Bring a Search Institute speaker to your next keynote or event.

Bring a Message of Positive Youth Development


Search Institute leaders speak nationally and internationally at varied events, including conference keynotes, breakout sessions, and workshops. Our dynamic speakers bring research to life for your audience through content-rich, engaging presentations, on a range of topics, customized to fit your event.

Once you have selected your speaker, we handle the logistics of getting the speaker to your event, prepping the speaker for your unique event, 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.


James Conway

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.


Kelly Felton

Kelly Felton is a speaker and trainer, and provides technical assistance for community leaders, organizations and communities interested in positive youth development. Through a wide variety of experiences, she has committed her career to helping young people make safe and healthy choices.Her experience working within systems and making community connections allows her to influence community partners and systems to work together, making communities safer and healthier places for youth.  She helps community members understand their role in reducing risky behavior while promoting protective factors.


Eric Kalenze

Eric Kalenze’s 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’.

He holds a B.A. in English from Carleton College and a Masters in Education from the University of Minnesota, and he lives in Minnesota’s Twin Cities metro area with his wife, two daughters and one Puggle.

Speaking Topics: Education research, practice, and reform.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.