Our Advisors

At The Social Institute, we’re thrilled to have the support and advice of incredible individuals in teaching, child development, media, and related fields. Together, our team and our advisors supercharge our work with schools and enable us to address the ever-evolving needs of educators, families, and students.

Our advisors inform our approach to serving schools by sharing their deep experience and wisdom about education, student well-being, and a variety of other important topics impacting schools. 


Gregory A. Dale, Ph.D.
Former Director of Sport Psychology and Leadership Programs
Duke University
In 2022, we lost a brilliant mind and respected member of The Social Institute community. We are honored to have had Greg Dale, PhD, as a founding member of our Research Advisory Committee, and our work was greatly influenced by his knowledge and expertise in Sport Psychology. Throughout his career as a Professor of Sport Psychology and Sport Ethics at Duke University, Director of the Sport Psychology and Leadership Programs for Duke Athletics, and member of TSI’s Research Advisory Committee, Greg provided guidance on striking a balance between your responsibilities and “being where your feet are,” encouraging everyone to live in the moment and stay engaged wherever they may be. In addition to his work with Duke athletes and coaches, Greg consulted with numerous college and professional athletes and provided educational workshops for coaches, parents, and student-athletes at the middle and high school levels. Greg also provided teambuilding, performance, and leadership programming for organizations and corporations around the world including IBM, VF Corporation, COACH, The World Bank, Airports Council International, Habitat for Humanity International, Pfizer, Northwestern Mutual, and Skanska International. He wrote five books related to leadership, parenting, and performance. He was also featured in the feature-length documentary WINNING and served as the expert in a series of 14 educational videos. He was a member of the National Executive Boards for The Positive Coaching Alliance, The Pro Football Hall of Fame Game for Life Foundation, and the United States Lacrosse Coaches Association.
Dr. Jessica AndersonDr. Jessica Anderson
Psychologist and Dean of Students
Mason Preparatory School
Dr. Jessica Anderson is a Licensed School and Clinical Psychologist who has been working with children and adolescents for 18 years. She is currently the Psychologist and Dean of Students at Mason Preparatory School in Charleston, South Carolina. She earned her Doctorate in Psychology from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She has a Masters/Specialist Degree in School Psychology with a concentration in Therapeutic Interventions from Fordham University, Lincoln Center. Dr. Anderson also completed post-doctoral work at Fordham where she supervised students at the Hagin School Consultation Center in comprehensive psycho-educational assessment. Dr. Anderson earned her Bachelor Degree in Psychology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Dr. Anderson started her career as a School Psychologist in public schools in New Jersey serving as a case manager, evaluator, and mental health provider. She ran her own private practice for 8 years with a focus on providing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and strategies from the Social Thinking curriculum to children and adolescents diagnosed with Anxiety, Autism, and ADHD. Dr. Anderson
has taught a variety of psychology classes at the graduate school level and has presented at conferences from the school to national level. Prior to relocating to Charleston in 2021, she was the Middle School Psychologist at Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, PA.

Dr. Anderson has a strong focus on helping students build self-confidence through learning how to be strong problem solvers and flexible thinkers. She is passionate about collaboration with others in the education and mental-health fields and maintains a constantly growing network of colleagues to consult and collaborate with. When not working, Dr. Anderson enjoys spending time at the beach, swimming, and bike riding with her husband and two sons.
Valerie MerriweatherValerie C. Merriweather
Founder & Chief Well-being Officer
Fitwell Solutions
Valerie Merriweather is the Founder and Chief Well-being Officer of Fitwell Solutions. With more than 20 years of experience in health promotion and consulting, she has a strong track record for delivering transformative and innovative programs designed to improve the health and well being of high-performing teams.

Ms. Merriweather was instrumental in leading wellness initiatives at Kaiser Permanente Northern California region, one of the largest HMOs in the country, supporting 300,000 members. In the corporate space, Ms. Merriweather’s clients include the American Health Association, Duke University, The Social Institute, and Warner Bros. Discovery, where she served on the leadership team for their annual “Take Your Kid to Work Day” event.

