Our Instructors

Elizabeth Bojsza

Improv Instructor

As a member of the creative team of Alda center improvisation instructors, Elizabeth is working to innovate and build on the strong foundational curricula here.  She also teaches graduate and undergraduate classes and leads workshops for the Alda Center.  She finds the skills of analysis and feedback she honed as a theatre artist directly applicable to facilitating experiential learning for scientists and medical professionals.  She has experience as a literary manager, dramaturg, and director in NYC and communities up and down the East Coast, and over 15 years of university teaching experience.  Elizabeth is happily married to a physicist

James (Jay) Branegan, III

Policy Specialist

Jay Branegan, a policy specialist for Alda Communication Training, is an experienced journalist and communicator with a background in science and public policy. He majored in physics and philosophy at Cornell, where he had a seminar with astronomer Carl Sagan. He began his journalism career as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, where he shared a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. For 20 years he was a correspondent for Time Magazine, with Washington assignments that included covering energy, the environment, science, the space program and the White House. He also served as a foreign correspondent for Time in Asia and Europe. Jay later worked as a writer and editor for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, explaining foreign policy issues to the general public. Jay has taught journalism at Georgetown and Northwestern universities, and worked as a communications coordinator for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He currently lives in Washington, D.C., where he is a Senior Fellow at The Lugar Center, a small think tank devoted to international affairs and bipartisan governance.

David Calvitto

Media/Message Design Instructor

David Calvitto lives in Manhattan and has been an improvisation instructor for the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science since March 2016. He taught acting and improvisation for 20 years throughout New York and New Jersey, at Oberlin College in Ohio and for the Cape Cod Theatre Project in Woods Hole before joining the Alda Center. As an actor, he’s performed in London’s West End, throughout the United Kindom and internationally in Australia, Barbados, Canada, Germany, Holland, Ireland and New Zealand since 2004. He’s directed plays in New York, London, Adelaide and Edinburgh. From 1982 to 1994, David was an ESL teacher, teacher trainer and then administrator in the English school component of a large immigrant resettlement organization called The New York Association for New Americans (NYANA).

Lydia Franco-Hodges, MFA

Improv Instructor

Lydia works with scientists throughout the country enhancing their communication skills through improvisation and theater techniques. Lydia is an associate of the Alan Alda Center, a lecturer in the School of Journalism, and an actor and theater-maker. She teaches graduate courses for the Alda Center at Stony Brook University. Lydia has taught acting, movement and performance at the university for many years and applauds the work created by her students.

Radha Ganesan

Media/Message Instructor

Radha is an Alda-certified instructor. She co-leads curriculum design efforts at the Center and leads the Alda-Kavli online learning initiative. Her interest in science communication stems from her desire to make the wonders of science accessible to all, and to inspire future generations, especially girls, to pursue scientific pursuits. With the Alda Center’s multidisciplinary team, she finds joy helping scientists share their work and tell their stories to the world. A lifelong learner and educator by training, Radha has worked in different capacities in higher education, adult learning, and in the international development space for more than a decade.

Terry Greiss

Improv Instructor

Terry is a co-founder of Brooklyn’s Irondale Ensemble Project where he is also an actor and the Executive Director. He has performed in more than 60 roles with the company, and is a creator of most of Irondale’s original plays and education programs. Away from Irondale he has performed at the Manhattan Theatre Club and the Cincinnati Playhouse, in Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of Three Sisters, directed by John Doyle.

Carolyn Hall

Message Design Instructor

Carolyn, based in New York City, is a marine ecologist and a professional contemporary dancer. She earned her M.S. in Marine Science from the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, NY, and works as an independent researcher and consultant on various projects.

Carla Jablonski

Message Design Instructor

Carla Jablonski is an actor, writer, and editor with extensive experience in several forms of improvisation. She is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, Vassar College (BA: Anthropology), and New York University (MA: Interdisciplinary Studies: Arts Administration, Cultural Studies, and Playwriting). She has taught a variety of classes in New York and Nashville (Vanderbilt University and private studios) including Writing Through Improv, Ensemble Techniques, and Intro to Theater Games. She was an instructor of Public Speaking, one of the core curriculum courses at Marymount Manhattan College. She has recently been commissioned to write two books about science for children.

