Eric Isselhardt, PhD, Executive Director of Education for the New England Science & Sailing Foundation (NESS) in Stonington, Connecticut, has been named President of NESS, effective immediately.

Dr. Isselhardt, a veteran executive with deep experience in both nonprofit and for-profit educational organizations, has been selected to serve as the new President for the New England Science & Sailing Foundation (NESS), a nonprofit ocean adventure education organization.

Isselhardt joined the NESS team as Executive Director of Education in January 2020, after serving as President and acting CEO at the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. Isselhardt has over 25 years of education leadership experience as Chief Executive Officer, Executive Director, and Chief Academic Officer. His work focuses on building education opportunities for urban youth, inquiry-based pedagogical development and delivery, virtual and blended learning, organization culture, and systemic reform—all designed to increase student achievement. 

With this addition, Spike Lobdell, who founded NESS in 2002, will continue to lead NESS in his role as Chief Executive Officer. “The title of President reflects Eric’s leadership role at NESS,” Lobdell said.  “We are excited about the educational opportunities ahead for NESS, and we believe Dr. Isselhardt is in the best position in the role of President to help NESS realize it’s mission to serve students, teachers, and families.”

Commenting on that mission, Isselhardt said, “NESS is an extraordinary place with demonstrably effective programming that builds equitable learning opportunities through experiential-based learning coupled with social and emotional learning—the deliberate teaching of non-cognitive skills and qualities such as communication, teamwork, self-control, leadership, and perseverance—to increase students’ social and emotional learning skills, academic engagement, and achievement. I am honored to be part of the NESS team that has such a high impact on students.” With 25 fulltime staff members, 9 AmeriCorps members, and over 30 seasonal educators, NESS serves over 9,000 students annually across New England. Since its inception, NESS has enabled over 45,000 students to get out on the water many of whom would not have access otherwise.

NESS’s New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC) accredited programming model is delivered within a STEM-based curriculum using marine science, sailing, power boating, and adventure sports as learning platforms at schools or the NESS campus, online or in person.  Lobdell noted that NESS offers more than 120 in-person lessons and 18 synchronous Online Experiential Learning classes —all mapped to Next Generation Science Standards, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning standards sets, and aligned with the Ocean Literacy Principles. He commented, “Going forward, NESS will build on its amazing legacy and excellence and focus on providing year-round education and social emotional learning programming to even more students.”

About NESS: The New England Science & Sailing Foundation, Inc. (NESS), is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) education organization that uses marine sciences, adventure sports, powerboating, and sailing to engage students in experiential learning to build confidence, teamwork, and leadership skills and increase academic achievement. NESS operates year-round with families, schools, and organizations to provide those high-quality programs. For more information visit