About Us

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The SelfDesign Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in Bellingham, Washington. The Board of Director hires and supervises the Institute’s President; the Board also determines the general policy of the Institute, manages its investments, and approves the budget for the expenditure of funds.

Board of Directors

The SelfDesign Graduate Institute is governed by the Board of Directors of the SelfDesign Foundation, which determines the general policy of the Institute, makes laws for its governance, manages its investments, and directs the expenditure of funds.

Renee Poindexter, Chair

Renee Poindexter is the founder of Living the Potential Network, a collaborative of social entrepreneurs interested in designing authentic learning environments. She is a former high school English teacher who discovered the significance of learning in the world of business—over 25 years in a variety of industries—including technology, healthcare, financial services, construction, advertising and public relations, executive search, coaching, and consulting. An accomplished trainer, facilitator, success coach, and organizational consultant, Renee has worked with non-profit organizations, schools, and businesses to facilitate the positive changes needed to fulfill the organizational vision. Her background in continuous improvement has assisted her in designing programs to inspire people to lead with their heads and hearts connected.

Renee is Chair of the SelfDesign Foundation in the United States. She serves as an Advisory Board member with Univera, Inc. and also with Village Home Education Resource Center. She is a mentor with WOVI, Women of Visionary Influence.

James Terrance (Terry) Cochran (ex officio), Vice-President, Finance

Terry brings a variety of IT and business skills to SelfDesign. As a website designer, his sites include one of the earliest and longest-lasting ones on the World Wide Web. A life-long learner, he enjoys mastering new technology capabilities and helping his clients make the best use of them. After earning a B.A. at the University of Michigan and an M.B.A. at Eastern Michigan University, Terry worked for many years as a financial executive with a large nonprofit health care data research firm. He has also been a small business owner, a financial consultant, and a sales rep. In addition, he has served on the board of directors or advisory board of three different alternative schools over the years. He learned recently, in fact, that one of them is still using the business systems that he implemented 25 years ago. He hopes to help SelfDesign build both a web presence and back-office systems that are used for 25 years into the future.

Amber Papou

Amber is Executive Director of SelfDesign Learning Foundation (SDLF), one of the largest distance/distributed learning schools and personalized learning programs in British Columbia, Canada. 

She has over 20 years’ experience in education, non-profit leadership, stakeholder engagement and private business. In her role with  SDLF, Amber works with an experienced team of professionals to develop and deliver holistic K- 12 educational programs within a pedagogical modern and digital format.  

Prior to SDLF,  Amber lead Skills Canada BC, working with government, educators and industry  to develop and provide career exploration learning experiences to 30,000  students each year to stimulate their interest in high-demand careers.

As an educator, Amber gained appreciation for the potential of youth and their role in the future economy. She later served for 7 years as Executive Director for a non-profit organization focused on economic and community development through the arts; that included the implementation and design of large scale construction projects. She has also had the privilege of working with First Nation communities designing and managing youth employability programs.

In addition, Amber has a passion for leading organizational growth; overseeing several small business and start-up organizations and managing them through various stages of growth. Amber combines her business and education experience with her passion for community engagement to deliver on the mandate of SDLF, expanding the goals and reach of the organization.

She holds a Bachelor’s of Education from the University of British Columbia and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Fredericton.

Brandy McCray

Brandy is a small business owner, an visionary, a researcher, a speaker, a landscape painter, a parent, a writer, and an educator.

Brandy grew up outside of Memphis to a family of entrepreneurs. As a teenager during summer and winter breaks, she floated between businesses working and saving for travel around the country and eventually the world.

She majored in English and Fine Art with a in Spanish during college, and assisted the curator for the art museum on campus. She  thought my next step would be in the direction of galleries or museums, but a unique opportunity arose in the field of education.

She began to work as a governess to a family with 9 children. While researching holistic education models, I found SelfDesign and the SelfDesign Graduate Institute. She  started her journey with SDGI and it has changed how I relate to her children, her students, and how she tries to draw forth a student’s inner wisdom and sense of who they are while learning.

During her master’s thesis process, she brought the knowledge she gained during her time with SelfDesign into a public high school art classroom in Mississippi through an action research program. This action research process lead to the development of Personally Relevant Curriculum, a developmentally aware and open curricular model that can be used with a variety of subject matter to enhance the teacher’s ability to understand students and tie together student interests with standard curriculum.

