Providing world-class lifelong learning content to the masses requires a diverse mix of skill sets and leadership, and we believe our team stacks up with the best of them. Read more about who leads all the key areas of our business below.
President and CEO
Paul Suijk was named President and CEO of The Teaching Company in May 2013. He joined the company in September of 2007 as the CFO. With a wide variety of experience in executive positions at major corporations, including Cadmus Communications, Danka Business Systems, James River Corporation, and Royal Dutch Shell, Paul is exceptionally focused on bringing innovation and strategic business growth to Wondrium. He specializes in developing joint ventures and building partnerships. Paul is the Chair of the Academy of Hope Foundation, focusing on adult education in America. Paul grew up in The Netherlands in an entrepreneurial family. He had an opportunity to study in the United States and after working in Bangladesh on a World Bank-sponsored project he moved back to The Netherlands and worked for Royal Dutch Shell for a number of years, before emigrating to the United States. Paul is married to Julie and has four children. He spends his free time with family and friends and loves boating, traveling, and working out.
Chief Financial Officer
Bruce Willis has served as Chief Financial Officer since 2015 and has previously held other senior operating and supply chain roles. Bruce oversees all budgeting and reporting, treasury, tax and accounting functions. He is a graduate of the University of Richmond. His favorite Wondrium program categories are History and Travel & Culture.
Chief Legal Officer
Debra joined Wondrium in 2019 and serves as the Chief Legal Officer, with overall responsibilities for legal, regulatory, transactional, corporate governance, and compliance activities and strategies. She has a BA degree in Communication Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and she received her law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Debra enjoys history and culture courses the most, but she is currently honing her green thumb with How to Grow Anything: Container Gardening Tips & Techniques.
Senior Vice President, Marketing
Joe Peckl has served in various roles with Wondrium for 15 years and is currently the Senior Vice President of Marketing. Joe overseas all third-party strategy and revenue, including SVOD, TVOD, FAST channels, library market, and Audible. Additionally, he is responsible for international strategy and revenue across all business channels. Joe’s career prior to Wondrium involved working for some of the country’s largest and most successful direct marketing and media companies. He served as the Vice President, Group Publisher for PRIMEDIA’s history magazines and websites. He spent 14 years in various senior positions with Time Warner, Inc., both domestically and abroad, including Senior Vice President of eCommerce for TimeLife and Managing Director of Book of the Month Club, UK. Joe holds a BS in Applied Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University. Some of his favorite Wondrium programs include The Black Death: The World's Most Devastating Plague and How to Play Chess: Lessons from an International Master.
Senior Vice President, Content Development
Jason Smigel was named Senior Vice President, Content Development, after spending the prior 19 years leading marketing, marketing operations, distribution, and customer service teams. In his current role, Jason is responsible for the development and creation of Wondrium content for our audiences, including strategy, recruiting, licensing, production, studio operations, and third-party partnerships. Jason has an extensive background in customer experience and continuous process improvement and has served as an examiner for the U.S. Senate Virginia State Productivity and Quality Award. Jason holds a BA in Chemistry from Washington and Lee University. His favorite Wondrium programs include In the Footsteps of Vincent van Gogh; Exploring the Mayan World; Why Evil Exists; and Mind-Blowing Science: Season 1 and Mind-Blowing Science: Season 2, produced with Scientific American magazine.
Vice President, Technology Services
Mark Leonard has been with Wondrium since 2012 and is currently the Vice President of Technology Services, a role he has held for six years. He has more than 20 years of technology experience in working with both large and small enterprises. Mark currently provides leadership for the continued development of exciting, innovative, and secure experiences for our customers in the web and app spaces. He manages a team of about 45 technology professionals, covering the areas of Web Development, Application Development, Architecture, Security, DevOps, Infrastructure, Quality Assurance, Quality Control, and Project Management. Mark has a BA and MBA from the University of Maryland. His favorite Wondrium programs are Mathematical Brain Teasers and Logic Puzzles and True Crime: Decoding the Evidence.
Vice President, People
Audrey Williams joined Wondrium as Vice President, People in 2019, after spending 15 years developing her skills and leadership in the various facets of human resources. Audrey is responsible for overseeing all people and culture initiatives for Wondrium, including talent acquisition, learning and development, performance management, employee engagement, and retention. Audrey holds a BA in Psychology from Bowling Green State University. Her favorite Wondrium programs include The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being and Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science.
Vice President, Content Production
Kevin Barnhill was named Vice President of Content Production in 2022, after spending the prior nine years in various production and leadership roles. Kevin oversees the production of all video and audio titles at Wondrium—more than 50, annually. Prior to working with Wondrium, Kevin held various production roles at National Geographic, Discovery, and Animal Planet. Kevin is a graduate of the School of Media Arts & Design at James Madison University, where he majored in Film and Video Production. His favorite Wondrium programs include Wonders of the National Parks: A Geology of North America, Learning to Play Guitar: Chords, Scales and Solos and Exploring the Mayan World.
