Tom Vander Ark
CEO + Partner


M.B.A: Finance
Books Contributed To: 50+
High Schools Visited: 2,500
Nonprofits Worked With: 400
Boards: 4.0 Schools, Education Board Partners, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative and eduInnovation
Advisor: One Stone, Teton Science Schools and Whittle School & Studios

I’m passionate about our work because:
Learning is what will enable individuals, families, communities, countries and neighborhoods to thrive. While we face a growing number of existential threats, it has never been easier to use smart tools to make a difference; it has never been more important for all of us to get smart.

My favorite learning experience is:
Visiting schools and learning environments — seeing is believing but, more than seeing, experiencing is believing. Most places have something to teach, but those lessons can be very difficult to capture with only words. I learn so much from visiting schools. These immersive visits make for powerful, memorable and transferable learning experiences.

My role in three words:
Pathfinder & pattern recognizer.

I’m currently learning about:
Contribution, the psychology of purpose, the ethic of service, and the mindset of entrepreneurship.

I’m currently working on:
Answering the question: How might we help more people connect to meaningful work? I’m currently working on a book about contribution to address this question. I’m also working with the Kauffman Foundation on a regional Real World Learning change initiative and am excited to be working alongside XQ with some of the most innovative schools in the country.

Tom Vander Ark is an advocate for innovations in learning. As CEO of Getting Smart, he advises schools, districts, networks, foundations and learning organizations on the path forward. A prolific writer and speaker, Tom is author of Getting Smart, Smart Cities That Work for Everyone, Smart Parents, Better Together and The Power of Place and has published thousands of articles and co-authored more than 50 books and white papers. He writes regularly on, LinkedIn, and contributes to Forbes.

Previously he served as the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Tom served as a public school superintendent in Washington State and has extensive private sector experience. Tom is a board member for Education Board Partners, Director for 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, and eduInnovation and an Advisor for One Stone, Teton Science Schools and Whittle School & Studios.

Tom claims to have visited more high schools than anyone on the planet.

Tom has Authored Over 3000 Blogs.
Tom’s Recent Getting Smart Posts
Tom’s Recent Forbes Posts

Books (authored or contributed)

For papers authored by Tom, check out the publications page.
For blogs written by Tom, check out his authored blogs.

Speaking Engagements

For a full bio see Tom’s speaker kit.

Tom is available for all types of speaking and moderating engagements such as keynotes, panel discussions, round tables and workshop sessions. From learning to leadership, we can customize a speech to fit the needs of your event and audience. Tom regularly speaks on the following:

  • Future of Work: Civic and organizational implications of life with smart machines and what graduates need to know and be able to do to thrive in the automation economy.
  • Future of Learning: New learning models, personalized and project-based learning, lifelong learning, and education technology.
  • Scaling Innovation: Impact investing, public-private partnerships, and working in networks.
  • Good Work: Finding and doing mission-driven work, nonprofit leadership, philanthropy, and community leadership.

To see more information on Tom, his speaking topics, and video examples – visit

To book Tom for a speaking engagement please contact Allison at or 206-992-4592.