Speakers & Trainers
Bring a Search Institute speaker or trainer to your next keynote or event.
Search Institute leaders speak nationally and internationally at varied events, including conference keynotes, breakout sessions, and workshops. Their dynamic styles bring research to life for your audience through content-rich, engaging presentations, on a range of topics–customized to fit your needs.
Once you have selected your speaker, we handle the logistics of getting the speaker to the venue, prepping the speaker, and protecting your budget.
To inquire about booking a speaker for your next meeting or event, fill out our Speaker Information Form and a Search Institute representative will contact you.
Speakers for Your Next Conference or Event
Kent Pekel, Ed.D.
President and CEO Kent Pekel is an educator and administrator who has worked at the school, district, state, federal, and university levels. Prior to joining Search Institute in 2012, Kent served as the founding Executive Director of the University of Minnesota’s College Readiness Consortium and as the Executive Director of Research and Development in the Saint Paul Public Schools.
Kent also 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 U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, and Special Assistant to the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education. Kent has taught at the high school level in Minnesota and at the college level in China. He holds a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Yale University, a Master’s in Education from Harvard and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Minnesota.LEARN MORE
Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, Ph.D.
As Vice President of Research and Development, Roehlkepartain provides leadership for Search Institute’s research and development projects as well as serving as part of the nonprofit organization’s leadership team. Working with colleagues, he designs and implements major projects and partnerships aligned with Search Institute’s strategic priorities. He also represents the organization through consultations, presentations, and workshops. Roehlkepartain joined Search Institute in 1991 and, prior to assuming his current position, has had a number of roles, including acting CEO, executive vice president, senior advisor to the president, and director of publishing.LEARN MORE
Theresa K. Sullivan, Ed.D
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.LEARN MORE
Amy Syvertsen, Ph.D.
Amy Syvertsen, PhD, is Director of Applied Quantitative Research and a Senior Research Scientist at Search Institute. Her program of research blends the themes of developmental theory, adolescent civic engagement, and positive youth development. Her research focuses on understanding the core values and behaviors that promote social responsibility and participatory citizenship in young people. Her work seeks to advance our understanding of the contextual (family, school, community) and developmental underpinnings of thriving in childhood and adolescence.LEARN MORE
Bring a Search Institute Trainer to Your School or Organization
Book one of our Search Institute expert trainers for your next on-site professional development event. Our lively and interactive trainers have been fully educated in positive youth development and Search Institute’s research. View our full list of on-site professional development options and contact us to set one up (on-location or virtually)!
James (Jim) Conway is a veteran trainer and speaker with over 25 years experience providing training and consultation to youth serving professionals and volunteers in educational and community-based organizations in the US and abroad. He has designed and delivered major training for Search Institute since 1995. For the last decade, he also served as a lead trainer and presenter for Vision Training Associates. Conway has also served as a member of the national training team, National Institute on Out-of-School Time, Wellesley College, MA. Prior to beginning his career as a trainer and speaker on positive youth development, Jim served for 15 years in leadership roles of various programs for children and young adolescents.LEARN MORE
Jazmin Danielson currently works with the College Readiness Consortium at the University of Minnesota as the Youth Safety and Compliance Manager. Prior to her work at the U of MN, she was the Executive Director for Beyond Walls, a youth-development non-profit focused on serving under-resourced middle and high school students through a scholar-athlete approach to youth development. Using sport as a social change agent was a focal point of her leadership for Beyond Walls. Jazmin began her career in youth development at The Bridge for Youth for nine years as a Youth and Family Counselor, supporting youth experiencing homelessness. Jazmin also served as the Youth Department Director at East Side Neighborhood Services in North East Minneapolis, for 14 years, overseeing eight different out-of-school time programs across the Twin Cities including a residential camp program and a teen employment program. Jazmin was selected as a national Out-of-School Time Fellow with the National Institute of Out-of-School Time, a Leadership Fellow with the Squash and Education Alliance and most recently a nationally selected high impact leader for the American Express Leadership Academy. After serving youth and families for over 20 years, Jazmin also decided to dedicate herself to her true passions of speaking, teaching, training and convening other thought leaders on topics related to social justice, racial-consciousness, building growth-mindset and breaking cycles of trauma.
