18th Annual ISEEN Winter Institute 2023

Empowered ExEd: Sustained Partnerships & Student Leadership 

Thanks for making the 2023 WI a huge success! 
Thank you to our sponsors! 

About the Institute  |  Host Conveners |  Schedule on Whova SpeakersExperiential Education In Action Workshops  Registration  |  Scholarships | Educational Service Providers  |  2023 MPP Schedule
Pre & Post Institute Workshops & Activities | Sponsorship Info
Hotel & Travel  |  COVID-19

About the Institute
The 18th Annual ISEEN Winter Institute in Cary, NC will explore questions about how we help our students engage the wider world as leaders in partnership with our communities. At every Winter Institute, designed for school administrators and leaders, the host school showcases their experiential learning through delving deeply into an intentional theme that attendees will experience throughout the four-days by examining essential questions:

  • How can independent schools form external partnerships to break down barriers of class, race, and privilege that too often make our schools feel disconnected from our wider communities? 
  • How do we ensure those partnerships are mutually beneficial and sustaining for ourselves and our external collaborators? 
  • How do we include our students in developing and sustaining those partnerships as leaders? 
  • And how do we prepare our students as active leaders both within and beyond our campuses?

This year’s theme, Empowered ExEd: Sustained Partnerships and Student Leadership will help participants consider how they might build opportunities for transformative student development at their own schools. Even at a school like Cary Academy, where adult leaders are committed to social justice, we understand how legacies of white supremacy and privilege make building equitable partnerships challenging. Nevertheless, Cary Academy has learned to take risks that bring us closer to the goal of building a more just world, and to engage our students fully in that work as preparation for their own lives of purpose.

The Host School
This year’s host school, Cary Academy, was founded 25 years ago with a mission focused on discovery, innovation, and collaboration, and it continues to live out that mission in myriad ways. This work was supercharged four years ago with the creation of the school’s Center for Community EngagementThe CCE brings clarity and intentionality to efforts on equity, service learning, entrepreneurship development, and experiential learning. All of the Center’s work relies on developing and sustaining relationships with people, organizations, businesses, and communities beyond Cary Academy’s campus. The CCE’s commitment to developing students as leaders and change agents means that Cary Academy students are often making and developing those relationships themselves, with adults mentoring more often than directing.   

The Place
In addition to the Institute themes, participants will engage in place-based learning about the history of the transformation of the Research Triangle region where the school is located. As the fulfillment of the vision of the school’s Founders, Cary Academy is a participant in the history of that regional transformation. A subtheme of the Institute will be the ongoing challenge to ensure that the success of “The Triangle” as an idea and an economic powerhouse does not overwhelm the rich history of the individual communities (in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, etc.) that make it up, and especially that the most vulnerable portions of these communities are not pushed aside by newly-arriving people with little understanding of local history or place. Largely attended by the children of these newcomers, the school takes its duty to share this history seriously. It is not easy, though; we will engage each other on how to better inculcate a sense of place and belonging among a diverse set of students, many from families only recently assembled from around the country and the world.

We are constantly monitoring the CDC, local governments, partners, and schools for the most current guidance regarding gatherings. At this time we are confident that we can meet in-person in Cary, following the most up-to-date safety protocols. We will be requiring all participants to provide proof of vaccination.

*Because of the evolving nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, this information might change - we will update participants of any changes. 

Who Should Attend
The Winter Institute is geared towards administrators, staff, and teachers who work in various strands of experiential education programming at their institutions. ISEEN embraces many forms of experiential learning such as outdoor/adventure education, global education, service-learning/community engagement, student leadership, diversity/equity/inclusion and sustainability/environmental justice.  Educators from independent, public, and international schools who wish to transform their teaching and connect with like-minded colleagues will gain valuable tools and global networks.

What You'll Take Away from the Institute 
  1. Refined skills to facilitate community-building and how to shape students in becoming life-long community leaders.
  2. Deeper understanding of what it means to live in a place that is rapidly changing and responding to that change in ways that benefit all people. 
  3. Exploration of the history of racism and how to be active antiracist leaders. 
  4. Models for outdoor education as a vehicle to build  an inclusive school community.
  5. A professional network of innovative experiential educators.
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Featured Speakers

Opening Speaker:

Dr. Bettina L. Love
 is an award-winning author and the William F. Russell Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her writing, research, teaching, and educational advocacy work meet at the intersection of disrupting education reform and strengthening public education through abolitionist teaching, Black joy, and anti-racism. The aim of her scholarship is twofold: firstly, to advance how the field of education understands and critiques school reform and the systemic and structural racism of public education within the U.S.; and secondly, to advocate for abolitionist approaches in the field of education that seek new possibilities for educational justice. In the pursuit of making her scholarship a reality, she works with activists, communities, youth, families, and school districts to build communal, civically-engaged schools rooted in the aspirations of abolitionist strategies that love and affirm Black and Brown children. Towards that end, in 2020, Dr. Love co-founded the Abolitionist Teaching Network (ATN). ATN’s mission is to develop and support teachers and parents to fight injustice within their schools and communities. To date, ATN has granted over $160,000 to abolitionists around the country. She is also the creator of the Hip Hop civics curriculum GET FREE. Read Full Bio


