Meet our Team
President & Founder
As a life-long educator, strategist and thought leader, Chris Pryor is in his third decade of independent school leadership. A graduate of Kent School in Kent, CT and Roanoke College, Chris holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Roanoke College and a dual master’s degree in Educational Administration and Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. He has held leadership positions at independent schools such as Harbor Country Day, The Independence School, Hackley, Rye Country Day and Tuxedo Park School and was actively involved with NYSAIS. A skilled communicator and visionary practitioner, Chris has led his schools through strategic and long-range plans, marketing and image projects, programmatic paradigm shifts, enrollment challenges and community divides. He brings a wealth of practical, theoretical and consultant experience to the table; is a stickler for data and detail and will make an otherwise arduous task seem like a ton of fun.
Over the years Chris has consulted with trustees, faculty, parents, students, alumni, admissions and development offices. He is a well-known speaker on topics such as social media, marketing, admissions training, crisis management, professional development and board training. He is a talented storyteller, as he learned early on that sharing the school’s story with all its constituents is one way to be as inclusive as possible. The same is true in marketing but specifics are critical.
With Gowan Group, Chris realizes his vision for an educational consulting organization that serves the needs of independent schools on every front–from Admission and Enrollment Management to Advancement and Fundraising, and from Strategic Planning to Leadership Development. To accomplish this, Chris has assembled a stellar group of nationally renowned consultants that have the passion, experience, expertise, and resources to help independent schools turn every challenge into a growth opportunity.
David has been leading independent schools for over 35 years. As a former Head of School, school consultant, Director of Admissions, and one who has enhanced schools for many years, he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Gowan Group. He is a seasoned presenter, writer and collaborator. David has published numerous articles on education including, The Joy + Wonder of the Boarding School Community, and, Technology + the Middle School Student. He is an avid sailor, golfer and tennis player. Following his student teaching at Lake Forest Country Day School, David began his career at Berkshire School as the quintessential ‘triple threat’ boarding school educator teaching English and history, coaching hockey, baseball and soccer and directing both boys and girls dorm houses. He quickly moved into senior administration as Dean of Student Life and later as Assistant Director of Admission & Development. David also served at Director of Admission & Financial Aid at the Fay School, and at Wilbraham & Monson Academy.
David’s career took two somewhat divergent paths coaching hockey at Yale University for 8 years, where he also served as the General Manager of Ingalls Rink, one of Yale’s highest revenue producing units. David was actively involved with USA Hockey at that time as well. Additionally, David worked concurrently during that period as Director of the Connecticut Tennis Center home of the then Volvo International Tennis Tournament. In 1998 David became Headmaster of the Hillside School in Marlborough, MA where he served for the following 17 years as their leader. During that time Hillside’s enrollment doubled, they completed two capital campaigns (the first there in over 50 years), built $25M in new facilities, developed countless new programs and in essence put Hillside on the map. David currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the IECA Foundation and Lake Forest College. David previously served on the boards of The Country School, the Phoenix School, Bancroft School and was the Chairman of the Church Council for the First United Methodist Church in Westborough, MA. David attended The Choate School and Lake Forest College. He holds a bachelor’s degree in American Studies & Education, graduating with honors.
Robin Seiler brings over 18 years of independent school administrative experience to her role at The Gowan Group. Serving Louisville Collegiate School, from 2000-2015, her role as Director of Auxiliary Programs quickly led to Associate Director of Admission and Director of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid.
During her tenure directing the school’s admission team, innovative efforts resulted in an enrollment increase from 650 to 720 students. This boost in enrollment occurred from 2007-2013 during the Great Recession when many independent schools’ enrollment numbers dropped or at best, remained steady.
Robin’s keen sense of understanding school culture and the broader community, in addition to her collaborative leadership style, resulted in the development of a large spectrum of programs that contributed to an increase in applications, enrollment, and retention. Examples of these accomplishments include; Merit Scholarship Programs, establishing a Junior Kindergarten program, and the restoration of revenue generating Exchange Student program.
Robin brings years of experience from the “tuition driven” vantage point where a school relies on admission numbers and net tuition revenue to meet its budget. Upon leaving Collegiate, Robin moved into roles at AISAP (Association of Independent School Admission Professionals) and in Admission and Enrollment Management Consulting. Robin has served as a long-term consultant positions at Flintridge Sacred Heart School, a Girls, Day and Boarding School in Pasadena, CA, Jackson Academy, a K3-grade 12 Independent Day School in Jackson, MS and most recently, St. Thomas’s Day School, a K-6 Episcopal Day School in New Haven, CT.
Robin has made presentations on a variety of enrollment management topics at AISAP Summer Institutes, SSS, and NBOA.
