Theresa K. Sullivan, Ed.D. - Director, Applied Qualitative Research and Community Mobilization

As Director of Applied Qualitative Research and Community Mobilization, Sullivan works on major projects with field partners ready to break new ground together, documenting and sharing lessons with others along the way. She rejoined the Search Institute team in 2011, after completing her Doctorate in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she focused on learning what it takes to mobilize communities to make sure all kids get what they need to succeed. She first joined Search in the late 1990s as a researcher and senior consultant with a focus on statewide asset-building initiatives.

Between stints at Search Institute and in addition to completing her doctorate, Sullivan served as a Howland Endowed Chair in Youth Leadership Development at the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development; principal investigator for a five-year study of City Year’s Young Heroes program for middle school youth; and a consultant to the National Youth Leadership Council. Prior to joining the Search Institute staff the first time, Sullivan was a Senior Vice President at Padilla Speer Beardsley Public Relations where, in addition to communications consulting with corporate clients like IBM, 3M and Lands' End, she worked with non-profit clients such as the Points of Light Foundation, Youth Service America, and Search Institute.


  • Community mobilization on behalf of youth
  • Youth engagement
  • Youth/adult partnerships
  • Practice-based research
  • Continuous Quality Improvement

Selected Recent Publications

Saito, R.N. & Sullivan, T.K. (2012). The Many Faces, Features and Outcomes of Youth Engagement. Journal of Youth Development, Volume 7, No. 4.

Sullivan, T.K. (2009). Youth Engagement: More than a method: A way of life for healthy youth and community development. A white paper written for the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development. Available for download here.

Sullivan, T.K. (2008). Mapping the Social Change Strategies of Middle School Youth: Targeting Efforts to Build a Critical Skill for Citizens and Leaders in the 21st Century. Growing to Greatness 2008. Minnesota National Youth Leadership Council. Available online here.

Demhurst, M., Fuxman, S., Sullivan, T., & Villegas, M. (2007). Re-envisioning Research as Social Change: Four Students’ Collaborative Journey. Journal of Research Practice, 3(1) Article M7.

Sullivan, T.K. (2006). Becoming Citizens and Transformative Leaders: The Impact of City Year, Inc.’s Young Heroes Program on the Middle School Youth Who Participate (Foreword by Jim Youniss, Ph.D.). MA: City Year, Inc. Available online here.


Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) , Human Development and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Masters in Education (M.Ed.), in Risk and Prevention, Human Development and Psychology, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Journalism and Mass Communications, University of Minnesota.

Keynotes & Presentations

Terms of Youth Engagement - Keynote address at Howland Symposium for Youth Engagement and Youth Leadership Development, University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development, Minneapolis.

Exploring the youth engagement frontier. Presentation at the Minnesota Safe and Healthy Youth Conference, Minneapolis, MN.

Can Young Adolescents Be Cosmopolitan Agents of Community Change? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Moral Education, New York, NY.

Engaging middle school youth in community change: They’re ready. Are you? Presentation at the Search Institute Healthy Communities Healthy Youth Conference, Rochester, NY.


Contact Dr. Terri Sullivan >>
Schedule Dr. Terri Sullivan for your next presentation >>