Meet Our Team
Dr. Josh Packard
Josh is an accomplished researcher, speaker, and academic studying the sociology of religion and new forms of religious expression. He has written numerous articles and given dozens of speeches about religion in America. He is also author, with Ashleigh Hope, of Church Refugees: Sociologists reveal why people are DONE with church but not their faith (Group, 2015).
Josh has a Ph.D. in sociology from Vanderbilt University after studying English as an undergraduate at Texas Lutheran University. He was the first in his family to go to college and never loses sight of the practical value that education and research can bring to the world.
“Springtide is the perfect opportunity to use my experience on something that actually makes a difference in the world,” he says. “What could be more important than doing research that helps to connect young people to the adults who care about them to have meaningful, life-giving conversations?”
Josh lives in Greeley, CO, where he is also a professor at the University of Northern Colorado and serves as executive director of the Social Research Lab.
Among his wife and young son, he is rapidly becoming the third best golfer in his family.
Community Engagement Specialist
Marte has worked domestically and internationally with nonprofits, public schools, and churches in the areas of social justice, diversity, arts engagement, media communication, community organizing, and youth empowerment.
Originally from Greeley, CO, Marte studied communication and philosophy/theology in San Diego, CA before receiving a Master of Science in International Affairs from The New School (New York, NY). She describes her life mission as “to continually grow a practice of empathy, understand my place in local and global communities, and advocate for love and justice for neighbors near and far.”
Describing her involvement with Springtide, Marte says, “I’m committed to interfaith connections, listening to the experiences and perspectives of young people, and celebrating all the ways youth and young adults shape and lead positive social change. I certainly would have benefited from the insights offered by Springtide in previous roles where I directly supported young people. I’m grateful to share our research with adults or organizations who want to make a real difference in the life of a young person.”
Recently married, she and her husband are new residents to Wilmington, DE. Marte loves to travel, spend time outdoors, exercise creativity with the occasional craft project, and ‘dance it out’ through group fitness or whenever a good song comes on.
John M. Vitek
President & CEO
John’s concern for religion and young people has spanned a 37-year career serving in leadership positions from the local church youth ministry level through diocesan, regional, national, and international positions of church and academic leadership. John has served since 2001 as president and CEO of Lasallian Educational and Research Initiatives, a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation that operates three major religious publishing houses as well as Springtide Research Institute.
On his work as president and CEO of Springtide: “Springtide feels like a culmination of everything I’ve cared about my entire professional career. To care about young people, their well-being holistically, to understand the dynamics of their lives—their deepest longings—as they are affected by the sociocultural shifts at play today is a privileged and humbling position. I want to pay attention to their needs and help leaders who care about them pay attention too. This is what fulfills me and propels me.”
John resides in Rochester, Minnesota, when not spending time adventuring in the backcountry of national parks and forests backpacking, hiking or cycling.
Director of Donor & Foundation Relations
Jess comes to Springtide after years of working in education. She’s worked at every level of this sector: from a middle school science teacher to a fundraising officer for education nonprofits and schools. As the Director of Donor and Foundation Relations, Jess works to establish long lasting partnerships with funders that, like Springtide, want to better understanding and ultimately serve young people.
“I was drawn to Springtide because of the unique focus on young peoples’ inner and outer lives during the most formative years of life,” she says. “After years of working in education, I’m excited to play a role in finding a deeper understanding of the ways young people grow, connect, and experience the world.”
Describing how she hopes to contribute, through Springtide and elsewhere, Jess says “I want to leave behind a world in which every young person knows they will be valued as their true selves, with the agency to effect change in ways that are meaningful to them.”
Jess lives in Saint Paul, MN with her husband, toddler, “and far too many cats.” She enjoys “baking as if it were cooking, and cooking as if it were an improv show.”
Ellen B. Koneck
Head Writer & Editor
Ellen has worked in various capacities in book and magazine publishing and previously taught at a university in Connecticut. She has a Master of Arts in Religion from Yale Divinity School and has been published in numerous venues.
