Stories

Visit this page to find the latest in our growing collection of Penn GSE stories shared by alumni and friends. Find more stories in the special Centennial sections published in the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 issues of The Penn GSE Alumni Magazine. Then be sure to share your story via our online form!

Mark S. Fife

Mark S. Fife, W’78 (right) and Lori Rutman Fife, C’80 (left), generously support scholarships at Penn GSE.

 

As vice chair of the Penn GSE Board of Overseers, Mark S. Fife, W’78, enjoys contributing his views as part of a group dedicated to making a difference.

 

Penn Graduation Year:

W’78

 

Current Role at GSE:

Vice Chair, Penn GSE Board of Overseers

 

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

I have a very strong belief that everybody is entitled to a quality education and that without one, a person doesn’t really have a chance to improve his or her lot in life. It’s absolutely imperative and fair and just for every child in the country to have access to a great education, because everybody should have the opportunity to succeed. There’s no better way to get young children a quality education than to turn out great teachers and leaders, as Penn GSE does, and send them into the world to make a difference in classrooms, schools, and communities. 

 

What do you enjoy about your work on the Penn GSE Board of Overseers?

I think it’s a wonderful board. The people are very bright and interesting, and really have their hearts in the work of improving the education system in this country. I like serving on a smaller board like GSE’s—compared to what I might expect on a larger board, I have more access to the leadership of the institution and more opportunities for my views to be heard. I spent a lot of time with our previous dean, Andy Porter, and I look forward to really getting to know Dean Pam Grossman. I think she’s going to be absolutely terrific.

 

As a board member, how do you learn about the work that faculty are doing?

We have monthly calls in which professors discuss their research and answer questions from the board. I think it’s great to have the chance to learn directly from the faculty about their work. I ask lots of questions on those calls. I always want to understand how we can take research and put it into the classroom to change the lives of children as soon as possible.

 

You and your wife, Lori Rutman Fife, C’80, generously support scholarships at GSE. Why do you believe that scholarships to the School are important?

As I said, I think that a good education is the foundation of anybody’s success. I want to support the people who are going to improve educational opportunities for children, particularly those at low-income elementary schools. Penn GSE is producing passionate educators who can make a real difference for generations of students.

 

Looking ahead to the next 100 years, what do you hope for Penn GSE?

I want GSE to stay on the cutting edge of innovation in education to produce scalable ideas that are meaningful to large groups of young people. As a small school, GSE can move quickly, and as part of a university with twelve schools we can call upon the expertise of other fields. With these advantages, GSE has an extremely bright future as a school that consistently thinks outside of the box.

Sydney Hunt Coffin

 

At Penn GSE, Sydney Hunt Coffin, GED’00, gained confidence as a teacher, learning from remarkable people who were teachers themselves.

 

Graduation Year:

2000

 

Degree:

M.S.Ed.

 

Program:

Teacher Education [now UTAP]

 

Job Titles/Employers:

English teacher, The School District of Philadelphia; Philadelphia representative to the Steering Committee of the Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools; representative to the Teachers Institute of Philadelphia based at Penn

 

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

Penn GSE gave me the opportunity to student-teach in a Philadelphia public school with confidence thanks to the coaching I received from remarkable people who were teachers themselves. They taught me effective strategies, dynamic content, and compassionate, creative ideas. This training allowed me to face the challenges of teaching—structural, personal, and pedagogic—and become the professional I am today.

 

What was your favorite class at Penn GSE and why?

My favorite class was taught by Professor John Puckett. I learned from him the importance of investing myself in the communities surrounding the schools in which I would work, and the value of understanding urban planning, neighborhood supports, and a teacher’s role in that larger picture. Fifteen years later, this message has only become amplified with experience.

 

Tell us about a professor with whom you connected.

I connected with most of my professors. The late Jim Larkin encouraged me to attend GSE and oversaw me, like a benevolent and caring uncle. Ellen Brafman supported me in writing exciting lesson plans and learning the methods to implement them. The ebullient Joanne Seever offered constant creative encouragement. Gini Vissa provided the compassion to see me through to getting my first job as a teacher. The late Lawrence Sipe inspired me through his work in what was probably the greatest job on this planet: studying terrific children’s books and reading them with children. In addition, Howard Stevenson’s presentations and personal role-modeling showed me what a professor could be: organized, disciplined, and ever-active in promoting the work that needs to be done with young men of color, and all others for that matter.

 

What did you do after Penn GSE, and how did GSE prepare you for it?

I have been a teacher for the School District of Philadelphia at Olney High School, University City High School, and now Edison High School. I also work for the Yale National Initiative to strengthen public schools and the Teachers Institute of Philadelphia. I like to invest my time in researching policy and politics with an eye to seeing how the city, state, and nation can improve service to inner city children, rural children, and everyone in between. GSE formalized my understanding of these issues, and has continued to keep me on track to address them in all that I do.

 

Have you stayed connected with Penn GSE over the years, and if so, how and why?

I participate in the Philadelphia Writing Project (PhilWP) and the Teachers Institute of Philadelphia, which is based at Penn, and I consult with professors whenever I can in order to get new ideas, transform the old ones, and keep current. PhilWP provides an ongoing and invaluable service to teachers here in Philadelphia. It connects us to the larger idea that writing matters, and reminds us that our own commitment to lifelong learning sets the best example for our students.

 

Is there anything else you would like to share about your Penn GSE experience?

Get out there and do it! Teaching is the toughest job you’ll ever love; graduate school will never prepare you for everything, but at GSE you will learn the framework and possess the structure with which to approach major issues such as academic impoverishment, social adjustment, and cognitive and intellectual growth. You will be ready to promote a better world, provide an exciting classroom, and be a more prepared you.

Gregory A. Milken

 

For Penn GSE Board of Overseers member Gregory A. Milken, C’95, supporting GSE is part of a deep commitment to the power and complexity of education.

