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Pathways for Collaboration: Maya Ayoub, SSP'15

Maya AyoubMaya Ayoub came to the Ed School with a background in several areas related to education — learning, developmental disabilities, early childhood — but she had no direct experience in the field. She enrolled in the Special Studies Program (SSP) not to segue, however. Instead, she sees her time at HGSE as a bridge between education and her future career in medicine.

“I was most interested in studying how educators both learned about and responded to developmental and learning disabilities in childhood,” Ayoub says. “I hope this understanding will aid me in creating pathways for collaboration between the fields of education and medicine when I work with children and their families in my future medical work.”

Ayoub shared her passion for this interdisciplinary work with the Special Studies cohort in a number of ways, both in and outside of class.

“Maya has shared with us her humble brilliance and her deep compassion,” says Special Studies Faculty Director Jennifer Petrallia, assistant dean for master's students. “In and outside of class, Maya contributes and leads with quiet strength, intellectual depth, and profound humanity. Working at the intersection of education interventions and neuroscience, with an unwavering commitment to child advocacy, Maya organized an interdisciplinary reading group on childhood autism and presented her most recent scholarship at the SSP research seminar.  One classmate said of Maya, ‘Through her empathy and intelligence, she has made me a better person.’”

Ayoub will enroll in medical school next year with the goal of continuing her work at the intersection of education and medicine for the benefit of children with developmental disabilities and their families.

Upon learning that she had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for SSP, Ayoub answered some questions about her time at the Ed School and beyond.

What are your post-HGSE plans? I look forward to carrying with me the theories and frameworks of early education which I’ve learned this year, as I study disabilities from a medical standpoint. In my long-term, dream job, I hope to be able to work in a setting where I can have a direct impact on children and families’ understanding and management of disability, through a strength-based perspective that has been so focused upon in my courses. I hope to also be able to structure the type of early learning environment which will help them realize their potential. It’s not a new idea, as I’ve worked in similar environments in the past, but it is one I’d like to realize fully, and to see replicated in a more inclusive and expansive setting.

Any special study spots? I adore Gutman Library — and probably spend way too much time there. One of the things I’ve grown to appreciate the most this year has been the enormous amount of collaboration and resources fostered by the Gutman open spaces, as well as the amazing opportunity to connect with peers and faculty. Since I’ve learned so much from all of my peers this year, the first floor “collaborative spaces” and reading room have definitely been my favorite — albeit not always most productive — locations to study.

What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program? One piece of advice I’d like to offer is to go after the questions which make you feel uncomfortable, and to ask as many questions as you can with an open mind. I realized that at several points throughout this year, I was feeling very self-conscious when learning about certain fields due to the way the new frameworks were pushing back on my previous understanding—particularly in learning about inclusive education and therapy. However, once I began asking why my understanding was at odds, and how I can shape my goals to fit this new framework—rather than feeling threatened by the conflict in theories—I began feeling much more fulfilled by my learning.

Despite your busy schedule, you always make time for … I always have to make time for the HGSE lectures and events, particularly the Master Classes. There simply isn’t enough time in one year to take every course I was interested in, or with all of the professors whom I admire. The Master Classes have been a fantastic opportunity for me to get small sound-bites of each of the fields, while hearing about the pedagogy of successful teaching straight from the “masters” themselves.

The number one, biggest surprise of the last year was … How much can get done on a snow day. I think this past winter explains itself!

Read about the other recipients of this year's Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award.