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The SelfDesign Graduate Institute is governed by the Board of Directors of the SelfDesign Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in Bellingham, Washington. The Board 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.

Officers and Dean

The President is the chief administrative officer and is responsible for all activities and functions of the Institute. Other key administrative officers include the Academic Dean, the Registrar, and the Vice-President for Finance.

David Marshak, Ed.D., President (CEO)

The President is the chief executive officer of the SelfDesign Graduate Institute and provides leadership to the academic departments in consultation with the Dean and subject to the direction and control of the Board of Directors. By the authority vested in him/her by the Board of Directors, the President confirms faculty appointments as recommended by faculty selection committees. As CEO, the President is responsible for the presentation of all Institute policies and recommendations to the Board. In the execution of her/his duties, the President consults with, and delegates to, the Dean, faculty, and administrative staff. The President also coordinates Library Services.

James Terrence (Terry) Cochran, M.B.A., Vice-President for Finance

The Vice-President for Finance is the chief financial administrator of the Institute and is responsible for supervising the preparation and oversight of the Institute budget and all other financial matters. The Vice-President for Finance works with the President and the Dean, faculty, and administrative staff to initiate and execute strategic operations.

David Marshak, Ed.D., Interim Academic Dean

The Academic Dean ensures that appropriate courses are available to learners, taught by suitably qualified faculty. The Dean ensures that applicants receive adequate advising about admissions, transfer, course and program planning, and graduation requirements. The Dean communicates with learners on an ongoing basis in matters related to academic programming and career preparation.

The Dean provides administrative and academic leadership to the faculty, consulting with faculty regularly, building consensus, removing obstacles to the achievement of the Institute’s mission, supporting innovation and excellence in teaching, encouraging critical reflection and adaptability. The Dean works with the faculty search committee to recruit and select new faculty, and makes the necessary recommendations to the President. The Dean reports to the President. Initially the Dean’s responsibilities will be enacted by the President.

Laurel Tien, M.A., Assistant Dean and Registrar

The Assistant Dean supports the Academic Dean in all of his responsibilities. The Registrar is responsible for supervising student applications and admission, creation and maintenance of student academic records, transcript services, course registration, course scheduling, tuition and fee assessment and refunds, graduation applications and ceremonies, and the student information system. The Registrar also collaborates with the Dean to oversee Student Services.

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 has served as an Advisory Board member with Univera, Inc. and currently with Village Home Education Resource Center.

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, a 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 her 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, she found SelfDesign and the SelfDesign Graduate Institute. She started her journey with SDGI and it has changed how she relates 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. Her 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.
Robert Manzer, Ph.D.
Milt Markewitz, M.A.
Stephanie Pace Marshall, Ph.D.
Harold Morse, Ph.D.
Dana Pearlman, M.A.
Stephanie Sarantos, Ph.D.