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Winter 2011

Connect Ed

Ed.L.D. Donors Make Personal Links to New Students

Beth Rabbitt, a former associate partner at a venture philanthropy firm who aspires to lead a public school system, had two choices for grad school: a top-ranked business school or the Ed School’s new Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) Program. The choice to attend the Ed School was an easy one when she was offered full fellowship support for three years.

“Because I won’t need to repay school loans, my career path in education won’t be restricted,” Rabbitt says.

Thanks to the generosity of institutional and individual donors, Rabbitt and each of her 24 classmates in the first Ed.L.D. cohort is attending the Ed School tuition-free and with a living expense stipend. The faculty who developed the program knew that this level of funding was necessary in order to attract new talent to the education sector and to convince successful midcareer practitioners to leave jobs and make major life changes.

As part of the fellowship model, each Ed.L.D. student is matched with a donor who is, in essence, funding his or her three years. In most cases, shared geography or interests between the donors and students have made for deep, personal connections.

Diana Nelson said that in funding a fellowship, she and the other trustees of her family’s Twin Cities–based Carlson Family Foundation hoped to develop a relationship with an Ed.L.D. student. They were thrilled to learn that their fellow, Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed, was just as interested in connecting with them.

“I was completely moved by Rhoda. She’s truly inspiring,” Nelson says of Mhiripiri-Reed, the former principal of Champlin Park High School in Champlin, Minn. “We look forward to staying in close touch with her to learn more about the program and its role in education reform,” one of the foundation’s priorities. Mhiripiri-Reed, who hopes to become an urban superintendent, is similarly moved by the foundation’s generosity and interest in her work.

“Everyone in Minnesota knows about the Carlson Companies, so I was thrilled when I found out their foundation was supporting my education,” she says. “It’s impressive [that] Diana and the other program donors have taken a special interest in us as people. They are just as committed to the idea of every student in our country receiving a great education as we [the fellows] are.”

Similarly, for Rabbitt, getting to know her fellowship donors Don Gant and his children, Chris and Sarah R. Gant, Ed.M.’94, has been particularly meaningful because, with backgrounds in business and education, they understand her motivations in pursuing the Ed.L.D.

“We share a multisector view of this problem, believing that problems in education are as much management-related as they are programmatic,” says Rabbitt.

After meeting Rabbitt and her classmates, Chris Gant says he was heartened that Harvard was using its resources to attract such a strong group.

“This is an incredibly impressive group of people,” he says of the first cohort. “To leverage Harvard’s strengths in educational administration, business executive training, and public policy to prepare these future leaders makes so much sense.”

Harvard University Treasurer Jim Rothenberg, who with his wife Anne is supporting three fellows — Tommie Henderson, Amy Loyd, and Karl Wendt — agrees, describing the program as “all about partnership and collaboration.” He invested in the Ed.L.D. students now because they will invest in others down the road.

“The impact of these students will be felt by generations of learners,” he says.