Meet the Ei Coaches

As part of the Experience Institute experience, each student is paired with a coach for the year. Coaches are Ei team members who work with a small cohort of students to act both as sustainers-of-courage and demanders-of-accountability.

In fact, 2014 was deemed the Year of the Ei Coach on the recommendation of our inaugural class, who recognized the value of regular check-ins and ongoing support. Over the summer, our development and mentorship advisor Brandon Sammut put together a comprehensive handbook and training session to officially launch our coaching program for the Class of 2015.

Each term, students span a broad range of industries, scatter across the country, and dive into immersive experiences that challenge them to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in order to progress. Such far-flung ventures can result in a sense of disorientation or isolation, but our coaches work closely with each student to provide practical life and career guidance as students move through their year.

Coaches are hand-picked for the manner in which they’ve pursued excellence in their industry (or industries) and for the willingness and agility with which they’ve taken leaps in their own lives. Offering grounded perspectives and enabling students to navigate challenges through strategic decision-making, our coaches are one of the most valuable components of the Ei experience.

We’re proud to introduce them to you.

Meet Heather Baker

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For the past few months, Heather has acted as Ei’s Producer, working with us through the student recruitment process to the graduation of the founding class. She knows the ins and outs of Ei because she’s helped us put a lot of them together. With over 15 years of talent acquisition experience, Heather has worked with a wide range of companies to build sustainable workforces. Recently, she channeled her skills to the other side of spectrum to help students gain and implement valuable assets that help them compete in the workforce. Passionate about collaborating with higher education institutions to coach students, Heather hopes that we can continue to find innovative ways for them to acquire education and experience. Becoming an Ei coach is a natural extension of her experience and passion, and she’s looking forward to the year ahead.

Meet Pilu Sanchez

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Originally from Madrid, Spain, Pilu is a Creative Strategist and Digital Planner with more than 10 years experience in marketing and advertising. After moving to Chicago, she took time off to better understand changes and new challenges for business and brands. During that "unlearning time," Pilu became immersed in design thinking and social innovation. As a result, she founded Today is the Day, a project that helps ad-agencies become more human by transforming the way they work. Her vast experience, together with her belief that creativity and design can change the world, make her a great fit as an Ei coach.

Meet Eric Staples

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Eric used to be a chemist. After realizing how personally un-stimulating a life spent in a lab would be, he took his problem-solving skills into a different pursuit: helping people make their ideas meaningful and motivating to other people. Professionally, the vast majority of that is done within the context of brands, and at the highest level, his approach to brand-building mirrors how he used to approach to chemistry: he takes complicated things, breaks them down to their component pieces, examines them for understanding, and then builds them back up in ways that make them more engaging, more effective, and more useful. Eric’s unique perspective and expertise make a valuable part of the Ei team.

Meet Kevin Von Qualen

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Kevin is an independent artist specializing in sharing stories through the use of photography and Super 8mm motion picture film. Professionally, he has worked with everyone from at-risk youth to celebrities, and on multi-million dollar events and national ad campaigns. He’s also a risk-taker, life-long learner, challenger, husband, father, eater of Chipotle, and lover of anything that requires getting his hands dirty. Passionate about creative collaboration, traveling to meet new people, and living with intention, Kevin is especially looking forward to working with students from the Class of 2015 as they pioneer new paths to experience and education.

On behalf of the entire Ei team and the Class of 2015, we’re so grateful to have these guys as our coaches. Together, we’ll continue reimagining (and learning) how people grow, create, and make the world better.