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Executives and Board

CAC Executives

Michael Poffenberger, Executive Director

Michael joined the CAC as Executive Director in 2014 after first serving on the Board of Directors. He is responsible for overseeing a multi-year strategy to develop CAC as a 21st-century platform for transformative spiritual teaching that builds upon Fr. Richard’s lifetime of work. He has led the organization through significant growth as the CAC seeks to scale its impact, integrate new teachers, and introduce future generations to the wisdom of the contemplative tradition.

Michael graduated from the University of Notre Dame, where he was first impacted by the teaching of contemplative activists such as Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. He then spent 10 years doing advocacy and peacebuilding work in Washington, D.C. as Executive Director for Resolve. At Resolve, Michael led bipartisan coalitions and developed international campaigns to advance policy change for war-affected communities in Africa. He helped author and win passage of legislation focused on the prevention of violent atrocities and testified before both the US Congress and United Nations Security Council.

Michael serves as Board Chair of Invisible Children and previously served on Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies’ Advisory Board. Outside of his work, Michael is a dad to his three-year-old daughter, Madeleine.

Doug Murrell, Chief Operating Officer

Doug Murrell is an embodiment of service. A decorated Navy officer and a former executive pastor with 25 years in operations management, Doug’s leadership came during a pivotal time in our 30+ year journey. As the Chief Operating Officer at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), Doug knows the pattern of order, disorder, and reorder impacts both individuals and organizations. It is within this framework he supports CAC staff and constituents on a journey of transformation grounded in perennial wisdom.

Doug’s passion for our mission is as contagious as his smile. The gracious way he supports people, organizations, and movements illuminates the “action” part of our name. Holding degrees in human and organizational development and public administration, he was the director of global faith engagement at Habitat for Humanity International before joining the CAC in 2019. When not leading CAC’s operations, you can find Doug enjoying sports, spending time with his wife, Felicia, or grounding himself contemplatively with good music.

Kirsten Oates, Managing Director of Program Design and Teacher Relations

Kirsten has experience in strategic consulting with Bain & Company and the Bridgespan Group as well as a number of non-profit and faith-based organizations. She spent seven years as Director of Strategy for City Church San Francisco. Kirsten grew up in Australia and graduated from the Australian National University with a Bachelor in Economics and a Bachelor of Laws with Honors. Kirsten is also a graduate of the Living School. She is responsible for ensuring CAC’s program design is aligned to the Christian contemplative lineage.

Tisha Ford, Managing Director of Production and Outreach

Tisha Ford is a dancer. She is intimately acquainted with the life-saving dance of contemplation and action. Service lights her up, and it is through that light, as well as her gentle sense of humor and nurturing presence, that Tisha choreographs the rhythmic art of collaboration throughout the organization. As the Managing Director of Production and Outreach at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), she supports the creative, engagement, and programs teams as they create pathways for personal transformation and help reintroduce the world to the Christian contemplative movement.

Before joining the CAC in 2019, Tisha worked with the New York Open Center, overseeing the Art of Dying Institute. A journey through her eclectic career… she danced the lead in ballets such as the Nutcracker, Cinderella and Balanchine’s Tarantella, led a diversity procurement initiative for the Super Bowl, earned her MBA, and is a certified yoga instructor and a life coach. When not leading the production and outreach team, you can find Tisha lost in her worn copy of Richard Rohr’s Just This, practicing her asanas, writing and, of course, dancing.

Cindy Kroll, Managing Director of Finance and Business Analytics

Cindy Kroll has a vision. She sees a world where our financial decisions don’t have to conflict with Jesus’s teachings of humility, simplicity, and love. She joined the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in 2019 as the Managing Director of Finance and Business Analytics. She works tirelessly to align the CAC’s financial model with our contemplative tradition and Richard Rohr’s teachings.

Cindy has always had a bit of wanderlust in her heart. Growing up on a small Minnesota farm she learned to appreciate the contemplative beauty of nature, a place she finds grounding to this very day. Like many, it was Fr. Richard’s Falling Upward that steered her path toward CAC, first as part of the 2019 Living School cohort and then as a member of the Board of Directors’ Finance Committee. Cindy is a Certified Public Accountant, has a master’s in software systems, and earned a business coach certification. When she’s not leading the finance team, you can find her on a meditative nature walk, journaling, writing poetry or with her two children, Kaitlyn and Evan.

Ananda Robie, Managing Director of Digital Products

Ananda Robie is all about empowerment. As the Managing Director of Digital Products at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), she innovates and evolves technology so everyone feels empowered—from staff examining dashboards to students registering for online courses.

Born into a Tibetan Buddhist family, Ananda saw her own tradition reflected in many of Richard Rohr’s books, especially Everything Belongs. There she read about reclaiming Christianity in love and inclusivity, ideas that reflected her own heart.

Ananda discovered her niche in systems administration at the nonprofit Invisible Children. In 2016 she moved cross-country to join the CAC as the CRM Product Manager and earned her Salesforce Admin Certification. When not leading our Digital Products Team, you can find Ananda camping in her 1998 Dodge Ram Van or empowering young girls in STEM through a non-profit, which she co-founded and serves on the Board of Directors.

