Lucky for Jais Brohinsky, there were no sharks or plesiosaurs — his self-proclaimed greatest fears — when he arrived on Appian Way last September. Even luckier, what did await him was a vibrant and engaged learning community.
“When I arrived, I don’t think I wanted to admit that I was impressed, but I was,” Brohinsky says. “Most of what impressed me were all the things I wanted this school, the faculty, the students, and, above all, me to be: brilliant, steadfast, confident, wise, omniscient. I saw these qualities all around me, and barely noticed the garbage cans that were full one moment and empty the next, the clean rugs and green grass. Over the year, these barely noticed phenomena and the network of people, material, funds, and time that make them happen have come to seem much more impressive than my initial fantasies.”
Curious about the ways in which social structures affect classroom and pedagogical structures and how those in turn affect individuals and society at large, Brohinsky enrolled in the Specialized Studies Program (SSP), quickly making an impression on his cohort.
“Jais affirms others’ thinking while challenging them to examine and expand the boundaries of their beliefs. He invites his colleagues into honest inquiry into questions of education that matter with empathy and authentic curiosity,” says Lecturer Vicki Jacobs, faculty director of SSP. “His colleagues respect him for his uncommon selflessness and humility as well as for his example, as he quietly ‘verifies the humanity of everyone he interacts with and the importance of how we relate to one another as humans, teachers, and learners.’”
Before he can begin his post-HGSE life of, he says, “cross country trains, summer camps, educational farmsteads in New Mexico’s high desert and North Carolina’s Appalachians, and a solar eclipse,” Brohinsky will be recognized with the Intellectual Contribution Award for the Specialized Studies Program at Convocation on May 24. Here, he discusses his year at HGSE and his life in education.
Have your goals change in your year at the Ed School? I’m [now] curious how different ways of thinking are materialized in technologies and how, as the technologies proliferate, these ways of thinking are adopted by societies and contribute to social transformation.
What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education? I will do my best to remember that every single word, technology, breakthrough innovation, work of art ... every creation in the story of humankind was once an act of self-education.
Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School? Houman Harouni offered the most challenging and detailed feedback on my work and pushed me to question my basic assumptions about education and the roles I play in it. His course, Power and Pedagogy: Self, Society, and Transformation, cemented my conviction that experiential learning has a place in all education ... even graduate school.
How did you stay inspired throughout the year? Watching time and a perpetual search for the right piano.
What will you change in education and why? People have been thinking too long that learning is a product of schools. Learning is life. Learning is work. Learning is food. It feeds our bodies, hearts, and minds.
If you could transport one person/place/thing from HGSE to your next destination, what would it be? The endowment.