Louisa Johnson

Improv Instructor

Louisa grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and attended LaGuardia Arts High School with a concentration in Theater Arts. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Stony Brook University in Theater Arts and Philosophy, and her Masters degree from NYU Tisch in Acting. Louisa now teaches Improvisation for Scientists to graduates students and works with scientists nationwide for the Alda Center. She has worked as a professional actor in New York, and has appeared on stage and screen, but she always felt that theater had a broader purpose. She co-created and ran a confidence building writing and acting workshop at Girls’ Education and Mentoring Services (GEMS) in Harlem, and currently works with Hunts Point Alliance for Children, where she places underprivileged students into after-school arts programs in order to help them get into specialized high schools and eventually college.

Nicole Leavey, PhD


Dr. Nicole J. Leavey is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. She holds a Ph.D. in Technology, Policy and Innovation from Stony Brook University, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Her research interests focus on public engagement actions of scientists, science communication training and gender roles. She also contributes to evidence-based curriculum design and delivers communication training for scientists at both academic and professional institutions.

Laura Lindenfeld, Ph.D.

Director, Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science

Dr. Laura Lindenfeld is Director of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and Professor in the School of Journalism at Stony Brook University. She holds a Ph.D. in cultural studies from the University of California, Davis. As the Alda Center Director, she oversees a dynamic organization that has trained over 12,000 scientists worldwide and introduced over 40,000 to the Alda Method®. The Center provides international leadership in conducting and connecting research and practice to advance clear and vivid science and medical communication. As a communication researcher, her work draws inspiration from the idea that we can make better, more informed decisions about how we shape our collective future. She is passionate about supporting scientists to communicate their work in more direct and engaging ways. Her work focuses on how we can advance meaningful, productive interactions with communities, stakeholders and decision-makers by strengthening linkages between knowledge and action. Much of Laura’s research focuses on environmental and sustainability communication. Her work seeks to understand how we can support effective stakeholder engagement and build strong interdisciplinary teams and communicate our science more effectively and persuasively. Laura’s work has appeared in a range of journals such as Science Communication, Ecology & Society, Environmental Communication, Sustainability Science, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, and Food & Foodways. Feasting Our Eyes. Food Films, and Cultural Identity in the United States (2016), her co-authored book with Fabio Parasecoli, was published by Columbia University Press.

Brenda MacArthur, Ph.D.

Message Design Instructor - Healthcare

Dr. Brenda MacArthur is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Her research is centered on the intersection of health and instructional communication to improve the quality and continuity of healthcare for patients and improve health outcomes for patients and communities. Her work focuses on educating healthcare providers about the important role of effective communication when exchanging complex health information with patients and colleagues.

Dr. MacArthur earned her Ph.D. in Health Communication from George Mason University, her M.A. in Communication Studies with a concentration in Health from Texas State University, and her B.A. in Communication from Bryant University. Prior to joining the Alda Center she taught in the Department of Communication at George Mason University.

Marcy McGinnis

Media Instructor

Marcy McGinnis is professional career and life coach and a communications trainer. Her areas of concentration include the scientific and media industries. She was instrumental in the creation of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. As associate dean of Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism, McGinnis helped create the center’s original distilling your message/message design curriculum. Calling upon her extensive background in broadcast news, she was also at the core of the center’s curriculum that concentrates on how to communicate with the media and how to do media interviews.

McGinnis is an award-winning television news network and cable senior executive. She had a career at CBS News that spanned over three decades. As senior vice president of news coverage, she managed the network’s newsgathering and news coverage operation and the development of the network’s on-air talent and producers worldwide.

After CBS News, McGinnis served as associate dean of Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism where she created the broadcast curriculum and taught many courses including on-air performance.  In addition to the Alda Center, she helped create the Center for News Literacy and the Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting. McGinnis was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from Marymount University, Arlington, VA and Hofstra University’s School of Communication, Hempstead, NY. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history from the State University of New York.

Elizabeth Newman

Message Design Instructor

Elizabeth is an Associate Professor of History and Sustainability Studies at Stony Brook University where she is also affiliated with the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences.  She received her PhD in Anthropology from Yale University in 2008 where she trained as an environmental and historical archaeologist. Her award-winning book, Biography of a Hacienda: Work and Revolution in Rural Mexico, brings together more than a decade of archaeological and historical research on the lives of rural farmworkers in central Mexico during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. More recently, Elizabeth has begun exploring the lives of migrant workers in the Maine. Prior to joining the faculty at Stony Brook, Elizabeth also taught for the University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico and Connecticut College. Outside of academia, she has worked in public education venues including the National Park Service and the Boston Museum of Science.

