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Winter 2017

Connections Matter

When current doctoral student Tyler Thigpen started his residency at Transcend, a national nonprofit dedicated to accelerating innovation in how we define “school,” he knew there were other Ed School students and graduates involved. He didn’t quite realize the extent, however, until they all got together for a retreat last summer.

“We were at the retreat, and I thought, wow, we’re only 11 teammates strong and four of us are Ed School folks,” Thigpen says. “And not just Ed School, but all Ed.L.D.” And the four, including Jenn Charlot, Ed.L.D.'15; Brittany Erickson, Ed.L.D.'16; and Christine Ortiz, Ed.L.D.'17, are working together in ways that are very 21st century.

“We’re living what we consider to be the future of work, with individuals all over,” Thigpen says. There’s no physical office space. Teammates are in San Francisco; Madison, Wisconsin; Orlando, Florida; New York City; Chicago; and Denver. Thigpen is back home in Atlanta.

He says the work they do is also very transparent and involves lots of check-ins using Google docs, Slack, and social media. Their org chart is flexible.

“Most individuals in the organization have the same title of partner with no levels,” he says. Some workers take on managerial duties for accountability, yes, but mainly for mentoring and coaching, “to push and sup-port” one another. They also have a fun way of signing off at the end of the week.

“Every Friday at 5 p.m., we hop on a Slack channel to give shout-outs to one another in alignment with our core values,” he says. “The process arose organically from people feeling sort of goofy at the end of the week — I guess I’m done now — and so now we have a way of connecting to bookend the week.”

This way of working, he says, is in line with how Transcend thinks schools should operate: believing that genuine connections are at the heart of the work.

“You see this emphasis in relationships in all of our interactions, internally and externally. From the culture of our Slack channel to email to phone calls to retreats to our goals,” he says. “In fact, I’m currently working on strategic community development for the organization, which I’m very much suited for as a trained pastor. They put me in this role partly for that reason.”