Global Education Design Committee
Nicholas Dirks, Ph.D.
Nicholas Dirks is a professor of history and of anthropology at the, University of California, Berkeley, where he served as the 10th chancellor until mid-2017. An internationally renowned historian and anthropologist, he is a leader in higher education and well-known for his commitment to and advocacy for accessible, high-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, to the globalization of the university, and to innovation across the disciplines as well as in applied and basic fields.
Before coming to Berkeley, Dirks was the executive vice president for the arts and sciences and dean of the faculty at Columbia University, where, in addition to his work on behalf of undergraduate programs, he improved and diversified the faculty, putting special emphasis on interdisciplinary and international initiatives. The Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and History, Dirks joined Columbia in 1997 as chair of the anthropology department. Prior to his appointment at Columbia, he was a professor of history and anthropology at the University of Michigan for 10 years, before which he taught Asian history and civilization at the California Institute of Technology.
Head of School, D.C. Campus
For the past 30 years, Dennis has worked at top U.S. schools, most recently as head of school at Kingswood Oxford. Dennis served on the board of the National Association of Independent Schools and previously held positions at Bryn Mawr College, Shady Hill School, Collegiate, and Vejlefjord Højere Skole. Born in Germany, Dennis has also lived, studied, and worked in Denmark and Canada. He holds a candidatus magisterii degree from Odense University and a master’s degree from Columbia University. He speaks English, Danish, and German, and has studied French and Latin.
Education Design Team, N.Y.C. HQ
Greg Carlson has led the design and implementation of transformative learning experiences for students in K–12 schools in China and the U.S. At Fudan International School in Shanghai, Greg served as deputy director and taught history. Greg subsequently headed innovative American charter schools as assistant principal at Manara Academy and director of instruction at Codman Academy. Greg earned a B.A. in history from Yale University and his Ed.M. in school leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Jules L. Coleman, Ph.D.
Senior academic adviser and director of research, N.Y.C. HQ
A Brooklyn native, Jules Coleman earned a B.A., magna cum laude, at Brooklyn College of CUNY, a Ph.D. from the Rockefeller University, and a graduate degree in law from the Yale Law School. The author of a dozen books and more than 100 articles and peer-reviewed essays, Jules spent nearly 30 years as the Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld Professor of Jurisprudence and Professor of Philosophy at Yale University, and nearly 15 years as senior adviser to the president and provost at New York University, including five years as senior vice provost for academic planning at N.Y.U. Jules helped develop N.Y.U.’s global network of campuses and joined Whittle School & Studios to extend that idea to a system of PreK-12 schools.
Global Head of School Heads & Vice Chancellor
Prior to taking on this role, Jim Hawkins was Head Master of Harrow School in London, one of the world’s great learning institutions and boarding schools, with over four hundred years of history. Before beginning his teaching career, Jim read Mathematics at Brasenose College, Oxford University, where he also completed his teaching qualification. He then taught at Radley College before being appointed Head of Mathematics at Forest School and subsequently Deputy Head of Chigwell School. He became Head Master of Norwich School in 2002 and started as Head Master of Harrow in 2011. Jim has held several state and independent school governorships and was Vice-President (Europe) of the International Boys’ Schools Coalition. His sporting interests include rowing, rugby, soccer and basketball, all of which he has coached. His wife, Zoe, is an artist, and they have a teenage daughter.
Global Education Design Committee
Manuel J. Rivera, Ph.D.
Global Head of Faculty Recruitment, N.Y.C. HQ
Manny earned both his doctorate in education and his master’s degree in education from Harvard University. He also holds a B.A. in urban studies from Brandeis University. Manny’s 40-year career in education as a teacher, principal, school superintendent, chief executive officer, and senior policy adviser to two New York State governors has been recognized nationally in the field of education. He was named the New York State Superintendent of the Year in 2005, and a year later, he was named the National Superintendent of the Year.
Global Head of Enrollment, Marketing, and Communications, Beijing & N.Y.C. HQ
Li Jing has extensive senior leadership experience in education, helping connect schools in China and to those in the rest of the world. Prior to joining Whittle, she was secretary-general at YK Pao School, China’s top independent school, where she headed external affairs, enrollment, and strategic development; before that, she served as assistant principal at RDFZ, a top Chinese school, overseeing international programs and curriculum. In New York, she worked in the president’s office at Teachers College of Columbia University, focusing on international advancement, and also conducted research on accountability at Columbia Law School. She earned a master of public administration in international finance and economics from Columbia University, as well as an M.A. and B.A. at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
Peter Merrill, Ph.D.
Co-Chair of the Education Design Team, N.Y.C. HQ
After attending Phillips Exeter Academy, Peter earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in Russian at the University of Pennsylvania, and then an M.A. in linguistics and a Ph.D. in Slavic languages, both at U.C.L.A. He spent nearly 30 years teaching Russian and German at Phillips Academy, Andover, where he led the division of world languages and spearheaded new initiatives in global programming in China, Brazil, India, and South Africa. He also served two terms as president of the American Council of Teachers of Russian.
