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For Students, Faculty, and Staff: MyU One Stop


James Toole

Senior Fellow, School of Social Work
Ph.D., University of Minnesota
M.A., Stanford University
M.A., University of Sussex, England
B.A., University of California at Santa Barbara

School of Social Work
1404 Gortner Ave
105 Peters Hall

Tel: 612-625-1220

Office hours:
By arrangement

Areas of Interest

Social innovation, service-learning, youth leadership, social entrepreneurship, international development, design thinking, 21st Century skills, appreciative inquiry, educational reform, service and spirituality, professional development, systems thinking, peer helping, professional learning communities, and organizational change


James Toole is a Senior Fellow and Community Faculty member in the Youth Studies program. His lifelong professional passion is to foster a new generation of innovative, ethical, compassionate, and strategic youth leaders globally. He is a pioneer in the fields of peer helping, service-learning, and youth social entrepreneurship. In the School of Social Work since 1994, he is the recipient of the 2008 international Alec Dickson Servant Leader Award (with his wife). He was also invited in 2001 to act as the expert consultant on practice to the National Service-Learning Commission led by Senator John Glenn. Toole helped design a number of innovative civil society organizations including PeaceJam™, a peace education program that brings Nobel Peace Prize winners together globally with diverse high school and college youth.

He combines research, professional development, curriculum development, facilitation, and program development directed towards fostering innovative youth leadership programs. He has taught at every level from pre-school to graduate school, and trained youth leaders and youth-serving organizations in almost all 50 states and from over 50 countries.

Throughout his career, he has sought to push the boundaries of understanding and practice in the youth service field.

“Peer Helping.” Helped coordinate and then direct an award-winning peer helping program started through a National Institute of Mental Health grant to the Stanford Medical School. Invented and disseminated a series of innovative school-based projects where youth acted as resources to their peers including youth as parent educators, peer counselors, and cross-age mentors.

“Service-Learning.” Founded with his wife the National Youth Leadership Council’s Professional Development Department. When the first federal legislation passed to support service-learning in 2001, provided the original training to many state departments of education. Conducted a three-year study of service-learning implementation in seven low-income schools in seven states for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“Social Entrepreneurship.” Conducted (with his wife) a literature review and study of youth social entrepreneurship in 2000 for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Since 2004, Toole works closely with the International Youth Foundation’s YouthActionNet program to foster youth social entrepreneurship globally. Trained Middle Eastern youth leaders the last two summers in Amman, Jordan that had won the King Abdullah II Youth Social Innovation and Achievement Award.

Selected Publications

  1. Toole, J, and Toole, P. (in press).  Guidelines for Service-Learning Professional Development.

  2. Toole, J. (2008). YouthActionNet Curriculum for Global Youth Social Entrepreneurs. Baltimore: The International Youth Foundation.  Parts translated into multiple languages.

  3. Toole, J. (2005). Reflections on How Youth Can Change the World. In Our Time is Now: Youth Activists with Heart. Baltimore: The International Youth Foundation.

  4. Toole, J. & Toole, P. (2004).Youth Engagement and Social Entrepreneurship: Case Studies of Deep Community Change. Battle Creek, MI: The W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

  5. Toole, J. (2003). How to Adopt, Implement and Institutionalize Service-Learning: A Reflective Workshop for Change Agents Based on Ten Years of Learning from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Grantees. National Service-Learning Partnership web site. Available at

  6. Holdsman, K, Mitchell, P. & Toole, J. (2002, Fall). Using Social Marketing to Expand Service-Learning. Community Youth Development Journal.3(2), 50-53.

  7. Toole, J.C.  and Louis, K. S. (2002). The Role of Professional Learning Communities in International Education. K. Leithwood and P. Hallinger (eds.)Second International Handbook of Educational Leadership and Administration.The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

  8. Toole, J.C. (2002). Civil Society, Social Trust, and the Implementation of Service-Learning. In A. Furco & S. H. Billig (eds.), Service-Learning: The Essence of the Pedagogy, Volume 1. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

  9. Toole, J.C. (2002). Mental Models, Professional Learning Communities, and the Deep Structure of School Improvement: Case Studies of Service-Learning. Unpublished doctoral dissertation: University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

  10. Klopp, C., Toole, P, and Toole, J. (2001). Pondering Learning: Connecting Multiple Intelligences and Service-Learning.Clemson, S.C.: National Dropout Prevention Center, Clemson University.

