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The Role of Identity

Migration is one of the most important issues of our time, says Leanne Trujillo. Moving not just from their homes, but from their home countries has serious impact on migrant children’s education. Helping to create positive change in educational policies and programs, and finding solutions for refugee and immigrant youth is a career goal for Trujillo.

“In my lifetime, I want to work on ‘transforming the narrative’ and creating platforms for migrant and refugee youth to take charge of their educational and life experiences to live happy, meaningful, and healthy lives,” she says.

As important as it is to Trujillo to understand the impact that international governments and organizations have on underserved students collectively, it is also important to keep in mind the individuals.

“I wanted to learn more about how migration is impacting the role of identity in the Americas and how identity plays a crucial role in developing 21st-century education,” she says.

Trujillo’s own identity as a fighter for social change was only reinforced during her year in the International Education Policy (IEP) Program, and further strengthened by the relationships she built with her cohort.

“Leanne Trujillo embodies the fine qualities that distinguish students in the International Education Policy Program: a commitment to advance global educational opportunity, academic excellence, and a deep understanding that improving the world of education is best done in the company and with the support of good colleagues,” says Professor Fernando Reimers, director of IEP. “She has generously given of her time working with many colleagues creating co-curricular opportunities to help all learn from the richness that our diversity represents.”

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

Have your goals changed since coming to the Ed School? Although my overall goal is still the same, I have transformed the way in which I see how social entrepreneurship, behavioral science, and economic interventions play an important role in addressing some of Latin America’s most pressing educational challenges. I have a new appreciation for more unconventional ways in thinking about solutions. Additionally, through critical conversations and dialogue with colleagues in the HGSE community, I have realized how imperative it is to continue to deconstruct traditional systems of education in order to further understand how the development of identity (whether human, institutional, or organizational) is imperative for creating lasting change.

What is your dream job? My dream job would be to create an international educational organization that serves the unique needs of migrant and refugee youth globally, while also creating a space for them to foster their unique talents. This organization would be a platform for these youth to tell their stories and create a new narrative of what it means to migrate somewhere new.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education? I learned to never accept what is a seeming reality and constantly critically engage, question, and deconstruct traditional systems. Do this with a sense of purpose and do this with a sense of justice.

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School? My adviser, Professor Fernando Reimers, has had a great impact on my experience at the education school. Dr. Reimers pushed me to look past policies, programs, and interventions and question the purpose of creating change. Dr. Reimers constantly asked me to think about what is deeply important in my life and emphasized self-care as a necessity in being a global educational leader. My conversations with Dr. Reimers always ended with him asking me about what truly makes me happy. His passion and dedication to international education and students around the world is truly admirable. He sets high expectations for the students and truly makes you believe that anything is possible. His dedication to the students and IEP community, has created a global network of individuals working in different ways toward the alleviation of global poverty. No dream is too big for Dr. Reimers.

Any special study spots? My favorite place to study on campus is the Harvard Law School library because it reminds me of Hogwarts.

The number one, biggest surprise of the last year was … How easily you can transform ideas into practice when you are surrounded by a group of intelligent, selfless, committed individuals that dedicate themselves to truly making a change in this world.

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