“Providing the opportunity for people to face challenges and grow has been my mission since starting Exposure Alaska and MICA Guides over 20 years ago. Our family of companies is passionate about delivering high-quality adventure tourism experiences, but the importance of learning and community are at our core. Our Internship Program has proven to be a powerful learning experience and growth opportunity and our returning Senior Staff are continually challenged throughout their career with the company. The tourism business makes it all possible.
The Matanuska Outdoor Institute is a move towards giving our educational goals the priority they deserve. And enables us to broaden our reach to people who may not yet have a solid foundation of outdoor skills or who do not want to focus an entire season on an internship in adventure tourism.”
Don Wray, Founder, MICA Guides & Exposure Alaska
With the Alaskan Wilderness as our classroom and our teacher, we create community where a person intent on developing resilience, leadership, and outdoor skills can thrive.
Who we are
Outdoor experts, professional educators, program directors and a group of advisors that share our vision for building capable humans.
Alyssa Hartson, Executive Director & Director of Curriculum Development
Alyssa began her career in the outdoors in 2009 where she spent a summer as an intern at MICA Guides/Exposure Alaska. Since that summer, she has travelled and lived on 5 continents and worked in Norway, New Zealand and Antarctica. Navigating and traveling in the outdoors has helped her become a happier and more well rounded person, as well as given her the opportunity to face adversity, experience successes and learn from failure. Alyssa has been a high school science teacher since 2015 and believes in a student centered, project based, experiential approach to education. She also believes that education is more than what you might read out of a book and that one’s knowledge is not represented by a grade or marking on a test. All people have a right to high quality education and experiences in order to help shape who they will become.
Alyssa also is a certified yoga teacher, getting her initial 200 YTT from Breath for Change and then focusing her practice with certifications in Yoga For All, Secular Mindfulness Certification and a Trauma Informed Yoga.
In addition to being Executive Director and Director of Curriculum and Instruction at MOI, Alyssa also owns her own education consulting business, Wildhearts Education Consulting, where she focuses on bringing the Outdoors and Mindfulness into public education. Alyssa also co-owns the Yoga Cooperative MT, a purpose driven yoga studio in Butte, MT.
Alyssa currently lives in Butte, MT with her husband Matt, whom she met at MICA Guides in 2009, and their bunny Pika.
Jason Walsh, Program Director & Lead Field Instructor
Jason brings a lifetime of mountain experience to MOI. He got his start fishing and hunting the old school way by rambling on foot over hills, mountains, lakes and rivers learning from his elders how to be on the land. His work outside began with trails, building cabins, managing remote kayak camps and progressed through several years as a Park Ranger. After graduate school he went on to develop public land management practices for the State of Alaska that incorporated community and native voice into the decision making process. He has worked as an educator on public lands, the director of a state/federal land organization, an international instructor on eco-tourism, a community forum leader, a native village liaison, and a wilderness guide. While his work has been awesome it is his role primarily as a father of four and husband to one amazing woman that keeps him motivated and striving to do better everyday.
Kelsey Shanklin MSW, Program Manager
Kelsey first came to Alaska as an intern for MICA Guides in 2017. After receiving her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Denver, Kelsey returned for her second season with MICA on the Logistics Team. Within a short time Kelsey fell in love with the Matanuska Valley and the principles driving MICA. In her fourth year at MICA, the idea for the Matanuska Outdoor Institute began to take form. Kelsey believes that MOI is a place for all types of learners to explore their connection with the outdoors, push their limits, and learn about their inner strength as she has during her time in Alaska.
Brett Winterbottom, Instructor and Senior Glacier Guide
Ripened in the corn fields of Illinois, life was looking a bit bland for Brett after finishing high school. He gave college a try but was really only in it to maintain his pursuits in track & field. After 2 years of searching for that higher purpose in a traditional school framework, he decided it was time to try a new style of education.