 

Penn Graduation Year:

C’95

 

Current role at GSE:

Board of Overseers Member

 

Employer:

March Capital Partners

 

Job Title:

Managing Director

 

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

My work with education spans multiple areas of the field, and it is an interest that runs throughout my life. Serving on the Penn GSE Board of Overseers has allowed me to deepen my knowledge of education even further by giving me insight into the workings of a top-notch education school and all that it takes to produce exceptional education scholars and practitioners. Penn GSE is a leader at the forefront of education. It is committed to innovation and to preparing its students to thrive in a field that is constantly changing.

 

Why do you believe that education is important?

Education is the path to a better job and a better life. It’s very hard to achieve the American dream without education. I see that reflected every day in the Milken Scholars Program, which I direct for the Milken Family Foundation. We provide financial and mentoring assistance for economically disadvantaged students attending college. Most of our students are the first in their family to attend college. The program has been running for about twenty-five years now, and we consistently see Milken Scholars go on to attain jobs that were not within reach for their parents. That success tends to cascade throughout the family, allowing the scholars to help their parents and give their own children opportunities that they themselves did not have.

 

How does your professional background inform your work on Penn GSE’s Board of Overseers?

I hope that my work in for-profit and nonprofit education helps me to contribute a broad perspective on the Board of Overseers. At Knowledge Universe, I was responsible for business strategy for KinderCare, which operates 1,600 preschools throughout the United States, and I helped to start GlobalScholar, a company that builds and sells software to school districts. On the nonprofit side, I serve on the board of the Milken Family Foundation, which has always had a strong interest in education.

 

I believe it is important to acknowledge and understand the vastness of education and overcome one’s personal biases in order to make real improvements that will have a positive impact on the lives of students and teachers. Anything you change in one area—be it preschool, middle school, high school, or higher education—will affect all the others, and you can’t truly solve problems without talking to all of the stakeholders and understanding everyone’s position.

 

The Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC) is in its sixth year, and this is your sixth year supporting it. What has it been like to see the competition grow and evolve over the years?

It has been fantastic to bring together people from all over the world to share ideas about building companies to improve education. The EBPC started as the first business plan competition sponsored by an education school, and today is the largest competition of its kind. I’ve been proud of the continued success of our winners and finalists, and the ways we have enhanced the program each year.

 

Thanks to GSE’s Dr. Barbara “Bobbi” Kurshan, executive director of academic innovation and senior fellow, we made the finalist competition into an event with a conference for education entrepreneurs, investors, practitioners, and researchers, where GSE faculty explain how research can test the value of new education ventures. In addition, this year we split the competition into two paths, Ideas and Ventures, so we are supporting early-stage start-ups at different phases of development, with Ventures as the path for more mature entries. We also now have a way to connect entrepreneurs with yearlong support due to the Education Design Studio, Inc. (EDSi), a hybrid incubator and seed fund built specifically for education ventures. EDSi is a one-of-a-kind collaboration between GSE and other partners, and emphasizes the importance of good research for any education business.

 

Your support of Penn GSE includes not only the EBPC, but also scholarships and faculty support. What inspires you to support the School in so many different ways?

Education is vast, as I said, and so is the scope of Penn GSE’s leadership. It would be hard for me to support the School’s work in education entrepreneurship without also supporting GSE faculty, who continue to reveal through research how learning can be improved, and GSE students, who go on to educate and shape the field. Scholarships are also important for reasons of economic inequality; we must ensure that the brightest, most dedicated students can access a GSE education regardless of their current financial circumstances.

 

What do you hope for Penn GSE’s next 100 years?

I envision GSE continuing to lead across the multiple facets of education and continuing to embrace and influence new developments—in technology, ways of delivering education, lifelong learning, and more. Exciting opportunities lie ahead for education, and I know that GSE will make the most of them.

Sarah H. Beraki

 

Current student and Marcus Foster Scholarship recipient Sarah H. Beraki chose Penn GSE to prepare for a career influencing institutional change and policy in higher education.

 

Current Role at GSE:

Student

 

Division of GSE:

Higher Education

 

Degree Program:

M.S.Ed. in Higher Education

 

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

To me, Penn GSE is home to innovative yet practical solutions and ideas for solving the world’s issues in education. Specifically, I feel that most of the values of the Higher Education Division directly align with my own, and that’s why I chose to come to Penn GSE. We are about creating knowledge to solve problems. My division is about theory and practice—generating knowledge, collaborating on ideas, and implementing new strategies to enhance the educational landscape globally.

 

What is your favorite class at GSE and why?

My favorite course has been Case Studies in Higher Education, taught by Dr. Shaun Harper. This course is beautifully crafted, innovative, and incredibly amazing! My class of twenty students was divided into four teams for the semester, and each week we were presented with a real-life challenge that Dr. Harper solicited from college deans, presidents, and other executives from around the United States. Each team had to come up with a solution in the format of a 1,000-word proposal. The executives selected a winner each week, and the team with the most wins at the end of the semester won a trip to present their work at a college in Miami, Florida! We learned so much about real issues facing all types of U.S. colleges and universities and how to solve them. I couldn’t think of a better course to prepare students for careers as higher education professionals.

 

Tell us about a professor with whom you have connected.

I have always admired Dr. Laura Perna and her work, and am lucky to have her as not only a professor, but also a supervisor. I work as a Graduate Assistant for Penn AHEAD (Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy), and Dr. Perna has been wonderful about making room in our everyday work for me to build the skills I hope to develop during my time at Penn.

 

What research opportunity would you like to explore?

I am highly interested in researching any of the following topics: the experiences and motivations of Black immigrant and U.S.-born students in college; college access and the K-12 to college pipeline; returns on investment of Black girls’ and women’s education in the U.S.; experiences of successful Black women in STEM fields; and inequities in college access in northeastern Brazil.

 

Please describe your career goals, both short- and long-term.

Eventually I would like to be a consultant in higher education. In the meantime, I want to gain experiences that allow me to influence institutional change and policy. I enjoy building and enhancing existing programs, and I am most interested in issues of access and equity for underrepresented populations. In whatever role I serve, my goal will be to make my institution or organization as effective, efficient, and equitable as possible. My short-term career goal is to gain experience in various areas of higher education, including but not limited to administration, student affairs, policy, development, research, and leadership. I want to equip myself with the knowledge, skills, experience, and network to be successful in the long term.

