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TC Today - Spring / Summer 2015

TC Today - Spring / Summer 2015

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Early Risers

Young alumni who are organizational leaders 

GALIT BEN-JOSEPH (M.A. ’98) Motivating Employees by Treating Them Well An Investment Manager Now Teaches Her Creed: In People We Trust

Galit Ben-Joseph discovered TC’s master’s degree program in organizational psychology as a fresh-faced college graduate newly in charge of “very disgruntled 65-year-olds” in check processing in the basement of a Chase Manhattan Bank in Brooklyn.

“I couldn’t believe there was a place where I could learn to be a good manager,” she says. “People get promoted because they’re good at their job. No one teaches them.”

At TC, she studied the ideas of the late psychologist Frederick Herzberg, who believed in motivating employees by treating them well, recognizing their efforts and giving them opportunities for advancement. For Ben-Joseph, whose parents emigrated from Israel, created their own business and went back to school, those ideas resonated with an out­look born of “your classic immigrant dream of making it in this wonderful country.”

After her stint at Chase, Ben-Joseph earned an MBA and worked at Goldman Sachs and Neuberger Ber­man. She is now Executive Director and Financial Advisor at J.P. Morgan Secu­rities. “I work 100 percent in finance and yet I barely took any finance courses,” she says. “Psychology makes me successful, because people have emotional attachments and issues with their money. Of course, I try to deliver a very attractive risk-adjusted return, but it’s essential that my clients know they can trust me to explain things to them in normal terms.”

In fact, Ben-Joseph considers relationship building so im­portant to management that she teaches it as Clinical As­sistant Professor at Yeshiva University. 

“Throughout my entire career, I’ve been talking about these same theories and I completely believe in their power and how people respond to them,” she says.

 

ABENA AGYEMANG (M.A. ’12) Voice for Choice:  Helping Parents Be Education Entrepreneurs

In the conversation about schooling, “parents are an ignored voice,” says Abena Agyemang, National Director of School Partnerships at Families for Excellent Schools. “Especially black, brown and lower-income parents.” n The daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, Agyemang commuted three hours daily to junior high school before the organization Prep for Prep helped her attend Phillips Exeter and then Tufts University.

“Kids should not have to travel as far as I did to get a good education,” she told Forbes in January when the magazine named her to its “30 Under 30: Education” list. “My parents weren’t empowered, but thankfully other people along the way were able to educate them.”

Agyemang studied education economics at TC and worked at Hyde Leadership Charter School in Hunts Point. “That experience inside a school connected me to students and families,” she said. “I ran everything, from testing to after-school programming and volunteers.”

When she decided to join an advo­cacy organization, Families for Excellent Schools stood out in “really trying to give parents a seat at the table.” Agyemang mobilizes nearly 60,000 people annually for rallies “where parents give the speeches.” She credits TC for honing her skills, but it’s clear she developed at least one earlier on.

“I don’t want to decide what I think is best,” she says. “I want to keep on listening to families and parents.”

My parents weren’t empowered, but thankfully, other people were able to educate them.

 

PATRICK KO (M.A. ’10) “Everyone Has Genius” An Education Innovator Finds His Calling

Months into a dream job launching a progressive school in Taiwan, Patrick Ko was struggling.

It was very high-profile, and we were trying to do too much too fast,” recalls Ko, who studied at TC’s Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership and spoke at Convocation in 2010.

Then Ko read the organizational guru Stephen Covey’s The Leader in Me — “an operating system for schools that says, basically, ‘Everyone has genius, and the teachers’ role is to unleash it.’”

The message struck home. Born in Taiwan to parents who met in graduate school in the United States, Ko lived with an aunt in Los Angeles during sixth grade in order to learn English. “It opened my mind,” he says. “It’s not common now, but in Taiwan, teachers sometimes beat us with a stick for low test scores.”

After studying economics and engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, Ko interned with Goldman Sachs in Tokyo, but was unhappy. So he backpacked across Asia, teaching in Nepal and Thailand, and felt “this sense of reward, like a fish finding water.”

A few years later, he quita high-paying job in Silicon Valley to teach, and eventually discovered the Klingenstein Center, where he wrote most of his papers on Taiwan.

Today, Ko is thriving as both a teacher and a CEO, having successfully pitched Franklin Covey (the late author’s training and consulting firm) to represent The Leader in Me process in Taiwan.

“I used to think, ‘I have worth, and I am here to change you,’” he says. “Now, I understand that all people have unique worth and potential, and my mission is to communicate this fact to help them attain greatness.”

