Open Connections

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Advisory Council

Advisory Council

The purpose of the OC Advisory Council is two-fold:

           a.) to make recommendations to the Board of Trustees and to the OC administration (currently referred to as the A-Team) based on their general and specific knowledge and insights with regard to the field of education, current and anticipated future trends, and anything else that would seem to be of service in furthering the purposes of Open Connections as implied by its mission, vision and values.

           b.) to serve as a resource for research, ideas and recommendations in response to requests for assistance from the Board of Trustees or from the OC administration.

Amy Johnson is Director of Agriculture for Greener Partners, a non-profit farming organization offering educational programming with the goal of inspiring community members of all ages to experience fresh, local food, igniting healthy eating habits for life. She founded Red Hill Farm, a 120 member Community Supported Agriculture farm in Aston, PA where she worked as Farm Director growing food and community for nearly 8 years. Since 2013, she has sat on Media Borough Council where she serves as liaison for the Environmental Advisory, Fair Trade, Shade Tree and Farmers Market committees.

James Tangorra is a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Drexel University. He runs the Laboratory for Biological Systems Analysis where he and his lab study the integration of sensing, control and mechanics in animal and robotic locomotor systems. He is also co-director of Drexel’s Peace Engineering graduate program which trains engineers to help prevent and reduce violent conflict by integrating technologies and analytic approaches with the studies and practices of peacebuilders.  

Jeff Westphal joined Vertex, Inc., the corporate tax software company founded by his father, Ray Westphal, as Director of Marketing in 1988.  He served a variety of roles before becoming President of Vertex in 1996 and CEO in 2001. Having led Vertex through global expansion and ten fold growth, he retired as CEO in 2016 and became Chairman of the Board. During his tenure, Vertex was recognized as "The #1 Best Large Company to Work for in the State of Pennsylvania" by The Great Places to Work Institute. Jeff is a member of the Young President's Organization (YPO) Gold Division, and is also a frequent speaker to business and community organizations. Jeff served as Chairman of the Board of Open Connections for 15 years. He has devoted the remainder of his career to encouraging the transformation of directive institutions toward more collaborative and developmental models.

John Gruber is a science educator and ecology researcher with nearly thirty years of experience teaching biology, chemistry and physics to young people at the secondary school level (grades 9 - 12). He is actively involved in curriculum design and directs a research lab that uses DNA sequencing techniques to explore questions related to biodiversity and evolutionary biology. 

Lois Reynolds is Director for Vertex, Inc. and a previous member of OC’s Board of Trustees.  She is a certified Project Manager, a founder of the Vertex Women’s Leadership Forum, and has many years of coaching, leadership, and operations experience. 

Nicholas Bergson-Shilcock is CEO of the Recurse Center (, a self-directed programming retreat with an integrated recruiting firm based in New York. Since cofounding the Recurse Center in 2010, Nick has helped grow it into a community of more than 1,700 programmers, who have come from over 50 countries to attend. The retreat is free for all participants, and has disbursed nearly $2M in living expense grants to people from traditionally underrepresented groups in programming. The firm has helped hundreds of companies hire programmers, ranging from fast-growing startups to major public tech companies.  Nick's strengths include strategic planning, deep technical knowledge, and nearly a decade of experience growing and managing a company based on the principles of unschooling.  Nick is a lifelong unschooler and OC alum.

Nick (Pie) Falteich is a life-long OCer, (he started at OC at age 4 and graduated from OC in 2017). Having never stepped foot in a traditional school setting, he is a perfect example of how the liberty afforded by open education helps people discover their true passion and use that to to create opportunities. He got his first job as a caddy at a private country club at the age of 13 and currently, at 20, is in a management position for that organization. He has held four jobs (many simultaneously) in four different industries without ever having completed an application or submitting a resume. He embodies OC’s belief in Natural Learning, and exhibits his commitment to collaboration, Real Work, and pro-social interactions on a daily basis.