Search Institute Team
Learn more about the roles each of our staff members has at Search Institute.
Search Institute Team
Listed in Alphabetical Order
Project Coordinator for the Relationships for Outcomes (ROI) Initiative
Ellen joined Search Institute in 2018 as Project Coordinator for the Relationships for Outcomes Initiative (ROI). Ellen brings more than fifteen years of experience working in education-focused nonprofit organizations to support a variety of early childhood, K-12, out-of-school-time, adult basic education, and parent education programs. Ellen is passionate about promoting equity in education and looking for creative ways to help youth thrive and grow by supporting educators, families, and communities.
Ashley Boat, Ph.D.
Ashley is an applied research scientist with expertise in prevention, positive youth development, and family science. Her research seeks to advance our understanding of how developmental relationships promote the well-being of youth from historically marginalized communities. As a former teacher and program evaluator, she is passionate about conducting inclusive and practice-relevant research. She is well versed in a range of study designs and quantitative methods. She uses her analytical skills to develop empirically rigorous research to better meet the needs of all youth.
Rachel contributes to qualitative research efforts on the Applied Qualitative Research and Community Mobilization team. Prior to joining Search Institute, she was a high school English and social studies teacher and youth worker through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. At Search Institute, Rachel works closely with partners throughout the research process and ensures that study results are clear and applicable to practice. She is passionate about empowering young people and adults to share their voices and experiences.LEARN MORE
Contracts & Project Manager
Jan joined Search Institute in 2002. She chose to join Search Institute for its commitment to positive youth development and its desire to change how young people are viewed — focusing on what’s right and not what’s wrong with them — and that all kids and their relationships matter.
She has over 38 years of professional experience in business operations, and has held many different positions at Search Institute, working in every department.
Clare joined the qualitative research team at Search in 2019. She brings experience working directly with youth and managing youth development programming in school-based and community settings across the Twin Cities. Clare’s work is informed by a focus on equity, centering youth voice, social-emotional learning, and strong relationships.
Clare received her M.Ed. in Youth Development Leadership from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and her B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology from Lewis & Clark College.
Benjamin Houltberg, Ph.D., LMFT
Vice President of Research & Practice
Ben is a developmental scientist, former tenured faculty member and experienced licensed marriage and family therapist. He is widely published in topics such as the socialization of adolescent emotion regulation, promoting resilience through adversity, character and identity development in sports. Ben has a strong record of procuring grant funding and leading interdisciplinary research teams. His motivation to pursue his doctoral degree emerged from his clinical experience and desire to empower youth facing tremendous adversity due to socio-economic disadvantage and marginalization. As a result, he is passionate about linking research insights with practitioner wisdom to have maximum impact on the lives of youth.
Julia comes to Search Institute with a background in youth program delivery and improvement. Before their time at Search Institute, Julia facilitated over 350 programs in schools around the U.S. and spent years mentoring students academically and creatively. They bring a passion for engaging experiences that enhance culture and strengthen relationships.
Cheryl Mayberry, MBA
Chief Operating Officer
In her role as Chief Operating Officer, Cheryl ensures that Search Institute achieves its mission through performance excellence, efficient sustainable processes, and sound financial practices. Cheryl oversees the areas of human resources, information technology, facilities management, administration, communications and product sales and fulfillment. Cheryl also provides leadership on key strategic projects.LEARN MORE
Bill McCabe, CPA
Chief Financial Officer
As CFO, Bill oversees administration, finance and accounting, human resources, information technology, and facilities. Bill brings extensive business experience in both nonprofit and private organizations. Bill hold a BS Business from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio and a MBA from the University of Minnesota.
Wuraola joined Search Institute in 2019. She has over 8 years of progressive accounting experience in the Manufacturing, Food and Agricultural industry.
She also has two Bachelor’s degrees (B.S.) in Accounting and a Master’s Degree (M.S.) in Information Technology Management (ITM). Wuraola is passionate about developing positive behaviors and outcomes in children, youth, and adults.
Melissa Orrey, PHR & SHRM-CP
Human Resource Manager
Melissa joined Search Institute in 2012 as the Human Resource Manager. She is a one-person department managing all aspects of human resources and payroll. She has over 19 years of experience in Human Resources, 10 of those years in the nonprofit sector. Melissa is passionate about children and mission/outreach work.
Kent Pekel, Ed.D.
President & CEO
Kent Pekel is an educational leader who has worked at the school, district, state, federal, and university levels. Throughout his diverse career, he has sought to bridge research, practice, and policy to help young people from marginalized communities learn and thrive. Kent is currently President and CEO of Search Institute, an internationally recognized not-for-profit organization that conducts applied research and develops practical resources that enhance the capacity of schools, youth programs, and other organizations to help young people be and become their best selves. Among other recent recognition, in 2018 Search Institute received the Award for Organizational Excellence in Research and Programming for Youth from the Society for Research on Adolescence.LEARN MORE
Eugene Roehlkepartain, Ph.D.
