Michael is an experienced school creator whose projects include Moreno Valley High School, a charter school in New Mexico ranked the 36th best public school in the U.S. by Newsweek; Winston Academy, a school for highly gifted students in Florida who successfully completed AP exams; and The Academy of Thought and Industry, the high school model for the largest U.S. Montessori network.
Michael’s ideas are reflected in his alternative schools, books, articles, podcasts and TED talks. Socratic Practice, a form of text-based intellectual dialogue designed to enhance intellectual dialogue and increase verbal scores on standardized tests, is a highlight of the Expanse day. With John Mackey, the founder and CEO of Whole Foods, Michael co-founded Freedom Lights Our World (FLOW), a nonprofit to promote entrepreneurial solutions to world problems. His book, Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World's Problems, co-authored with Mackey, Mohammad Yunus, Hernando de Soto, and others summarizes his approach. Michael’s work on education, law and governance appears regularly in Medium.
Michael earned a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s College and a master’s from the University of Chicago.
Of Expanse, Michael states, “I have created a virtual, affordable program where any student can do what they love, love what they do, and become amazing at it.”
Chief Communications Officer and Head of College Counseling
Nina’s position with Expanse brings together her fondness for individualized education, college counseling and communications. As founder of unCommon Apps, she has guided numerous high school students and their families through the college process. Nina has also created a comprehensive college counseling program for a New Jersey independent school and held various academic content specialist positions with elearning startups. During her corporate career, Nina was a director with KPMG, where she developed and implemented executive education programs.
Nina has an AB with Honors from Brown University and an MBA from the Stern School of Business, New York University. She holds a Certificate with Distinction in College Counseling from UCLA Extension. Nina is also a Professional Member, Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), and a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). She blogs regularly about college-planning issues and has authored several articles appearing in forbes.com. She created two ebook primers: Supplementing the College Supplement and Mastering the College Interview. She volunteers each year for the Gates Foundation.
COO, Director of Admissions, Parent and Student Relations
Hart Robinson, B.A., M.A. Association of Montessori International, is an educational guide in alternative and private schools with over 40 years of experience. She crafted her own high school experience in both Africa and the States. She practiced ballet with the New York City Ballet. She and her husband raised three children who attended Montessori, Parochial and Preparatory Schools.
Magatte Wade is a serial entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, and visionary business leader with a passion for creating positive change in Africa. She is the founder and CEO of SkinIsSkin.com, “the lip balm with a mission,” and is dedicated to reducing racial discrimination while creating jobs and prosperity in her home country of Senegal. Throughout her career, she has created successful high-end retail brands inspired by diverse African traditions. She is a Forbes “20 Youngest Power Women in Africa”, a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum at Davos, a TED Global Africa Fellow, and “Leading Woman in Wellness” award winner by the Global Wellness Summit. In 2014 she was featured on the cover of Forbes Afrique for being the person in Francophone Africa having the greatest positive impact on the future. She serves as the Director of the Atlas Network’s Center for African Prosperity. Wade also serves on the Advisory Board of the Whole Planet Foundation, of Whole Foods Market. She has written for The Guardian, HuffingtonPost.com, and Barron’s, and has been profiled by the NYT. She has spoken at numerous high profile venues including the U.N., The Clinton Global Initiative, the Aspen Institute, TED, Conscious Capitalism, and many dozens of universities including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, MIT, UC Berkeley, Dartmouth, and the Wharton School of Business.
Wade believes that the “cheetah generation,” a new cohort of dynamic African entrepreneurs and professionals identified by Ghanian economist George Ayittey, will create local pathways for change that will shape the future of African prosperity. “Perhaps the most unique challenge we face is that the world has come to perceive that Africans themselves are not capable of creating prosperity—and require charity in order to survive,” she said. “This simply isn’t true. The combination of negative perceptions of Africans, combined with widespread ignorance regarding the need for economic freedom is a toxic combination.”