  11. Louis, K.S., Toole, J., & Hargreaves, A. (1999). Rethinking School Improvement. In Murphy, J. & Louis, K.S. (Eds.), Handbook of Educational Administration.San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

  12. Toole, J & Toole, P. (1997). A View from the Youth Service Field: The Role of Professional Development. In Wade, Rahima.Community Service-Learning: A Guide to Including Service in the Public School Curriculum. SUNY Press.

  13. Christopher, L., Toole, J., and Toole, P. (1997).  PeaceJam Training Curriculum for Global Youth Leadership. Denver, CO: The PeaceJam Foundation.

  14. Toole, J & Toole, P. (1995).Reflection as a Tool for Turning Service Experiences into Learning Experiences. InKinsley, C. and McPherson, K. Enriching the Curriculum Through Service Learning.Alexandria. VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Available at:

Selected Presentations

  1. Toole, James (2014). Preparing Leaders and Inventors for the 21st Century. EARCOS Leadership Conference, Invited One-Day Preconference. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. (Plus four conference workshops).

  2. Toole, James (2014). Social Entrepreneurship: Teaching Students to Integrate Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Service, and Business. EARCOS Leadership Conference, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

  3. Toole, James (2014). The Role of Failure in Social Entrepreneurship. UPC Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas, Lima, Peru.

  4. Toole, James (2014). YouthActionNet Global Youth Social Entrepreneur Retreat. Lead facilitator for eight-day training for 20 youth social entrepreneurs from 17 countries. Lima, Peru

  5. Toole, James (2014). Leadership Safari: Exploring New Territory in the Practice of Service-Learning. National Service-Learning Conference. Invited One-Day Pre-Conference. Washington, D.C.

  6. Toole, James (2013). YouthActionNet Global Youth Social Entrepreneur Retreat. Lead facilitator for seven-day training for 20 youth social entrepreneurs from 17 countries. Sao Paulo, Brazil.

  7. Toole, James (2013).  National Service-Learning Conference. Denver. A Toolkit for 21st Century Leadership. Half-Day Featured Presentation. 

  8. Toole, James (2012).  Volunteer Generation Fund Sustainability Retreat: Transforming Organizations and Communities. Michigan Volunteer Centers.  Thompsonville, Michigan.

  9. Toole, James (2012). YouthActionNet Global Youth Social Entrepreneur Retreat. Lead facilitator for International Youth Leadership Foundation's seven-day training for 20 leading youth social entrepreneurs from 17 countries. Istanbul, Turkey.

  10. Toole, James (2012).  National Service-Learning Conference. Minneapolis. Three presentations: 1). How Would Steve Jobs Design A Service-Learning Project?; 2). Changemaking: A Guide for the Passionate; and 3). Designing Transformative Service-Learning Professional Development (pre-conference with Pamela Toole).  

  11. Toole, James (2011). YouthActionNet Global Youth Social Entrepreneur Retreat. Lead facilitator for International Youth Leadership Foundation's six-day training for 20 leading youth social entrepreneurs from 16 countries. Cuernavaca, Mexico. 

  12. Toole, James (2010 and 2011). King Abdullah II Youth Social Innovation Fund. Invited six-day consultations and trainings for 20 leading Arab youth social entrepreneurs from Middle Eastern countries. Amman, Jordan.

  13. Toole, James (2010).  National Service-Learning Conference. Atlanta. Three presentations: 1). What International Development Can Teach Service-Learning; 2). Youth as Social Inventors; and 3). Storytelling and Social Change.  

  14. Toole, James (2010).  The Global Achievement Gap, Invited Keynote for Kansas Department of Education State Conference. Topeka, Kansas.=

  15. Toole, James (2010).  Championing Service-Learning: How to Overcome Cynicism, Apathy, and Turfism to Implement and Sustain Service-Learning. Invited Keynote. Oklahoma State Department of Education.

  16. Toole, James (2010).  Visionary Leadership in Turbulent Times. Invited Keynote. Montana Department of Public Instruction.

  17. Toole, James (2009). Education and the Art of Possibility. Moorhead School District. Invited district-wide keynote for all staff.

  18. Toole, James (2007).  Social Entrepreneurship. Punahou School, Hawaii.  Invited week-long consultation as part of the Big Thinker Series. 

  19. Toole, Jame (2006-2007).  Strategic Planning and Visioning Retreat. PATH (global health organization). Seattle, Washington