She is in conversations currently with advocates of the arts and education in Mississippi to bring the knowledge and curriculum into classrooms across the state. My passions for art, education, and business are beginning to synthesize into an offering she can bring to schools, teachers, and students. She hopes to continue to bring many of the transformative ideas she has learned exploring the world and collaborating with many different people into her local communities.

David Marshak (ex officio)

Co-founder of an alternative high school; public school teacher; developer of religious education curriculum for the Unitarian Universalist denomination; Assistant Superintendent in a small public high school district in Vermont; Professor in the College of Education at Seattle University, Adjunct Instructor at Western Washington University and Fairhaven College; Board Chair of Explorations Academy and founder of Explorations Academy Online; Founding President of the SelfDesign Graduate Institute.

Anne Adams

Anne has worked with many Fortune 500 companies and educational institutions both nationally and internationally. She has designed and led transformation programs through seminars, courses and educational engagements for individuals,corporations, professional groups and educational institutions for more than 30years. She has been a teacher, school director, university instructor, manager in an international educational corporation, and a business consultant to both large and small corporations.

Anne has worked with senior leaders and their teams from companies as varied as IBM,Mars, Heinz, AT&T, Lucent Technologies, Procter & Gamble, The Rouse Company, EZ Communications, to government entities, e.g. the Pentagon, and non-profits, e.g. IONS, and schools throughout the United States and India.

Dr. Adams contributes her expertise to business and education transformation by integrating transformative practices, e.g. The World Café, a process in collaborative dialogue, Appreciative Inquiry, a framework for creating a learning organization, The Collaborative Way,integrating a company’s values, behaviors and culture, with Creating the Conditions for Individual,Cultural and Organizational Transformation, (ICOT) a systemic, integral approach for sustained transformation.

Linda Inlay, M.A.

Linda is an educator at Our Lady of Sorrows School in Wahiawa, Hawaii, where she collaborated with the founders of the Ho`āla Educational Philosophy, a combination of Adlerian principles and Carl Roger’s self-actualization theory. Ho`āla in Hawaiian means, “awakening of the self,” and the philosophy emphasizes the core values of responsibility, respect, resourcefulness, and responsiveness in this awakening process. Later, Linda entered the California public school system and served for eighteen years as principal of River School in Napa County, where she introduced the Ho`āla educational philosophy. During her tenure, River School received two California Distinguished School Awards, the Promising Practices Award and National School of Character Award, and the California School Board Association’s Golden Bell Award. Founder of the the Ho’āla Foundation for Education, a nonprofit dedicated to sharing Ho’āla with families and schools.

Jon Ouellette

Jon Ouellette is a senior executive with more than 30 years’ experience in leading vibrant organizations, including the largest Canadian-owned insurance brokerage, and has experience in financial services, oil and gas engineering, and real estate sectors. His philosophy and methodology focus on increasing bottom line performance through exceptional employee engagement. He has a rare ability to create and lead teams to embrace change and powerfully deliver on a vision.

Jon’s leadership style is to assist progressive companies through developing superior management teams and engaging employees with appropriate systems, in particular, performance based compensation, collective creation of a vision and specialized communication protocols which fuel accountability, entrepreneurialism and productivity. He is known for his strategic insight that facilitates the highest and best contributions from the team members he works with both in the for profit and non-profit sectors.

Jon is currently on the Board for Enterprise For Good, a self-funding Social Enterprise, supporting children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Advisory Council

The members of the Advisory Council provide advice and suggestions for improvement to the Institute’s leaders.

Robert C. Gilman, Ph.D.

(http://www.context.org/) is the President of Context Institute, Founding Editor of IN CONTEXT, A Quarterly of Humane Sustainable Culture. Robert’s bachelor’s degree is in astronomy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967 and his Ph.D. in astrophysics from Princeton University in 1969. He taught and did research at the University of Minnesota, the Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and served as a Research Associate at NASA’s Institute for Space Studies. In 1979, he founded the Context Institute with his late wife, Diane, one of the earliest NGOs to focus directly on sustainability, dealing with the many dimensions of community development (human, built, economic, etc.) in the context of major global trends (population, resource use, technological change, etc.). Robert has worked with American Institute of Architects at a national level on environmental and sustainability issues, and has served on the Board of Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, served as faculty in Antioch University’s Environment and Community Master’s program and facilitated the Findhorn Community in Scotland to develop a community constitution and establish its own self-governance. Robert is a keynote speaker and has made presentations at the Village Building Convergence (Portland), the National Co-Housing conference (Seattle), and the Global Ecovillage Network GEN-10 conference (Findhorn). Robert’s on-going work draws on all the phases of his life as he works toward a humane and sustainable future in the emerging Planetary Era. Today, his primary focus is the Foundation Stones project.

