Meet some of our alumni:
David Johns, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans
Sociology and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, MA 2006
Executive Director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans
U.S. Department of Education
I entered the Sociology and Education program at Teachers College while teaching on 110th Street and Broadway, walking distance from the school. Having recently graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University, I was frustrated with how few students from underrepresented communities have access to high quality education and workforce development programs and support services and was looking for programs, policies and practices to improve things—to increase access and improve quality. The Sociology and Education Program provided me with a framework for understanding how social policy is developed and codified, a valuable framework that has buttressed my work in Washington, DC both on Capitol Hill and in the Administration.
I am currently the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (Initiative). President Obama established the Initiative, by Executive Order, to “help to restore the United States to its role as the global leader in education; strengthen the Nation by improving educational outcomes for African Americans of all ages; and help ensure that African Americans receive a complete and competitive education that prepares them for college, a satisfying career, and productive citizenship.” The Initiative has been tasked with delivering high-impact, evidentiary based solutions to meet the challenges African American students, schools and communities striving for educational excellence, from cradle to career.
Through my work I maintain active relationships with researchers informing relevant policy and practice—including both teacher/mentors Aaron Pallas and Amy Stuart Wells. I strive to remain an active member of the Teachers College Alumni Community. This past fall I had the pleasure of speaking during the admitted students’ weekend and annually look forward to engaging with Professor Sharon Lynn Kagan and the Teachers College Federal Policy Institute. The annual alumni panel provides me with an opportunity to reconnect with fellow Teachers College Alumni MaryEllen McGuire and Phillip Herr.
Sociology and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2011
The American Institutes for Research, Washington, DC
Supporting students in the communities of North Philadelphia as a McNair fellow was my introduction to educating. I believed in this meaningful model of tutelage and mentorship, to which I was in many ways both benefactor and beneficiary. After moving back to New York, I became involved with The Princeton Review and segued this into a temporary teaching position at a public high school. All of these experiences led me to pursue my Master of Arts in the Sociology and Education program in the department of Education Policy and Social Analysis at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Sociology was the lens through which I best began to understand the successes, limitations and failures of educational policies and practices. After experiencing Professor Kagan's Federal Policy Institute, I was convinced to move to Washington, DC and be part of the influential education research community. This unique and highly coveted course offered by Teachers College gave me a brutish yet motivational insider's perspective of our nation's political labyrinth.
Currently, I am part of a robust albeit small team at The American Institutes for Research, supporting the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) program, contracted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We are currently working on the ECLS-K:2011 survey, intended to provide researchers and policymakers with meaningful national data on children's early school experiences, development and characteristics. In addition to strengthening my quantitative and analytic skills, my TC coursework in evaluation methods, cognitive interviewing and ethnography prepared me for many of the quality assurance activities I perform.
My interests and contributions to other areas of education research include urban university-community partnerships; monitoring competency-based education reform; policy solutions addressing learning loss; and a trend analysis of the roles of high school counselors.
I am appreciative of the relationships cultivated at TC, and am empowered by our network united by the mission to progress quality and equity in education for the purpose of improving and enlightening individuals and society.
Sociology and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, MA 2010
Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, Washington, DC
Every day, I use the knowledge and skills I gained in the Sociology and Education program. During my 2.5 years with the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, I have navigated between higher education, P-12, research, and policy settings in an effort to improve the preparation of educators. It is at the cross-sections of these settings that I see our greatest hope for improving the teacher workforce.
In many ways, my work in designing standards and program evaluation is an extension of the research I began at Teacher’s College. I have always been interested in how and what we teach teachers, and the study of social forces and their impact on education provided me with a new lens for exploring the topic.
Looking forward, I expect to develop resources for new and current educators by entering more entrepreneurial and technological spaces.
Though I have left the classroom, the perspective I gained as a teacher will never be lost. I am extremely thankful and encouraged by the fact that all the TC students, alumni, and faculty I have interacted with have a deep respect for teachers and the profession.
Sociology and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, MA 2013
Director of School Support
The Achievement Network
I came to TC’s Sociology and Education program after teaching four years at a public charter school in Brooklyn, NY. Around this time, I was sensing how complex and multifaceted educational inequity really was, and was specifically becoming attuned to challenges, from outside the school, that influence a child’s education. Each day, as I contrasted the need to understand the outside factors that shape current urban education with the “no excuses” mantra that permeated our school from the inside, my curiosity became insatiable. I knew it was time to delve more deeply into this curiosity and go to graduate school. Teachers College’s Sociology and Education program was a perfect match.
