Catalyst @ Penn GSE connects people and ideas across diverse constituencies to develop innovative ways to address persistent and emerging problems in education.

Building upon Penn GSE’s history of leadership in education, Catalyst is both a collection of unique programs and a facilitator within and beyond the University. Throughout its work, Catalyst combines education, business, and technology to embrace an ongoing process of generating, testing, adapting, and disseminating best practices.

Meet our
Executive Director

Michael Golden

“We are thrilled that Catalyst @ Penn GSE is bringing stakeholders from within and outside of Penn together to inspire, collaborate, and support learning for impact and sustainability. We are building on Penn GSE's legacy of innovation to create transformative learning opportunities for people in Philadelphia, across the country, and around the globe.”

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Programs and Projects

Catalyst’s new and established programs cut across sectors to serve educators, entrepreneurs, researchers, policymakers, investors, business leaders, and others with a stake in education’s power to create opportunity for all learners.

Spark Solutions


  • The Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC) catalyzes game-changing innovations in education. The first-ever business plan competition focused solely on education, the EBPC has identified over 40 winning ventures with more than $900,000 in prizes since its founding in 2009.
  • Catalyst offers opportunities for learning and networking in Education Entrepreneurship through a series of year-round intensive boot-camps and workshops. Working in concert with the EBPC, it supports entrepreneurs, investors, educators, researchers, and business leaders in their efforts to introduce new solutions into the marketplace.
  • The Test Kitchen offers technical assistance, focus groups, workshops, and support services to help entrepreneurs, students, and educators build out solutions. If you have an idea, we will bring the right folks together here to make it happen!

Empower the Ecosystem

Problem Solving

  • Short-Cycle Inquiries focus on a common problem of practice to give educators the opportunity to implement, evaluate, and adjust an intervention within a shorter timeframe than traditional long-term research allows. Catalyst partners with leaders of schools and other learning institutions, using data and crowdsourcing to inform learning and improvement and ensure outcomes become embedded in their oganizations.
  • Catalyst Conversations bring together diverse stakeholders to foster perspective sharing and problem solving around provocative issues. Catalyst presents expertise and promotes respectful debate using formats such as sequential convenings, speaker series, and salons.
  • The Center for School Study Councils brings together superintendents for idea sharing, networking, and crowdsourced problem solving to help navigate the many challenges facing school leadership.
  • The Penn Project for Civic Engagement develops, implements, and facilitates public deliberations on important policy issues. Through structured dialogues, it brings stakeholders together to identify and act on problems in their community, business, or organization.

Lead Learning

Professional Development

  • The Virtual Online Teaching (VOLT) certificate program trains instructors in best practices to reach students of all ages through virtual teaching.
  • The Experiences in Applied Computational Thinking (EXACT) online certificate program helps educators learn computational thinking and computer programming while preparing them to teach these subjects.
  • The Penn Literacy Network (PLN) equips educators to teach reading, writing, and communication in ways that research has proven effective. PLN offers onsite credit and noncredit programs in literacy practices for faculty and administrators in preK-12.
  • The Penn GSE Consortia for Excellence and Equity works with school districts, providing technical assistance and training resources for administrators, teachers, counselors, parents, caregivers, and students to help close achievement gaps.
  • The Distributed Leadership Program represents a unique world-wide effort to operationalize the theory of distributed leadership in a project model that builds effective teacher leadership and teams in over 40 schools in three different urban settings.

The Catalyst Team

Michael Golden

Executive Director & Senior Fellow, Catalyst @ Penn GSE

Bobbi Kurshan

Innovation Advisor & Senior Fellow, Catalyst @ Penn GSE

Betty Chandy

Program Director, Online Learning, Catalyst @ Penn GSE

Nicole Duprée

Program Manager,  Catalyst @ Penn GSE

Ben Greenwald

Administrative Coordinator, Catalyst @ Penn GSE

Rachel Ebby-Rosin

Research Associate, Catalyst @ Penn GSE

Serrano Legrand

Research Assistant, Catalyst @ Penn GSE

Sarah Gudenkauf 

Research Assistant, Catalyst @ Penn GSE

Megan MacDonald 

Research Assistant, Catalyst @ Penn GSE

Bonnie Botel-Sheppard

Executive Director, Penn Literacy Network

Joseph V Ginotti

Director, Penn Literacy Network

Lara Paparo

Associate Director, Penn Literacy Network

Iris Sanchez

Business Manager, Penn Literacy Network

Marlene Ryder

Administrative Assistant, Penn Literacy Network

Robert Lee Jarvis

Director, Equity Leadership Initiatives

Dayna Muñiz

Administrative Coordinator,  Equity Leadership Initiatives

Harris Sokoloff

Executive Director, Center for School Study Councils, Penn Project for Civic Engagement

Linda Breitstein

Project Manager, Penn Project for Civic Engagement

Mary Disangro

Administrative Coordinator, Center for School Study Councils 



Catalyst @ Penn GSE

University of Pennsylvania
Graduate School of Education

3440 Market Street, Suite 500
Philadelphia, PA 19104

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