Robin graduated from University of Kentucky with a BA in Developmental Psychology. With a strong family history in “the Bluegrass state”, Robin has lived much of her life, and continues to live, in Louisville Kentucky.
director of Digital Strategy
Leslie Lynch, Gowan Group’s Director of Digital Strategy and our expert in digital marketing, brings over 13 years of experience in search, social media, email and affiliate marketing, while working with some of these new media advertising platforms since their existence.
She has worked for and consulted with large global advertising agencies: Ogilvy & Mather, Wieden & Kennedy, Mindshare, Mediacom. As well as smaller agencies: SaleAMP, Unique Influence, BarkerNYC & Phil & Company.
Her experience has been focused on creating digital marketing strategies, executing media buying, media analysis and ultimately helping independent schools build their network of prospective families and building a reputation for excellence. Using digital platforms such as Google, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and more. She is passionate about working alongside Marketing and Admissions teams elevating their online social presence. Her in-depth approach to digital strategy is always personalized to fit each school’s unique enrollment goals, community, and competitive environment.
As an entrepreneur herself, she clearly understands the value digital marketing brings to her school clients in guiding their communities towards brand recognition and development, accurate messaging, and followership. Leslie has a double Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Texas in Merchandising and E-commerce.
Paul Keller brings over two decades of experience in Independent School leadership to The Gowan Group. Most recently, he was the Head of School at The Norman Howard School and held leadership positions at Wayland Academy and The Marvelwood School. For the past decade his main emphasis has been on enrollment management and balancing the missions of independent schools with the ever evolving economic and demographic landscape. He has a breadth of experience leading schools for nontraditional learners, stewarding residential communities, and sustaining diverse international enrollment.
As a former teacher of A.P. Statistics, it is not surprising that Paul is eager to look at as many data lenses as possible to try and “measure the immeasurable” of independent schools but does so with the heart of an educator. Passions for him lie amongst using financial aid to maximize revenue and quality of program, completely understanding the metrics of a schools’ website, and opening new streams of revenue through innovative enrollment or new programming. He has tremendous experience in opening new markets; at one point visited 14 different countries in 18 months developing a diverse international program at Wayland Academy.
He also brings the experience of being a Dean of Students at two different boarding schools and considers himself a “boarding school guy” where he is quick to find a way to teach a class or help coach a team. Paul earned a masters degree in Private School Leadership through The Klingenstein Center at Columbia University and a bachelors degree in Marketing and Economics from The Stern School of Business at New York University.
marisa soulios felt
Marisa Soulios Felt brings 20 years’ professional experience in education and is a lifer in independent schools. She served as Assistant Head of School at The Hamlin School in San Francisco and previously the Middle School Head at Hamlin School, Viewpoint School in Calabasas, CA and Middle School Director at Albany Academies (NY), where she helped shepherd the merger of the Albany Academy and Albany Academy for Girls.
She has teaching experience at Buckley School, a boys’school in New York City, and at Albany Academies, teaching second through eighth grade boys and girls. Marisa is a graduate of Miss Porter’s School and of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and holds Master’s degrees from Hunter College (NY) in Elementary Education and Teacher’s College Columbia University in Private School Leadership.
Her leadership experiences have developed expertise in strategic planning, facilitation and implementation plans that support cultural change through professional development.
Having grown up in a family of teachers and doctors and spending summers at his family’s day camp, J.P. Watson has been involved directly and indirectly with teaching; coaching; program leadership; wellness; leadership development; school, small business and non-profit management since his early teen years.
As a former Biology teacher, coach and program leader, Department Head, Division Head, Accreditation Team Leader, Associate and Assistant Head, as well as Head of School, he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to each engagement with schools, businesses and non-profits. Drawing on the wisdom of those who have shaped his career, J.P. approaches challenges as opportunities for organizational growth and development.
Passionate about mission and vision alignment, he has helped school after school strengthen its path toward alignment and becoming the best manifestation of its mission. Working with iconic leaders within the independent school world for the last 20 years, J.P. has built a network of experiences and people with whom he has consulted to develop unique and individualized approaches to common challenges faced by schools, businesses and non-profits.
J.P. earned his AB in Biology with a concentration in World Literature from Middlebury College and a MS of Biomedical Science from University of South Carolina School of Medicine. J.P. was also a Peabody Fellow at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody Professional Institute for Independent School Leadership.
As a passionate people person and born leader, Dr. Allison Agliata has spent her career focused on working with individuals, teams, and organizations to improve their interpersonal dynamics, harness their productivity, and develop a positive corporate culture. Allison's work focuses on connectivity, emotional intelligence and assertive communication to strengthen professional relationships. Her goal is to create more effective teams, which promotes a sense of community, improves office morale, increases revenue, and spills over to better people skills for a more satisfying life.
