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Alums Discuss Future of Education Policy at D.C. Event

The February gathering is the first of many alumni events to be held around the country to celebrate HGSE's centennial year.

On Thursday, February 20,  alumni of the Harvard Graduate School of Education gathered in Washington, D.C. to celebrate 100 years of the Ed School and look at the future of education policy in the United States.

Throughout 2020, the HGSE Development and Alumni Relations team is hosting gatherings for alums and friends in cities throughout the country. This event in the nation’s capital was the first of this series and prompted many from the local alumni community to come together to celebrate their connections to the school.

Dean Bridget Terry Long welcomed those in attendance. “Our alumni really are our most major contribution to the world,” she said. “The work you do as alumni really is so critical to us having impact and doing good in the world.”

For alums and friends of HGSE, the event was not only an opportunity to reconnect with classmates, but also a chance to learn about how education policy has evolved, in a panel discussion moderated by Long and featuring Professor Martin West and education policy veterans Lindsay Fryer, Ed.M.'08, of the Penn Hill Group, and Scott Sargrad, Ed.M.'08, of the Center for American Progress.

In a wide-ranging conversation, the panelists looked at how the development of education policy has changed through presidential administrations and how those policies continue to shape the lives of students today at the local, state, and federal levels.

“When you ask, should the federal government spend more on education? People say, ‘Yes,’" said Sargrad. "The federal government should really push into how can we make a much greater investment and can we target it in a much more aggressive way to the places that really need it.”

Fryer spoke of the network that was forged on Appian Way that quickly led to direct action at the federal level after graduation. “We had relationships that we had built in classes, in the experience together, that helped us work through some very difficult policy decisions that we had to come to agreement on,” she said.

This relationship-building continued D.C., where Fryer and Sargrad — as well as other alumni from their class — intersected. “When Scott came over to the Department of Education, I was on the Hill writing K–12 policy and he was doing K–12 policy; some of the things I wrote were a direct result of the things that Scott did at the Department of Ed,” Fryer said. “The White House domestic policy council at the time was also in our class, an ‘08, and was my direct counterpart in negotiating the law.”

West, who spent a year as the senior education policy adviser to Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, offered some advice to would-be education politicos. “The first thing I learned was that everything I wrote was, can be at times, too long. I needed to learn how to be concise, and I did see a lot of people in the policy world being held back by an inability to write clearly and concisely.”

Further events are planned for alumni of HGSE in Philadelphia, Hartford, Miami, and San Francisco with more to be announced soon. Bookmark our Centennial alumni page as more events are announced, to find out when HGSE will be coming to a city near you.


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