The Futures Institute is a non-partisan organization dedicated to supporting leaders in value-based decision-making that will shape policies, practices, products, and services in future decades. Through the exchange of bold ideas education, civic, and business leaders will discuss issues pertaining to the future of learning and community on a broad range of futures-based topics. We intentionally bring together education, business, and civic leaders with the goal to impact collaboration and decision-making on complex local problems.
Vision (Why we exist) Global Insights, local impact.
Mission (What we are attempting to accomplish)
To become the most prominent think tank at the intersection of education, civic, and business leadership for accelerating the conversation about the future of education and community.
Strategy (How we win)
Translate bold ideas into advocacy and opinion specifically created to affect local policy and action
Values (Foundation of our beliefs)
Board of Directors
Norman “Stormin” Oliver
Norman “Stormin” Oliver has been an innovative leader in his hometown, Wilmington, and throughout
the state of Delaware.
Norman graduated from Delaware State University in 1985 with a degree in Social Work. He is no stranger to the Delaware political and governmental scene. After a staff role with former Mayor Dan Frawley after college, he served as a political advisor to former County Executives Dennis Greenhouse and Tom Gordon, as well as former Attorney General Charles Oberly.
Norman became well known throughout the State for the founding of “Stormin’s Classic Basketball Summer League” that grew from 54 participants to over 2,000. It was an opportunity for young men to participate in organized sports (but only if their grades were good enough) and learn the many important lessons of sportsmanship and team play.
In 1992, Norman was elected to Wilmington City Council, where he served until 2004. His leadership abilities and know-how led him to be elected as Chair of Wilmington’s Democratic Party, and Oliver has been a part of Delaware’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention.
Norman has always been an entrepreneur. As a result, he owns three businesses: Nor Enterprises Inc., Rock Solid Construction Company; a former owner of City Pizza (featured in the News Journal) and City Tavern, and he owns and operates a non-profit organization, Our Youth, Inc, OUR YOUTH, INC., which embraces area youth in their natural neighborhood setting in south Wilmington – with their family, peers and mentors. Nor Enterprises provides educational consulting services and, among other things, has been retained by each of the northern New Castle County school districts to assist in reaching young boys and girls who need encouragement to succeed.
Mr. Oliver has served on the Board of Directors of Delaware State University and Sterling Bank and is active in the Wilmington Rotary Club, the Monday Club and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.- just to name a few. Norman resides in Middletown. He is the father of two children.
Dr Mike Walls
Dr. Michael W. Walls serves as a Co-Founder and Strategic Advisor to The Futures Institute. Mike has served as Chairman and Chairman Emeritus of Modern Teacher and Chairman of IM4ULearning. He has also served as Senior Vice President and Community Reinvestment Officer for MBNA America Bank.
Prior to joining the corporate world, Mike was a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent of schools in Wisconsin and Delaware.
Mike was President of Junior Achievement Delaware and has been awarded the First Citizen Award in Beloit, Wisconsin and chaired the State of Delaware’s United Way Champaign. He has been named an outstanding alumni by Continental, Ohio and a Proud Product of Ohio Public Schools by the Ohio School Board Association.
Mike has degrees from Adrian College, Eastern Michigan University and Wayne State University.
Dr Shawn K Smith
Dr. Shawn K. Smith is a national leader on issues surrounding digital education and pedagogy and is currently serving as Chief Executive Officer of Modern Teacher. Called an “education futurist” by many in the industry, Shawn works with school districts across the nation to modernize the learning experience for students.
As a rare book collector, Shawn has one of the world’s largest private collections of John Dewey’s writings. He has appeared on both Discovery and Learning channels as well as various radio, web, and podcast programs. He has authored 4 books on education:
- The Art of Influence: Mastering the Digital Convergence Framework (2019)
- The Shape of Change: The Continued Journey of the Digital Convergence Framework (2018)
- The New Agenda: Achieving Personalized Learning through Digital Convergence (2017)
- Teacher as Architect: Instructional design and delivery for the modern teacher (2012)
Formerly Shawn was a teacher, principal, and Chief of Schools for 15 years in school districts in Illinois and California. Shawn holds degrees from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin (bachelor’s degree, elementary education), the California State University, San Bernardino (master’s degree, middle school education), and the University of Southern California (doctorate degree, urban education policy and leadership).
Dr Brenda Tanner
Brenda M. Tanner, Ed.D. – President, Dominion Education Services, LLC
Dr. Brenda Tanner recently retired from the position of Superintendent of Schools in Orange County, Virginia where she served for four years. Previously, she has served as a superintendent in Madison County, and as a teacher and administrator in other Virginia divisions. She has also served as Chief Academic and Chief Personnel Officer for Horry County Public Schools, South Carolina. In addition to her K12 experience, she has worked at the University of Virginia, teaching in the area of leadership and school administration while also directing the Curry School’s school/university professional development consortium. She has served as a consultant to schools in multiple states, including public and charter schools in Chicago.
Dr. Tanner has written and presented on a wide range of educational topics. She has provided training on teacher and principal evaluation models and has worked with the Virginia School Boards Association on a range of board development topics. She has also served as a member of the board of directors for the Northwest Evaluation Association and as a member of numerous study committees working in program evaluation, strategic analysis, and planning. She has a deep passion for serving children and is committed to making a difference in educational programs and services in order to help all children achieve at the highest possible levels. This passion serves as the foundation on which her work is done – from the classroom to the Board room and beyond.