Providing Access and Opportunity: James Nadeau | Teachers College Columbia University

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Providing Access and Opportunity: James Nadeau
(M.A., Higher & Postsecondary Education)


Life Before TC:

James Nadeau always had a pretty good idea that he wanted to help students from underrepresented groups find success in college and careers. After college, he spent a year in Zambia working for a non-profit organization that gave low-income students the opportunity to attend private boarding schools. In 2011, he came to New York to work for The Opportunity Network, where he built partnerships with institutions of higher education and advocated for students who might otherwise have fallen through the many cracks in the educational pipeline. 

Why TC:

It was fulfilling work but, Jamie says, “at some point I realized that I wanted to gain some skills and experience and broaden my understanding of issues of equity and access to higher education. I was missing the key theoretical underpinnings, and wanted to dig deeper into the implications of the work I was doing, learn more about student developmental theory, organizational theory, education policy – things that would help me improve student lives in a broader way.” He began working toward an M.A. in Education Policy at TC, but ultimately decided that he wanted a more hands-on role than he might have as a policy expert, and moved into Higher and Postsecondary Education, where he could pursue a “hybrid” between policy and action.  

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TC Takeaway:


Jamie says his TC program has given him exactly what he had hoped for: a better understanding of theory and policy, combined with practical experience that has included assessing a skills-based program at John Jay College’s College Now Program, studying a student advising program at Hostos Community College, working with the New Jersey Council of County Colleges trying to improve graduation rates at community colleges, and serving as a research assistant to Noah Drezner, Associate Professor of Higher and Postsecondary Education, doing work on the new peer-edited journal Drezner has founded, Philanthropy and Education. Outside the classroom, Jamie took on the role of Community Assistant in campus housing, where he worked primarily with many non-traditional students enrolled at Columbia’s School of General Studies and became more aware of their range of needs within the higher education system.  As a Zankel Fellow at TC, he has also worked with REACH running a political debate club for high school students at Frederick Douglas Academy II.

What’s Next:

Within days of leaving TC, Jamie will already be off and running in his new position as the first Program Director for a recently-inaugurated project to support higher education for veterans, run by the Posse Foundation.  Posse provides scholarships and ongoing support for cohorts of students with identified potential, “many of whom might have been overlooked by traditional college selection processes,” according to the program’s website. For the past several years, Posse has begun working on a new program specifically for military veterans, partnering with three of the nation’s most elite colleges, Dartmouth, Vassar, and Wesleyan. “I’m going to have to use some that entrepreneurial spirit that has been improved and strengthened since I’ve been here” at TC, Jamie says. But he is excited by all the possibility of working with his new team to build a lasting program to help veterans transition from a military life to the life of the college campus – where they will trade in the challenges posed by commanding officers and improvised explosive devices for the demands of exacting professors and life in a community of 18-year-olds fresh out of high school. “These campuses approached Posse and were aware of the challenges and some of the particular things that need to be kept in mind when supporting this population of students,” Jamie says. “But they’re doing an important thing: veterans are a population that are being overlooked in terms of access to higher education.” He’s sure that Posse, noted for its model of sending students to college in mutually-supportive cohorts, is just the organization that can begin making a dent in this problem. “Posse is doing something pretty innovative,” he says, “but they’re very self-aware and reflective, and opening to continually re-examining the best way to do it.”

—Ellen Livingston

Published Friday, May 6, 2016

James Nadeau

James Nadeau

James Nadeau

James Nadeau