Kristen Robinson: "This is a photo that one of my classmates took of myself, my husband, Dan, and our son, Owen, at Walden Pond this past fall. Quite simply, their love and support propelled me through some of the most challenging moments of this past year...."
Photo courtesy of Kristen Robinson
The Intellectual Contribution Award recognizes 13 Ed.M. students (one from each Ed.M. program) whose dedication to scholarship enhanced HGSE’s academic community and positively affected fellow students. Kristen Robinson will be honored with the Intellectual Contribution Award for Higher Education (HEP) at HGSE's Virtual Commencement on May 28.
Senior Lecturer Francesca Purcell, faculty director of HEP, comments on Robinson's selection: “Kristen has the tremendous ability to deeply listen to others in a thoughtful manner and then offer her perspectives, to build upon and strengthen the discussion, moving it in new and interesting directions. It was not at all unusual to see Kristen and a group of students animatedly engaged in conversation in the Gutman lobby in between classes. Kristen also has a strong, multi-faceted commitment to educational equity, taking an active leadership role in the Alliance of Aspiring White Anti-Racist Educators (“AWARE”) to explore white racial identity and privilege as well as drawing upon her experience as a parent of a toddler to help others broaden their understanding of nontraditional students. On top of balancing classes, student groups, and parenting, Kristen did this all with warmth, good humor, and grace.”
We spoke to Robinson about her time at HGSE, her future plans, and what the new normal in education might look like:
What does the photo above mean to you?
Kristen Robinson: This is a photo that one of my classmates took of myself, my husband, Dan, and our son, Owen, at Walden Pond this past fall. Quite simply, their love and support propelled me through some of the most challenging moments of this past year, and I could not have been more grateful for their ability to ground me and remind me of what is truly important. While I am heartbroken that I won't get to walk across the Commencement stage with Owen this year, I hope I've made him proud.
What are your post-HGSE plans?
Kristen Robinson: TBD! Once hiring freezes are lifted, I'm hoping to find a job doing either student affairs or academic affairs or working with first-generation students within a college or university in the Washington, D.C. area.
What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education?
KR: I first heard the term "student-ready schools" in Mandy Savitz-Romer's session during orientation, and that notion has stuck with me throughout this year. Ensuring that institutions change to meet the needs of our students, rather than the other way around, is something that seems so obvious, but, from my coursework this year and from talking to industry professionals, is exceptionally difficult to achieve. My time at HGSE has emphasized the need to ground my everyday practice in student-centered, equitable principles.
"Ensuring that institutions change to meet the needs of our students, rather than the other way around, is something that seems so obvious, but, from my coursework this year and from talking to industry professionals, is exceptionally difficult to achieve." – Kristen Robinson
Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School?
KR: By far, Alexis Redding was my favorite professor at HGSE. In addition to being one of her advisees, I also took two classes with her — College Student Development in the fall and Student Political Identity Development: Understanding and Supporting Youth Activists in the spring. I felt as though I truly found my people in her classes — others who are interested in student affairs work and recognize the need to center our work on our students' unique needs. Alexis makes development theory accessible and practical, and our final project was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the theory and also showcase our own creativity and interests. Alexis is warm, kind, and brilliant, and has routinely demonstrated that she cares about me, not just as her student, but as a person and a mother. That holistic support includes bringing snacks for our evening class; gifting tickets to a play that she could no longer attend to a friend and I because she guessed (correctly!) that the content would appeal to us; hosting regular events (again, with snacks — I think that feeding others is one of her love languages!) for our advisee group; and organizing a career session for those of us who are interested in student affairs. I have been the recipient of some truly exceptional female mentorship throughout my career, and am so grateful to count Alexis among my most dedicated mentors and advocates.
How has the pandemic shifted your views of education?
KR: This pandemic has highlighted the myriad inequalities that exist, both within education and across our country writ large. The students who have been impacted by COVID-19 the most have disproportionately been students of color, first-generation and low-income students, LGBTQIA+ students, international students, and undocumented students. I am so hopeful that education leaders will use the pandemic as an opportunity to audit their institutions' practices and policies through an equity-based lens and think about the ways in which we can support our students more equitably moving forward.