We are in service of educators and entrepreneurs, parents and pioneers, business leaders and administrators, youth and education experts, in the endeavor to remake America’s high schools for today. We want to create a new model of learning that we call XQ. 



We’ve gone from the Model T to the Tesla and from the switchboard to the smartphone. Yet high school has remained frozen in time.

THE NEXT GENERATION must learn to adapt in a changing world

Sure, IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is important. It measures how we process information. But it isn’t everything.

In fact, the latest science shows that intelligence is not fixed and that there’s a lot more to a person’s capability than what can be measured in an IQ test.

What also matters is a person’s EQ (Emotional Quotient)—the ability to relate to others, understand emotional cues and collaborate.

But today, neither IQ nor EQ is enough. There’s a certain something, something we call XQ, that’s essential for success in the new era we’re entering.

Defining XQ Learning


    Proficient in academic core subjects such as math and languages, to prepare them for college, career, and life.

  • Holders of foundational knowledge

    Curious about the world and engaged in a more just and functional democracy.

  • Original thinkers for an uncertain world

    Sense-makers and generative thinkers, creating many ideas in ambiguous and new situations.

  • Learners for life

    Self-driven and self-directed — inventors of their own paths, careers and lives.

  • Generous collaborators for tough problems

    Self-aware team members who respect diversity and diverse points of view.


Russlynn Ali is the Chief Executive Officer of XQ. She brings decades of experience in many arenas to her position, prime among them a knowledge of what is truly required to design schools that will best serve American students for years to come. Before coming to XQ Institute, Russlynn served as assistant secretary of civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Russlynn also serves as managing director of education at Emerson Collective.

Laurene Powell Jobs chairs XQ’s board of directors and is the president of Emerson Collective. Her two decades in the education field have convinced her that America is ready for a sea change to overhaul the system.

Deep collaborators include: Yo-Yo Ma, the globally accomplished musician and creator; Marc Ecko, Chief Brand and Creative Officer of COMPLEX, and longtime youth and justice advocate; Geoffrey Canada, education advocate and founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone; Michael Klein, global strategic and financial adviser and Managing Partner of M Klein, and Leon Wieseltier, Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Policy at the Brookings Institution.


  • Russlynn Ali

    Russlynn Ali, former Asst. Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Dept of Education and president of the Education Trust in Washington, D.C., currently serves as Managing Director of Education at the Emerson Collective and CEO of the XQ Institute. Russlynn’s professional background also includes experience as a teacher, attorney, liaison for the president of the Children’s Defense Fund, Assistant Director of Policy and research at the Broad Foundation, and chief of staff to the president of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Board of Education.

    Russlynn Ali

    Chief Executive Officer

  • Sarah Baltazar-Pinheiro

    Sarah is an education activist, school builder and founding staff of New Design High who has worked in ed redesign, youth and community development. Sarah has dedicated her life to exploring and nurturing the intersections between the arts and social justice, issues of social and cultural rights and equity for low-income students within public schools systems across the USA.

    Sarah Baltazar-Pinheiro

    Practice Lead

  • Alexandra Berry

    Ali brings experience in product development and instructional design, and a passion for teaching and learning to her work as Chief of Staff at XQ. Prior to XQ, Ali designed professional development products for teachers at Amplify and worked on the instructional faculty and operations team at Relay Graduate School of Education. Ali began her career as a middle school math teacher and learning specialist with the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) in Houston, Texas as a Teach for America corps member.

    Alexandra Berry

    Chief of Staff

  • Marlene Castro

    Marlene brings to XQ her personal education journey as a first-generation high school and college graduate, passion for issues of equity, and commitment to serving youth and families. She has served her community in K-12 teaching & counseling roles for the past six years.

    Marlene Castro

    School Support Team Manager

  • Ann Cattalini Sinclair

    Ann brings a strong public affairs background to her work at XQ, with a particular expertise in building strategic partnerships. She began her career in national politics and has worked with foundations, corporations and major non-profit organizations. She lives in Oakland with her husband and three children.

    Ann Cattalini Sinclair

    Board Liaison

  • Morgan Courtney

    Morgan brings experience in community engagement, strategy, design thinking, and partnership building to her work at XQ. Prior to XQ, she worked in diplomacy and international development with the State Department, USAID, and the United Nations.

    Morgan Courtney

    Community Engagement Manager

  • Joe DiGiacomo

    Joe brings a mix of CFO and nonprofit accounting, tax, audit and consulting experience to XQ. He has held positions of CFO of Common Sense Media and 10,000 Degrees, CFO/COO for The EnCorps STEM Teachers Program and Director of Finance for PFLAG National.

    Joseph DiGiacomo, CPA

    Chief Financial Officer

  • Ted Garey, Esq.

    Ted brings order to chaos and manages grants and legal projects at XQ. A lawyer by trade, Ted has worked as both a civil and criminal defense attorney in the public and private sectors. Ted lives in San Francisco and loves learning languages and international travel.

    Ted Garey, Esq.

    Grants & Legal Projects Manager

  • LiAnn Ishizuka

    LiAnn joins XQ from the social enterprise sector, working in social media and content marketing at Acumen to drive engagement in the digital space. She brings seven years of experience in the non-profit/digital marketing industry and is a StartingBloc Fellow.