Lead Humanities Guide
Francisco leads Expanse’s Community and Socratic sessions. He is dedicated to helping turn Expanse into the best learning community in the world through highly personalized mentorship and coaching.
When Francisco graduated from high school, he was at a crossroads: he wanted to continue learning, but every place he knew that was meant for "learning" was boring and unimaginative. Resolved to solve that problem, he became a high-school teacher, which he had once vowed never to become. Determined not to bore himself and others, he broke every teaching rule. His classes seemed chaotic; there were no rows, no tests, very few assignments, and lots of chatter. Unsurprisingly, he and his students learned to love learning; they shared ideas, read books together, and built very cool things. He eventually got caught and was awarded the "Excellence in Teaching Innovation Award" at his school. Francisco has interned at the Academy of Thought and Industry with Michael Strong, founder of Expanse.
He also has years of international teaching experience at and designed courses for schools and institutions in Central Mexico, Beijing, and Oxford.
Francisco is a graduate of St. John’s College and holds a certificate in Great Books pedagogy.
Hayriye Büşra Solak
Büşra (pronounced Boosh-RA) leads Expanse’s afternoon sessions in Mathematics and Science. She moved from Turkey to Santa Fe, NM, to study the Great Books program at St. John’s College. Her enthusiasm for STEM, however, became more apparent. Through rediscovering the inner child who was genuinely interested in everything, Büşra became one of the most active students in STEM-related discussions.
Büşra’s inquisitive nature as a child would often cause her trouble. As a result, she takes every question she encountered seriously. It became apparent to her that genuine questions were gateways into a deeply-rooted quest for understanding. This became for her the basic principle of guiding anyone through the process of learning.
Büşra has taught subjects ranging from science to singing, one of her life-long passions, and even to kayaking. Currently, Büşra is taking courses in Music and Mathematics to enhance her own understanding of the world we live in. Büşra is determined to be a life-long learner who sparks a similar kind of desire in anyone she gets a chance to guide.
She currently lives in Istanbul, Turkey.
Kenton was homeschooled, always preferring a self-directed approach to learning. Around the age of five, he began drawing daily and got his first sketchbook. Kenton filled many sketchbooks, and though Kenton tried some art classes, he quickly discovered that he gained more from a mentoring relationship than from traditional art lessons. He has been learning from Gabriel Valles at Mentorwings Academy since 2015. There, he freely developed his drawing skills in accordance with his own personal goals. Kenton has been teaching drawing to individuals and small groups since 2017 using the same student-led approach to teaching that he enjoyed.
Learning Experience Designer
Lucy brings a designer perspective to the team. She is dedicated to building schools as a space where learners are free to grow their emotional and intellectual identities.
Lucy was a Founding Class student at an innovative university, Minerva Schools. Being a pioneer student at Minerva nurtured and empowered her to be a curious learner and a fearless human. In her global journey, Lucy discovered the power of design through designing educational products and programs with kiron.org (Berlin), Springboard (San Francisco), IDEO (San Francisco), the Argentine Department of Education, Busuu (London), and others.
Currently, Lucy is pursuing her master's degree in Technology, Innovation and Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Chris von Lersner
Lead Novice Program Designer
Chris von Lersner has worked in diverse adolescent and peri-adolescent learning communities worldwide. Supplementing a BA in Education at the College of William & Mary, Chris studied Montessori theory to ground herself in its uniquely coherent rationales for pedagogical decision making and program design.
She helped establish an innovative adolescent program in Atlanta and spent two years as an itinerant middle school English teacher in Japan; led the design of a "working village" farm school in Colorado, piloted by ten guides and 135 young people; and helped found Great Work, a Montessori training center and model school in northwest Denver.
Currently consulting out of Santa Fe, NM, Chris is committed to helping learning communities build cultures that promote autonomous agency, conviviality, and competence in community – both online and in their physical, local environments. She has two children.