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Introducing & Welcoming Our New Colleague

Monday, June 19, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Minda Brooks
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Along with the Board of Advisors and Minda, Michelle and I are thrilled to welcome and introduce the newest addition to our Wildacres Leadership Initiative family. Sayra Pinto, PhD, MFA joins us as the Director of Leadership Education, responsible for the Friday Fellowship program as well as all other trainings and learning opportunities offered by WLI.


Sayra brings the academic credentials and personal values, compassion, and experience needed to continue and build on the tradition of excellence established by our past staff and faculty. The contextual and contemporary innovations she will introduce align well with our commitment to more explicitly focus on results and impact.  Sayra has been an organizational development consultant concentrating on collaboration development and systems thinking with Third Sector New England’s Inclusion Initiative, the Harvard University Civil Rights Project, the Wampanoag Nation of Gayhead at Aquinnah and John Snow International, Inc., a national and international public health consulting firm.  Sayra is a Program Affiliate at the University of Vermont’s Master’s of Science in Leadership for Sustainability Program of the Rubinstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.  She is currently a Whisenton Public Scholars Fellow at the Kettering Foundation.  Sayra earned her PhD in Interdisciplinary Research at the Union Institute & University with concentrations in Ethical and Creative Leadership and the Humanities, a Master’s in Fine Arts from Goddard College, and a Bachelor’s Degree from Middlebury College.


Sayra was born in Honduras and learned about American culture and how to speak English in New Orleans.  Her immediate family moved to Boston in the late 80s and largely resides there.  However, most other members of her family that immigrated to the U.S. reside largely in Louisiana, Texas, Florida,  Georgia and North Carolina. From the beginning, Sayra’s integrity and passion for this work has shone brightly. Her story, relationships, and understanding are sure to enrich the WLI family and all that we do. We hope you will join us in extending a warm welcome to her. You can reach her directly at


Bringing Sayra onboard is another step in implementing the board’s decision to invest in WLI’s capacity to expand and deepen the Fellowship’s impact across the state. As in the past, the processes resulting in these last two hires have been extremely intentional in terms of securing the expertise, skills, and character we need to move forward and have included the participation of staff, faculty, board, and Fellows. We want to take this moment to acknowledge all of them by name and extend our gratitude for their service: Amy Hertel, Noel McLaughlin, Gita Gulati-Partee, Rebekah Hughey, Jennifer Nixon, Michelle Pearson, Boo Tyson, Sarah Verbiest, Greg Walker Wilson, and Minda Brooks.


There is much that is new and exciting about the changes at hand, AND our core mission of building authentic, civil relationships across lines of difference and collaborating to find equitable and just solutions to our most vexing issues remains the same. We are grateful for the skilled leadership of our previous faculty in pursuing that mission through the Friday Fellowship program. The Fellowship experience is a unique, transformative experience for many Fellows in large part due to the faculty and staff who have led the Fellowship in the past. Going forward, our commitment is to maintain the quality of this experience and have a broader, deeper impact beyond the current cohort of 20 Fellows every 2 to 3 years. We have already been hard at work developing the ideas and plans to move forward in a bold, impactful way.


We look forward to sharing the most immediate changes and plans with you in a separate communication following this one. We have had a remarkable 23 years. We have trained leaders across the state who lead differently, who demonstrate their commitment to improving human relations in their spheres of influence every day. We celebrate the past and everyone who has played a part in it, AND we are incredibly excited about what the next 20 years will bring. We believe in our mission, our team, and in you.


In Fellowship,


Abdul Sm Rasheed, Executive Director
Michelle Pearson, ‘06, Board Chair

Minda Brooks, Director of Engagement & Impact
WLI Board of Advisors

Wildacres Leadership Initiative is connected with Wildacres Retreat, Little Switzerland, NC.