California native Lynneth Solis had no trouble staying inspired during her time at HGSE. "I had to remind myself that I was blessed with the opportunity to be at Harvard and needed to take advantage of all the opportunities this institution has to offer," she says. As a student in the Mind, Brain, and Education Program (MBE), Solis was constantly reminded by her classmates and professors about the work to be done in education, and how she could contribute to the success and health development of children around the world.
"Lynneth Solis stands out for her inquiring mind and firm approach to understanding. She asks great questions, probing for the most important concepts, and making sure that she really understands their meaning," says Professor Kurt Fisher, director of MBE. "She shares her great questions with her classmates and teachers, helping others to delve to understand important concepts and principles behind the superficially obvious."
Though Solis isn't sure exactly where she is headed after commencement, she says she leaves with a passion to conduct research on children's cognitive development and use the findings from this research to influence the healthy development of children. "My dream is to find a way to combine these two passions into a meaningful and rewarding career that straddles the line between research and practice. I see myself doing this work in the U.S. as well as internationally," she says.
Upon learning that she had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for MBE, Solis answered some questions about her time at the Ed School and beyond.
What was your goal upon entering the Ed School? I came to HGSE with the goal of learning to utilize rigorous research to inform practice in education. Prior to HGSE, I had studied and conducted research that, though quite fascinating, seemed disconnected from the "real-world" questions about learning and development that educators encounter on a day-to-day basis. At HGSE, I sought to learn how to bridge the communication gap between researchers and educators.
Is that goal any different now? My goal is still the same, and in fact, is even more resolute. I am convinced more now than ever that I want to participate in the process of translating findings from the laboratory into practical applications in the classroom, and formulating important insights from the classroom into interesting questions for research. In the Mind, Brain, and Education Program, we discussed the possible role of "educational engineers" who serve as translators between researchers and educators. I would love to find a way into this kind of work. I hope that the next few years of professional experience will help me find my "place on the map," as Professor Jack Shonkoff says.
What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education? More than specific content, I learned that meaningful and outstanding work is the result of a genuine and unfailing commitment to follow one's passions. Professors at HGSE have all persevered in their work, which at times first arose as a nagging intuition, and have made excellent contributions to their areas of study. This is a lesson that will continue to be an inspiration throughout my career.
Is there any professor who significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School? There have been many wonderful professors who contributed to my experience at HGSE this year, but there are two professors, in particular, who ignited a spark in me: Jack Shonkoff and Paul Harris.
Professor Shonkoff's example as someone who is passionate about improving early childhood policy through clear and responsible communication of scientific findings serves as a model of the professional I want to become. He is an excellent communicator, inspiring leader, and unwavering advocate. He has also demonstrated the importance of collaborating with individuals from diverse disciplines in order to address the complex issues that affect children's development.
Professor Paul Harris has chosen to take the "road less traveled" when it comes to studying the nature of children's cognitive development. He is an ingenious and creative researcher who designs simple yet elegant studies to investigate complex phenomena that have been mostly unexplored by mainstream developmental psychology (e.g., the imagination, children's concept of death, and children's belief in religious figures). He is also very aware of the potential cultural differences that influence development and is open to discourse about issues of diversity as they relate to the study of development.
What has been most inspiring about these professors, though, has been the humility they exude. They are great minds, yet are welcoming and gentle in their interactions with their students.
What will you change in education and why? I will help build the communication lines between practitioners and researchers. Complex questions of learning and development require just as complex modes of investigation and practice, which can be formulated by the collaborative work of those studying cognitive and neurobiological phenomena in laboratories, those observing learning in classrooms, and those making educational decisions in Capitol Hill.