Ethan Gray, Ed.M.'07, is a new Hoosier with big plans.
Ethan Gray's path toward policy work and supporting education entrepreneurs, begun as an undergraduate at Harvard College, took a slight detour after graduation. Feeling burnt out, Gray, Ed.M.'07, and his best friend from high school moved to central Vermont and started a small lumberjack business.
But, Gray admits, "I wasn't destined to be a lifelong lumberjack." In fact, a slight chainsaw mishap convinced him to move on to Washington, D.C., where he landed a paid internship as the first research assistant for the fledgling think tank Education Sector. There, he was taken under the wing of Ed Sector's cofounder Andy Rotherham and thrown into the group's first major research projects. There his interest in education policy blossomed and pointed him toward the Ed School.
The school, Gray says, "helped me understand the most important issues in education and how I might build a career that was both meaningful and unique." Specifically, he developed a strong conviction that schools and school systems ought to be structured in a way to facilitate continuous improvement, foster innovation, and empower talented people to be entrepreneurial in order to continually improve practice.
At his first post-Ed School position with Be the Change, Inc., a nonprofit that works with education entrepreneurs, Gray managed the policy work during the organization's first campaign, ServiceNation. But his interest in education reform led him soon after to The Mind Trust, an organization, as Gray says, "dedicated to dramatically improving public education for underserved students by empowering education entrepreneurs to develop or expand transformative education initiatives."
As vice president, Gray not only advises The Mind Trust's president and CEO on issues of strategy and operations and advances the policy work, he also leads the effort to help this Indianapolis-based and-focused organization build a national network of city-based organizations that will work together to support education entrepreneurs as they scale to new markets across the country. The goal, Gray explains, is to reach out to the organizations in other cities with underutilized resources in the entrepreneurial sector, share best practices, and ultimately support cities in their efforts to become "vibrant hubs of innovation and entrepreneurship."
Moving forward, Gray hopes to use his work to further his vision of a school system structured for advancement. "By investing in talented people and giving them the opportunity to innovate," he says, "I believe that we are getting closer to building school systems that can pursue continuous improvement."