Our Team

We envision a next generation of engaged citizens, who experience the world as a game-like system they can modify and transform. The work we do together aims to make this vision a reality.

Katie Salen Tekinbas  Director of Research & Strategic Initiatives

Katie is the founding Executive Director and is currently responsible for developing new projects, programs, products, and services. She is an active game designer and, as one of the Institute’s founders, a pioneer in applying game design principles to challenges outside the field of commercial game development. Katie is a Professor in the School of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University. She lectures widely and writes extensively on game design, design education and gamer culture. She has co-authored or edited several books, including Rules of Play, a textbook on game design, The Game Design Reader and The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Also, Katie was co-lead designer on Gamestar Mechanic, an award-winning online game with built-in game design curriculum. She has been involved in the design of slow games, online games, mobile games and big games in the commercial and independent games sectors around the world.

Fred Begley  Director of Finance & Administration

Fred is responsible for overseeing all financial, administrative and general operations for Institute of Play. He brings to the Institute 10 years of experience in non-profit management, with a focus on finance and operations. Fred was previously Director of Operations for Animal Haven, a New York City No Kill Animal Shelter. In addition, he held the title of Director of Finance & Administration for the CityKids Foundation and Artists Striving to End Poverty, two internationally-recognized, New York City-based organizations that serve at risk, impoverished and marginalized youth. He received his Masters in Public Affairs from Baruch College, with a specialization in Non-Profit Administration.

Rebecca Rufo-Tepper  Director of Programs, Professional Development & Teacher Education

Rebecca is responsible for overseeing the implementation and ongoing refinement of the Institute’s unique game-based integrated learning model, with a focus on developing multi-dimensional teachers who make important contributions to the learning community. Rebecca brings to the Institute over ten years’ experience in New York City public schools, as a teacher and staff developer. She has also served as literacy coach at East Side Middle School and as a professional development facilitator for the Holocaust Educators Network and the Folger Shakespeare Library. Rebecca is a regular presenter at national conferences and has taught at Hunter College. Her research interests center on professional development and school reform. She holds a PhD in Urban Education from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York.

Arana Shapiro  Director of Programs, Schools & Partnerships

Arana is the Director of School Design and Leadership Support for Institute of Play in New York City, where she oversees new school design projects and provides support to school leaders. Arana has over fifteen years of experience in education, as a teacher, technologist, curriculum developer and school leader. She collaborated on the development of new curriculum for The School at Columbia University, where she served as a founding faculty member. She served as Lead Educational Technologist at the Ross School and the Ross Global Academy Charter School, where she worked with teachers to integrate new and innovative technologies in K-12 classrooms. Arana is part of the founding team of school designers that opened the Institute's flagship project, Quest to Learn, a New York City public school which focuses on integrating games and game-like learning into middle and high school classrooms. She also served as Co-Director of Quest to Learn for 4 years. She is a regular presenter at national and international conferences. Arana received a Masters of Arts in Education from Pepperdine University and a Masters of Education in School Leadership from Bank Street College of Education.

Jeremy Engle  Learning Designer

Jeremy assists with the development of Quest to Learn's innovative curriculum with a team of game designers, curriculum designers, and teachers. He has been a classroom teacher, professional developer and educator for over 15 years. He was a humanities teacher at Central Park East Secondary School, a literacy coach for Teachers College Columbia University, and a documentary-making instructor at the Educational Video Center. Additionally, he has taught media-making workshops to youth and adults across the country.


Ross Flatt  Lead Learning Designer

Ross comes to the Institute with over ten years of experience in teaching and administration. Ross spent the first five years of his career teaching Social Studies in both public and parochial schools, including St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, New Jersey and The Scholar’s Academy in Queens, New York.  In 2009, Ross joined Quest to Learn as a member of the founding faculty. At Quest, Ross taught 6th grade Being, Space, & Place. He also supported teachers as a Curriculum Developer and Lead Teacher.  Most recently, Ross served Quest to Learn as Assistant Principal, where he supported teachers in game-like learning pedagogy and presented the Quest mission and vision at several national conferences.