Closing Speaker:

Laura Deisley is Managing Consultant at Walker Deisley Strategic Consulting, a design and innovation catalyst for independent schools and public school districts. She is founder of Lab Atlanta 2.0, a Georgia nonprofit exploring iterations of the ground-breaking Lab Atlanta school model and designing equitable opportunities for youth to gain civic leadership and social innovation skills.

Ms. Deisley brings to her work over 30 years of experience in small and large corporate environments, micro school development, and public and private school strategy and innovation. Most recently, she spent 12 years on the leadership team at The Lovett School serving as the Director of Strategic Innovation and the designer/founder of Lab Atlanta, an innovative city semester school model for public and independent high school students. READ FULL BIO


About the Host School Conveners

Michael McElreath

Michael McElreath is the Director of Experiential Learning at Cary Academy and coordinates programs that offer students different opportunities to develop leadership skills and engage with the wider community. These range from a two-week Discovery Term and Work Experience internships to X Days on which students and employees offer a wide range of classes and activities for each other. Michael’s work as an educator began over 30 years ago when he coordinated summer camp programs and taught campers sailing, canoeing, acting, ropes courses, capture-the-flag, community-formation, how to set a table, and a million other things. He was disappointed when he discovered how little school teaching resembled camp counseling, and his career has been a quest to recreate inside of schools the range of experiences and opportunities his former camps encompassed. Along the way, Michael served for many summers as the Site Director for NC Governor’s School East, one of the country’s premier state-sponsored summer academic and arts programs. The model of Governor’s School, serving students from across the state in ways that intentionally break down barriers (of race, class, geography, and areas of special focus) between the students, is another inspiration for Michael’s work at Cary Academy. He lives in Carrboro, NC, with his partner Becky and children Caleb and Archer.

Danielle Johnson-Webb
Danielle joined Cary Academy in 2019 to lead their equity and inclusion efforts as well as direct their Center for Community Engagement. Prior to Cary Academy, Danielle served in senior leadership roles in enrollment management, communications, and development at several North Carolina area independent schools. She is excited to continue the equity work that Cary Academy has focused on while at the same time continuing to help the school look at new ways to make this one of the most equitable schools in the Southeast. Danielle is married and enjoys multiple sports.

Schedule at a Glance


This is the basic outline of the Winter Institute schedule.

Note: This schedule is subject to change.

To view our comprehensive schedule and receive updates in real time, check out our Whova Conference App!

Tuesday, January 17, 2023 | Institute Opening Day
Embassy Suites Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner 
9:00 AM - 3:00 PM  Pre-Institute Workshops (please arrive the night before - Monday, January 16) 
3:00 PM  - 4:30 PM Institute Check-in at Hotel 
4:45 PM - 5:30 PM Happy Hour Hello 
5:30 PM - 8:30 PM  Welcome, Plenary Speaker, Homeroom Dinner & Institute Kick-off
Wednesday, January 18, 2023 | Experiential Education in Action Day 
Meals included: Lunch and Dinner (Complimentary breakfast offered at the Embassy Suites Hotel)
7:30 AM  Optional Running Group or Yoga
7:30 AM - 9:00 PM Breakfast on your Own 
9:00 AM Shuttles Depart for Cary Academy 
9:30 AM - 3:30 PM Experiential Education in Action (check out the Ex Ed in Action details
3:30 PM - 4:30 PM Homerooms
4:30 PM - 5:30 PM Happy Hour in Library 
5:30 PM - 7:30 PM Progressive Dinner sponsored by Cary Academy on campus 
7:30 PM Shuttle departs for hotel
8:00 PM  Optional activities in Cary, NC - on your own
Thursday, January 19, 2023- Networking and Co-Creating Knowledge Day
Meals included: Lunch and Dinner (Complimentary breakfast offered at the Embassy Suites Hotel)
6:30 AM - 7:30 AM  Optional Running Group or Yoga
6:30 AM - 8:30 AM Breakfast on your own 
8:30 AM Shuttle from Hotel to Cary Academy campus
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM  Networking Day at Cary Academy - Itinerary
5:00 PM  Shuttle to Hotel 
6:30 PM  Shuttle to Durham for dinner
7:00 PM - 9:30 PM  Networking Dinner in Durham, NC (transportation provided) 
9:30 PM  Buses return to hotel 
 Friday, January 20, 2022
Meal included: Breakfast
8:30 AM - 9:30 AM Breakfast in Hotel Ballroom 
9:30 AM - 12:00 PM Bringing it Home Community Workshop - Empowered ExEd: Partnerships & Student Leadership and Institute Closing 
2:30 PM - 5:00 PM  Post-Institute Hikes/Outings (optional) 
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM Post-Institute Happy Hour (optional)

