Differences should not keep people apart, says Nicole Paulet Piedra. Instead they should bring people together. This is a notion that should be driving education.
“I am an alumna of the United World Colleges movement, where at a young age I experienced a kind of education that brought people together, not in spite of, but because of their differences,” the Peru native says. “Growing up in a country that was struggling to re-build its social and human cohesion, I dream of changing education by re-framing what we want education to be.”
Paulet Piedra enrolled in the International Education Policy (IEP) Program at the Ed School to follow that dream by developing a greater understanding of policy design and implementation processes in countries around the world. She was also, she says, “interested in learning about the micro-level changes that ought to take place within education systems, both at the school level and beyond it, to guarantee that all children have access to quality learning opportunities.”
“Nicole Paulet Piedra embodies the qualities that distinguish students in the International Education Policy Program: professional excellence, passion for education as an avenue towards greater justice, and the relentless creation of avenues for global collaborations on behalf of empowering students to become architects of their lives,” says Professor Fernando Reimers, director of IEP. “As a student in the program this year, Nicole has not only excelled academically, but taken initiative and collaborated with others to make this a memorable year for all in the program, facilitating many conversations between students and global leaders of thought and practice, all while keeping a focus in sharpening the professional skills that will help her advance educational opportunity in Brazil upon graduation.”
Upon learning that she had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for IEP, Paulet Piedra answered some questions about her time at the Ed School and beyond.
What are your post-HGSE plans? In July, I will be moving to Brazil where I will work in the executive leadership team of a nonprofit organization called Laboratório de Educação. We research and develop teacher-training methodologies for language instructors in Brazilian public schools, using technology as a platform to mediate teacher and student learning. Our main focus is language acquisition and development during the elementary years, which is one of the most pressing challenges for Latin American education.
What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education? Always start with the purpose. In order to make change in a way that will not only be sustainable but also consistent and meaningful, we have to be clear about why we do what we do.
We can figure out the how, but the “what” and the “why” are the most important questions to always ask ourselves. And this applies equally whether we’re talking about an individual nonprofit organization or a country’s Ministry of Education.
What shaped your experience at the Ed School? My experience at HGSE has been significantly marked by a project that some IEP classmates and I started back in September. A few of us knew that we were interested in Latin America and realized we had an opportunity to open up a space at HGSE and at Harvard more broadly to discuss the future of education in the region.
We worked tirelessly during the year to put together a program that would address pressing issues regarding the role of education in building peace and inclusion, as well as the importance of empowering teachers to transform our education systems. Last week, we gathered hundreds of participants in the first conference titled Latin America Learns, and we hope that the conversation will be continued and strengthened by future students and faculty in the years to come.
What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program? Be yourself and don’t be afraid trying something new!
Despite your busy schedule, you always make time for … Distracting my classmates in the first floor of Gutman Library and watching the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
The number one, biggest surprise of the last year was … How quickly my cohort felt like a family.