Susan Blackburn, President, oversees the overall execution of WESO. Susan is a founding Board Member. Her involvement in WESO began when her daughter was a 3rd grade student of WESO founder Dee Vayda at Pattengill Elementary School. Susan is a Clinical Research Nurse Coordinator at Virtual Incision, Inc. She holds a BSN/MBA. Susan loves seeing the students develop leadership, problem solving and team building skills through their involvement with WESO.
Nirmala Rajaram, Co-Vice President and founding member, is the Open Events Coordinator, and is very involved in overseeing the development of events. Nirmala’s involvement in WESO began in 2002 when her oldest daughter, then a student at Logan, participated in the very first WESO event. Mala holds a Ph.D. and is a Research Scientist at the University of Michigan. Nirmala enjoys seeing kids get excited trying new hands-on science projects.
Zali Mustapha, Co-Vice President, is a liaison with our WESO Schools. Zali joined the board in 2011 and was first introduced to WESO when her sons joined the WESO team at Haisley and Eberwhite Elementary Schools. Zali is a student advocate and offers free educational services to international students from around the world. Zali holds a MA in Education and works as an Ann Arbor school teacher. She is the owner of EZ’s Educational Services. Zali enjoys working with the head coaches, meeting students and their parents, and making sure everyone enjoys their time at WESO..
Nancy Dean, Treasurer, works closely with Event Supervisors as well as developing, and coordinating many logistical details for WESO. Nancy holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering and loves drawing on her extensive scientific training to develop fun hands-on events for WESO. Nancy’s participation in WESO began in 2007 when her sons were part of the inaugural Wines team. She became a board member in 2010.
Jane Levy, Secretary and founding board member, oversees communications among the schools and supervisors, and is our Webmaster. Jane is a retired teacher from Ann Arbor Open, where she taught Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades for 20 years. Jane’s passion for engaging students in natural sciences, and in particular birds, continues as she leads annual workshops for the kids. Jane holds M.A. and M.S. degrees, and she loves to continue to share her love of nature with students of all ages.
Hedieh Briggs, Member at Large and founding board member, brings her enthusiasm and energy to many strategic aspects of WESO including the immense task of organizing our thousands of volunteers. Hedieh’s involvement with WESO began at Lawton Elementary where her daughter was a member of Lawton’s first WESO team! Hedieh is a Director in Psychiatry at Texas A&M University Health Science Center, and she loves
Kevin Bohannon, Member at Large, joined the board in 2020. He supervised Feathered Friends for three years and has worked on the WESO Event Committee. Kevin holds a Ph.D. in virology and is a cell biologist at the University of Michigan. He has recently appeared on Jeopardy! and is an avid cyclist, currently working on cycling every road in Washtenaw County.seeing the kids’ enthusiasm for science and love of learning.
Sara Brintnall, Member at Large, was first introduced to WESO when her daughter joined the WESO team at Lakewood Elementary in 2007. After several years as a WESO volunteer, head coach, and event supervisor, she joined the Board in 2020. Sara holds a BA in Biology as well as a JD and works as the Development Manager for the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and Leslie Science & Nature Center. Sara has a passion for WESO and enjoys working with coaches and students alike as they have fun with science.
Tierra Jackson, Member at Large, joined the WESO board in 2020. Her participation with WESO began in 2011 when she started the Pittsfield Elementary Science Olympiad team and served as their head coach. She is now the school head coach for Logan Elementary, where she is currently a 3rd grade teacher. Tierra currently (and over the past few years) is serving on the WESO School Experience committee. A graduate of the University of Michigan, she loves Ann Arbor and the Logan/AAPS Community. Because of this, she is active with Logan’s Academic Games Team and Student Council, the AAEA Minority Affairs committee, New Teacher Chair and is an MEA Ambassador. Tierra is an enthusiastic educator who enjoys motivating children, teaching children, and learning from children.
Gilda Johnson, Member at Large, joined the board in 2005 and works with fundraising, public relations, and general business needs of WESO. Gilda’s involvement in WESO began when her son joined the Bryant Pattengill team. She is the owner operator of Lake Forest Golf Club in Ann Arbor, and holds an MBA. Gilda enjoys seeing the excitement at the awards ceremony, and the smile on all of the kids’ faces.
Debra Meyer, Member at Large, joined the WESO board in 2020. Debra is very interested in event development and works closely with Event Supervisors as part of the Events Committee. Debra’s involvement in WESO began in 2009 when her oldest son competed in his first WESO event. She has served as an event coach, head coach, event supervisor for several events and a member of the WESO Events Committee. Debra holds a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology and is passionate about bringing science to kids of all ages.
Shri Rao, Member at Large, This is her first year on the WESO board although Shri has been involved with WESO for eighteen years, starting with her daughter’s science Olympiad team. Shri started with being coach for elementary and middle school, then a supervisor for Map reading and has been the volunteer coordinator for the last several years. Shri works for IBM and is an engineer by profession. Both her children have been involved with Science Olympiad through all their school lives. Shri enjoys being involved with WESO helping kids enjoy science and technology
Jenni Wilkening, Member at Large, This is her first year on the WESO board although she has been involved with Science Olympiad for eighteen years, helping with the open events and coordinating high school volunteers. Jenni has been teaching high school science in AAPS for more than 20 years. Jenni has also had three children that have been involved in WESO over the years through codebusters, puff mobiles, to infinity and beyond, and potions among others. Jenni always looks forward to WESO as a day where science and young minds shine.
- Nirmala Rajaram, Chair
- Kevin Bohannon
- Jane Levy
- Deb Meyer
School Experience Committee
- Nancy Dean, Chair
- Tierra Jackson
School Outreach Committee
- Zali Mustapha, Chair
- Sara Brintnall
- Hedieh Briggs, Chair