Julie Sweitzer is Executive Director for the College Readiness Consortium. Her focus is on policy and collaborative projects, and helped guide working groups exploring the Strive collective impact model for the Twin Cities. She helped create K12@U, a website that makes it easy to find the U of M’s programs and activities that serve K12 students, families and educators. Julie is an elected member of the St. Louis Park school board, and represents St. Louis Park on the West Metro Education Programs (WMEP) school board. Previously Julie served as Director of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action for the University, and as an Associate General Counsel. She holds a Masters of Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute, and a J.D. from the University of Minnesota’s Law School. Julie’s community involvement includes serving on the boards of the University YMCA, St. Louis Park Public Schools Foundation, and Community Involvement Programs, as well as Bookmark-in-the-Park, a community reading project.

Jennifer Kunze is the Ramp-Up to Readiness Coordinator for the College Readiness Consortium. She attended St. Olaf College and received B.A. degrees in History and Social Studies Education. She thoroughly enjoyed teaching high school social studies for several years before taking a sabbatical to study curriculum and instruction at the University of Minnesota. At the University she earned an M.A. degree in Social Studies Education that focused on Authentic Pedagogy as defined by Fred Newmann and his associates at the University of Wisconsin. Jennifer then worked as a district secondary instructional mentor, supporting teachers in all subject areas at five different schools. During this tenure she observed and provided feedback for over 500 teachers. Feeling the urge to learn and grow she then returned to the University of Minnesota to marry her two research interests: effective pedagogy and high quality professional development. She earned a Ph.D. in (what was then) EdPA but spent a great amount of time in CI as well. Upon graduation Jennifer worked as a district learning and teaching coordinator, where she collaborated with teachers to develop and implement curriculum, led an instructional coaching team that provided job-embedded professional development for early education, as well as elementary, middle and high school sites, facilitated teacher leaders in their learning and leadership, teamed with other district leaders to create a teacher evaluation system, and oversaw Q Comp, an alternative compensation program. Jennifer, in addition, was part of a lead team that studied, created and implemented a system-wide college readiness plan that included the Ramp-Up to Readiness program.

Katie Pekel is the Principal in Residence in the College Readiness Consortium working directly with the administrators, leadership teams, counselors and teachers in the 40+ schools implementing Ramp-Up to Readiness™.  In addition she leads the Minnesota Principals Academy for the department of Organizational Leadership and Policy Development in its new executive leadership program for school principals. Katie has served at all levels of K-12 education first as a high school English Teacher, an elementary principal and most recently as a middle school principal for the past six years at Ellis Middle School in Austin, MN, a Ramp-Up to Readiness™ pilot school. As a building principal, Katie’s areas of focus were secondary literacy instruction, college readiness and grading and reporting.  Katie holds a BA in English Education; a Master's in Educational Leadership, has completed her principal licensure coursework at the University of Minnesota, and has completed her doctorate in education at the University of Minnesota.

Char GreenwaldChar Greenwald provides administrative assistance to the Consortium by managing schedules, coordinating meetings and conferences and updating web site content.  She is also responsible for coordinating administrative processes and procedures for the Consortium.  Char brings to the College Readiness Consortium a wide range of administrative and organizational management experience.  She has worked with a number of local policy, non-profit and advocacy groups, including Education Minnesota, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and the Minnesota Council on Foundations. Char earned a B.S. in Community Relations from Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Kent PekelKent Pekel was founding executive director of the Consortium, and currently is Chief Executive Officer at Search Institute.  He is an educator who has worked at the school, district, state, federal and university levels. From 2000-2005, Pekel was Chief-of-Staff to Superintendent Patricia Harvey and, later, Executive Director of Research and Development in the Saint Paul Public Schools.  From 1995-2000, Pekel 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.  Prior to his time in Washington, Pekel 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 at the University of Minnesota.  Kent led the development of Ramp-Up to Readiness™ and other Consortium programs. 



“Focusing on college readiness is a practical way for Minnesota to graduate world-class students. Many countries that outperform the U.S. in elementary and secondary education still send their best graduates to college here--so if we graduate students who are truly ready for college in the U.S., they will be ‘globally competitive’.”

President Robert Bruininks
State of the University Address
March 5, 2009