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Registration fee is inclusive of all workshops, snacks, (two) lunches, (three) dinners and (one) breakfast throughout the duration of the formal institute. Additional costs include travel,  accommodation at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Raleigh Durham Research Triangle (The Embassy Suites offers complimentary breakfast each morning), and optional pre & post Institute workshops and activities (information below).

Registration closed on December 1. 

Registration Type Price
Leadership Circle Schools  $1120
Priority Member Registration (Until Oct 1, 2022)
Access to ISEEN Members only during this period
Early-Bird Registration for Member Schools 
(Oct. 2, 2022–November 12, 2022) 
Early-Bird Registration for Non-Member Schools 
(Oct. 2, 2022–November 12, 2022)
Regular Registration for Member Schools 
(Nov. 13, 2022–Dec. 1, 2022)
Regular Registration for Non-Member Schools
(Nov. 13, 2022Dec. 1, 2022)
Educational Service Provider Registration (Until January 12, 2023) $1650

*Important Registration Note - Three Participants from a School:
All schools may register up to 3 participants from their school up until November 12, 2022. This is to allow more schools to attend the Institute. Should spaces still be available after November 13, 2022, schools will be able to register unlimited additional attendees.

If you are not currently a member yet, join now to receive priority registration and member pricing!

Refund and Cancellation Policy: 

Should you need to cancel your registration you will have two options. A colleague may be substituted at no fee or, if you cancel without substituting your place, the refund policy below will go into effect.

  • Cancellation greater than 61 days prior to the Institute: 90% refund
  • Cancellation 60-30 days prior to the conference: 50% refund
  • Cancellation under 30 days prior to the conference: 0% refund

COVID-19 Refunds: We understand that we are living in a world where large in-person events are being guided by local health authorities. In the event public health dictates that we are not able to gather in April and ISEEN cancels, we will refund registration fees minus a 10% administrative fee.

ISEEN is excited to offer free attendance to up to two participants through the Jessie Barrie Scholarship Fund for Experiential Educators. 

Information and details about the scholarship can be found at this link (Preference will be given to NC public school applicants). Applications are due Monday, September 12, 2022. Applicants will be notified of decisions by October 1, 2022. 

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Educational Service Providers
We hold limited spaces for Educational Service Providers (ESP) members. The registration for ESPs is separate from our school attendees, so please read through the following information carefully.

  • The reserved spaces for ESPs are available until Dec. 1, 2023. There are ten available spots and they tend to fill quickly when registration opens in August.
  • All ESP Attendees must be ISEEN Members prior to registering (become a member today!).
  • While ESPs gain significant value by attending the Winter Institute and the intimate networking opportunities available to them to build relationships with member schools, their primary role as an ISEEN member attendee will be that of a fellow educator. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities for greater visibility, please contact ISEEN Executive Director, Shoshanna Sumka ([email protected]). 

 Call For Proposals 
We have two excellent opportunities for attendees to put their skills in action and to showcase their work. We invite all Institute attendees to submit an application for the Homeroom Facilitator role and/or a proposal for our Model Programs & Practices session by Friday, November 18, 2022.

Homeroom Facilitators 

We invite ISEEN Winter Institute 2023 attendees with strong facilitation skills to apply for a volunteer homeroom facilitator role for the Institute! This is an amazing volunteer opportunity for you to tap into your skills in the wonderful, collaborative space that is the ISEEN Winter Institute. We welcome any ISEEN Winter Institute 2023 attendees to apply. Even if this is your first time at the Institute, it doesn't mean you can't serve as a facilitator. We especially encourage those with experience in social justice education to apply.

Homeroom facilitators are key to building community and reflecting on the Winter Institute theme of, "Empowered ExEd: Student Leadership & Sustained Partnerships". Homerooms are groups of 10 people from all over North America and beyond, from different schools and organizations, and typically with different discipline backgrounds that come together as a touchpoint throughout the week. Homeroom groups reflect together daily on the experience and dive deeper into the work.