 

What is your favorite thing about Philadelphia?

The FOOD! I love exploring new flavors, and Philadelphia is a great place to experience cuisine from various parts of the world. Coming from Minneapolis, it’s important to me that eat-streets and foodie-finds are easily accessible wherever I live so that I can learn about new foods and the cultures from which they derive. I picked an awesome city in choosing Philly as my new home!

Elisabeth A. LeFort

 

Both a Penn GSE alumna and a member of the School’s Board of Overseers, Elisabeth A. LeFort, C’76, GED’87, is especially proud of how GSE makes a difference for the nation’s teaching force through innovative programs.

 

Graduation Years:

C’76, GED’87

 

GSE Degree:

M.S.Ed.

 

Program:

Teacher Education [now UTAP]

 

Current Role at GSE:

Board of Overseers Member

 

What career did you pursue, and how did GSE prepare you for it?

After graduating from GSE, I taught high school economics and history. Teaching was my second career, after working in finance. GSE gave me the confidence to teach, because I learned more than just the subject matter I would be teaching. The teacher education program offered practical experience and methodologies that gave me a real understanding of how to help students learn.

 

I loved teaching, but when my husband and I relocated, it became a good time for me to launch a third career, as an entrepreneur. I ran a furniture company for twenty years, and it became one of the largest woman-owned businesses in South Florida. Education has remained an important part of my life; I’ve stayed involved as a member of the Board of Trustees of Emma Willard School, my high school alma mater; the Trustees Council of Penn Women; and the Penn GSE Board of Overseers.

 

Why do you believe that education is important?

Our country needs well educated people in order to succeed, especially today when the speed of media and communication means that we are asked to make sense of vast quantities of information every day, often without any context. Unless you have been educated to be a critical thinker, you may not understand that there is probably more to a story than the few bullet points that get repeated, and you may not dig deeply enough to form a sound basis for the decisions you make.

 

How does your professional background inform your work on Penn GSE's Board of Overseers?

I feel like I’ve looked at education from all sides. My teaching experience showed me the challenges and rewards of being an educator. As a businessperson who understands organizational operations, I understand why high turnover in the teaching profession is a problem for schools. And as a trustee of a secondary school, I know how important it is for students to be prepared for college.  

 

Our overall theme for the Centennial year is "Celebrating 100 Years of Leadership."  In what ways do you see Penn GSE as a leader?

I am proud of Penn GSE’s leadership in strengthening the nation’s teaching force. As the first Ivy League university host to Teach for America, GSE helps some of the best and the brightest to contribute as teachers in low-income communities and gain a unique perspective on challenges facing the United States. Through the Penn Residency Master’s in Teaching, teachers at nine boarding schools can earn a master’s degree while continuing to teach. Teaching is a noble profession, and deserves greater recognition and support in our society.

 

Another theme of the Centennial year is "Innovative Ideas." As an entrepreneur, does this theme resonate with you?

Yes, the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition interests me greatly. As the first business plan competition sponsored by an education school, it has done much-needed work to spur entrepreneurial activity in education. I’ve served as a judge in the preliminary stage of the competition, and it is fascinating to see the innovative ideas that the competition attracts.

 

Why do you believe it is important to support Penn GSE?

GSE is an important school at Penn, and Penn is very important to my family and me—my husband, father-in-law, and sons are all Penn alumni. By supporting GSE, I am supporting the goals of the University as a whole. In particular, by establishing the LeFort Scholarship Fund at GSE, I am helping some of the brightest applicants to attend the School regardless of their current financial circumstances, and helping to bring a variety of backgrounds and perspectives to the student body.

 

Looking ahead to our next 100 years, what do you hope for GSE?

I am excited to see how GSE will build on the incredible work it has done through its teacher education programs, interdisciplinary master’s programs like Penn Med Ed and Education Entrepreneurship, and online education initiatives such as the Virtual Online Teaching Certificate Program and the Massive Open Online Course offered this year. When I think of what education was like 100 years ago, I can’t even begin to imagine the changes we will see in the next century, but I am sure that one constant will be Penn GSE’s leadership.

Christine Galib

Graduation Year:

2013

 

Degree:

M.S.Ed.

 

Program:

Penn GSE/Teach For America Program

 

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

For me, Penn GSE is a leading education school in which excellent teaching, ongoing mentorship, and close-knit community promote inspiring discussion and actions—not just in the classroom, but in the greater Philadelphia community and nationwide. GSE has given me a home within Penn to create and explore my own academic and professional path, and to “give back” by shaping the academic experiences of current GSE students. My studies at GSE have truly been transformational: my coursework, research, and professors have very positively impacted my career goals—prompting me to explore my passion for health, medicine, and education in deeper ways.

 

What was your favorite class at GSE and why?

It’s very hard for me to pick just one—all of my classes were my favorite! One of the courses that I took towards my master’s degree through the Penn GSE/Teach For America (TFA) Program was called Health and Schools. It was taught by professors and researchers from Penn Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and provided a very strong grounding in research methods and data analysis. The course shaped my academic and professional interests in promoting healthcare for underserved communities. The professors were instrumental in mentoring me as I explored my passion for health and education.

 

Since I taught through TFA while pursuing my M.S.Ed., I very much enjoyed integrating my GSE coursework directly into my own classroom. I particularly valued designing, executing, and evaluating my own stress management initiative in the context of the Health and Schools class. In this initiative, my students learned about the physiological and mental effects of stress, and also practiced coping strategies, including mindfulness and yoga techniques.

 

In addition, the seminar Schools and Their Communities enabled me to delve deeper into qualitative and quantitative research methods and the nuances involved in executing an initiative in my community.

 

Tell us about a professor with whom you connected.