Dalton Gray  Game Designer

Dalton is a game designer who brings his passion for play to the development of engaging educational materials. As founder of the experimental company State of Play, Dalton utilizes his team's background in storytelling to create games and live events that inspire intrigue and challenge the imagination. As a teaching artist and educator, Dalton is always looking for opportunities to use play and the arts to empower students creatively and inspire a sense of wonder.

Jaehyun Kim  Design Assistant

Jaehyun designs and produces digital and non-digital games and learning tools. She received her MFA in Art and Technology from School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she devoted many hours to game-making and physical computing. Prior to diving into the world of game design, she studied film-making in South Korea. Since graduating, she has worked as a teaching artist with a focus on film-making and video game design at the Children’s Museum of Arts and 92nd Street Y.

Ameer Mourad  Learning Designer

Ameer collaborates with teams of educators, game designers, and other professionals to develop educational games and game-like learning experiences. As a founding faculty member of Quest to Learn, he taught middle school science and mathematics for three years before joining Institute of Play and embarking on a journey to further his academic training. He draws upon his classroom experience, research background,  and passion for innovative STEM education to inform his work and help the Institute of Play continue to make learning irresistible. Ameer holds Bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Applied Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science from CUNY Queens College. He received Master’s degrees in Secondary Science Education from Columbia University Teachers College and Educational Psychology from the CUNY Graduate Center.

Laura Noonan  Project Manager, Colorado

Laura is responsible for managing the school creation process and engaging a range of partners to design and implement an innovative approach to teaching and learning in Colorado. Laura brings to the Institute ten years of project management and strategic planning experience which spans the private, non-profit, and government sectors, as well as expertise as a design thinking facilitator. Previously, she worked with innovative schools and districts through Colorado as part of the next generation learning initiative with the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Education Initiative. She holds a Master's in Public Affairs degree from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Daniel O'Keefe  North Carolina Regional Director

Daniel is responsible for leading the Institute's work in North Carolina through regional programs in professional development, school design and support, informal learning, and game design. His focus is on developing multi-dimensional teachers who make important contributions to the North Carolina learning community. As a major force in the development of the Quest Learning Model, Dan is experienced in leading teams of teachers and designers to build learner-centered curricula, processes, and integrated learning spaces. He brings to the Institute 8 years experience as a middle school mathematics teacher, as well as his instructional technology studies at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Ilena Parker  Senior Communications Manager

Ilena is responsible for strategic communications to grow support for the Institute's mission, vision and projects. A writer, content strategist and project manager, she brings to the Institute experience in collaborative communications planning and a healthy respect for the power and possibility of words. At innovation consultancy Fahrenheit 212, Ilena managed content development and distribution channels, partnering with thought leaders across the company to articulate and disseminate new ideas. At The Partners, a branding agency, she helped clients develop frameworks for articulating their ideas, working on positioning, messaging and design programs with a broad range of global companies.

Brendon Trombley  Game Designer

Photo of Brendon Trombley

Brendon is responsible for designing and supporting the successful implementation of game-based learning materials and activities. Brendon brings to the Institute several years’ experience designing and developing online learning tools and experiences, independently and at the e-learning firm, Kognito. He is currently engaged in the movement to popularize Chamball, a new sport described as “dodgeball meets martial arts,” and in the design of Brothers in Farms, a strategy game to teach kids sustainable farming techniques.

Jackson Westenskow  School Design Team Lead, Colorado

Jackson leads the school design team for Institute of Play in Colorado. He taught English in traditional comprehensive high schools before teaching Spanish at William Smith High School, an Expeditionary Learning School in Aurora, Colorado. He earned a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership at Regis University and was a Fellow with Catapult Leadership where he worked on the design for a Creative Arts High School. He is currently William Smith High School’s Assistant Principal.