While I expected to broaden my knowledge base about the societal problems that manifest in urban education, I left with something even more valuable: multiple frameworks for understanding how society’s institutions may produce equity (or inequity) as a consequence of design. I came to understand that educational inequity is a small part of this larger story. And this perspective has been an invaluable part of my personal and professional growth.
In essence, my TC experience helped redefine what I identify as the root cause in educational inequity. Understanding the scope of the problem has helped me see that the landscape of social reform is not really a “landscape” fit for any broad brushed answers. Rather, it is more like a mosaic of many small solutions, to which I am even more deeply impassioned to commit in every way I can. Currently, I work as a Director of School Support with the Achievement Network. The Achievement Network (ANet) is a nonprofit that helps schools strengthen their practice around using standards and data to accelerate student learning in underserved communities. I specifically provide tailored coaching to over a dozen New Jersey school leaders, building their capacity to systematically apply and scale effective practice. Finally, I manage the strategic planning and delivery of network Learning and Professional Development for all 59 schools in our New Jersey Network. Outside of my professional responsibilities, I enjoy volunteering time and perspective to empower our sector’s professionals. Most recently, I have had the privilege to speak on career panel sessions for Education Pioneers and KIPP, contribute pieces to Teach For America’s “Pass the Chalk” blog, and to lead professional development training for the Urban Teaching Corps.
Joseph Edward Luesse
Sociology and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, EdM 2011
Director of Evaluation, Harlem RBI
Co-Founder and Communications Officer, New York Consortium of Evaluators
I spent nearly a decade teaching English in an attempt to make sense of and to improve the educational experiences of youth in American inner-city high schools. I formed a mentor exchange between high school and middle school students in Detroit and coached basketball in Chicago. In Los Angeles, I helped create a small learning community, researched LGBTQ classroom issues with the UCLA Writing Project, and took active leadership roles within my school. Convinced that I could have a greater understanding and impact with different, broader perspectives and opportunities, I enrolled in the Sociology and Education program at Teachers College.
Teachers College provided me with the privilege of working with and learning from talented professors and peers. My interests and ideas concerning educational policy, theory, and trends were constantly challenged and supported by these established experts and future leaders. And while my knowledge was deepened and developed, so too was my formal experience. It was Sociology and Education staff that encouraged me to work with the Building Knowledge for Social Justice project of the Ford Foundation, the Center for Understanding Race and Education, for the Director of Government Relations, and for the Research Alliance for New York City Schools. And it was with TC peers that I became involved in helping get a group focused on entrepreneurship and education off the ground.
The skills and relationships cultivated at TC prepared me for success as a leader, both in the daily work I do supporting an incredible organization serving youth and also within the professional community I am a proud member of. I am the Director of Evaluation for Harlem RBI, a youth development organization in East Harlem. I am responsible for all things evaluation across programs and credit my rigorous training at Teachers College for equipping me with a formidable professional toolkit. I have also worked with New York area evaluators to build a professional association, the New York Consortium of Evaluators, which is now the New York regional affiliate for the American Evaluation Association. The importance of interacting with a community of my peers remains an essential part of my growth, and I continue to maintain the many valuable relationships I’ve made at TC, as they remain friends and key partners in my continuing educational and professional evolution.
Our alumni have also held the following positions:
- Ji-Sun Yoo (Ed.ME, 2011) is a research analyst in NYU’s Office of Institutional Research.
- Saki Ikoma (MA, 2011) is a Ph.D. student in the Educational Theory and Policy program at Penn State University.
- Justin Dayhoff (MA, 2012) will enter the Ph.D. program in Education Policy Studies at the University of Maryland in fall, 2012.
- Pilar Gonzalez (MA, 2010) is a Research Assistant II at the Education Development Center.
- Kali Noel (MA, 2011) is a Knowledge Sharing Product Development Manager at the New York City Department of Education.
- Antony Tam (MA, 2011) is studying International Comparative Education at Stanford University.
- Ashley French (MA, 2003) is a Ph.D. student in Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center.
- Mathilda McGee-Tubb (MA, 2010) is a student at Boston College Law School.
- Titilayo Tinubu (MA, 2009) is a student at the University of California-Berkeley Law School.
- Sam Laszlo (MA, 2009) is an Operations Associate at American Corporate Partners.