 

SARAH GILLMAN (M.A. ’93, M.B.A. ’93) Putting Money Where the Mission Is How a CFO Mobilized Resources to Protect the Environment

Non-profits are businesses, right? a lot of people dislike the word, but the fund flow is huge,” says Sarah Gillman, former CFO of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the 1.4 million-member environmental action organization. “You put mis­sion and strategy first, but to deliver the best possi­ble services, you have to ensure the financial health of the organization.”

Gillman was enrolled in TC’s Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership, between stints as a math and history teacher at St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn, when she began thinking about non-profit governance. With the department of Organization & Leadership as her base, Gillman pursued a joint degree with the Columbia Business School.

“[Klingenstein Director] Pearl Kane got commissioned to write a paper for the Association of Governing Boards on effective management of boards of indepen­dent schools,” Gillman recalls. “She asked me and some of the other students to help, and that really started me on my professional journey. Today there’s a whole field of study around social enterprise that’s really taken off.”

Gillman subsequently worked as a management consultant for universities and non-profits before serving as Vice President for Budgets and Planning at the Wildlife Conservation Society and CFO at Save the Children.

Much of Gillman’s work at NRDC focused on resource allocation. “Whenmoney comes in, how are we going to spend it? For us to achieve, we have to direct funds towards the highest-impact work.” Technol­ogy, which often falls under her purview, is a big piece of the equation. “I have to understand the technology needs of the organization to ensure we can accomplish our goals.”

She gets involved on the front lines too — for example, organizing a fossil fuel-free investment fund. “Our board decided very early on to divest from oil, coal and natural gas,” she says. “We went to the investment markets and said, ‘We want this kind of product, we can come up with other investors.’”

Now, Gillman says, “people are really waking up to the need to address climate, be­cause it’s frightening when you start understanding the tremendous impact that carbon pollution has on the health of the planet.

“I want to continue to do great work helping organizations that change the world around us,” she adds. “My area of interest has been doing that through strong financial manage­ment and making sure that organizations are really thinking critically about impact.”

 

AZADEH JAMALIAN (PH.D. ’14) Shaping Learning for Toddlers Digital Toys that Kids Can Manipulate with Their Hands

As chief learning officer for Tiggly, the learn­ing toy company she co-founded as a TC student, Azi Jamalian channels playing Super Mario with her brother back in Iran.

“When you design games and activities for kids, you need to remember what you liked yourself,” says Jamalian, who at 16 moved with her family to Vancouver. “It’s OK for kids to spend time on digital devices if the apps are designed with learning development in mind. But physical play matters, too. So we said, let’s design toys kids can manipulate in their hands but also use on an iPad.”

The resulting Tiggly Shapes hand-sized squares, stars, triangles and circles with silicon touch points that an iPad can “read” made Time’s 2013 “Toys That Will Make Your Kids Smarter” list. Using the toys to find animals on a virtual farm, jungle or ocean, “kids learn their shapes and improve their spatial thinking and creativity,” Jamalian says.

Tiggly Counts, a second prod­uct, has triggered nearly 700,000 downloads of Tiggly’s apps.

Jamalian still taps lessons learned studying game design and cognitive theories at TC. “We stand behind our promises — that kids will like it and kids will learn from it.”

 

ANDREW COHEN (M.A. ’08) No Time to Conjugate Language Learning on a Need-to-Know Basis

As an international economist based in Martinique and then Panama, Andrew Cohen needed to improve his language skills in a hurry. The result wound up as one of the world’s largest and most successful mobile study platforms.

I was supposed to be fighting corruption,” says Cohen, a former World Bank e-learning consultant. “I couldn’t be pausing to conjugate verbs in my head.”

So Cohen tapped other skills. Working with an Excel spread­sheet, he paired French and Spanish words with their English counter-parts and created an algorithm that prompted the system to show him word pairs at different intervals, from every 30 seconds for pairs he knew least well to every month for those he knew best.

“From being a gringo who took five minutes to brief a reporter or cabinet member, I became able to function in another language,” he says.

With friends asking for the program, Cohen knew he had the basis for a marketable app but not the know-how to bring it to scale. “I Googled ‘Masters, Education Technology’ and Teachers College came up,” he says.

At TC, Cohen made his app, Brainscape, the focus of every project. In 2010, backed by family and friends, he launched Brainscape the company, targeting “the serious learner who wants to internalize a huge amount of content very quickly.” Brainscape has since logged six million app installations and registered more than a million members, including students from middle through medical school, as well as companies, police academies and even the Vatican.

“TC helped me bridge worlds,” Cohen says. “They started me from a place of really caring about the learner and doing everything with learning outcomes in mind. That’s why Brainscape is a success.”

