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The Essential Role of Relationships: Katie Seltzer, SLP'22

The Intellectual Contribution Award recipient for School Leadership reflects on her time at HGSE and looks toward the future.
Katie Seltzer

"This is my dedicated grad school space where I logged into class and leaned into professional growth, all with the goal of working toward more equitable education opportunities through critical pedagogy and our collective liberation."

Photo: Courtesy of Katie Seltzer

The Intellectual Contribution Award recognizes graduating Ed.M. students (one from each Ed.M. program) whose dedication to scholarship enhanced HGSE’s academic community and positively affected fellow students. Katie Seltzer will be honored with the Intellectual Contribution Award School Leadership Program (SLP) during HGSE's Convocation exercises on May 25.

Senior Lecturer Mary Grassa O’Neill, faculty director of SLP, comments on Seltzer's selection: “Katie Seltzer inspires others with her keen intellect, creativity, and compassion. She has a fierce commitment to academic excellence and social justice and personifies graciousness, generosity, and kindness. Students applaud her ability to intellectually contribute to nonjudgmental discussions that push their thinking in ways they had not previously considered. An outstanding student, Katie is a strong collaborator and a powerful and humble leader.”

We spoke to Seltzer about her time at HGSE, her future plans, and how the pandemic has changed the education landscape

What brought you to the Ed School and what were your goals — and have those goals changed?

Put simply, my goal was to learn and grow at HGSE. Throughout my personal and professional life, I’ve known graduates of the Ed.M. and Ed.L.D. programs at HGSE — they have acute equity lenses and are some of the most reflective and impactful leaders I know — I came to HGSE to be formed as they were and to learn from the faculty at HGSE, so that I, too, might strengthen these skills in myself. As an educator, my greatest joy has been in seeing my students challenge themselves beyond what they thought possible and, ultimately, flourish. As I’ve grown in leadership positions as a department chair and school chaplain, I’ve found joy in accompanying teachers in the same way: creating the conditions for them to do their best work, aligning their strengths with the needs of our school, and allowing them to flourish. At HGSE I’ve acquired the vocabulary to articulate my vision for schools more clearly and to align systems and structures to empower teachers to best support their students.

What were your experiences with online learning and what do you think makes it effective?

Online learning was simultaneously easy (logging on to class at 6 a.m. in my PJs and slippers with warm coffee!) and truly challenging (logging on to class at 6 a.m. before a full day of work and with a sick toddler at home!). Had HGSE not opened up the Ed.M. online and part-time option, I never would have applied, as I live on the West Coast — this was an immense step in accessibility for a HGSE education. 

Breakout-rooms, asynchronous discussion boards, and self-created study groups were essential to effective online learning. Professors and fellow peers made time on Zoom across time zones so generously. Surprisingly, the old-fashioned phone call with professors and peers actually built a strong rapport and meaningful conversation!

"Authentic relationships have to be at the heart of our work whether we are learning online or in a brick-and-mortar school."

What are your post-HGSE plans?

I accepted a new role in mid-March as the feasibility study director for Cristo Rey Seattle. With the blessing of the Archbishop of Seattle, we are working with the Cristo Rey Network, the largest network of high schools serving exclusively students from limited economic means, to determine if there is a need and community support for a new Catholic college preparatory and career focused high school in Seattle.

Across the county, there are 38 Cristo Rey schools where graduates are earning college degrees at nearly three times the rate of their low-income peers as they receive support to and through college. The most innovative aspect of the program is the Corporate Work Study Program, where students work one day a week in a professional work setting, benefiting from intentional mentorship and networking, and gaining essential 21st-century skills. The funds students earn from their work defray the cost of their tuition, making Cristo Rey a sustainable financial model and affordable for families. During my time at HGSE, I’ve met several Cristo Rey alumni who are current students or alumni!

The Cristo Network leverages a robust educational ecosystem (h/t Dr. Irvin Scott!) collaborating with university, corporate, philanthropic, and other nonprofit partners to make significant gains in learning outcomes for students and a material difference in the lives of their graduates. The 12–24-month process of a feasibility study mobilizes local communities to determine whether a Cristo Rey school could succeed there. … A successful and approved feasibility study results in associate membership in the Cristo Rey Network — already our team in Seattle is making great progress in meeting these goals!

I taught and led the religion department at Cristo Rey New York for six years, and am energized to return to the Cristo Rey Network. Before HGSE, I never would have thought I could step into a role like this; after HGSE, I am confident in my formation and professional experience to put my adaptive leadership skills into practice alongside an amazing team in Seattle.

How has the pandemic shifted your views of education?

The pandemic has illuminated the ways in which education can adapt to new challenges quickly, yet we must retain the essential role of relationships at the core of our work. I’ll be meeting my friends from HGSE in person for the first time at graduation, and it will be a joyous occasion because we can create community online, if we are deliberate and thoughtful — our students know this too. Authentic relationships have to be at the heart of our work whether we are learning online or in a brick-and-mortar school.

Despite your busy schedule, you always make time for …

Good coffee, snuggles with my toddler, and a walk in the woods.