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Statistically Speaking: Carol Yu, EPM'12

Carol YuWhat surprised Carol Yu most about her year at the Ed School? Her new found love of statistics. “I did not expect this, but I fell in love with statistics during my time here,” she says. “I love the way that numbers can unravel a story.” This somewhat unconventional love -- along with her many other admirable qualities -- did not go unnoticed by her peers in the Education Policy and Management Program (EPM).

“Carol has an infectious enthusiasm for learning and a presence that enriches the learning experience of both her classmates and the faculty who have been lucky enough to have her as a student,” says Lecturer Karen Mapp, director of EPM. “In the comments submitted by her classmates in support of her nomination, Carol’s high expectations, her support of others, her love of statistics (!), her ability to ‘manage egos,’ and her willingness to ‘ask those instructive questions that the rest of us are afraid to ask’ were mentioned as qualities that have made her a much-loved and respected peer and colleague.”

The completion of her master’s does not mean the end of Yu’s time at the Ed School. The Burke, Va. native will be staying in Cambridge after commencement to work as a research assistant for Professor Daniel Koretz and Assistant Professor Andrew Ho.

“I am very excited to venture into research and am especially looking forward to working with both Professor Koretz and Professor Ho,” Yu says. “I am also glad I get to enjoy Gutman’s renovations (and new food options) for a little bit longer than a month!”

Upon learning that she had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for EPM, Yu 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 because I wanted to take some time to both evaluate and solidify my beliefs about education. I found that in a work setting, I concentrated so much on “doing” that I never really questioned whether what I was doing was the best thing, or if I could do better. I felt that this was especially important as someone considering going the policy route to seek a more equitable education for students in low-income communities. Education policy can get so controversial these days, and there are so many buzz words and phrases; I wanted to make sure I knew which ones rang true for me.

Is that goal any different now? I think I am probably leaving with more questions than answers, and but I’ve realized that I now have a community that I can struggle through some of these ideas with.

Favorite class? All the statistics classes, hands down! The statistics department here is amazing. Everyone – from the professors to the teaching fellows – is so incredibly patient, giving, and so dedicated to making abstract concepts accessible in the most wonderful way. I also appreciated the real world value. Since data is becoming a bigger deal in education, it is crucial to understand how to use and interpret it appropriately.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education? The most important thing I learned here is to always remember the importance of giving people the benefit of the doubt. In education, most of us come into our work wanting to help. I think that’s something that’s really easy to forget given all the criticisms we make or hear regarding different stakeholders or organizations. Even as we graduate and go forth into the field, we are imperfect people with often imperfect ideas, but we are trying our best to help. While it’s important to challenge one another’s ideas to make our work less imperfect, I’ve learned that it is so important to remember people’s good intentions in order to have productive conversations.

Favorite study spots? The media lab (Gutman 306) with the huge Mac screens! Nobody knows about it and its wonders…and now they will!

Any advice for next year’s EPM students? Don’t be afraid of humiliation! Remember that the classroom is a safe space to test your ideas and make mistakes before you do work in higher stakes environments. Asking your professor a question, or saying the wrong answer in front of your classmates, or getting a B+ on a paper is nothing compared to if you were to do it in the real world – make those mistakes now so you get it right when you go out there!

For the full list of recipients, visit