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Lifelong Learning: Cameron Allen, L&T'14

Cameron AllenDuring his year in the Learning and Teaching (L&T) Program, Cameron Allen has found himself alternately excited and frustrated. Excited about the passionate people and deep resources he has access to at the Ed School, but frustrated by feeling underrepresented as an adult ESL educator. He found motivation in both emotions, however, and pushed through, knowing how much his being at the Ed School meant to his family, especially his “Grandy” and “Pappy.”

Allen would like to dedicate this award to his “Grandy,” Lois Hull, who recently suffered a stroke.

“She was so incredibly supportive of my coming here, and has been a beacon of lifelong learning that has shone brightly on our entire family and her community for decades,” says Allen. “Her intellect and insatiable yearning to learn up to the last days of her life is a model that I can only dream of imitating.” Allen plans to continue his grandmother’s legacy by returning to his hometown of Austin, Texas, to work with adult learners. “Cameron Allen is an exceptionally thoughtful student whose intellectual openness, clarity, and imagination have inspired his fellow students and impressed his professors,” says Senior Lecturer Kitty Boles, faculty director of L&T. “Cameron’s passion is adult education, and as a student-activist at HGSE, he followed through on his passion for adult learners by establishing a new organization dedicated to this overlooked population of learners. His vast familiarity with the literature in a wide range of educational areas (which he readily and respectfully shares with his peers) has enriched and challenged his peers’ thinking in ways that are authentically supportive and collaborative. Indeed, he believes that engaging students of all ages in inquiry-based activities, discussions, debates and collaborative work is essential for growth and learning.”

Upon learning that he had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for Learning and Teaching, Allen answered some questions about his time at the Ed School and beyond.

What are your post-HGSE plans? I’m headed back to Austin, Texas, to work with my adult learners and their families to create a space in which we can create and share knowledge that challenges us to become leaders in our communities. I’m interested in talking pedagogy and educational philosophy with them, so that those who are parents have some powerful tools in advocating for their kiddos in the K–12 system. Most importantly, of course, I’m marrying my main squeeze, Yvonne, in June.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education? I have a renewed sense that most, if not all, of the issues with which we’re dealing, have connections to larger (often unrecognized) paradigms and ideologies. Without addressing those deeper paradigms, I’m learning how futile so much of our work is in this space.

Any special study spots? There was a chair on Gutman’s second floor to which I was pretty partial. Upon discovering the gem that is the multimedia lab on the third floor (with the big Macs), I found a new home.

What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program? Be humble. Remember that while the learning that happens here is certainly valuable and unique, you are coming from a place and a people who also hold great troves of knowledge, some of which you may never be able to understand. Continue to know yourself, and know the limits of your understanding, and you’ll be alright. And, go visit Kitty [Boles]!

Despite your busy schedule, you always make time for … Curiosity. Coming from Texas and never having lived in the Northeast, I’ve found my limited stomping grounds provide me with endless curios and characters. It doesn’t hurt that I’m up here alone, and feel somewhat responsible for capturing the essence of this place in order to tell its story to family and friends back home. I also read and make absurd little videos.

What will you change in education and why? I have no idea. I can certainly say that I will fight for the rights of my adult learning community (myself included) to be viewed and respected as meaning-makers. I really hope that our work demonstrates that learning is happening throughout life, whether we intend on it or not. I also hope to push those around me to explore the assumptions, beliefs, paradigms, biases, epistemologies, etc. … that necessarily underlie our practice.