- Traci-Amanda Washington (MA, 2008) is a sixth-grade teacher at KIPP Believe College Prep school in New Orleans, LA.
- Deborah Trethewey (MA, 2009) is a teacher at Leman Manhattan Preparatory School.
- Melissa Barragan (MA, 2010) is a Senior Research Assistant at the Community College Research Center at Teachers College.
- Nina Sears (MA, 2009) is a College Advisor at the Harlem Children’s Zone.
- Julia Gordon (MA, 2008) is enrolled in the George Washington University Law School.
- Caitlin Cich (MA, 2011) is an Assistant Manager at Eddie Bauer.
- Kate Matzkin (MA, 2010) is Assistant to the Director of Pre-College Programs at Barnard College.
- Christina Esche (MA, 2011) is a third-grade teacher at Jumoke Academy Charter School in Hartford, CT.
- Nicole Le Blanc (MA, 2008) is a CSTEP Academic Advisor at the City College of New York.
- Jenn Flandro (MA, 2007) is Principal of PS 306, the Academy for Discovery, in Queens.
- Yumiko Higaki (MA, 2004) is a third-grade teacher at PS 234, Independence School in New York City.
- Sydney Brooks (MA, 2006) is Donor Relations Manager at the Nature Conservancy.
- Janine Rudder (MA, 2007) is a Program Officer at the U.S. Department of Education.
- Jess Meller (MA, 2011) is Associate Director of Data Management at Uncommon Schools, Inc.
- Betsy Crowell Kim (MA, 2007) is a Senior Research Associate at Michael Cohen Group, LLC.
- Dalelia Davis (MA, 2005) is a Program Evaluator at the Wisconsin Alliance for Minority Participation.
- Hyun Mi Corin (ME, 2011) is a Senior Marketing Management Associate at New York Life Insurance Co.
- Nahliah Webber (MA, 2010) is Program Director at Phipps Community Development Corporation in the Bronx, NY.
- Jennifer Monroe Scoggin (MA, 2002) is a Literacy Consultant at LitLife, Inc.
- Crystal Lunsford (MA, 2003) is a Research Fellow at the University of Michigan.
- Tina Pavlak (MA, 2009) is a Research Assistant at Boston College.
- Imrul Mazid (MA, 2011) is the Manager of the Young Men’s Program at South Asian Youth Action in Queens.
- Judy Mejia (MA, 2005) is Director of Civic Engagement and Social Justice at Eugene Lang College, The New School University.
- Matt Rafalow (MA, 2010) is enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Sociology at UC-Irvine.
- Claudia Mendez (MA, 2009) is the Director of the High School Program at Summer on the Hill.
- Katie Hornung (ME, 2009) is a Research Analyst at Berkeley Policy Associates.
- Leniece Flowers (MA, 2011) is a Program Director at Education Pioneers.
- Christy Moorman (MA, 2007) is Deputy Director of Continuing Education and Special Programs at Hunter College, CUNY.
- Di Xu (MA, 2009) is a recent graduate of the Ph.D. program in Economics and Education at Teachers College.
- Rachel Flank (MA, 2009) will enter the Ph.D. program in Child and Family Leadership at the University of Denver in Fall, 2012.
- Bethan Noonan (MA, 2008) is a student at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law.
- Julie Defina (MA, 2008) is Program Director at Justice Scholars.
- Brian Farmer (MA, 2011) is a seventh-grade English teacher in the Del Valle, TX ISD.
- Quinton Lampkin (MA, 2010) is Manager of Business Operations and Partnerships at the “I Have a Dream” Foundation.
- Asena Tui’one (MA, 2007) is Educational Coordinator at The Renaissance University for Community Education at the Harlem Children’s Zone.
- Tabassum Amina (MA, 2008) is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Sciences and Humanities at the Independent University, Bangladesh.
- Sherann Jackson (ME, grad year n/a) is a School Adjustment Counselor in the Springfield, MA schools.
- Laura Ptucha (MA, 2006) is a Research Associate at Harder + Company Community Research.
- Dave Yang (ME, 2004) is a Research Associate at EdisonLearning, Inc.
- Marites Alves (ME, 2004) is Assistant Principal at KIPP SF Bay Academy.
- Maribel Martinez (MA, 2004) is Associate Director of Admission at The TEAK Fellowship.
- Casey Maliszewski (MA, 2012) is a Program Associate at Achieve.