Co-Chair of the Education Design Team, N.Y.C. HQ
Andy Meyers is the proud son of two prominent psychoanalysts, the father of two amazing women, and a native of the Bronx. He received his A.B. in architecture from Princeton University, his M.A. in architectural and planning history from Yale University, and his M.Phil. in American urban history from Columbia University. He has taught at Connecticut College, Yale University, Empire State College, and Columbia University. At the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, he taught history for 23 years and held the roles of history-department chair, college counselor, director of interdisciplinary studies and experiential education, and founding director of the City Semester Program. He joined Whittle because he wants to create truly meaningful learning experiences for students with brilliant and caring colleagues.
Associate Director of Product Development, N.Y.C. HQ
Born in Dallas, Lindsey spent most of her childhood in the South before moving to Manhattan to attend New York University, receiving her B.A. with honors in architecture and urban design and environmental science. Following three years in the publishing industry, she attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she obtained her M.L.A. Lindsey was drawn to Whittle by the holistic approach to education design, where everything a student experiences has an impact on learning.
Education Design Team, Hangzhou, China
Richard hails from Huddersfield, England. He studied as an undergraduate at the University of Oxford and has master’s degrees from University College, London, and the Open University of the U.K., as well as teaching qualifications from the University of Huddersfield and the University of Melbourne. His teaching career includes stints at universities in China and independent schools in the U.K., including 15 years at Eton College, before taking the position of founding director of the Hangzhou campus of the Chinese International School of Hong Kong. He speaks and reads Chinese.
Global Education Design Committee
Deputy Head, Centers of Excellence, N.Y.C. HQ
Born in India and raised in New York, Vriti earned her B.A. from Macaulay Honors College and went on to serve as a Teach for America corps member in Brownsville, Brooklyn, at Ascend Public Charter Schools. At Ascend, Vriti was a founding teacher and dean of instruction while also earning her M.A. in early-childhood education and teaching as an adjunct professor at Relay Graduate School. Most recently, she served as network director of talent development at Ascend, where she created a professional learning infrastructure for 600 educators across its 10 schools, and coached deans on leadership and facilitation of adult learning. Vriti also worked in the higher-education sector at Pearson Education as a product manager. She is fluent in Hindi.
Elizabeth (Betsey) Hun Schmidt, Ph.D.
Global Head, Centers of Excellence, and Vice President, Studios, N.Y.C. HQ
Born in Washington, D.C., Betsey has lived in New York for most of her life and has taught at every grade level from elementary school through graduate school. She earned her B.A. from Wesleyan University, where she now serves as a trustee, and her Ph.D. in American literature from New York University. Most recently, Betsey worked for seven years for Ascend Public Charter Schools in Brooklyn, which serves some of the lowest-income neighborhoods in New York. As chief curriculum and innovation officer at Ascend, she helped the network scale from 3 schools to 10—educating over 4,000 students—and led the development of an inquiry-based, liberal arts K-12 curriculum that helped Ascend close the racial achievement gap in New York State. Betsey speaks French and reads Italian, and at Whittle she leads the Global Centers of Excellence initiative and works on both the Educational Design and the Studios teams.
Executive Chairman, Shenzhen Campus
As the former vice principal of RDFZ, founding principal of RDFZ Chaoyang Campus, Xianzhang Shen is a distinguished educator in China. He has more than four decades of experience as a teacher, administrator, and principal. He formerly served as an expert lecturer at the National Training Institute for Chinese Teachers at the Ministry of Education, as a member at China Entrance Examination Evaluation Committee, research advisor at both Beijing Normal University and Peking University Research Institute on Assessment. Currently, he chairs the lead and master teacher review committee at the Beijing Municipal Education Commission.
Chief Product Development Officer, N.Y.C. HQ
As chief product development officer at Whittle School & Studios, Morgan is responsible for developing an innovative and holistic experience for the students, teachers, and stakeholders of our network. His career spans innovation and technology, global branding, and product development. He was previously the U.S. director of innovation at Omnicom Media, where he worked closely with G.E., Pepsi, Cigna, and other Fortune 100 companies on global innovation. After graduating with honors from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a degree in complex systems, Morgan worked with Stephen Wolfram’s mathematics think tank in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was a founding member and managing director of the creative agency Doubleday & Cartwright, and led a founding product team at the Los Angeles start-up Scopely. He is an active member of the World Economic Forum Global Shaper Community, which is tasked with infusing the organization with a younger perspective.
Executive Chairwoman & Vice Chancellor, D.C. Campus
Born in Washington, D.C., Rebecca Upham comes to Whittle School & Studios after leading Buckingham Browne and Nichols School for 17 years. She has also held senior leadership posts at the Ellis School and the Harvard-Westlake School. In addition to earning a B.A. from Middlebury College and an M.A. from Columbia University, Rebecca has a background in molecular biology, which led to a research stint at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She currently holds leadership positions in various professional organizations, including the Cum Laude Society, Country Day School Heads Association, and Headmasters Association. She has also traveled the world as a mountaineer and was a member on international expeditions to Greenland and to Himanchal Pradesh, India.