Robert Manzer, Ph.D.

is Provost at American InterContinental University (https://www.linkedin.com/in/robertmanzer) Robert has extensive experience as a senior executive with an expertise in leading growing, complex organizations, strategic planning, and change management. Focused on improving market position with a proven track record of increasing sales/enrollment, developing innovative new revenue streams, refining organizational structures and staff development. He excels in dynamic and challenging environments with a disciplined, entrepreneurial approach. Prior to his current role, Robert was Regional VP for Synergis Education, Inc. where he was responsible for managing three university partners, focusing on enhancing their business models by increasing high-quality revenue streams and improving programs and support systems. Earlier, Robert was COO of Texas Association of Nonprofit Organizations ; COO/VP for Academic A airs for St. Edward’s University, in Austin TX; Dean, Getty College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio Northern University, in Ada OH ;Associate VP for Academic A airs for Nebraska Wesleyan University; Associate Dean of Constantin College, University of Dallas. Robert was a former Board Member for College Forward, award-winning organization focused on increasing college access and persistence.

Milt Markewitz, M.A.

(http://www.natureslanguage.com/contact-us/1-milt-markewitz). Milt’s life-work is to be a contribution to Local/State/Global Sustainability Efforts. His career began with IBM as a computer programmer in Palo Alto, California, and he subsequently worked abroad—Europe, South America, and the Far East His responsibilities included—creation, design, implementation and management, and included programming systems, product design, and organizational improvements. His achievements include: Working on a team that developed and installed IBM’s first centralized order processing system, Leading a team that designed & installed a common plant system in Japan & S.A. managing extraordinarily successful System Engineering and sales teams. Milt went back to school, after retiring in 1991, at Portland State University (PSU). During this time, Milt lead a task force to design an ‘Excellent K-12 Public Education System’ for Oregon’s Department of Education. He designed the system around purpose, principles, and best education practices—linking public education to the long-range quality of life, civility, and interests of the students and their communities. Milt co-founded a non-pro t whose mission was to bring learning organization concepts and principles to elementary and secondary education. Milt partnered in a Sustainable Agriculture/Horticulture start-up company whose mission was to provide a ‘Garden Pod’ from which a family could harvest a sufficient amount of nourishing food each day. After returning to Graduate school to study Living Systems, Milt developed curricula for Contexts for Sustainability, Living Systems, and a Curve of Hope which he will teach whenever asked. Other achievements while in retirement include: Founding a local dialogue group to explore the spiritual facets of sustainability, co-designing and facilitating with the Director of Indigenous Studies at PSU an Indigenous Pedagogy Symposium, certification in Appreciative Inquiry by Case Western Reserve, authoring an internet workbook, “Appreciative Sustainability: Co-Creating our Ethical Compass,” serving on several Boards-past President of both a Jewish Renewal Congregation and Portland’s Earth & Spirit Council. Milt most recently co-authored a book, Language of Life: Answers to Modern Crises in an Ancient Way of Speaking, which concludes that cultures that speak such languages have developed an intuition for all that is necessary to create and sustain life.

Stephanie Pace Marshall, Ph.D.

(http://www.stephaniepacemarshall.com/) is the Founding President and President Emerita of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy®–the nation’s first three year public residential institution for high school age students academically talented in science, mathematics and technology. She was the founding president of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools in Mathematics, Science and Technology, and a president of the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). She is internationally recognized as a pioneer and innovative leader and teacher and an inspiring speaker and writer on leadership, learning and schooling, STEM education and talent development, innovation, and the design of generative and life-affirming learning environments and institutions that ignite and nurture the goodness and genius within each child. Dr. Marshall has worked in leadership roles in every level of education: superintendent of schools, district curriculum administrator, a graduate school faculty member, and an elementary and middle school teacher. She earned a B.A. from Queens College (New York), M.A. from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. from Loyola University of Chicago, and she received four honorary doctorates in science and in arts and letters. She is the author of over 40 published journal articles, an author for the Drucker Foundation’s series Organizations of the Future, an editor and author of Scientific Literacy for the 21st Century, and a contributor to the National Research Council’s publication, Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U. S. High Schools. She is featured in the book, Leaders Who Dare: Pushing the Boundaries and is the inspiration behind the novel, Smart Alex, a story of an adolescent girl talented in mathematics. Her book, The Power to Transform: Leadership that Brings Learning and Schooling to Life, received the 2007 Educator’s Award from The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International STEM academies. She is a founding trustee of Ubiquity University, a Trustee of the Society for Science and the Public, a founding advisor of the Massive Change Network (a global initiative of internationally recognized designer, Bruce Mau) an educational advisor to WIGUP (When I Grow UP) Canada’s first interactive educational Web 2.0 learning channel, and an advisor to the Epic Challenge Institute, She continues to consult with national and international institutions, foundations, policy leaders and practitioners as an advisor, and strategic partner—helping others to create conditions that require a re-design of their institutions and programs by moving possibilities to practice.