Along with her PhD in Clinical Psychology, Allison holds a certification in Advanced Educational Leadership from Harvard University, and is board certified in Executive Coaching from the Institute of Life Coaching. With a background in education administration, mental health, and military leadership, she has a wide range of expertise related to developing strong managements skill, team building, and strategic planning.
Dr. Agliata's teaching and speaking career began in 1998 with a joint project between the school system and sheriff's department where she found her passion for working with children and the adults that educate them to make sound decisions that put them all on a trajectory for greatness. Her commitment to this field has lead to numerous featured articles and chapters, guest speaking opportunities, and interviews. As a Gowan Group consultant, she brings an energetic and engaging atmosphere that inspires schools to push themselves to the next level.
Phil Cox has lived the bulk of his career in senior leadership positions at two of the nation’s largest and most renown independent day schools, Greenhill School (TX) and The Pingry School (NJ). At Greenhill, Phil served as Associate Director of Development and Alumni Relations; Director of Admission; and as Assistant Head of Middle School where he also coached lacrosse and soccer. Phil was Middle School Director at Pingry for 12 years. Phil brings over 25 years of perspective to his work with The Gowan Group. He has a reputation of integrity, inclusiveness, and collaborative problem-solving. Faculty, families, and students described him as open, honest, transparent, energetic, and fun.
Among the most valuable lessons Phil has learned is the critical need for school administrators to know and to understand their school culture: its behaviors, patterns, and mindsets. “Creating a healthy school culture provides the greatest stability for schools in the long run,” says Phil. “Healthy schools inspire current teachers who motivate students. Healthy schools retain current families and attract new teachers and families. Institutional culture is an underappreciated and overlooked aspect of school success.” Phil works with school heads, administrative teams, division heads, deans, parent associations, admission offices, and advancement teams on school culture, messaging, and alignment of policies and school mission.
Phil earned his bachelor’s degree in History at Bucknell University and his master’s in East Asian Studies at The University of Virginia. Phil lives in Westchester County, NY and beyond work, his passions include being a husband, father, rower and golfer.
Director of Research and Analysis
John Pryor is a higher education professional with over 25 years of experience in using research findings to help improve the college experience. John presents frequently on current trends and innovation in higher education. He has published many articles, monographs, white papers, and opinion pieces in higher education publications, including the Journal of College Student Development and The Chronicle of Higher Education. His TEDxUCLA talk (“How To Make College Better, And Why We Need To”) looks at the need to increase the connection between what is learned inside the classroom and how that is applied outside the classroom.
Most recently, John held a Senior Research Scientist position with Gallup, where he led their higher education research. For eight years prior to that John was the director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP), the largest study of higher education in the country and the managing director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, where CIRP is housed. Before directing CIRP, John was the director of Student Affairs Planning, Evaluation, and Research at Dartmouth College. John currently serves on the steering committee of the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, and he is a member of the Data Analysis Research Network, a research and advisory group of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. A graduate of St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH and Dartmouth College, he holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Psychology from The University of Virginia.
Robert Rytter, our creative director, has more than 30 years of experience developing and executing strategic marketing campaigns for colleges and universities. An advocate of integrated one-to-one marketing, Robert promotes targeted marketing efforts in all mediums: collateral materials, website and interactive design, public relations and advertising. Robert graduated from MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) with a degree in painting; he has served on the faculty there as an instructor of advanced graphic design.
Robert also attended the MLA program at the Johns Hopkins University and the business program at Loyola College. He has been a guest lecturer for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the University of Maryland. His work has been recognized by the American Institute of Graphic Arts, CASE, Communication Arts, the New York Art Directors Club, the Type Directors Club of New York, the University & College Designers Association, the Washington Art Directors Club, Graphis and Print, among others.
Alexandra Tremaine comes to Gowan Group with incredible experiences in branding, photography and guiding independent schools towards successful campaigns. As a profoundly skilled visionary, her photographs capture the essence of school life, community and brand recognition. Her work at Suffield Academy for years helped lead the process to which helped bring the school to greater national recognition, brand focus and a stronger identity in the independent school world. An ardent supporter of independent schools living their mission and brand, Alexandra sees schools differently. She understands branding and how to strategically analyze school data and bring a school’s mission and brand to life through both imagery and story.
Talented and entrepreneurial, Alexandra founded her own photography business where she brings cherished events to life, but more importantly, her photographs tell a story. With Gowan Group, Alexandra brings her wealth of experience and vision to schools once again guiding them to successful marketing and branding campaigns.
A graduate of both Suffield Academy and the reputable Brooks Institute of Photography, Alexandra earned a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Photography with a concentration in Advertising. Through her own work with photography and marketing, she has worked with such clients as Moffly Media, Golf Digest, and Jupiter Images.