Celebrating 50 Years of Achieving Human Gain Through Individuals & Innovation.
Who We Are
|Gillian Williams, President
Gillian Williams assumed the Presidency of The Rensselaerville Institute in the spring of 2010. The Rensselaerville Institute (TRI) achieves clear and quantifiable outcomes for human gain by convening, training, and supporting innovators and entrepreneurs. TRI’s work across many sectors builds on “sparkplug” leadership and outcome frameworks that help these leaders achieve results. Gillian focuses TRI’s program offerings and high level, consulting as she leads the entire organization to higher levels of impact.
Her appointment by the Board of Trustees was grounded in the success of School Turnaround which she founded and developed at The Rensselaerville Institute. As the Chief Academic Officer of School Turnaround, Gillian grew the organization from a summer conference in 2000 into a multi-faceted, nationally established initiative. She works with principals, superintendents, university leaders and state education department leaders across the country to drive change by example using leadership characteristics and strategies that are proven effective in turning around low-performing schools and districts. The research and thinking for the current turnaround movement is grounded in the work that Gillian initiated.
Under her leadership, School Turnaround has demonstrated consistently high gains for student achievement. As TRI’s signature initiative, it is designed specifically for schools and districts where someone in power perceives a current failure that requires urgent intervention. While most educational initiatives geared toward demonstrating student achievement take place over a long time period, School Turnaround incites urgency and time-compressed change. It stands apart from others in the field by offering a money-back warranty that guarantees achievement will increase in one year’s time.
Gillian became an educator as a member of the Teach For America Charter Corps in 1990. She began her teaching career as a bilingual teacher at Public School 98 in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. In 1997, Gillian became the youngest elementary school principal in New York City at Public School 63 in the South Bronx. In her first year at Public School 63, Gillian led a turnaround that lifted the school from its persistently dismal standing on the state’s list of persistently failing schools.
Gillian is a national leader in education and was featured twice on the CBS Television program Sunday Morning as well as NPR radio segments. She has appeared in numerous publications, including, The New Yorker, The New York Times, US News and World Report and Education Week.
School Turnaround at The Rensselaerville Institute
Margarita Garcia assumed the role of Chief Academic Officer in 2012 after having been a successful Turnaround Specialist with School Turnaround since 2006. She brings to this role the knowledge of being an exemplary turnaround principal, the structure and functions of district offices and the expertise and credibility to develop new programs. Her determination for success and high standards of professionalism are the leadership skills upon which School Turnaround was founded.
Debra B. Natenshon
The Center for What Works at The Rensselaerville Institute
Debra Natenshon is an influential leader in the field of outcome-based thinking and practical management. Together with the Urban Institute, she completed ground-breaking research to develop outcome frameworks that are currently used by a wide spectrum of foundations and nonprofit organizations. She bridges research with practice in highly effective engagements across the social sector.
In 2004, Debra successfully re-launched The Center for What Works’ strategy and infrastructure and led all efforts until March 2011, when she and WhatWorks joined forces with the outcome practice of The Rensselaerville Institute.
Debra’s expertise in assisting social sector organizations to improve their results makes her a highly sought after advisor and speaker. She makes essential connections between strategy and actionable outcomes leading to improved internal management, increased external funding, and continuous improvement. She presents highly regarded key notes and workshops at state association conferences for nonprofits and funders as well as other conferences including: the Grant Manager's Network, Net Impact, NYU’s Social Entrepreneur Conference, Social Solutions, the League of American Orchestras, and the Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference. She has presented outcomes to international audiences as well and Debra frequently presents web-based seminars and training programs.
She is a member of the Alliance for Effective Social Investing and has advised many leading organizations including: GuideStar, FSG Social Impact Advisors, and McKinsey and Co.
In 2004, Debra also founded the Chicago professional chapter of Net Impact, a global network of leaders changing the world through business. She continues to chair the chapter and under her leadership, the Chicago chapter was awarded Professional Chapter of the Year for 2007. Debra served for several years on Net Impact’s national membership committee to help determine global strategy and now advises and mentors emerging professional chapter leaders across the globe.
Prior to her current role, Debra worked for IOR Global Services, a cross-cultural training and consulting firm, where she designed and streamlined business processes for several Fortune 100 corporate clients. She also helped launch a technology company in the late 90s, where she successfully implemented the first corporate client in over 20 countries.
Debra holds a Masters degree in Organizational Management from the SIT Graduate Institute in Vermont. Her Masters thesis explored social entrepreneurship and the effective use of performance measurement strategies to improve organizational results. Debra has studied, lived and worked in England, Japan, India, Israel, and Argentina; she integrates and uses her evolving knowledge of the world to learn, leverage and contribute on a daily basis. Debra lives just outside Chicago with her husband and three sons
The Rensselaerville Institute's Board of Trustees
Peter G. Gerry - Managing Partner, Sycamore Partners, Chairman of the Board
Lawrence H. Bober - Retired Senior Vice President, Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co., Inc.
Kathy Brennan, Director of Evaluations, Living Cities
David Buttross - Owner & Operator, Buttross Properties
Melvin J. Gordon - Chairman, Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc.
Leon E. Haynes, III - Executive Director, Hosanna House, Inc.
Rem Hoffmann, CEO of Exponent Partners
Susan Hudson, Executive Director & Chief Administrative Officer for UBS Global Asset Management
Edward V. LaPuma, Co-Founder/Managing Partner, L|C|N Capital Partners
Marshell K. Larson - President/CEO, M.R. and Evelyn Hudson Foundation
Robert W. Parsons, Retired, The Hyde & Watson Foundation
Clyde E. Rankin III - Partner, Baker and McKenzie
Jane W. Schautz - Retired Director, The Rensselaerville Institute STEP program
William I. Witkin - Retired, General Cocoa CompanyMember Emeritus:
John Klingenstein, Vice Chairman - President, Esther A. & Joseph Klingenstein Fund, Inc.
Ross O. Swimmer - President, The Cherokee Group, LLC