Summarizing her life mission and goals, including in her current work with Springtide, Ellen says, “It’s just all about connection. That’s it. In the throes of grief or the heights of joy, the human experience is fundamentally about relationship. And relationships thrive when there is both knowledge of self and curiosity about others.” These values are deeply rooted in her family life growing up as well as in her marriage.
Of her work at Springtide, she says, “To do work that digs in deep on matters of connection, meaning, belonging, and identity is an honor, since it is at the heart of our humanity.” A self-professed homebody, Ellen lives in Saint Paul with her husband and toddler son.
A sociologist and researcher, Megan works with organizations to make change using social science principles. She designs research projects, implements data collection processes, and analyzes findings, which then shape recommendations and programs and contribute to “meaningful insights about social and behavioral science.” Collaboratively with others, she strives to provide “the most robust research that has practical applications.”
Megan also serves on the Board of Directors for the Immigrant and Refugee Center of Northern Colorado and has helped build and manage a growing research lab at the University of Northern Colorado.
“My life mission is to use my knowledge and skills to help people better understand how the world around them is built and changed so that everyone is empowered to make meaningful change,” she says. “If we truly knew the power of groups, we could understand empathy and do so much good in the world.”
Married with two children, Megan says her family loves “adventuring in our beautiful state and having movie nights together.” Her hobbies, in addition to reading and writing, include playing multiple string instruments and singing in a women’s band. “It’s so cathartic and a big part of who I am.”
“Springtide calls to me on a practical and spiritual level,” says Megan. “The team, concepts, and mission are so innovative and yet so accessible. Springtide fits into my personal goals but also serves an internal need to be part of things that matter.”
Sean is currently pursuing a masters in sociology at the University of Northern Colorado where he has worked as a researcher in the Social Research Lab, a graduate research assistant, and a graduate teaching assistant.
With a passion for research and civil service, Sean describes his life mission as “to help initiate social change through civil participation and service informed by social science.”
Previously, Sean worked with NORC (the nonpartisan and objective research organization) at the University of Chicago and with a United States Senate office in Washington, DC. During his undergraduate education at Concordia College, he founded the Disabilities Accommodations Council while serving on the Student Government Association.
A huge lover of film, Sean has “analyzed and reviewed films personally and for media outlets.” He also loves to read “books ranging from Stephen King to Stephen Hawking.”
On his involvement with Springtide, Sean says, “When the opportunity to join Springtide’s research team was presented, I could not have been happier or more excited to contribute to the organization’s mission. Springtide is conducting meaningful work with a mission and team dedicated to being a catalyst for important change.”
Adrianna is pursuing her PhD from Case Western Reserve University in sociology, with concentrations in social inequalities and research methods. At CWRU, she acts as a graduate research assistant for two faculty during the academic year and teaches an ESL course for incoming international students in the summer. She also works, when needed, as a research consultant for the Social Research Lab at the University of Northern Colorado and Inclusive Solutions, a private consulting company.
As a skilled project manager, Adrianna is experienced in qualitative and quantitative research. She hopes to use her education and skills “to give power and voice back to those who are marginalized in our society.”
“I became involved with Springtide to enhance my research skills and return to my roots as an applied researcher,” she says.
As for other pursuits, Adrianna says, “I hope to have hobbies once I finish my PhD.”
Sigrid has spent much of her career at national retailers, in art and creative direction on a variety of media, always focused on helping design beautiful things that drive a clear message. She says the best aspect of her creative work “is the opportunity to collaborate with folks to bring about a lovely end result.”
That desire to collaborate extends well beyond work for Sigrid. “My mission in life is to help turn hearts towards loving mercy, acting justly, and walking in humility with each other, and to help people know they are loved and worthy of love.”
Her outside activities include serving as a board member at Friends of the Farm, a local organization that celebrates agricultural life and connects farming history to today’s sustainability efforts through programming for all ages. In her “free” time, Sigrid enjoys reading cookbooks and “making dishes for my daughters to reject, leaving my husband and I the leftovers.” She also enjoys quilting, gardening, and anything outdoors.
