Burt Woolf

Facilitating transformative impact!

Burt's Personal Journey

I've spent my entire professional life exploring how people, organizations and communities create a context of quality of life in their world.

Early Academics and Career. Following my eduation at Amherst College (BA; Political Science), Harvard (Certificate in Arts Administration); and the University of California at Los Angeles (MS; Management in the Arts), I embarked on what turned out to be quite a successful national career in the emerging field of "Local Cultural Planning and Development." During the 1970's and into the 1980's, I held a series of senior and chief executive positions leading to 4 years as Director of the CITY SPIRIT program at the National Endowment for the Arts, and culminating with 5 years as Executive Director of the Massachusetts Cultural Alliance. By the time I was 33 years old, my professional future in the arts looked bright and secure.

Unanticipated career re-direction. In 1981, my life took a dramatic turn with the sudden illness and death of my first wife, just days after giving birth to our first child. As my grieving process evolved over the next 25 years, my career path as an institutional executive shifted to a diverse portfolio of professional activities -- entrepreneurial ventures, consulting assignments and personal projects -- all focusing on how individuals, organizations, and communities can generate high performance results and find fulfillment by improving quality-of-life in the world.

Back in the executive saddle. From 2001-2003, I returned to the CEO life as Executive Director of the Creative Education Foundation, an international nonprofit best known for its annual Creative Problem Solving Institute and its peer-reviewed academic publication, The Journal of Creative Behavior.   During my two years at CEF, I came to see my own life as a creative process; to recognize that my own journey had taken many unexpected twists and turns; and to notice that each time things have seemed daunting, limiting and constrained for me, I've somehow found the inner resources to get back up and seek new ways to express myself.  

Another academic credential. In 2004, I made the life-changing decision to set my professional career aside in order to pursue a doctorate in education at the University of Massachusetts, whose flagship campus in Amherst is located about a mile from my home. For the next seven years, I was a full time student, interspersing doctoral course work, research, graduate assistantships, and dissertation writing with occasional professional assignments. I earned my doctorate (Ed.D.) in early 2011 with a concentration in educational policy, research and administration.

Scholarship and personal transformation. My 6+ years of academic research focused on an aspect of adult development called "transformative learning:" the process by which we are able to adapt to dramatically changing circumstances in the world around us. For several years, I studied the personal experience of five people who had shifted their work and careers from the business world to the nonprofit service sector. In my dissertation (titled What's So Different About Making a Difference!? Transforming the Discourse of Worklife and Career), I recorded not only what happened to the five career-shifters, but more importantly, how their identity changed as they moved from an enterprise-driven motivation of financial success, to a mission-driven life of service and personal fulfillment. In essence, my doctoral work wrapped scholarship around the practical experiences of my own professional career and personal life.

A new professional vision. My doctoral research on transformative learning, coupled with seven immersive visits I made to Thailand from 2007-2015 (including a service-learning tour I co-led, and several retreats at a Buddhist monestary), and a year-long stint as Interim CEO of the nonprofit Glynwood Center for Regional Food and Farming proved to transform my own professional identity. Rather than seeking ever more fame and fortune, I settled into a certain confidence of my own mastery, and decided I would share the insights and wisdom of my professional, academic and life experiences to whomever might show up seeking direction in fulfilling their own vision for a better world.

My professional practice today. As it happens, a fascinating collection of clients have been showing up -- individuals, organizations and communities. My life is filled with work that I love! Most recently, I've been working with auxiliary service divisions in K-16 educational institutions who seek my help in transforming students' lives by enhancing the quality of campus/school life experience. This new direction began in 2012 with a few small assignments for the UMass Amherst Auxiliary Enteprises Divison (UMAE), home of the nation's top-ranked UMass Dining program. I am currently (2020) on retainer with UMAE as senior executive advisor to the executive director and his management team, facilitating a culture of excellence within the 1000-member workforce, and keeping them focused on the transformative impact their programs have on students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and the regional community.

I have provided similar services on a project basis for several other divisions on two campuses of UMass (Finance and Administration; Office of Information Technology), as well as for Cornell University (Dining), Stony Brook University (Faculty Student Association), Smith College (Dining), Nazareth College (Campus Operations), the University of Arizona (Auxiliary Services), and the Boston (Massachusetts) Public School System (Food and Nutririon Services). Supporting this new vision of campus life has been professionally invigorating and richly rewarding for me.

Thank you for visiting my web site. I invite you to reach out to me for more information about enhancing the transformative impact of your educational institution, nonprofit organization, public agency, or community.

Burt Woolf