Founders

Founders of Thinking Beyond Borders

As a team, the founders of Thinking Beyond Borders endeavored to create educational programs for gap year students that would develop the skills and capacities shared by great agents of social change. Their combined experience and expertise made it possible to launch ambitious programs and build an independent non-profit organization.


Robin Pendoley

Gap Year Programs Founders Robin PendoleyAll roads in Robin’s life lead to co-founding Thinking Beyond Borders. Born and raised near San Francisco, he discovered at an early age that youth can affect the disparities and challenges of our world. Robin also learned the need to truly understand a problem and oneself before proactive changes can be made. He sees Thinking Beyond Borders as the actualization of those lessons.

Robin equipped himself by earning a B.A. in International Development Studies from UCLA and a Masters in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He has lived and worked abroad extensively, both as a student and educator. Robin committed eight years to public schools in Los Angeles and Boston. He served as a teacher, administrator, coach, and college access program administrator.

Robin’s blog posts on education and social change have been featured on Forbes, Ashoka, and Innovation Excellence. He also served for three years as the Co-Director of the Colloquium for the Common Good at Opportunity Collaboration, a global poverty conference for sector leaders. Today, he helps shape the US gap year market as both the Co-Director of the USA Gap Year Fairs and as a Board Member for the American Gap Association.


Chris Stakich

Thinking Beyond Borders Gap Year Programs Founder Chris StakichChris has lived with a passion for community service and international travel almost his entire life. While growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Chris was the president of his high school community service organization, worked for the United Way, and traveled to the Dominican Republic during his senior year to help build a hospital. During his four years at Harvard University, Chris grasped the importance of perspective and dedicated valuable time to experiencing the world. He studied abroad in Australia and traveled throughout Europe while earning an economics degree, playing on the Crimson varsity football team, and holding a part time job. After graduating college, Chris accepted a position as the Business Development Director for Rustic Pathways, an international education, community service, and adventure travel company. In 2007 Chris co-founded Thinking Beyond Borders with Robin Pendoley and Sandy Cooper. Thinking Beyond Borders is a cultivated dream for Chris, integrating education and international travel, providing service to communities in need, and mindfully developing future leaders who embody broad perspective and global compassion. Currently, Chris serves as the Chairman of the Board for Thinking Beyond Borders and also as the President of Operations for Rustic Pathways.


Sandy Cooper

Sandy’s deep determination to contribute proactively to society began in middle school. After volunteering at a nursing home in her hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts, she worked with the YMCA through high school and college to develop children’s self-esteem and social skills. While earning an honors degree from Skidmore College, Sandy studied abroad and taught conversational English at La Universidad Autonoma in Madrid, Spain.

Thinking Beyond Borders Gap Year Programs Founder Sandy CooperFollowing her growing passion for educating and traveling, Sandy spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Kiribati. As a teacher, Sandy designed culturally appropriate curriculum to teach language and math skills to junior secondary school students. Her students’ performances on national exams surpassed all previous classes.

With new understanding for the needs of developing communities and the importance of informed leadership, Sandy became a Team Leader for AmeriCorps*NCCC upon her return to the US. Through her diligent and creative guidance, Sandy’s team of 9 Corps Members completed various service projects, including the supervision of 1500 volunteers in gutting the homes of hundreds of Hurricane Katrina victims.

Managing her team challenged Sandy to hone her conflict resolution and business organization skills. She also holds a certificate in Nonprofit Management through American Humanics. These many years of volunteerism, community service leadership, and formal study both abroad and within the United States endow Sandy with a focused and powerful vision for Thinking Beyond Borders.