In May 2014, 661 graduates walked down Appian Way one last time as students and left as graduates of HGSE. Dean James Ryan led his first commencement as dean of HGSE and Senator Michael Johnston addressed the graduates at Convocation, reminding the assembled crowd of the power that teachers hold to effect change in the lives of their students. “The generation of Americans who will deliver on that boldest promise of all will not do it at the point of a gun, they will not do it with the crack of a gavel, not with a speech from the well of the Senate, they will do it with a book on a beanbag chair with our babies,” Johnston said.
The 2014 winners of HGSE's Intellectual Contribution Award — an annual honor bestowed by peers in each master's program — have continued to deliver on the promise of change, though most have traveled beyond a beanbag chair. We caught up with several 2014 honorees to hear where their aspirations have taken them and how HGSE has fueled their journeys.
International Education Policy
Current location: Santiago, Chile (recently moved from Geneva, Switzerland)
Current job: Capacity Building Focalpoint for the Accessible Books Consortium and consultant with the DAISY Consortium
Career highlight: Giving a presentation before the Ecuadorian Senate on the Marrakesh VIP Treaty, later helping lead to its ratification.
Fondest HGSE memory: Leading the Dining in the Dark experiential dinner, where students and faculty shared a meal in complete darkness.
Future plans: In August, 2019, I will begin a Ph.D. in special education at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
If I weren't in education, I would be ... a martial arts instructor (not technically education) and a writer.
Current location: Anchorage, Alaska
Current job: Senior development officer, University of Alaska Anchorage College of Health
Career highlight: Partnering with a terrific donor on my first seven-figure gift commitment.
Fondest HGSE memory: Any of the nights the Higher Ed cohort hit "double midnight."
Future plans: Helping more Alaskans get a great college education.
If I weren't in education, I'd be ... home with my son all day. He's the best.
Human Development and Psychology
Current location: Bedford, Massachusetts
Current job: Director of student achievement K–5, Bedford Public Schools
Career highlight: Honored as Massachusetts Teacher of the Year 2016. I got to meet Obama and the amazing other State Teachers of the Year from across the United States!
Fondest HGSE memory: Hearing Aretha Franklin sing at graduation.
Future plans: Continuing to work for equity and enjoyable opportunities for all kids.
If I weren't in education, I'd be ... raising goats and gardening.
Language and Literacy
Current location: Philadelphia
Current job: Digital product manager for WHYY, the NPR-PBS member station for Philly.
Career highlight: Working on Amplify Science, a digitally-enriched disciplinary literacy curriculum now used in more than 400 school districts nationwide, including New York City public schools.
Fondest HGSE memory: Meeting my wife during a J-term class. We got married last year!
Future plans: Continuing to build products that educate at scale.
If I weren't in education, I'd be ... in media! The media content we consume shapes our worldview and informs the way we think. We educate ourselves through our media diet, so I don’t really feel like I’ve left education behind.
Learning and Teaching
Current location: Austin, Texas
Current job: Executive director, the SEED Adult & Family Learning Community
Career highlight: First, after a short collaboration on a research project with Dr. Angela Valenzuela (a personal hero of mine) at the University of Texas Austin, I’ve been able to work alongside her through Academia Cuauhtli — one of the most powerful and exciting things happening in Texas education. Secondly, two of the SEED’s stalwart leaders from the very beginning, Rocio and Lupita, have elevated their participation from English learners to employees in our program. They have been co-coordinators of our wonderful early childhood program since 2016, and as such are really exemplars of what the program is all about.
Fondest HGSE memory: Impossible to pick one. Thinking specifically about school-related memories, I’d say being part of facilitating a panel during the AOCC (Alumni of Color Conference) with fellow Ed.M. [student] Krystal Torres Covarrubias was really an honor, the gravity of which I’m not sure I’ll ever fully appreciate. I also think back really fondly about the bonds I formed with a group of classmates with whom I organized an adult education summit at HGSE.