So Brett made the move out west to learn life through trial and error of random seasonal jobs. In the midst of it Brett was lucky enough to stumble across MICA guides, a summer internship on the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska. It was supposed to just be a cool summer in Alaska but it turned into one of the best learning experiences of his life. MICA became more than a simple internship, it became a platform to help him grow as a human. Through his 6 years with MICA Guides Brett has grown into a leader and educator and now wants to share his experience as an instructor at the Matanuska Outdoor Institute.
When not on a Glacier in the summer, Brett can be found on nearly any tower out in the red sandstone deserts of the American southwest, barking at your heels up a skin track in search of more dreamy powder to drop a knee in or back at home trying to entertain all 8 of his nieces and nephews at once.
Alec Sica, Chief Financial Officer
Alec arrived in Alaska greener than alder after a soaking rain. Having never hiked anything over a few hundred feet, carried a backpack with more than a few books in it, or climbed anything other than out of bed, the summer of 2017 altered the course of his life forever. Working on the Logistics Team with MICA Guides, Alec was transformed under the weight of wet ropes and steep ice climbs. Once a 19 year old business student disillusioned with his uninspiring future in corporate America, Alec became an outdoor professional with abundant opportunity for adventure and an intimate community of friends to share and grow through life with.
Alec joins MOI with 5 years experience at and as the current General Manager of MICA Guides. He is most passionate about finding ways to provide others the kind of life-shattering opportunity he experienced at one of his most influential moments in his life.
When he’s not crunching the numbers or staring at schedules, you might find him taking some powdery turns in Colorado’s San Juans, writing a journal entry by a wood stove in Vermont, or rambling down a highway looking for that next great adventure.
Hope Macke, Student Outreach Coordinator
Hope first fell in love with the outdoors exploring the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest. Her childhood was spent backpacking and skiing in the Cascades, paddling through the San Juan Islands, and taking any opportunity to go play in the dirt. She took that joy experienced through outdoor exploration and has channeled it into a passion for creating personal growth experiences in the outdoors. She studied Recreation Management and Leadership at Western Washington University with a large focus of her studies being on adult experiential education. Since graduation, she has worked as an ecology educator, trip leader, ski instructor, and in logistics for MICA Guides.
Hira Shamsuddin MEd, Assistant Director of Curriculum Development
Hira is a professional teacher with a master’s in education. In the off-season, Hira works at South Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon teaching The Integrated Outdoor Program. This unique program combines leadership, literature, and outdoor education into a year-long exploration-based education. Hira also teaches literature and ethnic studies.
Having a long history with the outdoors, Hira has worked for MICA Guides, Oregon Adaptive Sports, The American Alpine Club Craggin Classic Series and volunteered with the IOP for eight years before becoming a program teacher.
Hira specializes in leadership education and has written outdoor leadership curriculum for over two years. In her off time, Hira enjoys climbing, rafting, and hiking with her two dogs Remy and Moonpie.
Passionate about representation in the outdoors, Hira works within in community to provide spaces for women of color to enter the outdoor recreation field. Hira is excited to be working with the incredible and talented staff at MOI.
Don Wray, Senior Advisor, Founder of MICA Guides and Exposure Alaska
After some rather boring years growing up in NC, Don signed up for a rock-climbing course in college and was introduced to outdoor adventure. Joining an expedition to Peru after graduation sealed the deal and set him on his life’s path.
Following a brief detour as an engineer for the US Navy, working to make submarines quiet, Don got back on track and spent the next 10 years or so working and traveling in some of the most remote areas of the world. From South Pacific islands, to Outback Australia to deep field camps in Antarctica.
He settled in Alaska in 1999, built a homestead and started Exposure Alaska. Which led to MICA Guides, Glacier View Adventures, Matanuska Glacier Helicopters and the Matanuska Outdoor Institute.
Don’s drive is providing opportunity and challenge, for himself and others. He has climbed big mountains, traveled, organized trail crews, led expeditions, started companies and taught classes on 7 continents.
When he’s not in front of a computer or building something, you can find him skiing, biking or paragliding with his wife Mandy and their dog Mesa. (Well, not the paragliding part).