 

Published Friday, Jun. 5, 2015

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Early Risers

GALIT BEN-JOSEPH (M.A. ’98) Motivating Employees by Treating Them Well An Investment Manager Now Teaches Her Creed: In People We Trust

Galit Ben-Joseph discovered TC’s master’s degree program in organizational psychology as a fresh-faced college graduate newly in charge of “very disgruntled 65-year-olds” in check processing in the basement of a Chase Manhattan Bank in Brooklyn.

“I couldn’t believe there was a place where I could learn to be a good manager,” she says. “People get promoted because they’re good at their job. No one teaches them.”

At TC, she studied the ideas of the late psychologist Frederick Herzberg, who believed in motivating employees by treating them well, recognizing their efforts and giving them opportunities for advancement. For Ben-Joseph, whose parents emigrated from Israel, created their own business and went back to school, those ideas resonated with an out­look born of “your classic immigrant dream of making it in this wonderful country.”

After her stint at Chase, Ben-Joseph earned an MBA and worked at Goldman Sachs and Neuberger Ber­man. She is now Executive Director and Financial Advisor at J.P. Morgan Secu­rities. “I work 100 percent in finance and yet I barely took any finance courses,” she says. “Psychology makes me successful, because people have emotional attachments and issues with their money. Of course, I try to deliver a very attractive risk-adjusted return, but it’s essential that my clients know they can trust me to explain things to them in normal terms.”

In fact, Ben-Joseph considers relationship building so im­portant to management that she teaches it as Clinical As­sistant Professor at Yeshiva University. 

“Throughout my entire career, I’ve been talking about these same theories and I completely believe in their power and how people respond to them,” she says.

 

ABENA AGYEMANG (M.A. ’12) Voice for Choice:  Helping Parents Be Education Entrepreneurs

In the conversation about schooling, “parents are an ignored voice,” says Abena Agyemang, National Director of School Partnerships at Families for Excellent Schools. “Especially black, brown and lower-income parents.” n The daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, Agyemang commuted three hours daily to junior high school before the organization Prep for Prep helped her attend Phillips Exeter and then Tufts University.

“Kids should not have to travel as far as I did to get a good education,” she told Forbes in January when the magazine named her to its “30 Under 30: Education” list. “My parents weren’t empowered, but thankfully other people along the way were able to educate them.”

Agyemang studied education economics at TC and worked at Hyde Leadership Charter School in Hunts Point. “That experience inside a school connected me to students and families,” she said. “I ran everything, from testing to after-school programming and volunteers.”

When she decided to join an advo­cacy organization, Families for Excellent Schools stood out in “really trying to give parents a seat at the table.” Agyemang mobilizes nearly 60,000 people annually for rallies “where parents give the speeches.” She credits TC for honing her skills, but it’s clear she developed at least one earlier on.

“I don’t want to decide what I think is best,” she says. “I want to keep on listening to families and parents.”

My parents weren’t empowered, but thankfully, other people were able to educate them.

 

PATRICK KO (M.A. ’10) “Everyone Has Genius” An Education Innovator Finds His Calling

Months into a dream job launching a progressive school in Taiwan, Patrick Ko was struggling.

It was very high-profile, and we were trying to do too much too fast,” recalls Ko, who studied at TC’s Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership and spoke at Convocation in 2010.

Then Ko read the organizational guru Stephen Covey’s The Leader in Me — “an operating system for schools that says, basically, ‘Everyone has genius, and the teachers’ role is to unleash it.’”

The message struck home. Born in Taiwan to parents who met in graduate school in the United States, Ko lived with an aunt in Los Angeles during sixth grade in order to learn English. “It opened my mind,” he says. “It’s not common now, but in Taiwan, teachers sometimes beat us with a stick for low test scores.”

After studying economics and engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, Ko interned with Goldman Sachs in Tokyo, but was unhappy. So he backpacked across Asia, teaching in Nepal and Thailand, and felt “this sense of reward, like a fish finding water.”

A few years later, he quita high-paying job in Silicon Valley to teach, and eventually discovered the Klingenstein Center, where he wrote most of his papers on Taiwan.

Today, Ko is thriving as both a teacher and a CEO, having successfully pitched Franklin Covey (the late author’s training and consulting firm) to represent The Leader in Me process in Taiwan.

“I used to think, ‘I have worth, and I am here to change you,’” he says. “Now, I understand that all people have unique worth and potential, and my mission is to communicate this fact to help them attain greatness.”