A native of Riverside, California, Valerie holds a B.S. in Radiation Therapy from Howard University and an MHA and MA from The Ohio State University and NC Central University, respectively. She holds national coaching certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. Ms. Merriweather is a nationally certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Stress First Aid Facilitator. 
Kurt MerriweatherKurt Merriweather
The Diversity Movement
Kurt is an accomplished business leader and marketing executive passionate about helping organizations implement growth strategies. He co founded The Diversity Movement and is a thought leader in building teams through integrating DEI and technology. Kurt has worked for global brands like Discovery, AOL, and Procter & Gamble. With over 20 years of experience, Kurt’s approach to advising clients and developing strategy blends creative thinking and data analysis. He is an avid speaker, a workshop leader, and a patent holder. Kurt holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from The Ohio State University and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Kurt advises startups through Google for Startups Black Founders Exchange and mentors students at UNC, SKEMA Business School, and NC State. He also serves on NC TECH’s Board of Advisors.
Katelyn DonnellyKatelyn Donnelly
Founder and Managing Director
Avalanche VC
Katelyn is an investor and entrepreneur. Katelyn is the founder and Managing Director of Avalanche VC, an early-stage venture firm investing early in technology companies that transform how people learn, earn, and own.

Previously, she was co-founder and Director at Delivery Associates, the leading public sector advisory firm implementing technology and large-scale reform worldwide. She served on the board until the company partnered with a private equity firm in November 2022.

Constantly curious, she has invested in companies, funds, and founders building behind massive trends that are obviously the future. Katelyn grew up in Minneapolis and is frequently found in Austin and New York City. She has lived and worked globally, including in London, San Francisco, Seattle, Lagos, and Lahore.
Dr. Joy Granetz
Clinical Neuropsychologist
Dr. Granetz received her doctorate in Psychology from George Mason University and is a North Carolina licensed psychologist. She has over eighteen years of extensive experience in neuropsychological assessment. During her training, Dr. Granetz worked at the National Institutes of Health in the Cognitive Neuroscience Section administering neuropsychological tests and conducting clinical research. During her clinical internship, she worked at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where she performed neuropsychological assessments of wounded soldiers.

Dr. Granetz received extensive training in the assessment and treatment of individuals with neurologically-based challenges through her two-year post-doctoral training, as well as through other professional organizations and seminars. Prior to starting her own practice, she worked at Child and Family Development in Charlotte for five years. Previously Dr. Granetz worked in a pediatric group practice in Northern Virginia for ten years, where she helped to establish the Family Compass Attention and Learning Challenges Clinic, a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment and treatment clinic for children and adolescents in Northern Virginia. In addition, she has published research on the neuropsychological effects of brain injury and learning disorders.

Today Dr. Granetz provides neuropsychological assessment and psychoeducational evaluations of children and adolescents with special focus in working with children and adolescents with learning disabilities, attention disorders, head injury, tic disorders, and epilepsy. Dr. Granetz also provides therapy for children and adolescents with emotional and/or behavioral difficulties.

She is proud to be one of the few practitioners in North Carolina offering Cogmed Working Memory Training, an innovative computer-based training program to help children with attention deficits.
Adrian Mack, Ph.D.
Proposal Support Coordinator
Dr. Adrian Mack is a Proposal Support Coordinator at Long Capture, a government contract consulting firm laser-focused on capturing research and development contracts for cutting edge commercial technology through the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program. Through training, consulting, webinars, and events, Long Capture leverages billions of dollars of federal acquisition experience to demystify the acquisitions process and capture millions in government funding for clients while delivering world-class technology to the Department of Defense.

He previously served as the Director of Marketing Strategy at 3C Institute for Social Development, an award-winning research and development company, specializing in social, emotional, and behavioral health, that creates evidence-based programs and software applications to promote health and wellbeing for people around the world.

