Group of participants posing for a photo in front of a large aquarium tank.
2017 BPP participants during a sleepover at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Blue Pioneers Program aims to leverage the talents and resources in coastal California to develop leaders and innovators who start and grow organizations to overcome the ocean conservation challenges in Asia.

The Blue Pioneers Program (BPP) was initiated in early 2016 by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in recognition of the central role that the blue economy will play in Asia’s 21st century development and the tremendous need for leaders and entrepreneurs who can build organizations that innovate to solve the challenges to advance ocean conservation and sustainable use.

The two-week accelerator program leverages Monterey’s strategic location to provide an immersive learning course that will expand the participants’ capacity to start and grow new nonprofits and social enterprises or to transform established organizations, with a bias toward actions to solve complex ocean conservation and sustainable use problems.

The program will expose participants to relevant organizations and actors in marine conservation and innovation in coastal California through site visits to various organizations and course sessions with experienced professionals. 

BPP utilizes an innovative raw case study methodology that urges participants to design disruptive solutions to a specific complex problem. MIIS has partnered with local organization Think Beyond Plastic to develop the 2019 program, which will focus on the issue of ocean plastics pollution.

The 2019 group includes 20 participants from across Asia including mainland China, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Indonesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea. 

Their current and past work positions include WWF, Fauna & Flora International, The Nature Conservancy, Coral Sea Foundation, Mana Impact Partners, Rare Inc, and Seafood Legacy Co, Ltd. 

Dates: July 28-August 10, 2019

Location: Monterey, California and the San Francisco Bay Area

    Contact: BPP Program Manager, Katie Aker, at or Carolyn Meyer at 831-647-6417

    Learn more about the Blue Pioneers Program

    The Blue Pioneers Program, or BPP, leverages the talents and resources in coastal California to develop leaders and innovators working on ocean conservation challenges in Asia. 

    Funded by a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Blue Pioneers Program is managed by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. It is a two-week accelerator program and immersive learning course designed to expand participants’ capacity to start and grow new nonprofits and social enterprises or to transform established organizations. 

    BPP partners with local conservation organizations working to disrupt wicked ocean problems. Previous program themes include sustainable fisheries and ocean plastic pollution.

    BPP uses an innovative raw case study design that urges participants to design disruptive solutions to a specific complex problem. This fosters cross-cultural collaboration and teamwork as groups work together to develop an innovative idea. 

    BPP draws on the Middlebury Institute’s dedication to immersive learning. This approach focuses on applied learning, real-world challenges, and working with an organization in the field. 

    Throughout the two-week accelerator, participants learn from faculty and guest speakers who are experienced professionals in innovation and ocean conservation. This exposes them to diverse perspectives from both the public and private sectors to gain a better understanding of the whole ecosystem involved in ocean conservation. They receive support from mentors and project advisors to develop and refine their ideas, and ultimately present their solutions at the end of the program to a panel of esteemed judges that provide feedback and insights. 

    The program takes advantage of Monterey’s strategic location by exposing participants to many relevant organizations and actors in marine conservation around Monterey Bay and Northern California. Participants embark on various site visits to different companies, research centers, and institutions that play a part in ocean conservation, seeing first hand how these organizations innovate and operate.

    A highlight of past programs is a sleepover at the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium the night before participants give their final presentations, allowing them a unique and inspirational space for a final creative push. 

    Ocean conservation requires collaborative global action, and the Blue Pioneers Program fosters the cross-cultural and multi-sector approach necessary to tackle wicked marine problems. 

    To learn more visit us at

    Blue Pioneers Program 2019 Tentative Schedule


    Daily topics and highlights

    Opening reception

    Introduction of key concepts and project background, followed by afternoon kayaking

    Problem discoveries and impact management systems

    Experiment in problem-solving

    Ideas marketplace and Moss Landing Marine Labs visit

    Project planning kickoff and lean data

    Project plan development

    Optional activities: whale watching, Big Sur, Point Lobos

    Project development and mini-lectures

    Project development and mini-lectures

    Silicon Valley visits: Packard Foundation HQ, Google, Stanford, and Apple

    Project and leadership development, followed by overnight at Monterey Bay Aquarium

    Final presentations in aquarium boardroom followed by debriefing and closing reception


    Blue Pioneers Program Staff & Faculty

    Katie Aker

    Blue Pioneers Eval Specialist

    Katie Aker is a current graduate student in the International Education Management and Public Administration programs at MIIS. She is passionate about working at the intersection of international education and sustainable development with a focus on international exchange for social impact. Prior to starting her graduate studies, Katie served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru, working on community economic development projects with local artisans and youth for two years. She has experience working, studying, and volunteering in various countries in Latin America, Europe, and Africa. Most recently, she facilitated an action research project on sustainable agriculture in the Peruvian highlands with a group of undergraduate students through Middlebury and MIIS’ Social Impact Corps program. Katie received a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in organizational management and a BA in Spanish from Colorado State University. 


