Our story

Every child deserves to know what it feels like when an entire community of adults and peers has her back.

We have spent most of our careers working with and learning from tens of thousands of educators about how to monitor progress and develop a personalized path to success for every child. We founded Intellispark to improve how schools and communities support all students – to help make student success a team sport.

We believe that a more modern approach to student support services needs a more modern technology backbone.

Our motivation

At the PreK-12 level, schools and districts are moving beyond college and career counseling toward a team-based, “whole child” approach to student support services. Many schools and districts are going even further, reaching outside the school to embrace community-based organizations as key partners in student success. New ways of delivering student support services require new tools. That’s why we created Intellispark Pulse.

Why “Pulse”?

Whether struggling or thriving, every student needs a plan and a team. We called our first product Pulse because we liked that it was defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the central point of energy and organization in an area or activity.” We are working to make sure that Intellispark Pulse lives up to that potential as the hub for insight, intelligence, and interaction connecting every student with the team of caring adults and peers that will help her achieve her full potential.

Meet our leadership team

Stephen M. Smith

CEO

Stephen M. Smith is CEO of Intellispark, chair of the national board at College Possible, and a member of the board of the National College Access Network. Steve is co-author of Who Do You Think You Are: Three Critical Conversations for Coaching Teens to College & Career Success, published by John Wiley & Sons.

Steve was previously president and chief product officer at Hobsons where he led global product strategy, corporate development, student data privacy, and R&D. Steve joined Hobsons through the acquisition of Naviance, a leading college and career readiness technology platform used in 12,000 schools in more than 100 countries, where he was co-founder and chief executive.

Earlier in his career, Steve served as vice president of digital product development at Peterson’s, as a founding member of the Internet consulting practice at Thomson Technology Services Group, and as a practitioner faculty member at The Johns Hopkins University and Montgomery College.

Steve earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, cum laude, and an MBA from Cornell University.

Shaun Fanning

Chief Product Officer

Shaun Fanning is chief product officer at Intellispark and a cofounder of Naviance. Shaun is also co-author of Who Do You Think You Are: Three Critical Conversations for Coaching Teens to College & Career Success, published by John Wiley & Sons.

Shaun previously served as vice president of research and development at Hobsons, where he led new product initiatives focused on improving student success through technology in K–12 and higher education. He joined Hobsons in 2007 through its acquisition of Naviance, where he served as head of product strategy and technology. Prior to co-founding Naviance, he held a variety of roles in business analysis, finance, technology, marketing, and product management at AT&T and The Thomson Corporation (now Thomson Reuters).

He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Cornell University.

Patricia A. Gagnon

Senior VP, Programs and Practices

Patricia Gagnon is senior vice president of programs and practices at Intellispark. Patricia is a passionate educator and innovator. As an educator, she is ever-focused on what sparks a student’s drive to learn and be successful. As an innovator, she works to develop solutions that transform the experience of users — in this case, students, parents, and the vast array of education professionals who support them.

Patricia has executive experience in product strategy across both the education technology and consumer product industries. Prior to joining Intellispark, she served as senior vice president and general manager of Naviance by Hobsons, a leading college and career readiness platform, and as vice president of product management at K12, Inc., an online learning and content provider for K-12 online public and private school students. A common thread between these roles was identifying and supporting the behaviors — both of students and of educators — that lead to long-term student success.

Before returning to the field of education, Patricia spent seven years with Unilever in both corporate finance and global brand management, culminating with global innovations on Dove Bar, Dove Body Wash and the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.

Early in her career, Patricia served as a public school administrator and teacher of English and Latin in several Rhode Island public schools. Her eight years in the classroom provided a foundation to develop solutions that would enhance the experience and outcomes for all participants in the learning process.

Patricia holds a Bachelor of Arts in the Classics and English from Dartmouth College and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Mary Docken

Vice President, Outreach

Mary Docken is vice president, outreach at Intellispark. Mary has extensive experience in education having served as director of admission at two colleges in the Midwest as well as director of college counseling at Mounds Park Academy in Saint Paul, MN. before joining Naviance in 2006 which was acquired by Hobsons in 2007.

Serving in a variety of positions while at Naviance and Hobsons, Mary’s work was always focused on student success. From 2013-2017, she led the development of meaningful partnerships for Hobsons with key education associations such as the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the Consortium for School Networking (COSN), and the American Council on Education (ACE) to name a few.

Professionally active, she has held numerous leadership positions in the Minnesota Association for College Admission Counseling and served as a past board member of College Possible, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping promising, low-income young people prepare for and earn admission to college. Recently, Mary served as a board member of the Minnesota Alliance with Youth, which spearheads the Grad Nation work in Minnesota, and was a member of the Minnesota ACT Statewide Council.

Mary connects all that she does to helping students be successful. Mixing common sense and organization with sensitivity and humor, she thrives on connecting ideas to people and mission. She believes that more is gained by working together than apart and that learning is the key to achieving.

Mary earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

David Conley, Ph.D.

Senior Advisor

Dr. Conley is a national thought leader in several areas including college and career readiness, student ownership of learning, systems of assessment, and new models of educational accountability. He has conducted numerous research studies on what it takes for students to be ready to succeed in college and careers, and he writes extensively on this topic. Most recently, he studied assessment and accountability systems, specifically those using new techniques and multiple measures. His most recent book, The Promise and Practice of Next Generation Assessment, was published in July, 2018 by Harvard Education Press.

