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Defending the Pursuit of Happiness: Ranya Brooks, IEP'18

The Intellectual Contribution Award recipient for International Education Policy, reflects on her time at HGSE and looks toward the future.

Ranya BrooksRanya Brooks has long felt a “moral imperative” to apply her privilege to making the world a better place. She enrolled in the International Education Policy (IEP) Program to learn how she could make a difference in refugee education, and now is graduating with an even broader focus: advocacy for education and freedom of movement as a human right for all.

“I think there is something fundamentally inequitable and unjust that where you are born endows you with opportunities (or not),” Brooks says. “I think in an era of globalization, and the increasing movement of capital and jobs across borders, gone should be the days of the arbitrariness of national limitations on the ‘pursuit of happiness.’ My goal now is to research and advocate for policies that undo this injustice to allow for all people everywhere to have imagined futures and a sense of happiness to pursue.”

After she graduates, Brooks will spend the summer working at the Strategic Data Project at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard, and she hopes to continue to explore the freedom of movement as a human right in the context of expanding globalization.

“Ranya Brooks has been an outstanding participant and contributor in the courses she has taken at HGSE, contributing to discussions in ways which invite others and enable dialogue about difficult topics in inclusive and caring ways,” says Professor Fernando Reimers, faculty director of IEP. “She models important qualities of inclusive leadership, essential to build coalitions across differences that can achieve progress on contentious themes in the field of international development.“

Brooks will receive the Intellectual Contribution Award for IEP at Convocation on May 23. Here, she reflects on her time at HGSE and her life in education.

The number one, biggest surprise of the last year was …
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been considering we are at a school of education, but I’ve been truly surprised by how much faculty prioritize our learning both of content and larger “life” concerns. Each faculty member I’ve had the pleasure to learn from this year has shown a very sincere interest in supporting our continued growth as people and preparing us for our futures.

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience?
Honestly, every professor I have had the opportunity to learn from has significantly shaped my learning. However, I would like to show my particular appreciation for Sarah Dryden-Peterson and Emmerich Davies, without whom I would not feel as confident moving forward beyond HGSE.

Professor Dryden-Peterson constantly asked us to look at our work with intensity and empathy. She reminded me that it is always important to remember the humanity and dignity of those with whom and in whose service we work.

Throughout the year, Professor Davies reminded me to always interrogate the sources of my discomfort and privilege; that power is both relative and absolute; and that deliberacy in thought and action must permeate through our work.

Despite your busy schedule, you always make time for …
8 hours of sleep!

What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program?
Allow for others to interrogate your beliefs. We are here but for a short time. This space is intense, and it is easy to feel as if your worldview is being shattered. Probably because it is! But this is not something to fear. If you allow it, the people you will encounter at HGSE will challenge, surprise, and inspire you to become a more intentional version of yourself.

What will you change in education and why?
One day, I hope that we find ways to move away from the trajectory of education as one of skills acquisition to labor market entry to economic development. Education can, and I think should, be so much more than that.

Learn more about the Intellectual Contribution Award and read about all of this year's recipients.