During my time as a Penn GSE student, I connected with Dr. Jill Bazelon, GED’04, GR’09, a Penn GSE alumna. She taught Schools and Their Communities, which was a very intellectually rich experience. After I graduated, I was fortunate to work with her by advising GSE students in health intervention design, execution, and evaluation. I have continued to work with Dr. Bazelon—and Dr. Keith Weigelt of the Wharton School—in designing and teaching another master’s concentration, Community Foundations (Finance) for members of the Penn GSE/Teach For America Program. This collaboration is inspiring and innovative, and I have been very blessed to see our work already impact GSE students, my school community, and the greater Philadelphia community.

 

Have you stayed connected with GSE over the years, and if so, how and why?

In addition to helping design and teach a master’s concentration for the Penn GSE/Teach For America Program, I serve on the Penn GSE Education Alumni Association Board and its Alumni-to-Alumni Committee. We plan and execute events for alumni, and create forums that allow alumni to participate in their communities and in ongoing development. I am thankful to Mary Del Savio, program director of the Penn GSE/Teach For America Program, who inspired me to join the Board, and who has provided ongoing mentorship and guidance. I am a very proud Penn GSE alumna and am very grateful to be part of, and continue to impact, the Penn GSE community!

Michael Malone

Name:

Michael Malone

 

Graduation Year:

1997

 

Degree:

M.S. Ed.

 

Program:

Higher Education Administration

 

Employer:

Columbia Business School, Columbia University

 

Job Title:

Associate Dean, MBA Programs

 

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

Penn GSE does an amazing job of preparing students to have an impact on learners at all levels. Penn GSE embraces innovation and a team approach among its students in ways that I have not seen at other schools of education.

 

What was your favorite class at GSE and why?

Case Studies with Professor Marvin Lazerson. Connecting theory and practice was critical for success in the higher education space, and this course enabled students to think both big picture (e.g. what’s the overall desired outcome and strategy) and fine detail (as a leader, who do you cc on an email communication). 

 

Tell us about a professor with whom you connected.

Professor Larry Moneta. Larry’s teaching incorporated real-life examples from his work delivering positive student experience and sound business practice at Penn.  He also fostered strong relationships among the GSE students and contributed to the sense of inclusion at GSE.

 

What did you do after GSE, and how did GSE prepare you for it?

I worked in residence life, first at American University in Washington, D.C., and then at UC Berkeley. GSE courses prepared me by helping me to understand university governance, law, finance, and organization and providing me with a framework for understanding the place of residence life within a university. In addition, student- and leadership-focused courses at GSE enabled me to think specifically about strategies for managing particular situations.

 

In my current role as associate dean of MBA programs at Columbia Business School, I focus on optimizing the student experience from start to finish, from the time a person first considers applying, all the way through to their graduation. Working alongside an extraordinary faculty and a dedicated, innovative staff, I strive to understand how students experience Columbia, and I seek ways to better that experience. Every day, I lean heavily on lessons learned at GSE: how different stakeholders interact, make decisions, and collaborate; how culture is created and shifted; and how to develop a strategy that is inclusive, accessible, and energizing. GSE really opened the door for me to support, manage, and lead in academia.

 

Have you stayed connected with GSE over the years, and if so, how and why?

In a number of ways—I’ve been fortunate to serve on the Education Alumni Association, and hope to return to this in the future. I’ve offered seminars to GSE students on best practices for networking and relationship management. And my cohort from 1996 through 1998 has remained incredibly close, maintaining the relationships we began as fellow students.

 

Is there anything else you would like to share about your GSE experience?

Penn GSE was the optimal balance of smart, sharp thinkers who were willing to roll up their sleeves to make a difference.  Penn GSE provided the tools and experience to enable mission-driven individuals to have a positive impact on others in an incredibly wide array of opportunities, including in the for-profit, not-for-profit and government arenas.

 

Cecelia Evans

Graduation Years:

GED’75, GRD’85

 

Degrees:

M.S. and Ed.D. in Reading and Language Arts

 

Employer:

School District of Philadelphia (retired)

 

Job Title:

Teacher, reading specialist, district coordinator for federal reading program, founder/director of With Pen in Hand: A Family Writing Program

 

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

It means a whole lot to me! It was beyond my wildest dreams to get not one degree from Penn, but two. My sister, Ida Peterson, GRD’83, came to Penn GSE, and she thought that was in the cards for me too.

 

I’m from Georgia. It had always been my desire to go to college, and I went to Spelman in Atlanta.  Later when I was teaching in Philadelphia—fifth grade at the Belmont School—and raising four children, I told my husband I really would like to get my master’s degree. When I told my sister, she said, “You’re going to the University of Pennsylvania!” So I talked to Dr. Ralph C. Preston at GSE. He said, “If we let you in, do you think you can complete your degree?” And I said, “If you let me in, I guarantee you, I will complete it!”

 

So, to have had the opportunity to earn the two degrees and to be associated with some of the finest minds in education means so much to me. I am very thankful to God for His blessings.

 

Tell us about a professor with whom you connected.

Dr. J. W. Schneyer in the Department of Reading really encouraged me. And after I finished my master’s in 1976, he said I should apply for the doctoral program. The doctoral program was challenging, but I enjoyed it because I came into contact with people who had lots of experience and were so smart.

 

My favorite professor was Dr. Allan Glatthorn. He was the chair of my dissertation committee, and he was so supportive. I used to go to his house at 6:30 in the morning to work on my dissertation for an hour before I went to work.

 

What did you do after GSE, and how did GSE prepare you for it?

My GSE degrees prepared me for a long career in reading and language arts. I worked in the School District of Philadelphia for twenty-five years, as a teacher and a reading specialist. I became the district coordinator for a federal reading program. After I retired, I was compelled to write Appointed to Tell, the story of my great-grandfather, who spent half his life as a slave and half his life as a free man. He founded the first Baptist church and school for African-Americans in my hometown, Washington, Georgia.

 

In 2000, I founded a writing program for the community, With Pen in Hand Family Writing Program, in Media, Delaware County, designed to help families to develop and improve their writing skills and to enjoy writing. I did what I learned at Penn—free writing, sharing. The program ran for twelve years and we reached over four hundred families. I have just written and published book about that experience, Special Saturday Mornings. The book was written to inspire others to follow their passion and develop the dream that is alive within them.   

