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.

Jim Bierma is the Project Director for the University of Minnesota’s Ramp-Up to Readiness™ Program, a part-time professor, and a counselor/tutor at homeless shelters. He has been an elementary, junior high, and high school counselor. Jim has written 80 articles and 310 school counseling lessons. He was the 2008/09 American School Counselor Association (ASCA) President, is on the National College Board Advisory Council, was a co-writer for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) School Counselor Standards, and was a member of three school counseling teams that implemented the ASCA National Model and produced positive systemic change. Mr. Bierma holds a B.S. in Education and Computer Science and a Master’s of Science in Counseling from Drake University.  Currently, he is completing his doctorate in education at the University of Minnesota. Jim played a key role in the development of Ramp-Up to Readiness™, including writing lessons.

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