Dr. Mack is also an adjunct faculty member in Interdisciplinary Studies at Southern New Hampshire University, teaching courses on Diversity, Pop Culture, and Perspectives in Liberal Arts. He has a PhD in Transformative Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies, a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry from Liberty University, a Master of Arts in Christian Studies from Duke University, and a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Virginia. His transdisciplinary research focus is in cultural studies, media studies, and literary studies, and he enjoys writing fiction.

He resides in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife, April, who is a high school history teacher and varsity cheerleader coach for Wake County Public Schools. As a former athlete, a fitness enthusiast, and an engaged volunteer in the fields of diversity and inclusion, civic engagement, and education, Adrian is thrilled to help The Social Institute empower millions of students nationwide to stay mentally healthy and win at social.
Lauren Miller Apple, MSW, LMSW
Mental Health Specialist for Tulane Athletics
Tulane University
Lauren Miller Apple, LMSW is the Mental Health Specialist for Tulane Athletics at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lauren is a Doctoral Candidate at the Tulane School of Social Work, where she also earned her Masters of Social Work in 2013. Lauren earned her bachelor of arts at Duke University in 2010 where she was a two-time captain and three-time All-America in Field Hockey at Duke University and also named the ACC Scholar Athlete of the Year for Field Hockey in 2010.
Lauren conducts individual psychotherapy, assessments, and performance enhancement mental health with the student athletes, as well as works in collaboration with teams, coaches, and leadership administration to enhance mental health services for Tulane Athletics. Lauren previously worked as a therapist, case manager and school counselor in the Greater New Orleans area. Lauren has experience providing her clients with comprehensive clinical assessments and treatment planning, while utilizing evidence-based practice to guide her psychotherapeutic approach. Additionally, Lauren is an accredited Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapist and she is in the midst of certification by The Daring Way™ (based on the research of Brené Brown).
Nancy Watson, LCSW, CADC
Former School Social Worker
Lake Forest Country Day School
Nancy Watson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Drug Addictions Counselor currently working in private practice. Nancy previously worked as a school social worker at Lake Forest Country Day School (LFCDS) in Lake Forest, Illinois and continues to consult on best practices for social and emotional learning and supporting the mental health and emotional well being of students.

While at LFCDS, Nancy devoted much of her time to caring for the social and emotional needs of adolescents. She led LFCDS’s social and emotional learning curriculum and provided regular education and resources to parents on critical issues affecting kids, families and the challenges of our digital age, including the complexities of social media. Nancy is passionate about coming alongside our youth to help them explore and cultivate a strong sense of identity and develop effective tools to live emotionally healthy and productive lives.

Nancy is also active in the community, serving on numerous boards and engaging with social service organizations committed to the mental health and well being of our youth. A frequent speaker, Nancy’s recent presentations to educational, social service and emotional health forums have been focused on education about anxiety and depression, best practices for social and emotional program implementation in schools, and fostering independence and building resilience in our youth.
Mark Thomas
Northview High School
Mark Thomas has served as a public school teacher and administrator for the past 32 years. He has spent the last 20 years at Northview High School where he serves as the principal. He has been fortunate to be involved with a number of local, regional, state and national organizations and initiatives over his career. These experiences, coupled with the length of his tenure have made him extremely knowledgeable and well-versed on a variety of K-12 and post-secondary topics.

At the national level he currently serves as the Chair of the Midwest Region for College Board. For a number of years, he also served as a board member for the Midwest Regional Education Laboratory. In addition, Mark has extensive experience working on policy and practice initiatives with Achieve, Ed Trust, ACT, the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, NASSP and others.

At the state level in Michigan he was elected by his peers as the President of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals. He was named by gubernatorial appointment to lead the committee which created the Michigan Merit Exam. The State School Superintendent selected him to serve as an adviser in the creation of the Michigan Merit Curriculum. In 2010 he was voted Michigan Principal of the Year. He has extensive experience working with state congressional leaders and lobbyists on a myriad of topics. He is also a highly requested speaker and presenter.

