Staff Spotlight: Robin Pendoley

Founder & CEO
Robin Pendoley grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area as a "make the world a better place" kind of kid. He earned a BA in International Development at UCLA and a Master's in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He's Founder & CEO of Thinking Beyond Borders by day, and he is an assistant track coach at his alma mater Terra Linda High School in his spare time.

What position do you hold at Thinking Beyond Borders and why do you like working there?

Robin: I am Founder and CEO of TBB. I love working here every day because I'm part of a community of educators, students, host communities, and partners all over the world who are all committed to learning about and solving critical global issues.

Everyone here takes this mission seriously, and the level of dedication, hard work, and love that each person shares is inspiring. Being part of so many people asking themselves and the world hard questions about who we are and who we want to be is what drives me each day.

Did you take a gap year? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Robin: I didn't take a gap year, but I now know that I desperately needed one. When I graduated from high school, I felt so burned out on the constant push to get good grades and test scores to get into college. By the time I arrived on campus at UCLA, I didn't really know why I was there or what I wanted from the opportunity.

I wasn't alone in that feeling. So many of us enter college with no idea how to align our beliefs, talents, and passions with what we are going to study and eventually do in our professional careers. This is another reason I love my work -- our alumni tell us over and over again that their TBB experience helped them define who they want to be and what they want to do in the world.

What does the future hold for TBB - any exciting new programs to share?

Robin: While we've been working hard to offer new programs for gap year students, we're also creating new opportunities to help our alumni become the change agents they want to be.

In the past two years, we've created partnerships with major social impact conferences like Opportunity Collaboration (a global poverty conference) and the Social Capital Markets Conference (a major social innovation gathering) to offer TBB Alumni Fellowships. These fellowships offer small groups of our alumni to attend these conferences with me, meet one on one with leaders of the social impact sector, and develop relationships that lead to incredible internship and job opportunities during and after college.

We're also working on new programs that would allow our alumni and other students to continue developing their social change skills during college. Ultimately, we're working toward a day 30 years from now when TBB alumni are exceptional leaders in organizations and communities around the world that are making great progress toward equity and justice.

How does your organization differ from other ones in the industry?

Robin: The biggest difference is that we are intentional about what we do. All of our programs -- really, our entire organization -- are designed to do everything we can to support students who want to learn about the biggest issues the world is facing and how to create meaningful solutions. We don't assume great learning and growth happen just because you get on a plane and go somewhere. Every Program Leader at TBB has a Master's degree and loves teaching. Our curriculum is designed to help students explore themselves, engage the world, and fall in love with learning again. None of that is easy, but with such an amazing team and incredible students, we've made great things happen.

Which program is your most popular among gappers?

Robin: Our Global Gap Year is definitely our most popular program. It's an unparalleled opportunity to learn about our world and ways that we can make it a more equitable and just place.

This two semester program includes a group of 18 students and 3 Program Leaders who live in 4 countries around the world. During the program, they meet and work alongside exceptional local leaders, examine critical issues affecting each community, and develop deep relationships within multiple host families. The fieldwork placement in each country isn't about volunteering; it's about learning by observing and helping experts who are solving problems in their home communities.

What is the level of cultural immersion your gappers receive?

Robin: All of our programs focus heavily on developing meaningful relationships across cultures and in multiple communities. In each program, students live in multiple communities for about 5 weeks each, living with families and working with local experts each day.

By living in multiple home stays in multiple countries, we aim to help students not just appreciate the cultural diversity in our world, but also to identify the reality we share as humans. This process of "humanizing" our view of others is what the great social justice leaders of our world -- Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Mandela -- have called us to do.

It's not easy to learn, but TBB has committed to creating programs that support students who are willing to take on the challenge to learn this powerful skill and become great agents of change.