Todd Newman, Ph.D.

Message Design Instructor - Environment

Dr. Todd P. Newman is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Alda Center. He holds a Ph.D. in Communication from American University. Todd’s research focuses on the intersection of science, the media, and society. Specifically, he looks at the relationship between individual values and beliefs, information exposure, and opinion formation within the context of contested science and environmental issues, as well as the role of scientists as public communicators.

Dr. Newman previously served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Connecticut where he worked on a NSF supported research grant focused on developing metrics to assess the effectiveness of science communication training programs. Todd’s work has appeared in various journals and edited volumes, and he is the co-author of Brand (2017), published by Kendall-Hunt, which explores the different roles that brand strategy plays across a range of entities, including complex scientific debates.

Christie Nicholson

Media/Message Design Instructor - Entrepreneurship

Christie Nicholson produces and hosts Scientific American’s podcasts 60-Second Mind and 60-Second Science and is an on-air contributor for Slate, Babelgum, Scientific American, Discovery Channel and Science Channel. She is a Contributing Editor at CBS’ Interactive’s Smart Planet. She has spoken about technology and communication at MIT/Stanford VLAB, SXSW Interactive, Sundance Film Festival, the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council, and the Space Studies Board. She holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Dalhousie University in Canada. She is an editorial advisory member for the Science Media Centre of Canada. She is based in New York.

Christine O’Connell

Media/Message Instructor

Dr. Christine O’Connell is an Assistant Professor of Science Communication at the Alda Center and School of Journalism where she works on improving STEM communication to the public and engagement with the community. Christine was the Alda Center’s founding Associate Director where she worked to build the Center and its curriculum to international renown.

James Rea

Business and Media/Message Instructor

For more than 20 years, James has rooted around in dense thickets of scientific and public policy content, searching for the stories that shine. He found this calling in 1996 at the US Environmental Protection Agency, where he translated vital scientific research into language the public would understand and remember. James further honed his skills as an independent reporter for National Public Radio, crafting stories most often for WAMU 88.5 FM in Washington, DC. As the 21st century dawned, James founded the production firm SiteStories to help technical organizations share their stories through web videos. By 2011, James had interviewed countless experts. He knew how to find the gold in their stories, and wanted to help them do the same. He now follows this passion through his own firm Experts/Clearly, and as an instructor with Alda Communication Training.

Josh Rice, MFA


Josh is a Lecturer at Stony Brook University, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses and professional development workshops in improvisation to scientists and medical professionals through the Alda Center. For the last fifteen years, he has been a theatre maker, improviser and teaching artist, working all over the world as a performer, puppeteer, director, and teacher, across a broad spectrum of collaborators from pre-K to centenarians, the incarcerated to seniors living with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, to a fifth-generation Japanese puppet master. Josh is the co-founder and Producing Artistic Director of Shake on the Lake, a not-for-profit professional theatre company in his rural hometown of Silver Lake, NY, where he also founded and directs the New York State Puppet Festival. Josh earned his MFA in Theatre from Sarah Lawrence College, and in his copious spare time, is training to be a Cicerone.

Celia Schaefer

Improv Instructor

Celia Schaefer is a communication training consultant, working with scientists, medical professionals, business leaders and educators to more effectively engage and inspire their audiences. She also coaches actors at The McCaskill Studio, a professional actors’ training studio in New York City. Celia is a working actor, currently appearing as a recurring character on Hulu’s “The Path.” In addition to appearing in major feature films, network television and in regional theaters all over the country, she has toured nationally with Chicago City Limits Improv. Celia was a founding director of New Avenue Theatre Project, dedicated to the development and production of the work of emerging playwrights.

Carol Schindler

Improv Instructor

Carol has been a creative director, writer and speech coach for corporate conferences for the past 25 years. She has worked in every area of the corporate world from pharmaceutical, high tech, service industries and financial institutions. Carol is a founding member of Chicago City Limits, an award winning improvisational group and the longest running comedy show in NYC. Her improvisational background and her corporate experience give her a perfect blend of big business and show business, allowing her to coach many corporate executives, scientists, and physicians toward their best performance. Carol is thrilled to be working with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Her book, “A Doctor and a Plumber in a Rowboat: The Essential Guide to Improvisation for Performers, Teachers, Writers & Everyone else”  is available on Amazon.