Yin (Lily) Li
Li Yin was the founding headmistress of Wuhan Experimental Foreign Languages school and also worked as a consultant at Stoke College in the U.K. Previously, she served for a decade as a representative of China’s National People’s Congress and was named a National Woman Leader. During her 10 years as an N.P.C. representative, she played a role in the revision of China’s Compulsory Education Law. Li Yin is experienced in school management, having led the implementation of the international curriculum at Wuhan Experimental Foreign Languages School, one of Wuhan’s most distinguished educational institutions. She is also an avid runner and has participated in the Wuhan Marathon.
Global Education Design Committee
Head of School, Shenzhen Campus
Rhiannon Wilkinson is currently Headmistress of Wycombe Abbey School in Buckinghamshire, England, one of the world’s leading girls’ boarding schools. She will take up her position in Shenzhen in April 2019. She read History at St Hugh’s College, Oxford University, and completed her teaching qualification, with distinction, at the University of Bath. She also gained an M.Ed. degree in Leadership and Management at the University of Manchester. She has wide experience in state, independent and international education. She held senior positions at schools in Hong Kong, Brunei and England before being appointed Principal of Harrogate Ladies’ College, in North Yorkshire, England, in 2009. She took up her post at Wycombe Abbey in 2013. Rhiannon holds governorships at state and independent schools and is involved in several national committees in British independent schools’ organizations.
Education Design Team, N.Y.C. HQ
Laura Coleman grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, where she studied dance and cultivated a passion for the performing arts. She moved to New York City to dance professionally and study at N.Y.U.’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she designed an interdisciplinary curriculum in psychology and the arts. After graduating, she toured the country, playing drums in a band and dancing with the Peggy Spina Dance Company before returning to N.Y.U.’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, receiving an M.A. in human development and social intervention. While there, she worked at the Mindful Education Lab at the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, researching psychological and neurological effects of mindfulness on student learning, teacher effectiveness, and school climate. She has also worked at the Center for Arts Education in research and advocacy and at the New-York Historical Society in the education department.
Chen (Brian) Yang, Ph.D.
Director of Center of Excellence, Shenzhen Campus
A native of Hunan, China, Brian Yang received his bachelor’s degree from Peking University and a Ph.D. from Yale University. Brian then went on to work for McKinsey & Co., first in Chicago and later as the founding member of McKinsey’s office in Shenzhen. Having experienced the best of what both China and the U.S. have to offer in education, Brian is attracted to Whittle by the vision of a global school that leverages the best resources, talents, and capabilities from around the world.
Washington, D.C. Division Heads
Head of Early Learning Center, D.C. Campus
Stephanie Clark Fitzgerald brings over 25 years of experience in PreK-12 education leadership to this role. Beginning as a teacher in Chicago, she founded and led three schools, including two early childhood programs. Most recently, she served as director of a nationally recognized project-based early childhood program in New Jersey. Previously, she prepared principals through New Leaders and was the founding President and CEO of Rodel Foundation Delaware. She holds a B.A. from Harvard University and M.A.’s from University of Illinois and the University of Delaware. She and her husband have four children who are excited to be among Whittle’s first students.
Head of Lower School, D.C. Campus
Susanna joins Whittle School & Studios from Beauvoir, the National Cathedral Elementary School in Washington, D.C., where she taught both math and science before taking on her most recent role as Director of Early Childhood Teaching and Learning. She received both her B.A. in Child Study and M.A. in teaching from Tufts University. Prior to joining Beauvoir, Susanna taught at Belmont Day School and Arthur D. Healy School in Massachusetts and has led professional development for educators in math curriculum and pedagogy. She also co-wrote Baby’s Wild Adventure, a math unit guide and accompanying picture book for kindergarten geometry that was published in 2015.
Marek Beck, Ph.D.
Head of Middle School, D.C. Campus
Marek brings almost 25 years of experience in education working at some of the nation’s finest schools including the Greenwich Country Day School and Harvard University. He has taught students at the elementary, middle school, high school, and college levels. Marek holds five degrees, including a Ph.D. from Fordham University and an M.S. from Columbia University. With over a dozen certifications, he is among the few educators worldwide to be recognized as an Apple Distinguished Educator, Google Certified Innovator, and Microsoft Certified Innovator. Marek has trained thousands of educators around the globe through local and international departments of education, national and international conferences, and PreK-12 schools and universities.
Ara Brown, Ed.D.
Head of Upper School, D.C. Campus
Over the past two decades, Ara has held numerous leadership and teaching positions within K-12 and higher education, including his most recent role as Upper School Dean of Boys at Cranbrook Kingswood School, which he has held since 2010. Before joining Cranbrook Kingswood, Ara co-founded and developed the curriculum for a summer Chinese language program for children ages 5-12. He received his B.S. in Psychology and Sociology from Ursinus College, and an M.A. in Organizational Psychology and M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. Additionally, he earned an Ed.D. in Education Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.