Skip to main content

To See and Shape the Future of Education: Loyola Rankin, HEP'22

The Intellectual Contribution Award recipient for Higher Education reflects on her time at HGSE and looks toward the future.
Loyola Rankin and friend

The Intellectual Contribution Award recognizes graduating Ed.M. students (one from each Ed.M. program) whose dedication to scholarship enhanced HGSE’s academic community and positively affected fellow students. Loyola Rankin will be honored with the Intellectual Contribution Award for Higher Education (HEP) Program during HGSE's Convocation exercises on May 25.

Senior Lecturer Francesca Purcell, faculty director of HEP, comments on Rankin's selection: “Loyola is a highly regarded member of the higher education community at HGSE. She brings her critical sensibilities to her work encouraging both herself and others to ask difficult and important questions around student success for all students in higher education while simultaneously striving to find and implement solutions. Loyola’s impressive professional dedication to improving postsecondary experiences for Native American communities is inspiring and so many of us have learned so much from Loyola in her generous sharing of her own personal life experiences as an indigenous higher education professional. HGSE is a better place because of Loyola.”

We spoke to Rankin about her time at HGSE, her future plans, and how the pandemic has changed the education landscape.

What were your goals in coming to the Ed School?

I came to HGSE because it was my dream school. I attended Graduate Horizons 2012 that was hosted at Harvard (I also attended the College Horizons program in 2007 also hosted at Harvard; the executive director is HGSE alum Carmen Lopez), and was inspired by the college's commitment to shaping the future of education. I was disheartened by the nine-month in-residence program as I had no intention of living in New England again after four years at my alma mater Brown University. I wanted to go home. 

Living through the pandemic has been horrific and, in the horror, I was able to attend my dream school. There is a level of guilt present as I considered my goals in attending HGSE: to see and shape the future of education. Having been raised on the Navajo Nation Reservation and within a culture of poverty, it is a special skill to see the future and shape it. It is now a responsibility to use these skills to the benefit of our students. 

"Having been raised on the Navajo Nation Reservation and within a culture of poverty, it is a special skill to see the future and shape it. It is now a responsibility to use these skills to the benefit of our students."

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School? 

HGSE has amazing classes! It was amazing going down different paths offered by each course. The professors at HGSE have been supportive and helpful in expanding on concepts. The courses that resonated with me have been: 

  • Higher Education and the Law – Philip Catanzano was clear in his goal for his students: to ensure that we were not intimidated in our careers when we meet lawyers. His experience in the field was incredible to hear and presented topical issues. 
  • Leading Strategically – Senior Lecturer Elizabeth City’s May-term course was enlightening and provided tools to critique our own leadership systems. It was amazing to apply these skills to our current projects in authentic experience. I also enjoyed her take away that our leadership is a garden and even a “weed” can be cultivated to a strength. 
  • How the Future of Work is Shaping the Future of Work – Assistant Professor Peter Blair’s passion as an economist and a leader in his field has been amazing to learn from. Not only is his passion visible but his network of colleagues invited to the class was amazing to hear from. He pushed us all to think about how the future of work would change based on data and experience we could digest. 

What are your post-HGSE plans?

Post-HGSE, I plan to take time to process my time at HGSE. It has always been culturally important to take time to reflect on the experiences we have been through in order to truly learn and appreciate them. 

During this time, I am sure I will grieve what happened to us with the pandemic. I think it would be part of the process before moving forward. There is a level of trauma that occurred that I would not wish to pass on to those I encounter in my next career adventure. It is important for me to provide great support for future colleagues and students and to be mentally and emotionally ready, I need time. 

How has the pandemic shifted your views of education? 

The pandemic has shifted my view on education to show how it is possible to experience formal education. There are many rewards to having online courses and should be a permanent option for students. I know the concept was possible but now having it as an option and integrated into schools. 

Despite your busy schedule, you always make time for …

Sleep. Naps. It has always been important for me to have enough sleep, whatever that may mean for each day is different. Particularly if I have been wrestling with a difficult concept or working through a problem posed in class or through readings. It has been helpful to sleep. 


The latest research, perspectives, and highlights from the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Related Articles