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Research and Practice: Hannah Smith, PSP'14

Hannah Smith
Although she came to the Ed School planning to get a degree in school counseling, after her year in the Prevention Science and Practice (PSP) Program, Hannah Smith’s long-term goals have changed.

“I have decided to use the PSP degree in a broader sense,” she says. “I am curious about a few different career paths, but feel strongly that I want to work at the nexus of research and practice, supporting healthy development for youth.”

This summer, before the New Hampshire native returns to her “second home” of San Francisco, Smith will be working in two different programs which highlight her interests in research and practice: program evaluation at Teach For America and counseling at the Girls Leadership Institute at Mount Holyoke College. Eventually, she hopes to begin a career in youth development, something that will combine her love of research and practice to support youth outcomes.

“Hannah is an exceptional choice for this year's PSP Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award. She is an extremely valued member of the PSP community and I am not at all surprised that her peers would acknowledge her in this way,” says Senior Lecturer Mandy Savitz-Romer, faculty director of PSP. “What has struck me about Hannah is the way that she enters a conversation. She enters with curiosity and interest, rather than expertise or assurance. Her gentle, but inquisitive nature was instrumental in taking several of our classroom discussions in a positive direction. Somewhat uniquely, Hannah places a premium on student voice, both in terms of the young people she has worked with at Middle School Academy (an alternative school in Boston) and her peers at HGSE. At HGSE, this is evident in how much she values her peers' knowledge, experience, and opinions.”

Upon learning that she had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for Prevention Science and Practice, Smith answered some questions about her time at the Ed School and beyond.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education? I have learned that to be a good leader does not mean doing all of the work or getting the credit. Leadership has to do with developing a strong sense of self and holding fast to a core set of values. In addition, I have developed a set of concrete tools through my coursework that will help me support youth and create and sustain meaningful change in education.

How did you stay inspired throughout the year? For me, kids have always been the driving force behind my dedication to education. Throughout this year, my practicum has been a place to remember why I am doing this work. Working with my amazing supervisor and the students at an alternative middle school in South Boston has allowed me that connection to real students and the struggles schools are facing that allowed me to stay grounded and focused. I am in this for the people and remembering that there is no scarcity of love or passion for justice has always been my compass.

Any special study spots? I work best at home. That way, I can drink all the tea I need and eat lots of chocolate!

What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program? I would say try to think in the beginning of the year what your goals are, why you care about education and youth. This prioritization early on will serve as a way to check back in with yourself often and see how this is shifting and how you are managing self-care, academic requirements, and the long-term goals you have. In essence, doing this often will keep things in perspective and allow you to keep a north star in mind so that you don’t get caught up in all of the little stuff.

What will you change in education and why? I have lofty hopes of changing many systems and spaces to be more equitable and rooted in social justice. I believe education is one of many avenues we can use to support all students outcomes, but it is not and should not be the only way. I hope to use my skills that I have gained in PSP to create and sustain effective interventions; develop models to scale those that have already proven to be effective; and incorporate social, emotional, and mental health into the school space. In addition, I plan to use education as an entry point to discuss the huge disparity that exists between student outcomes based on race and class.

If you could transport one person/place/thing from HGSE to your next destination, what would it be? I would take along the passion for learning and the dedication to supporting students from many levels. This year, I have been so grateful to be surrounded by so many intelligent and inspiring people and I hope to use them as a resource and motivator as I move into the next phase of my life.


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