She explains her involvement with Springtide this way: “Young people have wants and needs, just like all of us. The idea that Springtide seeks to amplify their voices while at the same time connecting people to what their needs and wants are is so needed in today’s polarized world. When we begin with deep listening, our hearts will be changed.”
Steve is a multidisciplinary designer with experience ranging from advertising to corporate and non-profit organizations. He has a passion for taking big ideas and creating design that matters.
Steve strives to bring empathy, an open mind, and a high priority for relationships and fostering a sense of belonging to his personal and professional life.
“My favorite pastimes include wrestling with my energetic toddler son and going to the pet store to visit all the animals Mom won’t let us bring home,” Steve says. “My favorite activity during warm weather is playing soccer on Sunday nights with my family watching from the sidelines.”
Steve says of his involvement with Springtide: “It’s not every day you get the opportunity to help build and design something from the ground up. Especially something that has the potential to impact the lives of young people. I’ve seen and felt the effects of loneliness in my generation and understand the need and urgency of the Springtide mission. It is a privilege to use my design expertise to help visually communicate and further this mission.”
Managing Editor & Content Creator
Partnership Communications Director
Jerry has been a professional writer, editor, and managing editor in journalism and book publishing for more than 30 years. Also a certified teacher (K-12), Jerry has taught college composition, creative writing, and English literature as an adjunct at several colleges and universities.
On his work as Springtide managing editor and content creator: “All my professional loves are at play here: writing, editing, assisting in the creation and publication of content I value and respect, educating and being educated. Add to that working with and on behalf of young people, what’s not to love? It’s a privilege to be involved.”
Married with four grown children and three grandchildren, Jerry lives in La Crosse, WI, where he has learned to cheer for the Green Bay Packers and has never abandoned his post as a stalwart fan of the Minnesota Twins.
Our Spring 2020 Interns
Jana N. Abdulkadir
Social Science Research Intern
As an intern for Springtide, Jana assists managing editor and content creator Jerry. “I will be interviewing and writing blog posts for Springtide’s website and social media accounts, with the goal of showcasing Springtide’s mission. I will also be writing reports about the research,” Jana says.
“My number one goal as an intern is to learn about the entire process of conducting and sharing research,” she says. “My time at Springtide will also strengthen my teamwork skills. Being able to discuss, question, and learn from others will help me grow academically, professionally, and personally.”
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Jana plans to attend graduate school and become a licensed clinical psychologist. In her free time, she enjoys singing, watching musicals, and playing with her two cats, Leo and Bitsy.
Social Science Research Intern
Emilie comes to Springtide aspiring to “help eliminate discrimination and ignorance through our work, especially in our currently charged political climate.”
A psychology student at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, MN, Emilie says of her career goals, “I want to be a storyteller. I don’t know exactly how that will come together for me—whether it will be writing Young Adult Literature as I had planned, or if I will follow in the footsteps of Brené Brown who says, ‘I’m a qualitative researcher. I collect stories; that’s what I do. And maybe stories are just data with a soul. And maybe I’m just a storyteller. You know what? Why don’t you just say I’m a researcher-storyteller.’ This quote cemented the idea that I can pursue psychology and writing, and emphasizing psychology can reach a larger audience and help more people.”
At Springtide, Emilie assists managing editor Jerry Ruff in creating a variety of content. In her free time, she enjoys reading and writing for leisure. If she doesn’t have her nose buried in a world of her own or someone else’s making, you can likely find her curled up in a cozy armchair with a hot cup of tea and a sketchbook.
Social Science Research Intern
After studying advertising and public relations at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Sarah comes to Springtide with hopes of furthering her communications, public relations, writing, and research skills.
“This work with Springtide, involving social media as well as writing, will be a great educational experience,” she says. “I hope to learn a lot about what companies are looking for as well as the research involved” while connecting with the various stakeholders of this organization. At Springtide, Sarah partners with Marte on community engagement and implementing Springtide’s communications strategy.
Sarah anticipates pursuing a career in public relations within Minnesota. Her hobbies include reading, crosswords, fishing, board games, and participating in local meetup events.