Future plans: As things go, funding for the kind of work we do is anything but abundant. This puts large, grandiose plans in jeopardy. That said, our community continues to deepen our relationships with one another, to practice power, and to use languages to better integrate and change systems that affect our daily lives. I do, however, see us spreading our work further beyond the classroom, specifically to the areas of family empowerment in dialogue with the schools and organic, community gardening and food production.
If I weren't in education … I'd be dead, I guess. At the risk of sounding platitudinous, what is being alive without learning and teaching?
Mind, Brain, and Education
Current location: Cambridge
Current job: I'm a Ph.D. student at Boston College, so my primary job title is "student." I study teacher learning and education policy, particularly focusing on issues related to equity and justice.
Career highlight: Prior to starting my Ph.D. program I worked for CAST, an education nonprofit co-founded by recently retired HGSE lecturer David Rose. At CAST I facilitated professional learning experiences for teachers and administrators across the country — a big career highlight for me so far.
Fondest HGSE memory: Hosting a Brain Awareness Week youth conference at HGSE in collaboration with scholars from across Harvard, and meeting some wonderful people who remain close friends and colleagues.
Future plans: Finish my doctoral degree and continue working in education and research.
If I weren't in education, I'd be ... a writer in some form, or maybe an archaeologist.
Prevention Science and Practice
Current location: Petaluma, California in Sonoma County
Current job: Deputy director for district partnerships, California College Guidance Initiative (CCGI)
Career highlight: Finding a job that aligns so well with my passion for equity and access.
Fondest HGSE memory: Meeting my first HGSE friend at the bathroom line in Gutman Library, who is still a very dear friend and thought partner.
Future plans: Take it one day at a time...
If I weren't in education, I'd be ... growing, preparing, and sharing the art and science of herbal plant medicine.
School Leadership Program
Current location: Boston
Current job: Director of Instructional Team, Office of English Learners at Boston Public Schools (BPS)
Career highlight: Leading a level 1 school for Boston Public Schools as principal.
Fondest HGSE memory: Going through my first instructional round at Boston Collegiate Charter School.
Future plans: Continuing to support the students and families of BPS.
If I weren't in education, I'd be ... on a beach drinking adult beverages.
Current location: Boston
Current job: Organizer, Boston Teachers Union
Career highlight: Boston Educator of the Year Award winner, 2018
Fondest HGSE memory: Getting together with a group to watch [documentary] Precious Knowledge.
Future plans: To continue teaching and organizing in Boston.
If I weren't in education, I'd be ... hanging out with my grandparents in Puerto Rico.
Technology Innovation and Education
Current location: Ottawa, Ontario (Canada)
Current job: Career curriculum design specialist, Carleton University, working with faculties to design and integrate career and skills development experiences in their courses
Career highlight: Working at my alma mater, Carleton University, and helping ease students' anxiety about themselves and the future of work. Being able to share my journey with students and letting them know that every life experience is valuable is such a full circle moment. ... Collaborating with faculty to integrate career development into their courses has also been great! I truly believe education is a form of social justice and we owe it to students to prepare them for the future. If we care about promoting opportunity and reducing inequality, classrooms are definitely a great place to start!
Fondest HGSE memory: T-550 Final Project Day with Karen Brennan, taking a few classes with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, and hearing the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin sing the national anthem at Commencement. Having my family and friends from Ottawa celebrate my graduation was such a beautiful experience. Finally, being greeted by HGSE Gutman Library staff every day was quite welcoming, especially for those of us who experienced imposter syndrome during our first couple of weeks at Harvard. Gutman security personnel would make an effort to remember people’s names — a reminder that it is the small things that can make a difference.
Future plans: As a career educator, one thing I have learned is that we all have the capacity to design multiple lives (plans), and many careers are significantly influenced by unplanned events. Even though I love what I am doing right now, who knows what the future holds. However, if my future integrates my key values (family, community, learning, spirituality, play, and equity), then I will be happy!
If I weren't in education ... I don’t know where I would be! I actually think that most jobs have an underlying aspect of education. If you are a doctor, you are educating your clients on medical conditions and remedies. If you are a dancer, you evoke emotion, memory, or a narrative for an audience, which is a form of education. But to answer the question, I think I would own a children’s bookstore.