Jazmin earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Minnesota and a Master’s in Organizational Leadership from St. Catherine University. Jazmin is also the proud mother of an 11 year-old who is also passionate about equity and gender equality. Her daughter has been her best teacher and brings her abundant joy and inspiration.
Kelly Felton has had the privilege to work with Search Institute as a trainer since 2016 and enjoys empowering community leaders, organizations and communities interested in ensuring that all young people have what they need to thrive.
Through a wide variety of experiences, Kelly has committed her career to helping young people make safe and healthy choices. She currently is a Suicide Prevention Coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Health and previously provided training and technical assistance under supervision from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to communities working on substance abuse prevention in West Central, Minnesota.
She started in the prevention field in 2008 as the Coalition Coordinator for the Working Together Coalition, located in North Central Minnesota. As Coordinator for the WTC, Kelly lead a community coalition to engage in numerous evidence-based strategies aimed at reducing youth substance abuse and promoting positive development. As part of her efforts towards curbing substance use among youth, Kelly used Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets Framework for all of their preventive strategies, in conjunction with evidence-based prevention practices.
Prior to working in the prevention field, Kelly spent 5 years as a Probation Officer for Cass County, MN. Her experience with community organizing and working within different systems has allowed for her to understand how to influence community partners and systems to work together, making communities safer and healthier places for youth.
Utilizing Search Institute’s Frameworks and Research, Kelly has the ability to combine this with prevention best practice and help community members understand their role in reducing risky behavior while promoting protective factors.
When Kelly is not working she spends time with her husband John and their two children Logan and Everly in North Central, Minnesota. They enjoy playing games, boating, camping and spending time outside
Carrie Foster has been an educator for 20 years and brings her passion for positive youth development, resilience, and mindfulness to everything she does.
Prior to joining Search Institute, Carrie was a classroom teacher, instructional coach, curriculum designer, trainer, and district coordinator for Minnetonka Public Schools. She currently works as an Instructional Specialist for Minneapolis Public Schools. In addition, she is a University Supervisor for both The University of MInnesota and Saint Mary’s University. Carrie is also a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer at The Firm Minneapolis and has her own coaching and consulting business, Foster Wellbeing, that helps adolescents reach their full potential.
Carrie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education from the University of Wisconsin, Superior, a Master of Arts in Education from Saint Mary’s University and an Education Specialist Degree in Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology from the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Libby has over 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, including program management and evaluation, board stewardship, and fund development. Uncovering missed connections between nonprofit organizations, donors, and the community has led her to the use of the design thinking process to create new philanthropic and community engagement experiences. Libby currently works at Youthprise as the Chief Innovation Officer. She is responsible for building a statewide infrastructure to authentically engage young people in philanthropy and integrate youth voice throughout all aspects of the organization. She leads the staff and board in processes that instill the value and best practices for fostering innovation and collaborative thinking. In addition she provides consultation, training and ongoing technical assistance to various partner organizations.
Libby is a community faculty member at the University of Minnesota. She most recently taught a course on community building and youth civic engagement in the School of Social Work, Youth Studies Department.
She received Executive Education training in Design Thinking from the Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, holds a Master’s Degree in Philanthropic Studies from the Lily Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and a Bachelor’s Degree in Leadership Communication from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa.
Karen Lee Woodward, Ed.M.
Karen is a Search Institute trainer with a passion for improving outcomes for young people. Karen brings over 25 years of experience leading community-based initiatives, developing curriculum, assessing program quality, creating partnerships, and classroom teaching. She is known for her work to align school-day learning and out-of-school-time programming. Her background includes working in diverse community settings as a trainer and facilitator for teachers, youth workers, program leaders, and parents. Karen earned her Master of Education degree from the College of St. Scholastica, a teaching license from Macalester College, a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin and has attained professional certifications from the University of St. Thomas and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.