Background on Envoys

Envoys founders Marina Lee, Seth Leighton, and Luis Enrique Garcia first met as classmates at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. During their studies, the three found themselves in lengthy discussions about the purpose and meaning of education, the means of supporting students through the critical formative years, and the need for innovation and high expectations in educational entrepreneurship. While united in their interests in “non-traditional” forms of education, each pursued different focal points in their studies. Marina addressed the ethical integration of business and education, serving as President of the BRIDGE collaboration between HBS, HGSE, and HKS and founding the Charter School Business Plan Competition. Seth investigated curriculum development, school leadership, and data-driven instruction, designing a comprehensive curriculum for the highly esteemed WorldTeach program and consulting local schools on methods of data analysis. Luis delved into the International Education Policy program, building his knowledge of evaluation methodologies and strategies to foster sustainable change across education systems.

Their conversations on the purpose of education continued after each had set off on their respective professional paths. Marina put her plans for educational entrepreneurship into action in Seoul, Seth moved to Ethiopia to train instructors at the University of Gondar, and Luis continued to expand South America’s leading outdoor education company, Off Bound Adventures.

The rapid growth of Off Bound Adventures came just as standards-based education, 21st Century Skills, and education for global citizenship converged in the United States. Seeing a need to merge cultural competency training, empathy development, and rigorous academic research, the three colleagues founded Envoys in 2012. Utilizing Off Bound Adventures’ extensive infrastructure and experience in outdoor education, they built a new model for the development and evaluation of global competency, combining rigorous online courses, focused international travel, and high-quality learning outputs. Envoys continues to draw its staff and counselors from the extensive HGSE alumni network, thus ensuring a high degree of pedagogical expertise, content knowledge, and passion for education throughout the organization.

Off Bound Adventures SAS provides outdoor education services for children and young people, focusing on promoting essential skills and competencies for personal development. The company was founded in 2001 and is based in Bogota, Colombia.

OBA is the parent company for Envoys, and houses members of the Envoys team dedicated to finance, operations, design, and customer service. Many of OBA’s staff serve as program directors for Envoys’ trips, and several OBA staff perform management roles within Envoys.

Off Bound Adventures was born out of a passion for education, hard-working professionalism and a love of the great outdoors. Motivated by the lack of options available for children and young people to enjoy in their free time, OBA was created in 2001 as an after-school education program. Based around open air camping techniques, over 10 generations of students have now taken part in the project, which demonstrates all the characteristics of successful 21st century education .

In 2004, the group expanded to create Piragua, a summer camp on the Colombian Island of Barú which was based around water sports and marine activities. Hundreds of children took advantage of the camp’s opportunity to grow and learn while enjoying the best vacations of their lives. Encouraged by the constant growth of the summer camp, OBA dedicated its time to broadening the options available for these amazing vacations. Today we offer 4 different camps in various destinations and have secured our place as the provider of the best summer camps in Colombia. By 2007, OBA opened Zambo, our school fieldtrip division. Now, over 5,000 children take part in these trips each year. Zambo has made us the school’s most important ally when it comes to complementing the school curriculum and developing students’ skills and experiences over the course of each of our trips. We strongly believe in the educational benefits of these experiences and we manage to transform river banks or immense mountain ranges into the most powerful classrooms imaginable.

OBA is the largest Outdoor Education company in Colombia and the whole of Latin America, with over 30 direct employees, 90 specialist local field staff members and thousands of happy children and parents who are – and always will be – the purpose of our existence.

Envoys Advisory Board brings a wide range of experiences and expertise for our programs. Through regular meetings, they provide consistent and valuable guidance on our direction, strategy, pedagogy, and assessments. Most importantly, they challenge Envoys to continually improve and reach new levels of excellence in all that we do.

  • Fernando Reimers
    Harvard University


    Fernando M. Reimers is the Ford Foundation Professor of International Education and Director of Global Education and of International Education Policy at Harvard University. He is an internationally renowned expert on education policy, democratic citizenship, educational innovation and social entrepreneurship. Professor Reimers’ most recent publication is Empowering Global Citizens: A World Course.
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    Steven Koltai

    Brookings Institute


    Steven Koltai has over 30 years of business experience with several successful startups, including SES, the world’s largest commercial TV satellite system. Steven created and ran the Global Entrepreneurship Program for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A visiting scholar at the Brookings Institute, Steven has recently published Peace Through Entrepreneurship, a new roadmap for international development.

  • Monica Higgins

    Harvard University


    An expert on leadership and management, Monica Higgins joined Harvard in 1995 as a member of the faculty at the Harvard Business School.
    She is currently the Kathleen McCartney Professor of Education Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where her research and teaching focus on the areas of leadership development and organizational change.

  • Josh Forman

    Confer Health


    Josh is the co-founder of Inkling, the pre-eminent developer of iPad textbook software and, one of Fast Company’s most innovative companies of 2014. A dilettante of serious pursuits, Josh received a computer science degree from Harvard before passing through Microsoft, a Harvard laboratory, and a Ph.D. program in computational biology at Princeton. Among other matters, Josh advises Envoys on implementing technology-in-education solutions.
  • Luis Garcia

    Educas Americas


    A member of Envoys’ founding team, Luis took a sabbatical from the organization to serve as the Vice-Minister of Education in Colombia, where he was responsible for the operation of over 50,000 schools in the country and has been focused in reforming the teaching profession, developing curriculum, creating effective measures of learning and promoting accountability. Luis has completed his term, and has returned to Envoys as the lead strategic advisor.

  • Manjula Dissanayake

    Educate Lanka Foundation


    Manjula Dissanayake is the founding president of Educate Lanka Foundation, a 501-c-3 nonprofit social venture that empowers promising students from underprivileged backgrounds with access to education. Drawing on his background in corporate finance and experience in exploring and testing innovations, Manjula advises Envoys on developing student action on issues relating to sustainable development.