Staff and Board


Linda Behnken

Linda Behnken first traveled to Sitka in 1982 as a college student, hoping to find a job on a fishing boat. After a summer of longline fishing, she knew she wanted to be part of the fishing community and work to sustain it. Linda worked as crew on a number of different boats from Sitka to the Bering Sea and has earned a livelihood as a commercial fisherman on her own boat since 1991. She has been Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fisherman’s Association since 1998, as well as serving on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the National Academy of Science Individual Fishing Quota Review Panel, among others. Linda has been instrumental in a number of conservation initiatives and fisheries management measures, including creating a Sustainable Fisheries Trust in Alaska. The Trusts’ mission is to achieve triple bottom line objectives—economic, ecological and social— by investing in access opportunities for community-based fishermen dedicated to sustainable fishing practices. Linda’s involvement in the Island Institute comes from a deep commitment to place and community, and the desire to improve her relationship with both.

Reid Magdanz

Reid Magdanz was born and raised in Bush Alaska – 14 years in Kotzebue, four in Nome. He has an enduring interest in Alaska, in particular the challenges and opportunities in its rural areas. That interest outlasted four years of college on the East Coast at Yale and a year abroad in Laos, leading him back to the state and a job in the state legislature with Sitka-based Representative and former classmate Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. Reid’s (as yet limited) academic and professional experience has focused on government, public policy, and natural resources. Reid loves the Alaska way of life, and does his best to keep connected to it in both the Northwest and Southeast reaches of the state. He was drawn to the Island Institute by its focus on place and community, which together comprise a huge part of what makes Alaska special. 

Brenda Campen

Brenda Campen came to Alaska in 1977 and began a 33-year social-studies teaching career in Alaska Native communities in the Alaska Interior and southeast Alaska. For 25 years she taught at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, the state residential school for rural and Alaska Native students. Her expertise in Alaska History and contemporary Alaska Issues earned her multiple awards, including the first “Governor’s Award in the Humanities for Alaska History Teaching” and the Alaska Historical Society’s “Contributions to Alaska History” award. Passionate about the subject, Brenda has also been instrumental in Alaska history and culture studies teacher-training. She has watched the Island Institute enrich Sitka and the region with the Symposium and the residency program, as well as serve the community with opportunities for discourse during times of division and stress. Brenda is delighted to be involved in and share the exciting work of the Institute. She divides her time between Sitka and a cabin near the Admiralty Island village of Angoon.

Senior Fellows

Carolyn Servid & Dorik Mechau

Dorik Mechau, Senior Fellow, arrived in Sitka some twenty years ago as a result of his duties at theAlaska Humanities Forum. Then, having fallen in love with Carolyn Servid and Sitka, he could not help himself from engagement with the Island Institute. His early formative years included schooling in a Colorado ghost town and New York City, followed by a rare liberal education at St. John’s College. His subsequent experience includes a decade-long stint at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory before coming to Alaska in 1968. Here, he found himself absorbed in issues related to cultural conflict: oil, land claims, rural education, and community. Participating in the work of the Island Institute has proved to be a wonderful continuation of an exploration of our place on earth.

Carolyn Servid, Senior Fellow, moved to Sitka in 1980 after falling in love with Alaska’s wild country on a trip the previous summer. Her interest in the literary arts quickly connected her to Old Harbor Books where she and other employees dreamt the Sitka Symposium into being and gave the Island Institute its foundation. Her work with the Institute earned her the 2001 Governor’s Award for Distinguished Humanities Educator. Her memoir/essay collection Of Landscape and Longing chronicles her childhood in India and her unexpected attraction to Alaska as a place that would become her home. It was that move that galvanized her interests in issues of place, community, and the natural world. Carolyn retired in August 2014 after serving for 30 years as the Executive Director of the Island Institute.