Please click on the staff member’s picture below for their bio.
Mark Wilding, Executive Director
Mark Wilding is the Executive Director of PassageWorks Institute and a member of the core faculty at the Institute. In addition to his duties as a director, Mark teaches courses and workshops, facilitates conferences and dialogues, and presents keynotes and lectures. Mark works closely with Institute faculty to develop and deliver programs that support educators to develop the intra-personal and inter-personal capacities necessary to: sustain an authentic teaching practice, engage students, support social, emotional and academic learning outcomes, and collaborate effectively with colleagues. Mark is the former director of Naropa University’s center for business and economics, and helped launch a graduate degree program at Naropa in 1995. Mark continues to teach graduate courses in authentic leadership and systems thinking at Naropa. Mark has held leadership roles in government, business, non-profit, and academic organizations. In 1985, he helped found a public computer software company, and served on the board and in several roles until he left as President in 1993. Mark has a B.S. in Biology and an M.A. in Environmental Leadership.
Rona Wilensky, Director of Mindfulness Programs
Rona Wilensky was principal and founder of New Vista High School in Boulder, Colorado from 1992-2009. Previously, she worked as an education policy analyst for the Governor of Colorado, the Education Commission of the States, and various education reform initiatives in Colorado. A contributor to state and national conversations on high school reform, her essays appeared in Education Week, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan and Education News Colorado.
A staff member of PassageWorks Institute since 2014, Rona coordinates all of our offerings in mindfulness – SMART in Education, The Mindful Teacher: Bringing Presence and Practices to the Classroom, Mindfulness Learning Community, and the School Leader Mindfulness Retreats. She is also a faculty member of the Transformational Leadership for Educators course and a contributor to all our work on cultural responsiveness and equity.
Rona began her personal meditation practice in 2005 and received her certificate as a Mindfulness Instructor from Naropa University in 2012. She was a member of the Leadership Council of the Garrison Institute’s Initiative on Contemplative Teaching and Learning and is currently a Fellow of the Mind and Life Institute. Rona also serves as Adjunct Faculty for the Summer Principals Academy (New Orleans) of Teachers College at Columbia University where she co-facilitates the Equity and Social Justice: A Leadership Imperative course.
Rona holds a B.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University and taught that subject at Williams College and the University of Denver in the early 1980’s.
Vinita Unny, Operations Manager
Vinita Unny recently joined PassageWorks Institute (PWI) as Operations Manager. She comes to PWI with a deep cognizance of how education transforms lives and of the role education has played in her own life.
Born and raised in India, Vinita came to the United States to attend graduate school. She has an MS in Audiology from the University of Arizona and an MBA in Strategic Management from the University of New Mexico. Vinita has worn many different hats in her professional life – Clinical Audiologist, Marketing Manager, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, and more recently Small Business Owner when she started a company that sold food products to Whole Foods Market and other local retailers.
In her new role she oversees the day-to-day operations at PWI and ensures that the faculty and staff are well supported as they serve the organization’s mission. When she’s not at work, Vinita loves to travel, cook, read and load up on trivia. She lives in Erie, Colorado with her husband Raghu and son Rishi.
Laura Weaver, Director of Transformative Learning
Laura Weaver is an educational advocate, writer, parent, teacher, and the Director of Transformative Learning at the PassageWorks Institute. Laura’s writing history includes co-authoring the recently published book The Five Dimensions of Engaged Teaching (Solution Tree, 2013), co-authoring numerous curricula for the transitions years, and publishing dozens of poems, book chapters and essays on topics ranging from school-based rites of passage to death and dying. Over the last decade, Laura has taught numerous courses and workshops, offered presentations at schools and conferences, and facilitated transitions and rites of passage programs for young people. A passionate participant in the movement to transform education from the inside out, Laura supports individuals and learning communities to understand and access their own unique wisdom and resources. Laura regularly consults with school leadership to design experiential professional development programs for teachers and continues to develop innovative resources for educators and parents. Before joining PassageWorks, Laura taught English and Creative Writing in a variety of university settings and founded and directed Bridges—an all-volunteer agency serving the needs of homeless communities in the greater Philadelphia region. Laura earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Trinity College in Connecticut and her Master’s Degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Vivian Elliott, Project Leader
Vivian Elliott is a Senior Consultant with Learning Forward and with Elliott Service Systems, Inc. She provides professional development and leadership coaching to teachers, school administrators, and managers in organizations throughout the United States. Dr. Elliott earned her Ph.D. at the University of Colorado, Boulder studying organizational change, equity, and leadership. For more than thirty years, she has conducted educational research, designed and facilitated workshops, and published educational writings to promote cultural responsiveness and bias elimination. Her recent publication, The Principal Story Guide, commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and Learning Forward, is widely used in conjunction with the documentary, The Principal Story. Vivian Elliott is known in school districts, universities, and non-profit organizations for skillful facilitation, excellent team leadership, and quality project management. Dr. Elliott co-created the Colorado Coalition for Equity in Education, and served in leadership roles for the National Coalition for Equity in Education and the Colorado Partnership for Educational Renewal.
Laura Willits, Administrative Assistant
Laura was born and raised in the Winter Park/Fraser valley. She recently moved to the front range to escape the 9 months of winter in the mountains as well as to offer her 4-year-old twin boys more opportunities in school and experiences in life. Traveling for a while in the early 2000’s between Colorado and New Zealand helped Laura learn to appreciate many different social, cultural, and life differences among people and society as a whole.
Leaving Winter Park Resort, after working there for a total of 21 years, Laura looks forward to this new adventure and experience in life. She brings with her a strong passion for helping people and a desire to see others not only succeed but thrive.
When she’s not working or chasing her boys, Laura enjoys hiking, camping, spending time with family and friends, learning about others and looks forward to getting into mountain biking.
PassageWorks Institute Anti-Discrimination Statement
PassageWorks Institute is committed to the principles of equal opportunity and diversity and to attracting and supporting a staff and board who represent the rich diversity of the people of Colorado and the United States. The Institute does not discriminate on the basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, veteran status, or mental or physical disability. Passageworks is committed to promoting greater cultural responsiveness through our courses, professional development, consulting, publications, and curricular resources.