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HGSE Remembers Kolajo Paul Afolabi

The Harvard Graduate School of Education community is mourning the loss of a dedicated student, colleague, and educator. Doctoral candidate Kolajo Paul Afolabi, Ed.M.’10, died on Wednesday after reportedly sustaining an accidental head injury while jogging in Providence, R.I.

“It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that HGSE has lost Kolajo Paul Afolabi, a fifth year doctoral student. Kolajo was an engaged member of this community who was loved by all who knew him,” said Dean Kathleen McCartney. “We will miss his kindness, his warmth, and his infectious laugh.”

Following many years working with youth and conducting research, Afolabi came to HGSE in 2007 to study higher education. His research focused on college access and success, community colleges, financial aid, and student success programs. His dissertation was to focus on the transfer function of community colleges for low-income students.

“Kolajo was an incredibly enthusiastic and warm individual,” said his advisor, Professor Bridget Terry Long.  “Every time he came to my office, he had wonderful ideas and issues he wanted to examine concerning the pipeline to and through higher education, especially for low-income students. I had the utmost faith that he would be successful and make a great contribution to the field, not only in research but also practice. However, I know he was equally valued as a friend, teacher, and colleague.”

Colleague and classmate Hanna Rodriguez-Farrar, Ed.M.’05, said that Kolajo was more than a researcher but someone who equally applied himself on the frontlines. Together, she and Kolajo had just begun working on the board of College Visions, a nonprofit in Providence that helps low-income youth attend college. “He knew he was going to make a difference on a high policy level but while he was in Providence he wanted to do work on the ground,” she said, noting his joining the board was a true testament of his nature. “He cared about things in a way that was genuine and right to the heart.”

A well-loved and active member of the HGSE community, Afolabi was an editor on the Harvard Educational Review editorial board, and a contributor to the annual Alumni of Color Conference.

An accomplished teacher, Afolabi was working this fall as an adjunct lecturer at Brown University where he had earned a bachelor’s degree in public policy and American institutions in 2003. At Brown, Afolabi taught two courses: Evaluating the Impact of Social Programs and Economics of Education II. He also was a teaching fellow for many classes at HGSE.

“He was my favorite TF for Microeconomics. When I was a student, I attended his section religiously, every Wednesday throughout the course of the semester,” said Katrina Deutsch, Ed.M.’10. “I honestly would not have taken away much from the class if it wasn't for him; he was patient and a wonderful instructor.”

While at Harvard, Afolabi won many awards and fellowships including the Harvard University Harold A. Berry Scholarship 2011–2012, the Harvard University Presidential Fellowship, 2007–2011, and the Education Pioneers Fellowship in summer 2008.

Prior to attending HGSE, Afolabi worked for five years as a research analyst for Policy Studies Associates, where he conducted research and evaluation on programs and policies designed to improve the lives of youth.

We invite you to share your thoughts and memories on Kolajo below.

UPDATE - The following is a letter to the community from Dean Kathleen McCartney:

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

I am writing to let you know that a funeral service for Kolajo will be held at Brown University's Manning Chapel at 3pm this Sunday, September 25th. A visitation will be held at Monahan Drabble Sherman funeral home in Providence, R.I. on Sunday from 11am - 1:30pm.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations may be made in Kolajo's memory to College Visions, an organization dedicated to helping underprivileged youth gain access to higher education. Kolajo served on the College Visions Board of Directors, and was committed to its cause both in his research and in his life.

We will be working with Kolajo’s classmates to organize a memorial service on the HGSE campus in the coming weeks. I will continue to update you with more information as it becomes available.





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