May 31, 2018

Voices in Education brings pressing issues in education to the forefront

Dean Pam Grossman (center) led a conversation with Joel Greenblatt (left) and Donald E. Graham (right) for the Voices in Education program.

Penn GSE welcomed two distinguished education advocates for the second annual Voices in Education program, part of the School’s annual Celebration of Educators and Penn’s Alumni Weekend. Dean Pam Grossman led the conversation between Donald E. Graham and Joel Greenblatt, W’79, WG’80, regarding some of the challenges facing education today.

Graham, Chair of the Board of Graham Holdings Company (previously The Washington Post Company), is co-founder of TheDream.US. Greenblatt, a Wharton graduate, former University Trustee, and member of the Penn Medicine Board and Penn GSE’s Board of Overseers, is managing partner of Gotham Capital and co-founder of Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City.

“We were delighted to hear from these two passionate advocates for educational opportunity,” says Grossman. “As a leading school of education, we want to provide occasions for our students and graduates to hear first-hand from leaders and changemakers from across the field and to create conversations that span the contexts of K–12 and higher education.”

A tutor at the Lea School during his time at Penn, Greenblatt’s interest in education stems from the belief that all students should have the opportunity to access a quality K–12 education. In 2006, he co-founded Success Academy Charter Schools, a network whose schools have scored among the top performing schools in New York State for the past nine years, according to its website. “[The system] only works if everyone has a fair chance [but] education is probably the least fair, most unequal system…and being an investor, I believe ‘Teach a man to fish.’ In other words, education is the great equalizer,” said Greenblatt.

Graham has an established history of supporting access to higher education. He is a member of and previously served as chair for the District of Columbia College Access Program. In 2013, he co-founded TheDream.US, the nation’s largest college access and success program for DREAMers, immigrant youth who came to this country at a very young age without documentation. To date, TheDream.US has raised over $103 million in scholarship money and currently has over 2,800 scholars nationwide. Through his work, Graham has gained perspective on the significance of higher education access.

“One thing that people are beginning to say is ‘Do you need to go to school? Is it worth putting your life into higher education?’ I say, go talk to the DREAMers. Many DREAMers have little to no opportunity to go to school, but they want to go so badly,” Graham noted. “Our first-year class [supported by TheDream.US] is 300 strong. We think they will have a graduation rate of 75 percent. These students are phenomenal.”

The Celebration of Educators is an annual event to celebrate and recognize the extraordinary impact of the Penn GSE community. In addition to Voices in Education, the program also features an alumni reception that honors recipients of the annual Education Alumni Awards and the important work of others in our alumni community. The inaugural Voices in Education last spring featured Trustee Emeritus George A. Weiss, W’65, HON’14, founder and chair of Say Yes to Education. The 2019 Celebration of Educators will take place on Saturday, May 18. 

Click to see photos from the 2018 events and watch the video of the full conversation with Graham and Greenblatt.