Bridget Terry Long is the new Dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education

I am sitting here today because of my
parents and because of my family. We really are a story about the importance
of education and what education can do. I mean, consider for a moment the fact that
my great-grandmother was born into slavery and emancipated at age six and
the fact that my grandparents were sharecroppers. How do you go from that to
being able to attend some of the best institutions in the world and now sit in
this wonderful opportunity? Well, my parents left the rural
segregated south looking for opportunity. My father went into the Air Force and
when he came out it was the GI Bill and an opportunity through a management training
program that enabled him to go to college and my mother as well, she went
to college a little bit later in life She moved out of the south and worked as
a secretary for several years before she was able to go to a historically black
college that trained her to be a public school teacher. As my parents careers
progressed I was able to see what they were able to do with their lives and it
was the greatest example for me and so in my life I’ve seen the importance of
education and how it can take you out of poverty, but more importantly how it can
give you the agency to have control over your own destiny. I was drawn to research on education because of issues of inequality and
access, but I quickly realized, you know, education does not end at grade 12.
Students cannot go on and have a middle-class standard of living if they
end with just a high school degree and so I’ve done work trying to help
students get the information they need and to simplify the processes so that
we’re not wasting so much great potential of students who are doing the
work that they need to do but are getting lost in a system that was not
designed for their needs. One thing that I love about the students at Harvard
Graduate School of Education is each year the enthusiasm, the hope, and already
the experiences that they bring; I love the fact that we know that there are
problems in education but we’re not satisfied to just let them continue, and
the students come because they are prepared to create new things to help in
all sorts of ways and that enthusiasm as a faculty member is something that I’ve
always drawn upon and I think the entire community draws upon. The Harvard Graduate School of Education is already in a place of strength. We have done so
much but our work absolutely is not done When you look and see the continuing
inequities and the opportunities that are not available, the fact that we waste
so much of student’s potential because they don’t have access to high-quality
education, you realize there’s so much more to be done. We are now 50 years
after the war on poverty, we are 50 years after Martin Luther King’s assassination
and we look around and we wonder why haven’t we made more progress, what more
could we do? And then just two weeks ago the Nation at Risk report that came out
35 years ago, we’ve realized those inequities are still very present. It’s all while the Harvard Graduate School of Education has made many
contributions, innovations, impacts on the field with research, with leaders who are
going out to the world with a strong purpose and strong skills, we have to
think about ways that we can do more to spread the knowledge that we have, to
engage with the field, to be a place where practitioners and leaders and
policymakers can come to learn more and to engage with each other.

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