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Bridget Terry Long's Prepared Remarks

By Bridget Terry Long on May 3, 2018 10:16 AM
Newly announced dean, Bridget Terry Long, addressed the HGSE community at a celebratory reception on May 2, 2018.

Thank you, Drew, and the many, many members of the community who participated in this process and are here today.

Drew, your leadership and example have inspired me, and I thank you for your mentorship and support of HGSE. 

I also want to recognize and thank Alan Garber and Larry Bacow. I look forward to working with each of you in the coming years.

And Jim, my dear friend, I thank you for your dedication and amazing work here at HGSE (or affectionally known as HUGSE). We are better because of your leadership, and I look forward to celebrating your many accomplishments. And on a personal level, Jim, I thank you for your support and encouragement. You will be missed.

I stand here excited to serve in this new role. I come here as “one of you.” For nearly 18 years, HGSE has been my home, and this is where I have grown both professionally and personally. I stand here today because of the kindness, time, and support from so many of you as well as your dedication towards improving education for all, which has kept me engaged and spurred my thinking on ways to make my own contributions.

And to the master’s students in the audience, I feel sad that I did not get to know many of you this year while on sabbatical, but rest assured, you are always part of the HGSE family. And you are a core part of what I love about this community.

Many of you know how much I love research and being a faculty member here, and so you might be asking yourselves: Why would I take this role?  It's actually quite simple: the mission and the people. Put simply, this is an amazing place.

We lead the field in developing innovative new solutions to the persistent challenges inside and outside the classroom. We not only helped to create Sesame Street, but we are also launching the next generation of research on early childhood education. We are part of the ongoing effort to recognize the contributions of Dreamers and have done research that has revolutionized college financial aid. We are developing interventions to support young readers, helping to provide school districts and states with the capacity to use data more effectively, and engaging leaders from education systems from around the world. We prepare hundreds of students each year to make their own marks, and we reach thousands of educators and leaders through professional education. 

Moreover, we are a place that works to continually improve our model, by taking stock of what we teach, how we teach, and how this community can move towards making inclusion more than just an abstract concept.

We are an education school that has contributed to improving the lives of students from early childhood to higher education and beyond, both in the United States and around the world.

But our work is not done. Education is the key to opportunity and progress, but it must not also be what separates us and holds back students who too often come from certain demographic groups, income brackets, and zip codes. 

There are gaps in opportunity and success at all levels — from access to high-quality early childhood education; to segregation and insufficient supports and rigor in K–12 classrooms; to uneven access, low graduation rates, and looming debt in higher education. And so as another school year comes to an end, we must ask ourselves: How many students found the help they needed, were pushed to live up to the high expectations they are capable of, and had teachers and instructors who had the resources and support to provide a high-quality education? 

Our work is far from done, and I come to you excited to support and help shape our next chapter with the urgency that what we do matters to the world. There will be new ideas, new challenges, and new opportunities. And we will take those on together. And that is what excites me the most.

Although I know many of you, I have only begun to learn your stories. And there are many in this community I look forward to meeting for the first time. During my initial months, and my time throughout, I will be spending a lot of my time listening to your ideas, your observations, and your dreams. I have much to learn from all of you about the amazing things we can do as individuals and as a community.

This moment weighs heavily on me in recognition of the many who are not here. For students who can’t even dream of going to Harvard. For practitioners who struggle in their schools, colleges, and nonprofit organizations with the everyday challenges of improving education. And, much more personally, I think about generations of my family. The fact that I stand here is not only the result of my hard work and talent but also the sacrifices and prayers of people who were not given even a fraction of the opportunities I have appreciated.

And so I join the growing ranks of leaders who don't fit the traditional mold reflected by so many of the portraits around this institution, by race or by gender, and I know our examples will encourage many of you who hear my voice today to make your own marks. Don’t ever forget that we are all capable of so much. 

My own family’s story is one about the power of education. My great-grandmother was born into slavery, and my grandparents were sharecroppers. Education was the only answer to changing not only the cycle of poverty but also the ability to take hold of one’s own destiny. 

And my parents are amazing examples of this. I was a small child when my father graduated from college as an older, nontraditional student after serving in the Air Force. And my mother worked her way through college to become a public high school teacher. Her life as an educator became my model in so many ways.

And so I have to thank my parents. They may not be in attendance right now, but they will see this. Thank you for your love, for standing up for me when I could not do it for myself. For forcing me to realize that this whole Ivy League college thing was important and a possibility for me. For emphasizing common sense over book smarts, the importance of being generous even when it’s not deserved, and for demonstrating that you just need to do the right thing, even if it is the hard thing.

I’m also so happy to share this day with my husband and two sons. Anyone who knows me knows how much I value my family. All of our families are important, and I know when that is acknowledged and respected, we can give our best. So I stand here as a researcher and a teacher and an administrator and a lifelong learner, but I am also a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. And I thank this community for not only supporting me, but also welcoming my family. 

So, if you see my sons, Finley and Calvin, be sure to ask them how school is going and what questions they asked in class today. You have no idea how much pride I have to share this community with them — what they are learning from your examples of hard work and dedication, from the faculty to the staff to the students, are some of the best lessons a parent could impart.

And to Carl. You have been there since before Harvard came into my life, and I take such inspiration and strength from your example. I thank you for being so supportive during this new part of our journey. It means the world to have you beside me. I love you.

And so in closing, I take this job with a great sense of purpose. I’m here because I believe in this community and what we can do as a community. I come with gratitude for the many, many things this place has already given me and my family, and I give you my commitment, my ideas, and my untiring work ethic as we enter this exciting new chapter.

Thank you again, and I look forward to working together.