken products from concept to production. Burlingham switched careers in early 2008 to focus on his life-long passion of enhancing math and science learning experiences for kids.
He founded the We Teach Science Foundation, pairing engineers and scientists with middle and high school students across the country for remote tutoring and mentoring, improving test scores, and bringing real-world relevance to the disciplines of math and science. Most recently, he was director of partnerships at Envision Learning Partners and is responsible for developing and growing a nationwide network of partners committed to “Deeper Learning” through their “High Quality Performance Assessment Systems.”
Burlingham earned a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California and a Master of Science in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford University. He served on the CuriOdyssey Board of Directors from July 2019 to June 2020.
Jessa Barzelay, Director of Education, joined CuriOdyssey after 13 years in Education management and leadership at the San Francisco Zoo and San Francisco Botanical Garden. Passionate about connecting children and families to science and nature, Jessa leads the Education Department and oversees its programs, including steering STEMCorps, a pilot program with a goal to support and empower youth from underrepresented communities to engage in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math learning. Jessa graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BA in Biology and University of San Francisco with a MA in Nonprofit Administration.
Lynne Esselstein, Director of Campus Capital Program. Lynne brings over 25 years of experience in the nonprofit, government and private sectors. Lynne began her career as a municipal and business law attorney, negotiating and litigating private contracts and real property matters and advising cities and public fire and sanitation districts on regulatory and policy issues. She has since translated her legal skills into a variety of senior management roles, leading and managing organizations and their complex projects to successful outcomes. Lynne has had direct oversight and project management experience with several construction projects including a new Kindergarten wing at a public elementary school, a sports field renovation at another school, and a multimillion-dollar, 10,000 sq. ft., high-end office space renovation and remodel. Lynne was a member of the CuriOdyssey Board of Directors from 2016-2022 and has been an enthusiastic proponent of the campus plan for development. Lynne grew up in San Mateo County and spent many a school field trip at the Coyote Point Museum. She lives in Hillsborough with her husband and dog. Her adult children live locally and still love coming to otter feedings at the Museum.
Nikii Finch-Morales, Director of Wildlife, oversees the care of CuriOdyssey’s wildlife. She started her career as a volunteer at the San Francisco Zoo’s Animal Resource Center (A.R.C.) from 1990 to 2005. In 1992, she trained to be an animal health technician for domestic and exotic animals at the Irving Street Veterinary Hospital in San Francisco. In 1996, Ms. Finch-Morales joined the CuriOdyssey staff as one of the full time animal keepers. In 2001 she was promoted to director of wildlife.
Maureen Garrett, Chief Development Officer, joined CuriOdyssey after serving as Development Director for Peninsula Bridge, a 13-year college access and completion program for underserved students on the peninsula since 2012. She was involved in all aspects of revenue generation to fund significant program expansion by developing and deepening relationships with new and existing investors. Maureen directs all facets of revenue generation for the organization including the current capital campaign underway to create a world-class science and wildlife campus designed specifically for children to learn about the power of science and to create positive change now and in the future. Maureen graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration/Public Affairs. While at USC, Maureen completed a White House fellowship during her senior year.
Tonaka Kendrick (she/her), Director of Volunteer Engagement, is deeply committed to empowering communities through service, fostering diversity, equity and inclusion, and advocating for the voiceless. Prior to joining the nonprofit sector, she worked as an educator at several Bay Area colleges and universities supporting young people through their college journeys. Since then, she has successfully recruited, trained, and scaled volunteer teams to meet the growing needs of the community and organizations. Her professional experiences include program management, cultivating partnerships with corporations and communities, leading fundraising campaigns, and making a positive impact on the lives of countless numbers of young people and their families. She hopes to bring all her experiences to help CuriOdyssey achieve its goals to inspire a love of science and curiosity among young people, including those historically underrepresented in STEM communities.
Eric Maschwitz, Director of Exhibits. Before launching his career as a designer and fabricator, Eric graduated from the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul Minnesota with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in sculpture and photography. Eric then spent seven years as an educator and activity coordinator at the Science Museum of Minnesota, designing and implementing science-based curricula. He later worked for multiple visual effects model shops, including the M5 Model Shop, made famous by the Discovery Channel television series Mythbusters, creating practical models and sets used in film, television and advertising. In 1999 Eric transitioned to museum exhibit design and fabrication to combine his two passions of science education and building things. He has fabricated and installed exhibits for prestigious institutions all over the world. Eric also served as a mechanical engineering consultant with a biotech startup. He joined CuriOdyssey in 2007 and has overseen the production of countless exhibitions, comprising over 100 exhibits, that delight thousands of visitors every year.
Michael Taffe , Director of Administration and Operations, is a seasoned hospitality, museum and attractions professional who most recently served as the Director of Operations, Integration and Production for the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, where he has been part of its leadership team for nearly six years. In that capacity, he oversees and supports four operating departments, works closely with vendors and contractors, and directs capital and signature creative projects. Michael has managed operations for other well-known Bay Area institutions such as The Tech Museum of Innovation, Gilroy Gardens and The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk during his time living in the Bay Area.
A native of Southern California, Michael grew up surrounded by world-class attractions and museums that had a strong influence on his career path and is driven by a desire to create those same experiences and memories for the organizations he has been a part of. He is excited to be a part of this chapter of growth at CuriOdyssey and help in its continued evolution as a premier experience that brings people together and fosters a love of learning, science and exploration. When not working, Michael can be found exploring with his family and working on his model train layout.
Diana K. Turner, Director of Visitor Engagement, joined CuriOdyssey in April 2009 as a part-time Guest Services Supervisor. After five years in a part-time capacity, Diana moved to full-time employment and gradually moved up to Associate Director. Diana is no stranger to customer service from her first job in food service, to assistant branch manager at Fremont Bank, to her 20-year career with the YMCA as a fitness instructor, group exercise instructor, personal trainer, and finally as Health & Fitness Director. Diana’s life has taken some twists and turns to bring her to CuriOdyssey and she is so happy that she has landed here, in a place where people come to be engaged and inspired by science and animals. Diana says, “It makes my day whenever I hear a child giggle with joy or exclaim in wonder during their visit to CuriOdyssey.” Diana has a BS in Business Administration from Humboldt State University and a MA in Exercise Physiology from San Jose State University.