Most recently he has been focused on his work in the area of helping students become “Career Aware and Career Prepare,” by identifying and implementing employability skills and behaviors of success at Northview High School. Much of this motivation comes from the learning opportunities and professional connections he has made serving on the Workforce Board in West Michigan for the past seven years.

Mark's undergraduate degree is from Michigan State University. He has a Masters in Educational Leadership from Central Michigan University. He also has a Fellowship in Educational Policy from the Institute of Educational Leadership in Washington, D.C. His wife Pam is a highly successful elementary principal in the Grand Rapids area. They have three wonderful children: Kyle has an accounting degree from Michigan State University and works for a venture capital firm in Chicago; Ethan graduates in May from Financial Markets Institute at MSU. He has accepted a position with Goldman Sachs in Chicago; and Elizabeth, who will be headed to Michigan State in the fall to study business.
Rush Sabiston Frank, M.S.
Director and Co-Founder
The Institute for Social and Emotional Learning
Rush Sabiston Frank, M.S., is a passionate SEL advocate whose work centers on equipping students with the powerful social-emotional practices and increased self-awareness that they instinctively want and need.

Her work at the Institute For Social and Emotional Learning (IFSEL) is informed by more than two decades of counseling practice, teaching experience, and social work with youth and families. Rush taught SEL in grades 5-8 at Nueva School for eight years. In the wake of the Columbine school shootings, she supervised the San Mateo County/YMCA School Safety Advocate Program on all seven San Mateo Union High School District campuses for four years. She also served as Upper School Counselor at Marin Country Day. And at Odyssey Family Counseling Center, she helped treat and educate mandated and at-risk youth in an outpatient substance abuse program ran anger management groups, and ran survivors of suicide groups for children. Rush has also coordinated and led groups for Kids’ Turn, an educational program that offers hope and optimism to children during divorce and separation. Rush specializes in working with schools to create a Student Advisory curriculum, and in helping both students and teachers learn the Open Session, a core IFSEL curricular component for upper-grade students.

Rush holds a Masters of Science in professional counseling, and a B.A. in psychology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina after 17 sunny years in Northern California, and exercises by trying to keep up with her two young sons.
Robin Oak deGrasse
Middle School and High School Teacher
Robin Oak deGrasse is a middle and high school English teacher in Westchester County, New York. She has engaged students of almost every grade with her love of reading, critical thinking, writing and speaking. She is also a women’s junior varsity tennis coach.
Ms. deGrasse received her bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in 1989. She went on to earn a master’s degree, from Teachers College, in 2002. She has New York state teaching certifications in English 5-12 and Students with Disabilities 7-12.

Ms. deGrasse is an avid volunteer. She has been active with the Lewisboro Volunteer Ambulance Corp; the Town of Lewisboro Soccer Club; and the Lewisboro Elementary School Parent Teacher Association. She’s acted as the Director of Tennis at Lakeside Field Club and the manager of the John Jay Youth Indoor Lacrosse League.

Ms. deGrasse grew up in Southfield, Michigan but has lived in New York almost all her adult life. She has six children from the ages of 14 to 25, a schnoodle, and a rescue mutt.
Rachel Blanton, M.Ed., NCC
School Counselor and Director of Bright Days
Rachel Blanton a National Certified Counselor and is currently an elementary school counselor in Chattanooga, TN. She has experience in both public and private school settings, as well as residential and day summer camps. Rachel loves working with children of all ages but has found a special connection with the elementary-aged students. The enthusiasm for learning and love of school that these young learners bring makes coming to work a joy. Through individual, small groups, and classroom lessons, Rachel is devoted to helping students grow their character skills and social-emotional capacities. She sees the first-hand challenge that these young students face in this extremely connected world and wants to help students develop habits for happiness and success at a young age. The students at The Bright School know her office is a safe space where they are always welcome.

Rachel received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Auburn University and her master's degree in counselor education from the University of Virginia. She moved to Chattanooga with her husband and rescue dog, Copper, in 2016. They love the variety of outdoor activities that Chattanooga has to offer. On any given weekend, you can find her baking in her kitchen, out in her garden, or out on a trail somewhere.