Mariel Novas (speaking) with other RIDES Fellows at an event with former U.S. Secretary of Education John King (second from left)
Whether developing a network of supports for homegrown educators, staging a sit-in for marriage equality, leading a classroom of middle school students in Dorchester, or serving as a public policy fellow with the Boston Mayor’s office, Mariel Novas, Ed.L.D.’20, has always believed people and communities have a tremendous power to effect change.
“Building people power has been at the core of who I am for as long as I can remember,” Novas says. “I understand how important it is to share knowledge, build capacity, and develop the will and skill for communities to act and drive change.”
Novas’ studies in the Ed.L.D. Program expanded and reinforced her skills as an advocate and organizer, culminating in her residency with The Education Trust, a national policy and advocacy nonprofit dedicated to closing achievement gaps and expanding opportunity for historically underserved students, and The Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership (MEEP), a state equity coalition supported by The Education Trust. This partnership presented Novas with an opportunity to reimagine how to organize people and resources to spark an organic, statewide movement for educational equity from the ground up.
“There can be no educational equity in our schools if historically excluded families and communities are not at the table and at the center of decision-making,” says Novas.
What have you learned from your work in coalition building and community organizing with The Education Trust and MEEP?
Above all, I’ve learned that intentional micro-democratic engagement matters, and that doing so in a way that promotes healing and restoration is what drives successful civic engagement. Our world is in pain right now; and yet, we know that historically excluded peoples have been in pain for a long time. This collective hurt we feel will not go away on its own – it requires careful mediation, acute attention to the human and spiritual aspects of what we do and how we do it, and opportunities for reflection and rejoice. People want to feel seen and they want to feel valued.
How did the Ed.L.D. Program prepare you to start to address that collective hurt?
Through Ed.L.D., I gained access to myself: what informs my thought patterns, how I make decisions, when I choose to speak up, what triggers me and why, what narratives I’ve bought into, who I consciously or unconsciously listen to, and so on. By more deeply understanding myself, I better understood others and, therefore, better understood systems and organizations. After all, systems are comprised of people and are influenced by human behavior. The preparation I received enhanced my ability to diagnose challenges and co-create pathways forward alongside others.
What's next on the horizon for you?
I am ecstatic to be staying at Ed Trust as the Assistant Director of Partnerships and Engagement for Massachusetts. Ed Trust and MEEP’s work in Massachusetts has only just begun, and the COVID-19 pandemic – among many things – has underscored that education equity advocacy has never been more important than right now in this moment. The pandemic has disproportionately impacted historically underserved communities, and so I am committed to collaboratively marshaling whatever resources I can to ensure that all students and families are treated justly and with dignity during this crisis and long after it.
What will you miss most about HGSE?
I know it may sound trite, but there are no words to describe how much I will miss Cohort 8. The 24 individuals who accompanied me on this journey for three years have been my greatest teachers and the best of friends. I can’t wait to see how each of them shines their power, compassion, and light on the world.
Read Q&As with the other 2020 doctoral marshals: