President and 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 not-for-profit organization that conducts applied research in and creates solutions for the fields of education and youth development.

Prior to joining Search Institute in 2012, Kent served as the founding Executive Director of the University of Minnesota’s College Readiness Consortium, where he led the creation of Ramp-Up to Readiness, a college readiness program for middle and high school students that has been adopted by more than 200 schools in eight states, engaging more than 100,000 students each year. During his time at the consortium Kent also led the launch of the Minnesota Principals Academy, a year-long executive development program that to date has engaged more than 400 Minnesota school leaders in the study and replication of high performing schools and systems. Kent served as Executive Director of Research and Development in the Saint Paul Public Schools from 2000-2005, a period when students at every level made significant academic gains. He also led departments and initiatives focused on research and evaluation, technology, fund development, policy, high school reform, and school choice. From 1995-2000 Kent 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 Deputy Secretary of State, and Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Education. Kent began his career as a high school social studies teacher in his home state of Minnesota. 


He holds a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Yale University, a Master’s in Education from Harvard University, and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Minnesota.


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