As Professor of Educational Policy and Leadership in the Department of Educational Methodology, Policy, and Leadership, College of Education, University of Oregon, he founded the Center for Educational Policy Research at the University of Oregon in 2000, which he continues to direct. Dr. Conley also founded and served for 12 years as CEO of the Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC, now Inflexion). He recently completed an appointment as Senior Fellow for Deeper Learning under the sponsorship of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Currently, he is the founder and president of EdImagine, a consulting group dedicated to helping educational organizations improve their effectiveness and hone their strategic direction.

Before entering higher education in 1989, Dr. Conley spent 20 years in the public school system in a variety of roles including teacher and co-director of two public alternative schools, a site and central-office administrator, and an executive in a state education agency.

Dr. Conley earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley and a MA and PhD from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Deborah Hardy, Ed.D.

Senior Advisor

“It is a rare person who can take care of hearts while also taking care of business.” – Anonymous

This quote, imprinted on a tile, is Deborah Hardy’s inspiration to support every child. Deborah Hardy, EdD is the founder and Educational Consultant of GuidED Consulting, LLC in Mahopac, NY. Previously, Dr. Hardy was a multilingual school counselor in a diverse school district in suburban New York State where she assisted with English as a Second Language program development as an advocate for students new to the country. In her many years of experience, she served as a coordinator and as a director of K12 school counseling services where she oversaw school counselors, school social workers, and school nurses.

Dr. Hardy implemented a comprehensive K12 school counseling program aligned to the New York and American School Counselor Association (ASCA) model framework and geared towards supporting student academic, social emotional, career and college skill development. Dr. Hardy is student centered and while in the school district, she assisted with the response to intervention process and the whole child task force among many other responsibilities.

Additionally, Dr. Hardy implemented new components within the school counseling program such as a student personal learning plan connecting interests and abilities into personal goals – finding what the student is involved in as an activity, connecting it to courses that are related to the interest, and developing ideas to overcome challenges. The plan lets students engage and develop their learning pathway.

Dr. Hardy provides professional development to school districts and state school counseling associations (ASCA, NY, AZ, SC, CT, NC, MS, MT, NJ) on using student support services data to tell student stories, collaborating as a team towards student achievement, writing curriculum and lessons that make sense, emotional intelligence, mindfulness in student support services, understanding the role of student support systems in a learning organization, and developing a comprehensive school counseling program.

Dr. Hardy is a member of the New York State Education Department School Counseling Advisory Team as well as the Social Emotional Development and Learning Task Force and has held several state and local leadership positions in the school counseling profession. Dr. Hardy is the co-author of the NYS Comprehensive School Counseling Model as well as the NYS Model Activities Books. She also authored the Internet Guide for School Counselors and El Camino a La Universidad, a guidebook for the college process in Spanish. She has collaborated with several authors, including on Kids Who Think Outside the Box: Helping Your Child Thrive in a Cookie Cutter World by Stephanie Lerner.

Currently, Dr. Hardy is an adjunct professor at New York University and Long Island University inspiring future school counselors to embrace the whole child approach. Her belief: I provide counseling with a heart!

Matthew Liberatore

Senior Advisor

Matt Liberatore is the director of professional learning and student services for Township High School District 214, president-elect of the Illinois School Counselor Association, and senior advisor to Intellispark. Over the last decade, Matt has served as a school counselor, counseling department chair and assistant principal for student services. In this time, he has developed a passion for utilizing student achievement data to drive and leverage student service success. Matt has shared this expertise at regional and national conferences, where he presents on creating “dynamic student data” that focuses on a transformed approach to Multi-tiered Systems of Support. Matt is most excited to be working with Intellispark to revolutionize the student advising experience.

Matt has worked in several school settings, from private to public to rural and suburban. He began his educational career at Marian Catholic High School before moving to Lake Zurich District 95 and Huntley District 158. Since 2015, he has worked in District 214. Matt holds a master’s degree in School Counseling and a Licensed Professional Counselor credential from Saint Xavier University. Matt has also earned a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Northeastern Illinois University and is currently completing his doctorate’s degree in Educational Leadership from Concordia University.

Outside of work, Matt has a deep affinity to assist in fighting global poverty. For the past 12 years, he has traveled the globe with Habitat for Humanity Global Village as a Global Village Leader. In this role, Matt has recruited and trained various diverse groups to successfully complete Habitat for Humanity projects in Guatemala, Chile, India, Hungary, Kenya, and the United States.

Career opportunities

We’re building a team that’s passionate about helping every child see a future full of opportunity. We are working with schools and communities to deliver an integrated approach to student services that keeps kids who are flourishing on a path to success while steering those who are struggling to the support they need.

Full Stack Developers
Arlington, VA or remote

A book by our founders …

Who Do You Think You Are?

Intellispark founders Shaun Fanning and Stephen Smith are passionate about helping kids make the most of their education decisions. Who Do You Think You Are: Three Critical Conversations for Coaching Teens to College & Career Success is about helping parents have meaningful conversations about the future of school and work with their middle and high school age kids. In it, Shaun and Steve share lessons from working with thousands of educators, families, and kids during the past 20 years.

Buy on AmazonDownload sample

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We look forward to hearing from you.