The Masters Series: Conversations with Innovative Leaders

Join the Second Season of the Masters Series!

The Masters Series is an opportunity to join a small group of people with similar interests to work with a cultural resources Master to dive deep into current and challenging topics. Our Masters are NPS employees (past and present) who possess a wealth of knowledge, experience, skills, and killer stories! Masters will share their personal philosophies and methodologies and engage in open dialogues with participants.

This year our Masters are Stephanie Toothman, Jim Nepstad, and David Goldstein. Learn more about each Master and session details below.

The Masters Series is a chance of a lifetime to converse with a cultural resources specialist—to ask those questions that you’ve always wanted to ask. Don’t miss this opportunity!

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How to Apply

To apply to participate in the Master Series, please complete the application.


  1. Review the biographies of the three Masters (found below).
  2. Read the “Who can apply” section for each Master. Select the Master that is the best fit for you. Each Master is covering a different audience of participants.
  3. Complete the application by July 26, 2019.

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Meet the Masters

This year we have three fantastic masters participating in the series. Read their bios below to learn more about each. Be sure to check out the “Who can apply” section for each to determine the best fit for you.

Dr. Stephanie Toothman

A woman stands with her arms crossed and a smile on her face. A large body of water is in the background.

Dr. Stephanie Toothman retired June 2017 as Associate Director, Cultural Resources, Partnerships, and Science after 39 years with the National Park Service. In May 2018, she returned to NPS as a Special Assistant to the Acting Associate Director under a special appointment authority for retired employees whose skills and knowledge can continue to benefit the NPS.

Before serving as Associate Director, Stephanie was the Chief, Cultural Resources for the Pacific West Region, and also served as Regional Historian and Chief, Cultural Resources for the Pacific Northwest Region. She entered the NPS as a historian with the National Register of Historic Places, and spent two years with the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service before it was folded back into NPS in 1981.

Stephanie brings a multi-disciplinary perspective to resource management, with degrees in American Studies from Smith College, and American Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania. She received the Distinguished Service Award in 2017.

Who can apply?

To apply to work with Stephanie you must meet one of the following:

  • You’ve completed the Cultural Resources for Innovative Leaders class and/or
  • You are a new superintendent or facility manager at a cultural park.

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Jim Nepstad

A man in a National Park Service uniform stands at a podium addressing someone off-screen.

Jim Nepstad has been the superintendent of Effigy Mounds National Monument (EFMO) since January 2011. Brought in to help EFMO deal with its notorious Section 106 failures and restore trust with tribal and state partners, Jim almost immediately stumbled across darker secrets that led to more investigations and the eventual prosecution of a former superintendent. While some may view his EFMO experiences as a nightmare assignment, Jim will tell you that helping nurse EFMO back to health (and beyond) has been a high privilege. He enjoys working with nearly 20 tribal nations, and a growing staff of passionate and very dedicated employees.

Trained as a mathematician, you might say Jim’s entire career has been spent slowly drifting from one improbable position to the next (his wife refers to him as the Forrest Gump of the NPS). Before his time at Effigy Mounds – a park best known for spectacular cultural resources – Jim served as a computer specialist for Mammoth Cave National Park, a cave management specialist at Wind Cave National Park, and managed the planning and resource management programs at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Through his experiences at EFMO, he has developed a profound appreciation for cultural resources, cultural resource professionals, and the many challenges both face in an agency that sometimes views them as “in the way.”

A classic middle child, Jim has served as a counselor or mediator of workplace conflicts since the late 1990s. He is keenly interested in helping the NPS develop a safer, friendlier, and more accountable workplace culture, and in finding ways to help the agency develop the tools it needs to constructively discuss and learn from past failures. When not at work, he enjoys obsessing over spatial relationships within certain mound groups.

Who can apply?

To apply to work with Jim you must meet one of the following:

  • Cultural resources and workplace culture advocates and/or
  • Employees interested in grassroots efforts for culture change in the agency.

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David Goldstein

A man wearing glasses looks off-screen with a neutral look on his face.

David Goldstein is an anthropologist with the National Park Service currently serving as the Tribal and Cultural Affairs Specialist in the Northeast Region. Previously, he was stationed in Detroit, MI as an Urban Fellow, in his hometown. He began his career with the NPS in 2011 as the Interpretation Division Chief for the three park units on St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands. In his current role, David is attempting to bring the region’s tribal and community partners into the NPS stewardship programs through sharing capacity and ongoing consultation. The goal is to support self-determination and resource protection through understanding the tribal and community partnerships provide long term sustainability to stewardship. This same outlook supported his work in Detroit to provide National Park Service programming in a city with no physical park unit, but with multiple federal program resources. That work convened stakeholders around NPS assets like the Underground Railroad-Network to Freedom, Land Water Conservation Fund sites, River Trails Conservation Fund projects, and National Register and National Landmark properties. He is a graduate of the 2015 GOAL Program.

Raised in Detroit, David’s research interests center on the sustainability of subsistence farming, with a particular interest in the role of trees and shrubs in agricultural and human systems. His doctoral research investigated the sustainable use of dry tropical forests in the past and present in one of Peru’s first national sanctuaries. Additionally, he has run archaeological and ethnobotanical research in Cuba, the Virgin Islands, Belize, and Bolivia. Prior to his work as an anthropologist, David trained and worked as an objects conservator in museums in the US and abroad. David comes to the Northeast Region with 20+ years of research and community development skills practiced in communities throughout the Americas.

This version of the Master Class will focus on case studies that look at partnership and shared stewardship to build NPS capacity to protect cultural resources. We will discuss issues of Decolonization, Political Stand and Leadership, Co-creating Narratives, and Empowering Stakeholders over the course of our conversations. The syllabus and topics covered will be co-created and developed through the team’s first face-to-face encounter and will draw from a network of specialists across the service.

Who can apply?

To apply to work with David you must meet one of the following:

  • Mid-level career employee interested in partnerships or cultural and natural resources and/or
  • Interpretation managers working with indigenous and underrepresented populations

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I apply?

NPS Employees who meet the criteria for their chosen Master.

Who should I choose?

Each Master will be working with a different audience. Be sure to check out the “Who can apply” section for each Master.

What is the time commitment?

Each group will begin with an in-person 3-day session with their Master. Travel scholarships will be available to offset the cost of travel expenses, but travel may not be fully covered.

In person meeting locations:

  • Stephanie Toothman: Seattle, Washington (August 27-29, 2019)
  • Jim Nepstad: Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa (August 27-29, 2019)
  • David Goldstein: Salem Maritime NHP, Salem, MA (September 24-26, 2019)

During the first meeting, the group will develop discussion topics and get to know each in preparation for future webinars. After the in-person session, the group will meet virtually, once a month for 4-6 months.

How many people can work with each Master?

Group size for each Master will not exceed 10 people. This will allow everyone to be a part of the conversation.

Are there assignments?

There may be some assigned pre-reading and activities. Each group member is expected to participate in the discussions.

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