 

How have you stayed connected with GSE over the years?

I followed in my sister’s footsteps and became president of the Education Alumni Association, a position I held for three years. I’ve also stayed connected with GSE and Penn through my daughters, Marsha Evans, GED’90, who earned her master’s at GSE and is a mathematics teacher, and Loretta Evans, GEX’95, a Penn Engineering alumna and president of the Penn Club of Beijing.

 

Is there anything else you would like to share about your GSE experience?

In 1976 I received my master’s degree, and in February of 1977 I went home to Georgia because my mother was ill. I was on sabbatical then. I received my letter of acceptance for the doctoral program at GSE on Friday, and my mother passed away on Sunday. A bittersweet weekend!

 

And from then on, every time I was writing my dissertation and got discouraged I would draw inspiration from my mother. She had been a schoolteacher, but hadn’t had the opportunity to attend high school herself. She overcame many obstacles to earn a GED and graduated from college five years after I did, in 1960. Thinking of her gave me the determination to succeed and a deeper appreciation of the opportunities I found at Penn.

 

Emmie Katz

This is a picture of me standing in front of my classroom on the first day of school this year.

Graduation Year:

2013

 

Degree:

M.S.Ed.

 

Program:

Teacher Education [now UTAP]

 

Employer:

Chelsea Public School District, Chelsea, Massachusetts

 

Job Title:

Third Grade Teacher

 

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

I remember the first time I visited Penn GSE. After touring the beautiful campus and hearing all about the graduate courses, other prospective students and I visited a local elementary school where GSE sends student teachers for practicum placements. Sitting nervously, we listened to the principal speak about GSE’s Early Elementary Education program. “We don’t make good teachers at Penn GSE,” the principal told us. “We make good teachers great.” She emphasized that the decision to come to GSE was a big one. If we knew in our hearts that we were teachers, Penn GSE was the place to be.

 

What did you do after GSE, and how did GSE prepare you for it?

I am a third-grade teacher in the Frank M. Sokolowski Elementary School in Chelsea, Massachusetts. This school year I have twenty-eight wonderful children in my classroom. During the summers, I co-teach students aged eight to fourteen at the summer treatment program at Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston.

 

My experience at Penn GSE, although only one year long, gave me the courage to take risks, to think about how to improve my teaching, and to recognize the importance of community in every child’s life. What makes Penn GSE stand out is its emphasis on research, theory, and reflective practice in education.

 

Tell us about a professor with whom you connected.

NancyLee Bergey, the associate director of the Teacher Education Program, is one of the many memorable teachers I had at Penn GSE. Through commitment to her students, desire to share her love of science, and dedication to the education profession, she modeled what it takes to be a great teacher. I try to follow her example as I work with the third-grade students in my classroom. Ms. Bergey taught me to support my students with love and strength and to respect their hopes and dreams.

 

I would also like to mention my Penn Mentor, Dr. Jacqueline Burgess. Penn Mentors are experienced educators who observe Penn GSE student teachers in classroom placements and provide support, care, and critical feedback on pedagogy. Dr. Burgess was insightful about the practice of teaching and very dedicated to the children of Philadelphia. One way she showed her commitment to the teaching profession was to help GSE students become the best possible teachers. Her feedback and evaluations were specific, individualized, and encouraging. Even after I graduated, Dr. Burgess continued to provide me with articles and suggestions about classroom management and curriculum development.

 

Is there anything else you would like to share about your GSE experience?

I loved living and student teaching in Philadelphia. I am so happy I decided to continue my education at Penn GSE.

Tryan L. McMickens

Keon M. McGuire, GR’13 (left), presented me with the Penn GSE Alumni Recent Alumni/Early Career Award of Merit in 2013.

Graduation Year:

2011

 

Degree:

Ed.D.

 

Program:

Higher Education

 

Employer:

Suffolk University

 

Job Title:

Assistant Professor of Higher Education

 

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

Penn GSE is an institution dedicated to discovery, networking, and critical inquiry. It was easy to find a community of faculty, students, and staff at GSE with like-minded interests. I am most fortunate that so many of GSE’s professors are dedicated to critical inquiry, addressing inequality, and encouraging students to engage in these areas. Due to GSE’s position in the field of education, I was also afforded many opportunities to network with scholars and educators outside of GSE who are making significant contributions to the profession. GSE also means friendship; I made a host of new friends among my fellow doctoral students.

 

What was your favorite class at GSE and why?

I had more than one favorite class at Penn GSE. I consistently employ tools from Dr. Shaun R. Harper’s Critical Race Theory in Education course and Dr. Marybeth Gasman’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) course in my current work as a professor. Professors Harper and Gasman provided me with new language to explain issues of race, gender, class, student development, and HBCUs. Through their courses, I was able to name social realities that I experienced in academia (and society at large) and most importantly, develop strategies to address racial inequities in education policy and practice. Both professors were great at modeling teaching and research that broke down barriers between professors and students; they encouraged students to contribute their own knowledge to class discussions and they did not rely solely on the traditional method of lecturing.

 

Tell us about a professor with whom you connected.

I had an incredibly rich experience collaborating with faculty on teaching, research, mentoring, and service activities. I was Professor Harper’s research assistant for four years and assistant director of the National Black Male College Achievement Study; Professor Harper also served as chair of my dissertation committee. Professor Vivian Gadsden played an important role on my committee, as did former Temple University Dean of Education James Earl Davis. Professor Marybeth Gasman was one of my advisors. I also connected with Professor Camille Zabrinsky Charles through the Center for Africana Studies. And I served as a teaching assistant to Professor Howard Stevenson and occasionally worked with other GSE professors.

 

What did you do after GSE, and how did GSE prepare you for it?

I am currently a tenure-track assistant professor of higher education at Suffolk University. Penn GSE prepared me for this role by providing ample opportunities to present and publish research, practice my teaching, and engage with undergraduate students in the College House system. Ultimately I plan to use my Penn education as well as my research to lead a college or university.

