The S/L/A/M Collaborative

SLAM is a 280-member architectural/engineering firm, with offices in 9 states in the US. We specialize in campus planning and educational facilities that foster community, respect tradition, and support the institutional mission of independent schools.


At SLAM, our vision is to provide “creativity in design to enrich lives”. We believe in creating a culture – internally and with our clients – that is safe, sustainable, and fun! We believe in wellness and mindfulness, in diversity of perspectives and the value of collaboration. We believe in listening and discussing, not telling, during the creative process. Innovation flows when ideas are shared. Our design thinkers strive for discovery-driven planning that draws on a medley of tools that will unlock complex questions to help you see your mission more clearly and be inspired to take the necessary steps towards your evolutionary success. We succeed when you succeed. SLAM is a national leader in master planning and design for Independent Schools, having completed projects on more than 55 campuses. We have successfully planned, designed, and delivered virtually every type of independent school facility. Most of our completed projects begin with master planning and we have had long-term relationships at many schools. In the past 10 years, we have completed facility master plans or updates at over 15 independent schools, which highlights the robust and relevant nature of our master planning practice. SLAM is an integrated design practice of educational programmers, planners, architects, landscape architects, interior designers, structural engineers, and construction cost estimators who all contribute to our comprehensive and collaborative approach to facilities master planning. Our expertise includes independent school specialists who have a strong knowledge of emerging 21st century learning environments and is informed by our complementary planning practice in higher education – reflecting the “PreK to Grade 16 and Beyond” educational continuum. We believe in the strength of outcome-based master planning to inform and enhance your culture.


Creativity in design to enrich lives
“The feedback from the Board about the Campus Master Plan was overwhelmingly positive. Those who had not been as intimately involved in the process were impressed with the scope and vision of the project and excited by the possibilities. Thank you for your terrific work on this and your responsiveness throughout the entire project.”
J. Thomas Woelper, Head of School, Far Hills Country Day School (Master Plan)
“We look forward to having you with us. The building is truly a gem! I hope you and your team feel as good as we do about what you have created. It is truly stunning and everything we had envisioned. It has transformed our campus.”
Randy Stevens, Head of School, St. Timothy’s School (The Gerry Sisters Five Arts & Student Center)
“[SLAM] really pushed us to create a building where the flow of the space, the design of the space, and the location… are [about] deliberately [defining] the heart of our campus. We are still pinching ourselves that this is real. Part of that is because everyday we figure out something else... we’re still learning just how amazing this building is... It’s still evolving. The excitement only grows as we continue to use it. It’s awesome.”
Rachel Stone, Head of School, Canterbury School (Steers Center)
“The building at night is a real showcase and acts as a beautiful focal point from elsewhere on the campus. Overall, the building has exceeded our expectations. Every feature has turned out to be immensely popular: the campus store, the lecture hall, the breakout spaces, the department offices, the lobby, the imaginative and flexible classrooms, and the well-lit and attractive gymnasium.”
Father Joel Konzen, Former Principal, Marist School (Academic Building/Gymnasium)


Will Gilyard is in his 19th year of working in independent schools. In 2020, he returned to his alma mater Choate Rosemary Hall to take on the roles of Form Dean, and Alumni Engagement Associate. Will joined Choate after nine years at the Kingswood Oxford School (KO), a 6-12 independent day school located in West Hartford, CT, where he served as Dean of Students, an upper school math teacher, assistant football coach, and faculty advisor for the United Students club and Boys of Color group. At Choate, Will is the faculty adviser to Choate Afro Latino Men (CALM), and Girls Who Code (GWC).

Will also serves as a core faculty member and helped create the curriculum for the Institute for New Teachers of Color in Independent Schools, created in 2020, the Interschool Leadership Institute, created in 2013. Will also served as a core faculty member of the Kingswood Oxford Leadership Institute for Educators of Color (KOLIEC) from 2011-2018 and helped create the curriculum for the mentoring/advising circles for institute participants.

Before joining KO, Will was the Head of the Upper School at the Cathedral School of St. John the Divine in New York City. He serves on the board of advisors for the IDEAL School, also located in New York City. He is passionate about the role of educators in independent schools, specifically in the lives of students of color. Will has attended numerous workshops, conferences, and institutes related to leadership in independent schools and anti-racist education. Will had the honor of being a member of a think tank for the CARLE institute. 

Will has his B.A. in Psychology from Williams College and his M.A. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Joseph. Will is thrilled to be a part of the TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) team and looks forward to working with energized and focused individuals who are interested in being change agents in the residential life sphere.

Will and his wife, Afton, ALP/Enrichment Teacher in Stratford Public Schools reside in Wallingford, CT with their two sons, William (10) and Maxwell (8).


Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto ’97 joined Blair’s faculty in 2002 and is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the School on matters related to student and residential life, including health and counseling services, athletics and co-curricular programs. He runs Monday School Meeting and, among other things, is known for greeting students in the morning at the Clinton Hall doorway and offering freshly picked apples from his office during the month of October. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, Ryan serves as a member of the history department and teaches Global Issues. He also authors the monthly e-newsletter From Hilltop to Home, a communication designed to help new boarding-school parents navigate the ins and outs of the Blair experience.

Over the course of his time at Blair, Ryan has served as a history teacher, head tennis coach, a dorm head and Dean of Admission. He completed his undergraduate work at Dickinson College, where he captained the men’s tennis team, and earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Columbia University. Before joining the faculty at Blair, Ryan taught at the Taft Summer School in Watertown, Connecticut, and Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, Pennsylvania. He also spent three summers as program director of the Cambridge Prep Experience at Peterhouse College, Cambridge University.

In addition to his roles in schools, Ryan has served as a faculty member for the TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) Summer Session and is a regular presenter at national boarding and independent school conferences on student and residential life.

Ryan and his wife, Jennifer, performing arts department chair and Director of Instrumental Music at Blair, live in Grullon House with their children, Jack, Will, Ella and Addison, and their dog, Teagan. The Pagottos enjoy opening their home to Blair students, faculty and staff members throughout the year.


Susan served as a professor and leader at Middlebury College for over 25 years, most recently as Executive Vice President and Provost, leading Middlebury’s academic programs across multiple campuses – Middlebury, Bread Loaf, Monterey – as well as study abroad locations around the world. Prior to her Provostship, Susan served as Vice President for Strategy and Planning, Dean of Planning and Assessment, and Dean of the Faculty. She is a tenured Professor of Psychology and taught throughout her time at Middlebury.

Susan began her consulting firm in 2018, advising schools, colleges, non-profits and foundations in the areas of strategy, planning and governance; and coaching senior administrators to build leadership capacity and support change management. This led her to partner with TABS in 2019, in the development of TABS current strategic plan.

In addition to consulting, Susan co-authored the book, The College Stress Test, an analysis of educational markets and tools for helping schools to identify their place within market trends. The book was named one of the best books on higher education in 2020 by Forbes Magazine. Susan has presented extensively on topics relating to human sexuality, social psychology, and the psychology of women and gender. She received her B.S. with highest honors in Psychology, Phi Beta Kappa, at Denison University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Psychology at UCLA.