    Carolyn Taylor Meyer

    Director of Immersive Professional Learning

    Carolyn Meyer manages MIIS immersive learning programs including semester-long internships, international onsite courses, and professional trainings on pressing international policy and business issues. She also helps design and manage specialized short trainings open to participants who are not currently enrolled at the Institute but are looking to learn new skills related to MIIS degree programs.

    Carolyn has extensive experience working with academic communities, both as a faculty and staff member. She worked on staff at Butler University’s Office of International Student Services and in the creation of the Monterey College of Law’s Mandell-Gisnett Center for Conflict Management. Prior to joining the Institute in 2006, she served as a public relations consultant for educational institutions in Monterey County, worked as a legislative analyst for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Washington, DC, edited online content at the Indianapolis Star, and worked in publishing at the American College of Sports Medicine. She has also served as a regular adjunct instructor in International Relations and Politics of Developing Countries at the Monterey Peninsula College from 2006-2015. Carolyn has traveled to over 30 countries and has spent time studying in Spain and working in Mexico. 

    Tel: (831) 647-6417

    Yuwei Shi

    Professor Emeritus

    Dr. Yuwei Shi is the Academic Director of the Blue Pioneers Program and Professor of Strategic Management at the Middlebury Institute. His research and practice interests center on competitive strategy, business model and organizational design, particularly for social ventures and impact investing. An award-winning teacher known for innovative pedagogy, course and program design, he is a pioneer in raw-case method of learning. Dr. Shi has led the development and successful launch of impactful programs including the Frontier Market Scouts Fellowship Program and the Blue Pioneers Accelerator Program. He served two terms as the Dean of the Graduate School of International Policy and Management at Middlebury. Additionally, he had two decades of experience as founder of a tech venture, advisory partner at a venture capital firm, and consultant to a couple of prominent management consulting firms. He continues to serve on advisory boards of several impact ventures. Dr. Shi earned his B.E. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Shanghai Jiaotong University, Master of Comparative Laws from the Dedmen School of Law at Southern Methodist University,and Ph.D. in Organization, Strategy and International Management from the Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas.


    Kent Glenzer

    Associate Professor

    Dr. Kent Glenzer is part of the Blue Pioneers Program design team and part of program faculty. He has extensive work and research experience in sub-Saharan Africa, having spent 28 years prior to coming to the Institute with international NGOs such as Oxfam America, CARE, PATH, and also with Peace Corps. His work, teaching, and research focuses on the intersections of culture, organizational behavior, monitoring and evaluation, decision making, and strategy. He specializes in understanding how power dynamics, identity politics, and structural exclusion influence organizations, public policy, philanthropy, and the relationships between public, private, and nonprofit actors.

    Tel: (831) 647-4149

    Daniella Russo

    Adjunct Faculty

    Daniella Russo is a member of the Blue Pioneers Program design and faculty team and is also the CEO and Co-founder of Think Beyond Plastic™, the leader of a global action to harness the forces of innovation and entrepreneurship to eliminate global plastic pollution.

    Think Beyond Plastic leads a multidisciplinary effort to identify and commercialize upstream innovations that eliminate plastic pollution, with focus on innovative product delivery systems, including application specific packaging, bio-benign materials and sustainable chemistry. To secure a rich pipeline of innovation, it is building an innovation eco-system connecting industry, investors and innovators.

    Daniella Russo believes that intractable environmental challenges can be addressed by harnessing the forces of innovation and entrepreneurship, and the power of the markets to do good.  She is a serial entrepreneur. She has started and ran numerous high-tech businesses, and her experience includes executive management from start-up phase through an IPO (such as Frame Technology, Infoseek and others), as well as Fortune-500 companies (Sun Microsystems, and Xerox PARC).

    Daniella Russo is a member of the Founders Board of Advisors at StartX Stanford Student Startup Accelerator. She is an Adjunct Professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies Graduate Program in International Policy and Management. Daniella Russo co-founded and led Plastic Pollution Coalition to become world’s largest NGO dedicated uniquely to ending plastic pollution. She serves on the Board of numerous NGOs and Businesses.

    Tel: (831) 647-4155