 

Have you stayed connected with GSE over the years, and if so, how and why?

I have stayed connected with professors and cohort members at Penn GSE and have coauthored research with them as well. In 2013, I was honored to receive the Penn GSE Alumni Recent Alumni/Early Career Award of Merit from the Education Alumni Association. The award recognizes “a Penn GSE alumnus or alumna who has shown outstanding service to the University of Pennsylvania and Graduate School of Education prior to their 10th reunion year and is setting an inspirational example for future alumni of Penn GSE.”

 

Is there anything else you would like to share about your GSE experience?

Penn offers distinctive opportunities for students to develop an interdisciplinary perspective. As a doctoral student, I was able to take some classes at the Wharton School and the School of Arts and Sciences in subjects including sociology, Africana studies, and psychology. These courses added another dimension to my studies at GSE and demonstrated the importance of having a multi-pronged approach to addressing education problems.

 

Barbara Russo Bravo

Penn Graduation Years

CW’68, GED’69

GSE Degree

Master of Science in Education: French

Program

Teacher Education

Employer

former principal, Masterman High School, School District of Philadelphia

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

Dedication to public education. A commitment to urban education. Wonderful people, wonderful classes.

I came directly from the undergraduate program at Penn to GSE. Although I considered other careers, in my heart, I always wanted to be a teacher; I had been a tutor all through school and loved working with students. The master’s program at GSE, with its one-year internship for aspiring teachers, sounded like the perfect way to start my career.

In the internship, I had a half-day position teaching at Northeast High School and spent the rest of the time planning with skilled teachers. It was invaluable practical experience. I taught three classes at Northeast, and one of them had forty students! I was lucky that Penn GSE provided the best mentors—Jerry Caponigro and others—and a great department head. All of them helped me to rise to the challenges of my work and grow as an educator.

What was your favorite class at GSE and why?

A fascinating course brought in school leaders to speak about their work. Their advice was very practical, and served me well later on in my career as a leader.

Tell us about a professor with whom you connected.

Allan Glatthorn helped me to learn so much about secondary education leadership through case studies. And Harris Sokoloff, now of the Penn Center for Educational Leadership, was another wonderful influence on me when I worked as a teaching assistant for him.

What did you do after GSE, and how did GSE prepare you for it?

After I graduated I went straight to Olney High School, where I applied all I learned at GSE to teach French for fourteen years. Then I came back to GSE to get certified as a principal and superintendent. I served as principal of Masterman High School for fifteen years.

When I became principal, I had recently taken Dr. Glatthorn’s course and was continuing study at GSE. It was wonderful to be able to implement the problem-solving approaches that we had used in case studies in my work as principal. I also developed a network with other principals who had studied at GSE, and we relied on one another during times of crisis. During my years at Masterman, the school grew into a full-fledged high school as well as a demonstration middle school, receiving the national Blue Ribbon award from the U.S. Department of Education. The high school was ranked first in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for student achievement.

I retired in 2004 but continued to stay involved on a part-time basis. I mentored the current principal, Jessica Brown, who is also a GSE grad.

Have you stayed connected with GSE over the years, and if so, how and why?

I have had a lifelong connection to GSE. I was on the Education Alumni Association (EAA) board for years, and I was honored to receive the Castetter Alumni Award of Merit in 2003.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your GSE experience?

I have had a really worthwhile career as an educator, and GSE gave me the tools I needed to succeed. Just recently I heard from an Olney High School student I taught—35 years later!—who called to say what a difference I had made in his life. There is really nothing better than that.  

Brittany Maschal

Graduation Year: 2006

Degree: M.S.Ed.

Program: Education, Culture & Society

Employer: B. Maschal Educational Consulting

Job Title: Founder

What was your favorite class at Penn GSE and why?
My favorite class at GSE was Anthropology and Education with Dr. Hall. My knowledge of education and the process of schooling up until this point had been solely focused on my own experience, that of a student growing up in the United States. From Lives in Translation to Lessons in Being Chinese, through book after book I was taken on a journey across the world to learn how anthropology has contributed to the study of socialization and schooling cross-culturally. I still have a paper copy of the syllabus and every single book from the course! Thank you, Dr. Hall, for sparking my interest educational anthropology—and helping me become a lifelong learner.

What did you do after GSE, and how did GSE prepare you for it?
After I graduated from GSE I worked in higher education for two years before enrolling in a doctoral program in higher education. Hands down, I attribute my academic preparedness for this program to my time at Penn GSE. GSE’s introductory courses in research methods and thesis requirement allowed me to hit the ground running in the doctoral program. I was prepared for my coursework, doctoral level academic writing, and of course my dissertation proposal and field work. Upon completing my coursework, I eventually returned to Philadelphia and worked at Penn. Soon I found myself applying knowledge from the Educational Entrepreneurship class at GSE when I launched my own company, B. Maschal Educational Consulting, just a few short years ago!

Have you stayed connected with GSE over the years, and if so, how and why?
I am the treasurer of the Education Alumni Association (EAA). Attention all Penn GSE’ers—if you are looking for a meaningful way to make a lasting contribution to the GSE community for years to come, get involved with the EAA Board!

Irving Pressley McPhail

Graduation Year

1976

Degree

Ed.D.

Program

Reading/Language Arts

Employer

National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. (NACME)

Job Title

President and Chief Executive Officer

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

Penn GSE was the decisive step in preparing me for teaching, research, leadership, and advocacy in African American literacy education and beyond.

What was your favorite project at Penn GSE and why?

Two courses in Psycholinguistics with Dr. Leila Gleitman. I read and reflected upon the key research and theories in language acquisition, and made the connections to reading acquisition, with a particular focus on language and culture.

Tell us about a professor with whom you connected.

Dr. Norma B. Kahn. She made a personal and enduring commitment to my development as a teacher and scholar, extending many out-of-classroom experiences that helped me to grow. She also changed my thinking and approach to teaching college reading and study skills.

What did you do after Penn GSE, and how did GSE prepare you for it?