Since joining Search Institute in 1991, Gene has played key roles in shaping Search Institute’s pioneering work on developmental relationships, Developmental Assets, thriving and sparks, spiritual development, and community engagement. He collaborates with other team members to design and lead new initiatives that drive our current focus on developmental relationships. He also synthesizes findings across studies and guides our relationship-based family engagement agenda as well our work with diverse religious communities. Gene is author, co-author, or named editor of more than 200 publications, including 17 books and numerous reports, scientific articles or chapters, and articles for practitioners and the public.LEARN MORE
Senior Research Associate
Justin joined Search Institute in 2011 after working as a program evaluator at the regional and state levels. As a Senior Research Associate, Justin provides qualitative and quantitative support for Search Institute’s research and development projects. He also assists schools, programs, and organizations with survey implementation and data utilization.LEARN MORE
Director of Practice Improvement
Cecilia Saddler is a lifelong educator whose twenty year career in Minneapolis Public Schools included service as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, Associate Superintendent, and Deputy Chief of Academics, Leadership, and Learning. Since leaving the Minneapolis schools in 2019, Cecilia has directed student teaching and fieldwork placements at Saint Catherine University. Cecilia’s work as D Chief of Academics, Leadership, and Learning in Minneapolis involved supervision of the departments of teaching and learning, multilingual education, special education services, extended learning, college and career readiness, student support services, early childhood education, community education, and career and technical education. Her responsibilities as Assistant Superintendent included supervising a portfolio of 20 schools from grades K-12 and extensive work with families and organizations in the communities that surround those schools. Cecilia served as principal at South High School, Anwatin Middle School, and Folwell School, which serves students from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade. As a teacher, Cecilia taught language arts, social studies, and African-American literature at the middle and high school levels. Cecilia holds a B.A. from the University of Iowa in English literature, and an M.A.T. from the University of Iowa in English education. She is currently a doctoral student at Saint Mary’s University studying educational leadership.
Peter C. Scales, Ph.D.
Peter is a developmental psychologist, researcher, author, and speaker who is an internationally recognized authority on the positive development of children and youth. With the late Dr. Peter L. Benson, he became the world’s leading researcher on the role of Developmental Assets in the lives of children and youth. His expertise is in child and adolescent development, and the development of healthy families, schools, and communities where children and youth can thrive. Peter has been with Search Institute since 1996.LEARN MORE
Accounting & Facilities Coordinator
Joe has been with Search Institute for more than 10 years and currently fulfills different roles. He manages logistics, facilities and assists with accounting. He loves living and working in beautiful Northeast Minneapolis.
Jenna Sethi, Ph.D.
Jenna joined Search Institute in 2015 as a Research Associate on the Applied Qualitative Research and Community Mobilization team. A participatory youth-centered paradigm informs the way Jenna works with research partners to fully understand their objectives and culture and ensure project goals are shared and co-constructed. Jenna has more than 20 years of experience as a youth worker and more than 10 years of experience conducting qualitative research.LEARN MORE
Manager, Strategic Partnerships
Mary has been with Search Institute since 2012. She helps our clients and partners navigate and execute application of Search Institutes’ diverse resources and tools. Mary has over 25 years of experience in establishing, maintaining and enhancing client relationships.
Research and Development Communications VISTA
Mackenzie joined the Search Institute team in August of 2019 as the Research and Development Communications VISTA through Americorps and the Minnesota Alliance with Youth. His role within the organization is to effectively communicate findings from Search Institute’s applied research to multiple platforms and audiences and to ensure quality communication within the organization. Mackenzie graduated from Hamline University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in May of 2019. He brings years of experience working with adolescents of all ages, persons with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community in various nonprofit and educational settings.
Terri Sullivan, Ed.D.
Director of Applied Qualitative Research & Community Mobilization
Terri is Director of Applied Qualitative Research and Community Mobilization. She leads a team of researchers who work with field partners using qualitative research to inform youth development goals, policy, practice, and quantitative measures in their own organizations and the field at large. She first joined Search in the late 1990s as a researcher and senior consultant with a focus on building statewide youth development initiatives. She rejoined the Search Institute team in 2011, after completing her Doctorate in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.LEARN MORE
Amy Syvertsen, Ph.D.
Director of Applied Quantitative Research & Senior Research Scientist
Amy is an applied developmental scientist with expertise in developmental theory, positive youth development, and prevention science. Within these disciplines, her applied and empirical work intersects with topics of youth civic development, social-emotional competence, developmental relationships, and issues of equity. Her work also reflects a commitment to doing research that is both empirically rigorous and practically actionable. Amy’s experiences as an educator, youth worker, and first-generation college student shape the way she approaches research. Her work is built on the premise that all youth should be valued, known, and heard, and that young people are valuable contributors to our community.LEARN MORE
Survey and Data Specialist
Lydia joined Search Institute in 2019 as a Survey and Data Specialist, providing support to organizations through every step of the survey process. Prior to her role with surveys she served as an AmeriCorp VISTA at Search.
IT & Database Manager
Rick first joined Search Institute as a programmer in 1990. As the IT Manager for Search Institute, Rick handles all of Search Institute’s technology, including network administration, programming, website maintenance and more.