Search Institute Team
Learn more about the roles each of our staff members has at Search Institute.
Kent Pekel, Ed.D.
President & CEO
Kent Pekel is an educator who has worked at the school, district, state, federal, and university levels. Throughout his diverse career, he has sought to bridge the divides that too often exist between educational practice, research, and policy.
Kent is currently President and CEO of Search Institute, an internationally recognized research organization that studies and works to strengthen youth outcomes in schools, families, out-of-school time programs, and communities.LEARN MORE
Eugene Roehlkepartain, Ph.D.
Vice President of Research & Development
Gene leads a team of researchers, practitioners, and other specialists to design and implement research projects, collaborative partnerships, and field initiatives that explore the role of developmental relationships in advancing youth well-being, development, and thriving. Gene is widely recognized for his expertise in child, youth, and family development in community contexts. He has particular expertise in family strengths and engagement, positive youth development, international youth development, and spiritual development. Gene is our longest tenured employee at Search Institute; he celebrated 25 years in 2016.LEARN MORE
Vice President of Improvement Solutions
As the VP of Improvement Solutions, Cheryl will extend Search Institute’s capabilities to help organizations use data, research, and process improvement to achieve their objectives for young people. With more than 20 years of experience as a Lean Six Sigma business consultant, operations manager, corporate auditor, project manager, and process engineer, her diverse experience covers the private, public, and nonprofit sectors.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.
Research & Development
Rachel provides support for research projects and development activities. She has extensive experience in K-12 education and youth development within school and community settings. Her research interests include school culture and the ways in which relationships produce positive outcomes for adults and youth.LEARN MORE
Eliel focuses on Search Institute’s international research and evaluation initiatives. She supports the Applied Qualitative Research and Community Mobilization team. Eliel brings her interest and experience in community-based participatory research to programs and initiatives that improve youth outcomes. She is currently engaged in various multi-sited youth workforce development projects in Minnesota and Africa. She is committed to working on creative and sustainable ways to improve the quality of life for people in underserved communities.LEARN MORE
Fatima joined Search Institute in 2017 to provide strategic leadership and oversee development and coordination of the Relationships for Outcomes Initiative (ROI). In her role as Project Director, she works closely with institutional and youth-serving community partners across the U.S. who are focused on improving youth outcomes by building developmental relationships with and among young people. She also consults with youth-serving agencies to build their capacity, provide high-quality youth programming and advance racial equity. In her more than 20 years in youth development, Fatima has gained extensive experience in program development and evaluation, project management, community outreach and engagement.LEARN MORE
Justin joined Search Institute in 2011 after working as a program evaluator at the regional and state levels. As a 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
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
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
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
Martin Van Boekel, Ph.D.
Martin is a Research Scientist at Search Institute. Before joining Search Institute, Martin recently completed a post-doc at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. Martin’s research goals are driven by his past experiences as an elementary school teacher. His research program has two distinct and overarching goals. The first goal is to investigate the factors that support positive youth development. This goal is closely aligned with the research being conducted at Search Institute on developmental relationships. Martin continues to stay closely linked to the University of Minnesota as he pursues his second research goal, to understand how people learn when correct new information conflicts with incorrect prior knowledge. Pursuing this goal melds his training in cognitive psychology and research methods.LEARN MORE
Research & Training Associate
As a Research & Training Associate, Lacey bridges research and practice by engaging in and leveraging research activities to develop and deliver research-based improvement workshops and related products and services. Lacey also provides qualitative support to Search Institute’s research and development projects. She has extensive experience in the youth development field within school and community settings both domestically and internationally. She is passionate about youth leadership and the power of positive relationships in young people’s lives.LEARN MORE
Brendon Hale, Ph.D.
Solutions Development Manager
Brendon has an academic background in Human Performance and Neuroscience and professional experience directing programs and helping start-ups define and design their products, the markets and each associated value proposition. He combines his academic and professional experience to translate research into action which benefits all stakeholders. He spends his free time promoting and participating in cycling races throughout the nation.
Marketing & Communications Manager
Janice is responsible for all things marketing and communications related at Search Institute. She has spent her career in the marketing world, as a public relations specialist, an agency art director, then as a marketing coach and blogger. Before joining Search Institute, was passionate about the 40 Developmental Assets, which were on her bulletin board as her kids were growing up.
Client Relationship Manager
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.
Director of Education Solutions
Eric provides strategic and tactical leadership in Search Institute’s school-focused service and product offerings. His career in education has included posts in teaching, coaching, administration, and consulting. He is the author of the 2014 book Education Is Upside-Down: Reframing Reform to Focus on the Right Problems, and he regularly contributes pieces about education practice, research, and reform to publications like Education Week, Education Post, The Hechinger Report, and TES US, as well as to his blog, ‘A Total Ed Case’.LEARN MORE
Finance & Administration
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.
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.
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.
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.