Aspen Institute and NewSchools Venture Fund Name First Class of Fellows in Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Program

May 24, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — May 24, 2007—The Aspen Institute and NewSchools Venture Fund today launched the Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellowship Program with the announcement of its inaugural class of Fellows from across the country. The program is designed to recognize and support a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders prepared to address the crucial challenge of transforming public education.

“Education is a cornerstone of our democracy in America,” said Kim Smith, senior advisor of NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit venture philanthropy firm she founded in 1998 to support education entrepreneurs. “In the 21st century, we are asking our public schools to shift from a model focused on processes and inputs to one that measures outcomes and creates constant learning cycles – for both students and adults in the system – to ensure that all of our children have the skills they need to participate in our democracy and in the knowledge economy.”

“The scale and complexity of this challenge is enormous,” added Smith. “There is simply no way to achieve this kind of systems transformation without the passion, tenacity, and out-of-the-box thinking of strong entrepreneurial leaders who will draw together the best thinking from across the public, private and nonprofit sectors.”

The Program

Building on the model of its well-regarded Henry Crown Fellowship Program, the Aspen Institute has partnered with NewSchools to launch this groundbreaking Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education program. As entrepreneurial change agents, these leaders bring a crucial sense of urgency, an action orientation, a dogged optimism that we can achieve these ambitious goals, and a tenacious dedication to the work of transforming public education so that it serves all students well. As a group they represent impressive and diverse experience from across the public, private and non profit sectors.

The Fellowship will provide these accomplished leaders the unusual opportunity to step back from their demanding daily work, to reflect with a group of extraordinary peers on their collective and individual work as leaders and change agents. Together, the group will challenge each other, reflect on their work in the context of values-based leadership, and develop new insights for effective, enlightened leadership in education across the public, nonprofit and private sectors.

“The Aspen Institute has developed a network of programs to recognize and cultivate accomplished, community-minded, and entrepreneurial leaders around the world through our Global Leadership Network,” said Peter Reiling, Executive Vice President for Leadership and Policy Programs at the Aspen Institute. “With the support of E*TRADE Financial, we are pleased to partner with NewSchools Venture Fund to recognize and support these important leaders and change agents within the field of U.S. public education.”

The Fellows

Each year, the Aspen Institute-NewSchools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education program will select approximately 20 exceptional leaders from across the country. These Fellows will bring a diverse set of backgrounds and skills to the program, having exhibited leadership in the nonprofit, foundation, charter school, and traditional school district sectors, and will hail from a variety of urban and rural communities. The Fellowship will give these extraordinary leaders the opportunity to work together to further develop their own leadership capacity, and to think across traditional silos and sector boundaries in order to push their collective impact to even greater heights.

The 2007 inaugural Fellows for the Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Program are:

  • Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, US Department of Education
  • Chris Barbic, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, YES Prep Public Schools
  • Richard Barth, Chief Executive Officer, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP)
  • Senator Michael Bennet, Colorado
  • Larry Berger, Chief Executive Officer, Wireless Generation
  • Phoebe Boyer, Executive Director, Tiger Foundation
  • Susan Colby, Partner & Head of San Francisco Office, The Bridgespan Group
  • Gretchen Crosby-Sims, Education Program Manager, Joyce Foundation
  • John Deasy, Deputy Director of the United States Education Division, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Lauren Dutton, Independent Consultant
  • James Forman, Jr., Associate Professor of Law, Georgetown University; Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, Maya Angelou Public Charter School
  • David Harris, President & Chief Executive Officer, The Mind Trust
  • Kaya Henderson, Deputy Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools
  • Hosanna Mahaley Johnson, President, Atlanta Local Education Fund
  • Kristen Kane, National Purposes Director, Federal Communications Commission
  • Dan Katzir, Managing Director, The Broad Foundation
  • Jeremy Nowak, President, The Reinvestment Fund
  • Tony Recasner, President, FirstLine Schools
  • Ref Rodriguez, Chief Executive Officer & President, Partners for Developing Futures
  • Jon Schnur, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, New Leaders for New Schools
  • Jim Shelton, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Innovation and Improvement, US Department of Education
  • Elisa Villaneuva Beard, Chief Operations Officer, Teach For America
  • Joanne Weiss, Senior Advisor to the Secretary and Director, Race to the Top Fund, US Department of Education

Click here to download a PDF containing photos and bios of the 2007 Fellows

Funding for this inaugural class of Fellows has been provided by E*TRADE Financial.

About the Aspen Institute

The mission of the Aspen Institute is to foster enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Through seminars, policy programs, conferences and leadership development initiatives, the Institute and its international partners seek to promote nonpartisan inquiry and an appreciation for timeless values. For more information, visit

About NewSchools Venture Fund

NewSchools Venture Fund is a national nonprofit venture philanthropy firm founded in 1998 to transform public education for underserved children by supporting education entrepreneurs and connecting their work to systems change. Through its first two funds, NewSchools invested more than $70 million in 25 for-profit and nonprofit entrepreneurial organizations that have made a measurable difference in the lives of millions of students across the country. Its third fund is focusing on fueling the growth and quality of the charter school movement and on supporting the people, tools and practices needed for public school systems to become performance-driven organizations. For more information, visit