    LiAnn Ishizuka

    Senior Communications Associate

  • Kaamil Bey Isles

    Kaamil brings a data driven, systems approach to her role as Operations Lead at XQ. She has worked in both fields of education and business - including serving as a principal, math teacher and founder of a tutoring company. She is a wife and proud mother of one son.

    Kaamil Bey Isles

    Operations Lead

  • Phil Kregel

    Prior to XQ, Phil consulted for presidential campaigns on how to win elections in the modern age of digital grassroots organizing. He is excited for XQ’s mission in challenging the status quo. Phil lives in Oakland and enjoys cooking, street art, music festivals and golden retrievers.

    Phil Kregel

    Database Manager

  • Silvia Li Sam

    Before XQ, Silvia built the largest publication on Medium, Startup Grind, and created a viral marketing campaign that reached millions of Latinx entrepreneurs. She brings experience in design thinking, community building, and powerful storytelling.

    Silvia Li Sam

    Social Media Specialist

  • Hillary Liepa

    Hillary has spent her career at the the intersection of public service, political campaigns and policy work. A veteran of the Obama Administration and the Department of Education, Hillary has managed staff and project teams, domestically and internationally. She specializes in building out strategies, leading results oriented collaborative teams, and refining operational workflows.

    Hillary Liepa

    Campaign Lead

  • Matt Lorin

    As the former Executive Director of Honolulu-based, The Learning Coalition, Matt leverages years of experience in education philanthropy, specifically civic engagement in public education. Matt brings his expertise and passion for public service and advocacy work to his current role as XQ President.

    Matt Lorin


  • Zak Malamed

    Zak comes to XQ after founding and directing Student Voice, a national student-led nonprofit dedicated to elevating student voices and supporting them as partners in education. He brings experience in community organizing, partnership strategy, and social movement design.

    Zak Malamed

    Campaign Associate

  • May Mark

    Stay tuned - bio to come.

    May Mark

    Deputy School Support Lead

  • Monica Martinez

    Monica has been an author, Presidential Appointee to a Commission on Hispanic Education, Senior Fellow to the Hewlett Foundation, President of New Tech Network, VP of KnowledgeWorks Foundation, and an associate at the Institute for Educational Leadership using her expertise in school redesign, policy, and philanthropy.

    Monica Martinez

    Senior School Support Strategist

  • Kyle Maxwell

    Kyle started his career working in event production & management. More recently, his experience in business management, operations, and finance led him to venture into nonprofit accounting. Where Kyle focused in accounting specifically on funding based revenue, while developing new finance efficiencies for his organization.

    Kyle Maxwell

    Senior Accountant

  • Judy McKoy

    Judy is the Executive Administrator to the CEO at XQ. Her background includes retail management, special events, philanthropy and executive administration for Fortune 500 companies. When not advocating for youth, Judy is mom to her two children and many of their friends.

    Judy McKoy

    Executive Administrator to Russlynn Ali

  • Dr. Linda Murray

    A former senior advisor to the Education Trust-West and Superintendent of Schools for the San Jose Unified School District, Dr. Murray advises XQ on practice work while bringing tools in to help XQ high school innovators reach college and career ready goals for all graduates.

    Dr. Linda Murray


  • Sacha Ostern

    Sacha brings an interdisciplinary background, rooted in design thinking, to campaigns at XQ. Previously, Sacha led partnerships at Prezi, was an advisor to Senators Kerry and Edwards, and architected the Democracy Alliance's first two investment conferences.

    Sacha Ostern

    Deputy Campaign Lead

  • Katie Tague

    Katie has been part of the O’Melveny & Myers XQ team since XQ’s inception. Her broad legal experience also includes advising on intellectual property matters and licensing, strategic transactions, complex agreements, operational best practices, and general corporate governance.

    Katie Tague

    General Counsel

  • Seema Thakker

    Seema’s career started in television production and marketing before moving on to impact marketing. Having launched XQ from the agency side, Seema spent eight months in India as an Acumen Global Fellow before returning to join the XQ team as Communications Lead.

    Seema Thakker

    Communications Lead

  • Sebastian Turner

    Before XQ, Sebastian worked as a management consultant where he advised Fortune 500 companies to get the most of their most valuable asset, their people. He has also served as a human capital consultant and talent recruiter for charter management organizations. Sebastian began his career as an elementary school teacher.

    Sebastian Turner

    Special Projects Lead

  • Showit Woldu

    Before XQ, Showit worked for several nonprofit organizations working with young people. Showit has a passion for lifting the spirits of those she worked with and worked for. She really enjoys working with young people and getting them excited about their future and the possibilities.

    Showit Woldu

    Office Manager

A collective of creators

From our inception, we realized this will be a many-to-many effort—involving many talented experts at the core of the Institute collaborating with many talented participants in the movement itself. The following organizations are bringing a broad range of talents—from deep understanding about the science of learning to design thinking skills, from fueling the movement through compelling communication to digital tools that spark new imagination, from magnifying student voice to helping the national media see the issues and solutions of our time.