I returned to Morgan State University as associate professor of education in the School of Graduate Studies. GSE prepared me to do original research in the field, particularly through my minor in METER (Measurement, Evaluation, and Techniques of Experimental Research) with Drs. Diamond and Bagley. I am proud to be a published scholar today, and I thank GSE for starting me on the path of inquiry.

How have you stayed connected with Penn GSE over the years?

GSE has remained a part of my life in many ways. I contribute annually to the Annual Fund, and have recruited graduate students to the School. Immediately following my graduation in 1976, I taught in the Summer Session. Today, I have stayed in touch with the work of GSE Associate Professor Shaun Harper, who serves on the Research and Policy Advisory Council for NACME. In addition, I am most honored to have received the 2012 Penn GSE Educator of the Year Award.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your Penn GSE experience?

It was a life-changing intellectual and personal journey!

Margery Miller

Graduation Year

GED’68, GRD’76

Program

Reading

Employer

Lesley University

Job Title

Division Director of Language and Literacy; Professor

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

The reading program’s integrated approach to the language arts, as well as its emphasis on language, a strong clinical foundation, and the interconnectedness of assessment and instruction, have served me well for more than forty years in literacy-related roles. I continue to be proud of the work being done at Penn GSE and the leadership of its programs and its graduates among schools of education.

What was your favorite project at Penn GSE and why?

The most valuable course I took while at Penn GSE was a yearlong course in the diagnosis and treatment of reading difficulties. The topic does date it. The course offered a well-supervised and rigorous clinical experience. Through it I gained insights and developed an approach to assessment and instruction that have shaped my work as a tutor, a teacher of students with learning disabilities, a teacher educator, and a program director of reading. The experience provided an especially helpful background for my work with hundreds of students seeking a reading specialist license at Lesley University.

Tell us about a professor with whom you connected.

The late Dr. Ralph C. Preston was an instructor I greatly admired during my master’s program, and he became my thesis adviser for my doctorate. I believe that I was his last doctoral student. His areas of focus, adolescent literacy and social studies, are ones I have followed in my professional work and writing. I have tried to emulate his mentorship in my roles as a teacher and a guide for graduate students and the younger faculty in my department.

Have you stayed connected with Penn GSE over the years, and if so, how and why?

Yes, in particular I stayed in touch with Dr. Preston, as well as a fellow master’s student with whom I wrote my first published article in what is now the Journal of Adult and Adolescent Literacy. I have also stayed connected through the Penn GSE alumni publications and annual giving to support current students.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your Penn GSE experience?

I am especially proud of my Penn GSE education and the program and individuals that shaped who I have been and who I continue to be as a reading educator. I had wonderful models and wonderful training to build on for a lifetime in education.

 

Jaime Goldstein

Graduation Year

C'02, GED'04

Degree

M.S.Ed.

Program

Elementary Education

Employer

The MIT Writing Lab

Job Title

Writing Lab Manager

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

Penn GSE means that I have strong roots as an educator; I got the very best training out there. I began my career as an inner city teacher and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to weave my own path within the field of education. I have no doubt that my degree from Penn has opened many doors for me.

What was your favorite project at Penn GSE and why?

My job was to learn deeply about the neighborhood in which I was going to do my student teaching and then design a curricular unit to address a local issue. I loved every part of that project.

Tell us about a professor with whom you connected.

I had a great relationship with Paul Skilton-Sylvester. I enjoyed hearing about the way that he designed his classroom and all of the strategies he employed to empower students to be successful.

What did you do after Penn GSE, and how did GSE prepare you for it?

Entrepreneurship is the theme that unites all of the experiences I have had since I left Penn GSE. My job has always been to design and launch new ideas—to identify educational gaps, to design creative strategic plans, and to deliver successful solutions.

Right now I run a Communication Lab in the Biological Engineering Department at MIT. I help scientists learn to communicate more effectively by mentoring graduate students from within my department to become peer coaches. I launched this program in March 2013 and already the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering has asked me to help them design and launch a Communication Lab for their community as well. So far it has been an exciting challenge to think about how to scale up the program in a very different community on campus.

I would have never guessed I’d end up at MIT; my certification is actually in elementary education. Over the last decade, since GSE, I’ve been a teacher in inner city schools and in private schools, I’ve been an admissions director, a chief of staff, and an associate dean of academic preparation. Each one of these experiences has given me something to add to my toolbox of skills—from using data to drive solutions to thinking about how to manage others to bring out their best. I feel very lucky that I have been able to explore such a wide range of ways in which I can make a difference.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your Penn GSE experience?

Penn GSE was a really positive experience for me. Thank you, GSE, for giving me a powerful foundation so that I can make an impact.

Bill Reynolds

Graduation Year
1971

Degree

Ed.D.

Program

Educational Administration

Employer

Retired

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

Penn GSE developed my leadership skills and opened career possibilities far beyond anything I had imagined.

When I came to Penn GSE in 1965 to work on an Ed.D. in educational administration, I was planning to spend two years doing course work, then return to high school teaching while I completed the dissertation. I already had a master’s, so a lot of the basics were out of the way.

Toward the end of the second year, Dean Morris Viteles asked me to stay on as a lecturer. He also asked me if I would be interested in working with Dr. Edward B. Shils from the Wharton School on a management study of the Philadelphia public schools. I spent the next several years working with Dr. Shils, continuing to work in the teacher preparation program, and working on the dissertation.

Dean Viteles was succeeded by Dean Neal Gross. The year following his arrival, Dean Gross appointed me director of Teacher Education and assistant dean. I hugely enjoyed my several years in both roles.

What was your favorite class at Penn GSE and why?

The courses under Drs. Castetter, Pillard, and Attorney Lee Garber were invigorating, and the opportunity as part of a fellowship to work as an assistant with Drs. Oliver and Hammock in the student teaching and graduate teacher intern programs was richly rewarding.

What did you do after Penn GSE, and how did GSE prepare you for it?

