A little about my first forty years on the planet.
The Short Story
I've changed a lot in my lifetime. I'm grateful for the learning, challenge, skill-building, and deepening that has come from the people, communities, and organizations I’ve been a part of and those I've led.
I now think of myself as hybrid between a charismatic and collaborative leader, social entrepreneur, savvy politician, community organizer, a policy wonk, middle school teacher, and a detail-oriented campaign manager.
Here’s a few links to media, talks, and projects I’ve contributed to that reflect who I am and what I care about:
- Collaborating in framing of YES! Magazine issue #69 “Education Uprising!”
- A Year at Mission Hill
- Spirit in Action’s Education Justice Listening Project and Summit
- TEDx: “Education’s New Era”, TEDx, Brooklyn, NYC (2012)
- Keynote: “Mapping towards strategic action”, North Dakota Study Group (2012)
- Featured in the American Educational Research Association’s “Lead the Change Series”
- Planning committee member of NDSG 2013 and 2014 in Detroit
- Cited in Parker Palmer’s book “Healing the Broken Heart of Democracy” (2011)
- Interview with Steve Hargadon on The Future of Education
The Long Story
My childhood was spent growing up at the bottom of the Superstition Mountains in Apache Junction, AZ. My parents were both public school teachers, with my father later becoming a principal and superintendent. I like to say that I was raised with “unconditional love in a box.”
My parents were conservative Christians who loved me, spanked me, and nurtured in me a sense of being special in God’s eyes. I had little difficulty growing up. I was a good student, a good athlete, and had friends and family that cared about me. I was captain of the football team, student body president, valedictorian, and gave my first sermon to 200 people when I was 13 years old.
I fell in love with someone very different from me - politically liberal, catholic, vegetarian, and homeschooled. I’ll never forget her saying to me on an early date, “for such a smart guy, you sure don’t think for yourself very much.” And between that partner, a favorite Aunt who sent me books like Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, and a professor my first year of college at Northern Arizona University, I began to confront my own homophobia, racism, and specialness while unwinding and seeking to make sense of a big world I seemed to know little about.
My personal and professional growth was also spurred on from experiences I had working as a first responder to crisis incidents at NAU including student suicide, sexual assault, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse. A raw leader with natural talents who’d somehow become responsible for 800 first-year college students at the age of 22, I found myself becoming numb on the inside while trying to make sense of my own capacities, limits, and definitions of health and success.
I found a next set of useful tools, models, skills, and inspiration at the Arizona State University School of Social Work where I learned about macro-level social policy from internationally decorated faculty and also about wisdom, collaboration, and humility from a cohort of classmates like Annie Taeya - a 70 year-old Hopi elder. I pushed myself to understand the world from different perspectives and histories while seeking visions, strategies, and approaches to effective and transformative social change.
In 2003, I moved to Portland, Oregon as part of a team hired to design the Portland State University housing program from scratch. This was a time of robust professional learning as I spent my days creating and managing budgets, hr processes, contract and conduct systems while building a healthy organizational culture for 130 employees across four distinct teams.
My day-to-day role changed in 2006 when I joined the faculty of the PSU School of Social Work in a role that lays the foundation for my understanding of the Oregon social sector. As the Assistant Director of Field Education, I traveled statewide supporting and developing MSW internships in schools, corrections, medical, community, and mental health settings.
Running parallel to my work at PSU, I was an active leader and volunteer in an effort to create an unconventional school for young people ages 5 to 18. In 2007, I took a career risk and left PSU to serve as the school’s first Executive Director. The project and the community that surrounded it offered powerful learning grounds and, overtime, also brought me clarity about what I’m best at, most passionate about, and where I wanted to focus my changemaking energy.
In providing leadership for IDEA over the last five years, I lived out a job description that has significant overlap with the skills and habits MMT has identified, including providing innovative organizational leadership, strategic planning, and capacity development. I have advised philanthropic and community leaders, school superintendents, board members, and elected officials at all levels of government in both rural and urban environments. My experience making critical connections across the U.S. to tell a bigger and better story about the future of learning and the need for social renewal, reinvention, and reinvestment in public education has, I think, broad application.
The next legs of my journey are to seek creative and pragmatic ways to nurture institutions, communities, and people that are in the business of dignity, sovereignty, relationship, justice, sustainability, technical excellence, and joy. Whether schools, churches, institutions of higher education, non-profits, community organizing efforts, neighborhood associations, cities, elected officials, rural leaders, philanthropy, or state government systems, I’m excited to find ways to make a meaningful contribution.