Vice President, Content Strategy
Kevin Manzel was elevated to Vice President of Content Strategy in 2022 after spending the previous 14 years in positions of research and development and content development. In Kevin’s role, he spearheads the company’s strategies for both original and licensed content, in addition to developing new business relationships with nonfiction content partners and producers. Prior to joining Wondrium, Kevin spent several years in editorial and writing positions in both publishing and public relations. Kevin holds a BA in History from Ohio Wesleyan University and an MA in Early Modern European History from The George Washington University. An obsessive runner, Kevin claims to listen to Wondrium on 1.25x speed on all his runs, so he can enjoy more series. His favorite Wondrium programs include The Middle Ages around the World and Ancient Civilizations of North America.
Vice President, Customer Engagement
Konstantine Gelfond joined the company in 2009 and became Vice President, Customer Engagement in 2021, after spending prior years in a variety of supply chain and marketing roles. Konstantine oversees all existing customer revenue channels and retention marketing activities. He also leads the supply chain, operations, and customer service teams. Konstantine is a graduate of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. His favorite Wondrium programs are My Favorite Universe and Wonders of the National Parks: A Geology of North America.
Senior Director, Innovation
Andreas Burgstaller was named Senior Director of Innovation in 2016, after spending the prior 18 years in various production, marketing, and company leadership roles. From 1998 to 2006, Andreas produced more than 40 Great Courses as part of the product development team. From 2006 to 2016, he served as the Marketing Creative Director. Andreas holds a BA from Indiana University. His favorite Wondrium programs include The American Civil War and Exploring the Mayan World.
Director, Partnership Marketing
Aaron Hewitt is the Director of Partnership Marketing and has been with Wondrium for more than seven years. Prior to that, he was an Account Manager with Rosetta Stone. His responsibilities include managing third-party partnerships for the Signature Collection, as well as library partnerships. Aaron is based in Harrisonburg, VA, where he lives with his wife and two children. He graduated from James Madison University with a history degree. Two of his favorite Wondrium programs are Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth and The Rise of Humanity and Outdoor Fundamentals: Everything You Need to Know to Stay Safe.
Director, Program Management Office
Erin Dethlefsen joined Wondrium’s team in 2014 and was promoted to Director of our Program Management Office in 2018. Erin has more than 20 years of project management experience with IT projects and holds Project Management Professional (PMI) and Scrum Master (Scrum Alliance) certifications for 15 years. She manages a team responsible for the project management, tools, and processes used to deliver projects for the Technology Services Department. Her scope of responsibility spans all systems, web sites, mobile apps, and TV-based apps that support and deliver Wondrium and The Great Courses.
Director, Web Development
Geoffrey “Geoff” Douglas was brought on as Director, Web Development in January 2020. Prior to joining full time, he spent more than four years leading teams of developers as a technical lead consultant. Geoff leads the team that is responsible for TheGreatCourses.com website, related enterprise technology and integrations. He holds a Bachelor of Science, Management of Information Systems from the University of Phoenix. He holds several certifications, including Certified Magento Developer Professional for Adobe Commerce (Previously Magento Enterprise) and Certified Solution Architect Professional from Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Julia Xu is the Director of Analytics and has been with the company since 2011. Julia and her team are responsible for all the in-house machine learning algorithms, business intelligence, and database management. Julia earned an MBA and Master of Statistics from Virginia Tech. Her favorite Wondrium program categories are History and and Philosophy & Religion.
Octavia Vannall was named Director of Creative at Wondrium in 2021, after spending the prior 15 years in various video production and production leadership roles. Octavia oversees all creative for Wondrium’s video library. She leads the engagement video strategy, as well as content development's post-production team. Before Wondrium, Octavia was at Discovery Communications, where she led the Discovery Digital Studios production team, creating both short-form and branded content for their U.S. network portfolio. Octavia holds a BA from Seton Hall University and is pursuing an MBA from the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign. Her favorite Wondrium programs include True Crime: Decoding the Evidence and The Art of Video Storytelling.
Director, Infrastructure & Creative Operations
Sven Ljungholm was named Director of Infrastructure & Creative Operations in 2019. Sven brings more than 30 years of industry experience to the position. He oversees the infrastructure team responsible for the upkeep of computer systems, as well as the quality control team responsible for content delivery. His favorite Wondrium program categories are a mixture of History and Travel & Culture.
Director, Solution Architecture
Zach Morgan joined Wondrium in 2014 and has been the Director of Solution Architecture since 2021. Zach oversees the development of technical solution/designs that join and integrate Wondrium technologies, including our eCommerce platform, analytics platforms, marketing technology, and video platforms. Prior to joining Wondrium, he cofounded a consulting company focused on analytics and online advertising. He also was the Director of Solution Architecture for Gannett Digital Media. Zach holds a BS from The Catholic University of America. His favorite Wondrium program is The Secrets of Mental Math.
Sarah Blake Semendinger
Sarah Blake Semendinger, serves as Controller, overseeing the accounting, treasury, tax, and external reporting functions. With almost 20 years serving middle market companies, Sarah is well-positioned to support Wondrium from a finance perspective, as it grows through new initiatives and technologies. Sarah holds a BBA from the University of Notre Dame and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA). She is a past president of the Greater Washington Society of CPAs and a past voting member of the AICPA Council.