 

SARAH GILLMAN (M.A. ’93, M.B.A. ’93) Putting Money Where the Mission Is How a CFO Mobilized Resources to Protect the Environment

Non-profits are businesses, right? a lot of people dislike the word, but the fund flow is huge,” says Sarah Gillman, former CFO of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the 1.4 million-member environmental action organization. “You put mis­sion and strategy first, but to deliver the best possi­ble services, you have to ensure the financial health of the organization.”

Gillman was enrolled in TC’s Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership, between stints as a math and history teacher at St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn, when she began thinking about non-profit governance. With the department of Organization & Leadership as her base, Gillman pursued a joint degree with the Columbia Business School.

“[Klingenstein Director] Pearl Kane got commissioned to write a paper for the Association of Governing Boards on effective management of boards of indepen­dent schools,” Gillman recalls. “She asked me and some of the other students to help, and that really started me on my professional journey. Today there’s a whole field of study around social enterprise that’s really taken off.”

Gillman subsequently worked as a management consultant for universities and non-profits before serving as Vice President for Budgets and Planning at the Wildlife Conservation Society and CFO at Save the Children.

Much of Gillman’s work at NRDC focused on resource allocation. “Whenmoney comes in, how are we going to spend it? For us to achieve, we have to direct funds towards the highest-impact work.” Technol­ogy, which often falls under her purview, is a big piece of the equation. “I have to understand the technology needs of the organization to ensure we can accomplish our goals.”

She gets involved on the front lines too — for example, organizing a fossil fuel-free investment fund. “Our board decided very early on to divest from oil, coal and natural gas,” she says. “We went to the investment markets and said, ‘We want this kind of product, we can come up with other investors.’”

Now, Gillman says, “people are really waking up to the need to address climate, be­cause it’s frightening when you start understanding the tremendous impact that carbon pollution has on the health of the planet.

“I want to continue to do great work helping organizations that change the world around us,” she adds. “My area of interest has been doing that through strong financial manage­ment and making sure that organizations are really thinking critically about impact.”

 

AZADEH JAMALIAN (PH.D. ’14) Shaping Learning for Toddlers Digital Toys that Kids Can Manipulate with Their Hands

As chief learning officer for Tiggly, the learn­ing toy company she co-founded as a TC student, Azi Jamalian channels playing Super Mario with her brother back in Iran.

“When you design games and activities for kids, you need to remember what you liked yourself,” says Jamalian, who at 16 moved with her family to Vancouver. “It’s OK for kids to spend time on digital devices if the apps are designed with learning development in mind. But physical play matters, too. So we said, let’s design toys kids can manipulate in their hands but also use on an iPad.”

The resulting Tiggly Shapes hand-sized squares, stars, triangles and circles with silicon touch points that an iPad can “read” made Time’s 2013 “Toys That Will Make Your Kids Smarter” list. Using the toys to find animals on a virtual farm, jungle or ocean, “kids learn their shapes and improve their spatial thinking and creativity,” Jamalian says.

Tiggly Counts, a second prod­uct, has triggered nearly 700,000 downloads of Tiggly’s apps.

Jamalian still taps lessons learned studying game design and cognitive theories at TC. “We stand behind our promises — that kids will like it and kids will learn from it.”

 

ANDREW COHEN (M.A. ’08) No Time to Conjugate Language Learning on a Need-to-Know Basis

As an international economist based in Martinique and then Panama, Andrew Cohen needed to improve his language skills in a hurry. The result wound up as one of the world’s largest and most successful mobile study platforms.

I was supposed to be fighting corruption,” says Cohen, a former World Bank e-learning consultant. “I couldn’t be pausing to conjugate verbs in my head.”

So Cohen tapped other skills. Working with an Excel spread­sheet, he paired French and Spanish words with their English counter-parts and created an algorithm that prompted the system to show him word pairs at different intervals, from every 30 seconds for pairs he knew least well to every month for those he knew best.

“From being a gringo who took five minutes to brief a reporter or cabinet member, I became able to function in another language,” he says.

With friends asking for the program, Cohen knew he had the basis for a marketable app but not the know-how to bring it to scale. “I Googled ‘Masters, Education Technology’ and Teachers College came up,” he says.

At TC, Cohen made his app, Brainscape, the focus of every project. In 2010, backed by family and friends, he launched Brainscape the company, targeting “the serious learner who wants to internalize a huge amount of content very quickly.” Brainscape has since logged six million app installations and registered more than a million members, including students from middle through medical school, as well as companies, police academies and even the Vatican.

“TC helped me bridge worlds,” Cohen says. “They started me from a place of really caring about the learner and doing everything with learning outcomes in mind. That’s why Brainscape is a success.”

 

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