Instructor Bios

Lydia Franco-Hodges, MFA, BFA, is an actor, theatre maker and acting teacher who has taught acting, movement, and performance at Stony Brook University since 2003. Lydia leads workshops for the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science in Improvisation for Scientists as well as teaching JRN 503. Lydia served as Artistic Director for the world premier of Ephemera at the Wang Center, which won the John Gassner New Play Award, and created, directed and choreographed Condemned and Medea, Again at the Fanny Brice Theater. She is a core member of Mulford Theatre, The Naked Stage, produces for Neo Political Cowgirls and was an integral part of the Comedy Improv Troupe, Just Say Yes. Currently, Lydia is remounting an Immersive Theatre production, which she originally produced and which won a 2012 Best of the Best Award.


Dr. Christine O’Connell is a science communication professional working for the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science in Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism. O’Connell is a marine and environmental scientist with an extensive interdisciplinary background in policy, outreach, and communication. O’Connell was trained in improvisation by Alan Alda, and works on improving scientific communication to the public and scientific outreach to the community. Her goal is to work towards strengthening the connections between science, society, and policy. Her scientific research focuses on coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP), ecosystem-based management (EBM), waste management, conservation planning, and ecosystem services.

oconnellO’Connell has taught environmental communication and conservation classes at several universities and now teaches graduate courses on “Distilling your message, ” for the Alda Center. At the Alda Center, she also coordinates and speaks at national workshops and manages, The Flame Challenge, an international contest that asks scientists to communicate complex science in ways that would interest and enlighten an 11-year-old. O’Connell has organized collaborations across academia, government, and the community – including an initiative between the humanities and sciences at Stony Brook called The Coastlines Initiative. She was instrumental in coordinating the Scientific Advisory Committee for the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council, where she helped write the EBM scientific research priorities report for NY State. She also worked closely with the NY Department of Environmental Conservation on its Ocean Action Plan, and was part of the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan Advisory Committee.

Prior to her academic career, O’Connell worked in the fields of environmental advocacy, community organizing, and public policy. She has been involved with organizing national environmental and political campaigns with Green Corps, and teaching community groups in New York City how to refine their message to talk to politicians, raise money, and organize their communities with Partnerships for Parks and City Parks Foundation. She is experienced in scientific outreach, government relations, coalition building, lobbying, campaign planning, social marketing, and communication coaching.

Dr. O’Connell received her Ph.D. in Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, and her B.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University in 1999.

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