Patricia Salwei, Managing Director of Organization and People Development

Patricia is an Organization Development Practitioner with over fifteen years’ experience. She has a Master’s Degree in Transformative Leadership and Social Change, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics. Patricia leads CAC’s Human Resources functions, and facilitates our internal organizational development. She is passionate about helping employees realize their highest aspirations in service to a mission they love.

CAC Board of Directors

LaVera Crawley, Chair

LaVera Crawley has followed the path of “radical servanthood” as a physician on the Navajo Indian Reservation; an at-home mom; an empirical bioethicist at Stanford University focusing on health inequities at the end of life; and now as a hospital chaplain practicing the art of spiritual companionship. LaVera is an alumna of the Living School, a graduate of the first cohort. She is happily married and is the proud mother of an artist. LaVera also serves on CAC’s Human Resources committee.

John (Jack) Willome, Vice Chair

Jack Willome believes that contemplation transforms individuals and the world. He has witnessed this impact first-hand in himself, as a member of the first Living School cohort, and in those around him, from activists striving to dismantle systems of oppression to his fellow board members, who inspire him every day. He is passionate about the Center for Action and Contemplation’s programs that emphasize experiential learning as a gateway to spiritual maturity.

Jack is honored to serve with the CAC board, as it strives to hold a contemplative stance in support of the organization. A board member since 2016, he serves on the contemplative governance and finance committees. A retired business CEO, Jack enjoys spending time in nature at his Estes Park, CO home, playing board games with his grandchildren and going on long winding bike rides. In addition to Jack’s more traditional seated contemplative practice, he tunes into the deep Divine indwelling through soulful saxophone notes, as a member of a contemporary worship team.

Richard Rohr, Founder

Fr. Richard is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexican Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation. He is a globally recognized author and teacher and academic dean of CAC’s Living School. Learn more about Fr. Richard here. Richard serves on the following CAC committees: Executive, Human Resources, Finance, Strategic Planning, and Nominations.

Heidi Franklin, Treasurer

Heidi Franklin believes that the healing of the world requires us to be open to God’s loving presence in all things. Part of the 2019 Living School cohort, she is passionate about the Center for Action and Contemplation’s role as a “front door” to the Christian contemplative movement, a path that helped her emerge from fundamental Christianity and expand into a more loving dialogue with God.

A retired CPA with an MBA, Heidi is grateful to serve on the CAC board, and even more grateful for their fellowship, which has graciously helped her on her personal anti-racism journey. As the board treasurer and chair of the finance committee, she is dedicated to helping the organization find congruence in what the CAC teaches and how it conducts business. In addition to supporting CAC, she offers emotional first aid as a Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) volunteer and provides spiritual direction. For Heidi, contemplation is all about action—taking deep breaths (preferably in nature) and following the call of the Holy Spirit.

Alexie Torres-Fleming, Secretary

Alexie founded Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ) in 1994 with the mission to rebuild the Bronx River neighborhoods where she grew up. She is the co-founder of the Bronx River Alliance and the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance and serves as Executive Director of Access Strategies Fund. In 2015, she was appointed by President Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Council for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Alexie is a New Voices Fellow for Sojourners in Washington, DC and a 2014 Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.

Christopher Ferebee

Christopher is a nonprofit and intellectual property attorney and a literary agent in both the secular and Christian markets. He intentionally cultivates a small number of gifted storytellers, working with them to develop their career and navigate the publishing landscape effectively. In addition to this work, Chris serves on a number of non-profit boards. He earned his law degree from Loyola Law School and resides with his wife, Christy, in Southern California.

Wally Goulet

Wally received his business degree from the University of Notre Dame and his law degree from the University of North Dakota.  He divided his legal career between a general and trial practice and later served as general counsel for a national software cooperative. He recently co-authored a business book entitled Wired Differently, describing a “servant leadership” culture. He has served on boards of professional, community, and faith-based organizations and nonprofits. He is a student in the Living School and serves as a teaching assistant for a number of CAC online courses. Wally is an avid hiker and golfer. He and his wife, Cynthia, live in North Dakota and have five adult children and three grandchildren.

Christian Peele

Christian is Director of Stewardship and Development at Riverside Church in New York City. Before Riverside, Christian served on the staff of the Obama White House in various capacities, most recently as Deputy Director for White House Operations. She has also worked for the Harlem Children’s Zone and in the Church of the Saviour community in Washington, DC supporting those returning from incarceration. She received an M.Div. from Duke Divinity School and a B.A. from Mary Baldwin University’s Program for the Exceptionally Gifted.

Don Samuels

Don immigrated from Jamaica to study Industrial Design at Pratt Institute NY. He spent 27 years in the toy industry as a design executive and an independent designer/inventor for Hasbro, Mattel, Milton Bradley, etc. He has an MDiv from Luther Seminary and now serves on its board. He was elected to the Minneapolis City Council for 11 years and then to the Minneapolis School Board for four years. He co-founded the PEACE Foundation, now doing business as the Northside Achievement Zone, where his wife is CEO. Don is currently CEO of MicroGrants and serves on the board of Twin Cities Rise.

Drew Jackson

Originally from New Jersey, Drew studied Political Science at the University of Chicago, and went on to gain his M.A. in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has preached in many different contexts and has a particular passion for justice, reconciliation, and community renewal.

Drew is blessed to share life with his wife, Genay, and their beautiful twin daughters, Zora and Suhaila.

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