Kent Pekel became President and CEO of Search Institute, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization, on August 1, 2012. He leads a staff of professionals who study the strengths and supports that thriving young people possess and who work with schools, families and communities across the United States and around the world to help all children develop those strengths and secure those supports.
Prior to joining Search Institute, Pekel worked as an educator and an administrator at the school, district, state, federal and university levels. Most recently, he served as founding Executive Director of the University of Minnesota’s College Readiness Consortium, a new organization that leverages the resources of the university to increase the number and diversity of Minnesota students who graduate from high school with the knowledge, skills, and habits for success in college and other forms of postsecondary education. In that capacity, he played a key role in facilitating the work of the Minnesota P-20 Education Partnership, which brings together twenty-three statewide organizations to align and improve Minnesota’s educational systems from early childhood through higher education. He also led the implementation of the Minnesota Principals Academy, a year-long executive development program that has engaged more over 300 Minnesota school leaders to date in the study of high performing schools and systems. Pekel also created and led the launch of Ramp-Up to Readiness™, a school-wide program that guides students in grades 6-12 through a research-based sequence of courses, projects, activities and experiences that prepare them for postsecondary success.
From 2000-2005, Pekel was Chief-of-Staff to Superintendent Patricia Harvey and, later, Executive Director of Research and Development in the Saint Paul Public Schools. During that period, the proportion of Saint Paul students in the benchmark grades of three and five who scored proficient or above on state tests increased from approximately 1/3 to 2/3 in both reading and mathematics. During the same period, four-year high school graduation rates increased from 57.4% to 65.9%.
From 1995-2000, Pekel held several senior staff-level positions in the Clinton Administration, including White House Fellow assigned to the Director of Central Intelligence, Special Advisor to the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, and Special Assistant to the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education. Prior to his time in Washington Pekel taught at the high school level in Minnesota and at the college level in China.
Pekel writes and speaks frequently on educational issues in Minnesota and across the United States. He also serves on the boards of the Minnesota Children’s Museum and Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest. He holds a B.A in East Asian Studies from Yale University, a Master’s in Education from Harvard, and a doctorate in education at the University of Minnesota.
Keynotes & Presentations
Preparing Kids for College, Work, and Life: Why Parents Matter When It Comes to College Readiness - ParentFurther Webinar
The Case for College Readiness - University of Minnesota College Readiness Consortium