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 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.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
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.
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
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
Nicole joined Search Institute in 2019 as a developmental Research Scientist with expertise in developmental theory and children’s social and emotional development. She is particularly interested in the way in which relationships with caregivers, teachers, and mentors facilitate positive youth development, as well as how children’s own characteristics contribute to the development of healthy relationships. Nicole received her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2013, and completed a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at The Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota.
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
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
Research and Development Communications VISTA
Sao joined Search Institute as the Research and Development Communications VISTA through AmeriCorps and the Minnesota Alliance with Youth. His service efforts will be focused on building capacity for Search Institute by developing, implementing, and improving communication processes that relay Search Institute’s research findings to professionals and public audiences. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Communication Studies and has previously worked as a Transportation Coordinator for Saint Paul City School. Sao is interested in learning more about research methodology, communication strategies, and how practitioners use research in applied settings.
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
Communications & Marketing Manager
As Communications & Marketing Manager, Jennifer is proud to promote Search Institute’s mission, research, and success stories via all channels. She has twenty years of marketing experience and has managed marketing and communications departments for both local and international youth development-focused organizations. Jennifer is passionate about doing work that makes a difference in the lives of young people. She also enjoys connecting people with information that can help them help others.
Director of Youth & Family Solutions
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
Client Solutions Coordinator
Megan joined Search Institute in 2018, and works as the Client Solutions Coordinator. Megan is the friendly voice you hear when you call Search Institute. She assists clients, fulfills various client orders, and helps organize our workshops. Prior to working at Search, Megan worked in Customer Service positions for over 8 years.
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.
Marketing & Funder Research VISTA
Lydia is an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving at Search Institute as the Marketing & Funder Research VISTA. She is excited to share the foundational values and missions of the VISTA program and translate that passion into her work at Search. She is a 2018 graduate of St. Olaf College, earning a Bachelor of Arts in biology. Lydia has previously interned at the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute evaluating the effectiveness of in-person communication while delivering genetic information. She also has worked on community based research focusing on the perceptions of end of life care and advanced care planning in Northfield, MN. She is looking forward to expanding her research capacity to marketing and client based work.
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.