Model Programs & Practices (MPP) Proposals 

Each year we host a Model Programs & Practices session at the Institute for attendees to showcase the work your schools and organizations are doing. These are 20-minute sessions in 4 rounds where you'll provide a short presentation about a specific innovative experiential program or practice. Typically all presenters are given the option to take a round off to visit another session. 2023 MPP Schedule

Pre and Post Institute Workshops & Activities

Pre-Institute Workshops and Activities — Tuesday, January 17 (must arrive on January 16) 

To enhance your Institute experience, we’re offering some exceptional, hands-on workshops to gain skills that you can take back to your school or organization. Additionally, we’re offering pre- and post-Institute social/outdoor activities to engage even more deeply with Cary and the Research Triangle region. Below are brief descriptions (titles, facilitators, cost and timeframes) of the various offerings. More detailed information about pre- and post Institute offerings can be found here:

Many attendees appreciate arriving early to get a sense of the region and take advantage of special intensive workshops and activities offered.

Equity and Justice in the Outdoors: Learning from a History of Segregation in Umstead Park
Time: 9:30 AM1:00 PM
$115 (10 person minimum/ 25 maximum) 
Facilitating for the Future - Facilitator Skill Building for Social Justice Work

Time: 9:00 AM3:00 PM
Cost: $375 (12 person minimum - 30 maximum) 

Gregg Museum of Art and Design 

Time: 9:00 AM3:00 PM
Cost: None (Meet in the hotel lobby for transport to the museum) 

Post-Institute Workshops and Activities  Friday, January 20

To enhance your Institute experience, we’re offering some exceptional experiences and outings for those planning on extending their stay in Sedona into the weekend.

 Post Institute Hike: Umstead Park Time: 2:30 PM5:30 PM

Cost: None (14 participants with waiting list)

Duke Gardens

Time: 2:00 PMDusk
Cost: None

Black History of Durham

Time: 2:305:30 PM 
Cost: None (14 participants) 

Post-Institute Happy Hour: Raleigh Brewing at the Arboretum
(5–10 minute walk from Institute hotel) 

Time: 5:30 PM–?
Cost: On Your Own

Events and lodging will be at the conveniently located Embassy Suites by Hilton Raleigh Durham Research Triangle a mere few minutes drive from Cary Academy (we provide transportation to the school).   

We’ve secured a discounted price of $184/night for a standard single/double occupancy room (plus taxes and service charges). Rates include breakfast and access to all of the resort's amenities including the gym and pool. There is a $5/day overnight parking fee.  The hotel, only ten minutes from the airport, has a free shuttle to/from the Raleigh Durham Airport. This discounted rate is available through December 15, 2022 so book early!

If for any reason you’re unable to make the booking online or have questions, contact the hotel directly: 919-677-1840 and mention “ISEEN”.

As many ISEEN long-timers know, ISEEN isn’t like other conferences. It isn’t even a conference! It’s a fully immersive (and intense!) four days together. Because of that, we value your participation immensely and we ask that when you make your arrangements, you’re able to participate in the full Institute-- beginning to end! We believe that participating in all of the Institute activities enhances the quality of your experience and that of your peers. If you know that you cannot manage the full schedule, perhaps consider joining a future Institute. Local North Carolina attendees should also consider that you will have very full days and will want to plan accordingly.

If you are securing your own transportation to the Institute, please make sure to be at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Raleigh Durham Research Triangle by 4:00pm on Tuesday, January 17th and you depart the hotel no earlier than 12:30pm on Friday, January 20th.

The Institute is conveniently located very close to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The airport is located 10 minutes from the Embassy Suites by Hilton Raleigh Durham Research Triangle.

Getting To/From The Airport:

  • Embassy Suites by Hilton Raleigh Durham Research Triangle offers a free shuttle to hotel guests. Please call ahead to arrange.
  • Rental Car: This is an option for those who want to stay longer or are coming earlier. Parking at the hotel incurs an additional daily charge of $5. See directions below.

For driving directions, Embassy Suites by Hilton Raleigh Durham Research Triangle is located at 201 Harrison Oaks Blvd, Cary, NC 27513 (phone: 919-677-1840). It’s located less than 2 miles from Cary Academy. We will be providing shuttles to/from the school every day as well as all transportation for Experiential Education in Action experiences. 

Parking costs $5/day at the Embassy Suites.


Interested in increasing your visibility and presence within the Ex Ed community? Be a ISEEN Winter Institute sponsor. Not only will you be contributing to a fantastic cause, but there are some some amazing benefits to be had - including a complimentary registration to the 2023 Winter Institute. Hurry, there are only a limited number of sponsorship opportunities!


Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions about the Institute. Email us at [email protected] or call us at 206-209-5288.

We are excited to see old friends and meet new ones!

2023 ISEEN Winter Institute Planning Committee: Danielle Johnson-Webb (Host School Convener and Director of Equity and Community Engagement), Taras Ferencevych (ISEEN Director of Professional Learning and Programs), Shoshanna Sumka (ISEEN Executive Director) and Michael McElreath (Host School Convener and Director of Experiential Education, Cary Academy)

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