Harold Morse, Ph.D.

(http://www.health-healingnetwork.com/bios.html) is the chairman and CEO of The Health and Healing Network, an integrative medicine electronic platform and chairman and CEO of HMORSE INC., a management consulting company. He is the former president, CEO and co-founder of OVATION, a television network dedicated exclusively to the arts. He was the driving force behind the idea to bring an all-arts network to television in the 1990s, much as he was in bringing an all-education cable network, The Learning Channel (TLC), to the marketplace in the 1980s. Dr. Morse founded TLC and served as its chairman and CEO, and under his leadership, it became one of the nation’s fastest growing cable networks. He also served as president and CEO of the American Community Service Network. Dr. Morse was a founding board member of Cable in the Classroom, a cable industry initiative designed to provide cable programming to the nation’s schools. He received the Cable Industry’s highest award, The Vanguard Award for his leadership in successfully developing The Learning Channel. Dr. Morse began his career in education, teaching in public schools. As a Washington fellow during the Johnson administration, he helped create and implement the Developing Institutions Program for assisting black colleges and universities. As director of education for the Appalachian Regional Commission, he was responsible for building hundreds of vocational technical schools, university facilities, and teacher training projects throughout Appalachia. A graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego, where he received his bachelor and master’s degrees as well as an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree. Dr. Morse also was awarded a Ph.D. degree from the University of Washington in Seattle and received its Distinguished Graduate Award.

Dana Pearlman, M.A.

(http://artofhosting.ning.com/profile/DanaPearlman) Dana designs and facilitates action learning experiences that incorporates whole person development, mission driven entrepreneurship with systems thinking, being and doing for social innovation. Her academic background is in clinical psychology and strategic leadership towards sustainability. Her intent is to steward a world that is more whole, interconnected and in alignment with our true selves for wiser and conscious impact. Her sweet spot is at the intersection of authentic leadership, tapping into other ways of knowing (beyond cognition) the world, collective healing and cultivating communities of practice in order to accelerate the profound transformation that is needed in our world. Dana has facilitated sessions for National Bioneers Conference, GlobeMed’s Leadership Institute, Dalai Lama Fellows, Novamaya, NextGen at IONS, Sonoma County Sustainability and Energy Department, The Hub Bay Area, Stanford Leadership Experiment, Sustainability Learning Centre, Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden: Masters in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability program, Fukushima Response Group, Co-Fluir and Daily Acts. Dana is co-leading and designing Mycelium’s summer learning journey 2014. She designed and delivered the inaugural Bold Academy. She is a practitioner and co-host for intensives in The Art of Hosting and Harvesting Conversations that Matter. She leads workshops in Authentic Leadership that stems from her co-created research. She co-authored and published: The Lotus: A Practice Guide for Authentic Leadership towards Sustainability. Dana is also co-creating a start up, the Global Leadership Lab, to bring people together to catalyze and accelerate the world-changing leadership necessary to meet the profound challenges of the 21st century.

Stephanie Sarantos, Ph.D.

(http://clearwaterschool.com/?page_id=640) Stephanie has always had a passionate interest in human development and education that led her to pursue eclectic careers working with children—as an oncology nurse, improvisational dance instructor and a parent. She has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with specializations in child temperament, cognitive and social development and statistical analysis. Her interest in the Sudbury model was inspired in equal parts through her studies of education and through watching three-year-old children play imaginary games for hours, days and weeks on end. She was involved with the original Clearwater School founding group and has worked at the school ever since. Stephanie’s official duties include many tasks: administration, book keeping, communications, bandaging wounds, enrolling new students, educating and supporting parents and sometimes teaching classes. The pursuit of something brand new profoundly informs her work at Clearwater. Through her own learning curve, she discovers first hand, the value of failures and plateaus in the process of seeking mastery.