Penn GSE freed me from conventional career track thinking. Since Penn, I have been, in chronological order, a school principal, a mayor, founder and president of a management consulting firm, director of a university innovation center, and a dean. I have had a rich, varied and fulfilling career.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your Penn GSE experience?

My wife of fifty years still teases me, asking what I will do when I grow up. My response: There are always new and exciting possibilities. I owe this attitude and the successes I have enjoyed largely to Penn GSE.

 

Michael Steven Williams

Me and my amazing mentor, Dr. Marybeth Gasman, at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Graduation Year
2008

Degree

M.S.Ed.

Program

Higher Education

Employer

Baruch College

Job Title

Assistant Professor

What was your favorite class at Penn GSE and why?

Diversity in Higher Education with Dr. Marybeth Gasman was my favorite class at GSE because it challenged me to grow as a person in ways that I never imagined possible. It helped me think critically about my own biases. It also gave me a much broader perspective on the issues facing diverse groups in higher education. It was my first meaningful introduction to how people’s intersecting identities influence their trajectories and decisions.

Tell us about a professor with whom you connected.

Dr. Gasman was, and continues to be, an invaluable mentor, confidante, and advisor. Though I graduated more than six years ago, she is a big reason that I will be completing my Ph.D. this summer and assuming my first faculty role in the fall. Her willingness to offer an honest assessment of every situation is a trait I aspire to in all of my mentoring relationships. Her continued support, love, and encouragement for me, my family, and my academic career have been nothing less than remarkable.

Have you stayed connected with GSE over the years, and if so, how and why?

I have countless relationships from my time at GSE that will never fade. Though she was in a different graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania, I met my wife, Dr. Marjorie Dorime-Williams, while I was at GSE. My son Maximilian’s godfather, Dr. Michael Beazley, was in my cohort, my classes, and my comprehensive exam study group. Drs. Jennifer Johnson, Keon McGuire, and Valerie Lundy-Wagner were amazing sources of support as I navigated the faculty job market over the last year. Each of these people has improved my life and my work. All of these important relationships, and many more, began at Penn GSE.

 

Natalie A. Williams

Graduation Year

2009

Degree

M.S.Ed.

Program

Higher Education Management

Employer

Montclair State University

Job Title

MBA Program Assistant

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

Penn GSE was a thought-provoking arena that broadened my knowledge of higher education systems. I took classes that challenged me to think beyond borders, reject stereotypes, and focus on creating positive change in the practice and governance of higher education administration. Penn GSE was the place where I began lifelong friendships, expanded my network, and doubled my motivation to increase access to higher education and steward the game changers of the future.

What was your favorite class at Penn GSE and why?

It’s hard to say what my favorite class at GSE was. I found three classes most beneficial to my development: Dr. Marybeth Gasman’s History of Higher Education, Dr. J. Matthew Hartley’s Faculty and Academic Governance, and professor Alan Ruby’s Reforming Higher Education and What We Can Learn From Other Countries.

Tell us about a professor with whom you connected.

Alan Ruby has been a great source of information and a mentor. His expertise in higher education spans many countries. I found his real-world examples and personal experiences very beneficial to my learning. He always encourages me to think critically and share my own thoughts. His invaluable advice to research the numbers and question the sources has become a mantra in my own research and practice.

What did you do after Penn GSE, and how did GSE prepare you for it?

After GSE, I taught in the Education Department at Bergen Community College as an adjunct professor and worked with the Department of Student Life and later the International Student Center at the same institution. Currently I work with a graduate MBA program at Montclair State University where my duties include admissions, logistics management, academic advising, and curriculum development. My personal experiences at Penn as well as my classroom experience gave me the tools in effective public speaking and diverse issues that I draw upon to teach the following courses: Introduction to Education, Foundations of Multicultural Education, and a first-year experience seminar.

Have you stayed connected with Penn GSE over the years, and if so, how and why?

I’ve remained in contact with many friends from my cohort and visit campus at least once a year for Alumni Weekend or Homecoming, where I can reconnect and see the developments since graduation. I have stayed in contact with some of my professors because they have become lifelong mentors whose expertise and friendship I highly value and find beneficial to my development as a professional.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your GSE experience?

The staff at Penn GSE also played an instrumental role in my development and success as a student. I will always remember my interactions with Lois MacNamara and Karen Carter. Their encouragement and support provided fuel on the tough days. I am happy to see the work that was put in by past students come to fruition. I remember sitting with Jessica Kim, Chris Tudico, and Maher Zamel, among others, as we developed the brain child that has flourished into GSE’s Student Government.

Wei Zhang

Graduation Year

2009

Degree

M.S.Ed.

Program

Intercultural Communication

Employer

Beijing New Oriental School

Job Title

TOEFL teacher

What does Penn GSE mean to you?

Studying at GSE for two years and living in Philadelphia for six years, an immature Chinese girl grows to become an independent woman. GSE taught me to think critically and be creative in life and work. I feel grateful for the opportunity to study at GSE and the time I spent there. Happy 100th birthday!

Tell us about a professor with whom you connected.

I invited Nancy H. Hornberger to my wedding ceremony in Philadelphia a few years ago. I miss the meet-ups she often hosted for linguistics students at her home.

This is a cake I made to celebrate Penn GSE’s
100th birthday. Happy birthday!

What did you do after Penn GSE, and how did GSE prepare you for it?

After graduating from a university in Beijing, China, I went to study at GSE. Over two years, I learned how to do research, collect data, analyze raw materials, write an academic paper, and do class presentations. I developed my public speaking skills and ability to conduct group projects.

Now I am teaching TOEFL to junior high school Chinese students who will soon apply to American high schools. I always tell them about the core value of American education and help them prepare with the skills they need to survive in a high school.

Have you stayed connected with Penn GSE over the years, and if so, how and why?

I join some events hosted by the Penn Club in Beijing. I hope our linguistics professors will have a chance to come to Beijing. I miss them a lot.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your GSE experience?

I am proud of being a GSE student. I feel very grateful for all the teaching I received from GSE professors and the support of the staff (special thanks to Suzanne I. Oh).

Share your Penn GSE story today!