When Beverly Edgehill (Ed.D. ’05) was in first grade, her mother took her and her brother across the street to Teachers College for story time.
“We’d sit in a circle on the floor, and the student-teachers would read us a story from the books that we picked. And I decided right then: someday I’m going to be at this college.”
Fast forward to 1995. Edgehill was working as Vice President of Leadership Development at Fidelity Investments. In that role, particularly as an African-American woman, she’d become aware of how an organization can lose out when internal dynamics hinder the ability of its employees — most typically that of women and minorities — to advance their careers. She enrolled in TC’s AEGIS (Adult Education Guided Intensive Study) program, founded by Jack Mezirow, whose theory of transformative learning challenges individuals and organizations to examine and rethink their most deeply held assumptions. [Click here to give to TC’s Professor Jack & Edee Mezirow Endowed Scholarship.]
I'm very committed to supporting students who are looking to address systemic issues that prevent organizations from being as efficient as they desire to be. That starts with fostering a diversity of thinking, doing and being.
In short order, Edgehill’s own career was transformed. “There was a wonderful mix of theory and practicality,” she says. “I loved Jack’s framework — that adults learn what they need, when they need it, in the way that’s best for them. Victoria Marsick was brilliant in applying that idea in workplaces that are focused on productivity, profitability and market share. We read Paulo Freire [the Brazilian philosopher who argued that education is never a neutral process, but either an act of freedom or a means of enforcing conformity], and learned about The Highlander Folk School [a training center for civil rights and labor activists such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and John Lewis] and empowering the learner.
“I graduated from AEGIS as a scholar practitioner,” she says. “The scholarly piece has really enabled me to hone my practice.”
After TC, Edgehill became President of The Partnership, a Boston-based nonprofit that works with minority and multicultural professionals and helps organizations make systemic changes needed to enable those employees to thrive. She also served on the White House Fellows Selection Board under both the Bush and Obama administrations. Her work made such an impact that it was written up as a Harvard Business School case study.
“It was great to be leading this strategic conversation across Boston, which at one time was less than welcoming to people of color,” she says.
Today Edgehill serves as global Vice President of Organizational Development for TJX Companies (the parent company of T.J. Maxx), where she has essentially built her function from scratch, and also teaches at Framingham State University.
“Our work is around being agents of change,” she says. “I’m very committed to supporting students who are looking to address systemic issues that prevent organizations from being as efficient as they desire to be. That starts with fostering a diversity of thinking, doing and being.”
To that end, Edgehill has also been a steady supporter of Teachers College, where she directs her gift to the TC Fund, for financial aid, and is a member of both the John Dewey Circle and Maxine Greene giving societies. Through her generosity, she hopes to encourage African-American women aspiring to a career in organizational leadership.
“There aren’t enough of us in the field,” she says. “Because of our experiences, we have so many layers of experience of awareness and understanding to contribute. And that’s what it’s all about.”