Alumni

Alumni Profiles


Jete Aliu

Economics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2017
 
Advisor on Youth Employment and Vocational Education and Training
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
 
My firm belief in the transformative power of education is rooted in my own educational journey. I finished my undergraduate studies at RIT Kosovo where I studied Economics and Management. The strong interest in education and economics sparked after taking courses on economic and social development. Living in a post-war country which is still in the development process, I have always wanted to give my contribution to the development of my country. And what a better way to help societal positive changes than through education! However, to make a positive contribution I was aware that I should first invest in my own education and professional development and use the knowledge and skills towards my cause. I was fortunate enough to receive a fully funded scholarship supported by the USAID and Ministry of Education in Kosovo which enabled me to receive my Master’s in one of the most renowned universities in the world. The knowledge, skills, and education that I received from TC changed the trajectory of my professional career and is helping me do my share in paving the way for prosperity in Kosovo.

My time at TC was the highlight of my educational journey. The Economics and Education program trained me to apply economic concepts and tools to address issues in education. The curriculum of the program helped me build technical competence in the basic tools of educational management and policy making. Courses that I took during my studies involved statistical analysis, and evaluation of education and social programs that helped me gain understanding of the importance of evidence-based reforms in effectively tackling issues in the education sector. While at TC, I also had the opportunity to learn from truly inspirational professors and had the privilege to meet a host of thoughtful and engaged individuals with deep expertise and passion for education. I left TC with many life-long friends, colleagues, and enriching experiences.

After I completed my studies at TC, I immediately came back to Kosovo to bring back the knowledge and skills in my country. I started to work as an Education Consultant with a local NGO where I had the opportunity to conduct several research projects about the education sector in Kosovo, including analyzing the impact of teacher quality and in-school resources on Kosovar students’ performance in  PISA 2015, identifying some of the challenges in the management of the pre-university education in Kosovo, and understanding the challenges of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system in Kosovo, with the purpose of supporting the Ministry of Education, schools, teachers, and other relevant stakeholders in their continuous effort to improve the quality of education delivery.  

Currently, I work as an advisor with the Youth, Employment, and Skills Project in Kosovo – a project commissioned by German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, which aims to enhance the employability of young people by improving the quality of VET and strengthening matching mechanisms between labor market supply and demand. In this role, I am able to design labor market measures that facilitate labor market integration for youth. As a strong advocate of social inclusion and equality, I focus my work mostly in the labor market integration for women and minorities.

Economics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, Ph.D. 2020

Assistant Professor
McCombs School of Business
The University of Texas at Austin
   

I started working in economics of education topics when I was still an Engineering undergraduate student at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. Given the context of the Chilean education system and reforms that were happening at the time, I was very interested in studying the potential impact of different policies on outcomes such as school segregation and educational opportunities.

After working at the Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) in Chile for a year, and completing my Masters in Social Policy in London, I decided to pursue a doctorate in Economics of Education. I was interested in a rigorous program that had a clear focus on education and social policy topics more broadly, so the PhD at Teachers College was a good fit.

During my time as a PhD student at TC, I was able to pursue and develop my interest in causal inference methodologies, combining it with important economic of education questions, particularly focused on educational opportunities and school segregation. I had the opportunity to colaborate with faculty both at Teachers College as well as Columbia at large, which was a great advantage for my own development.

I am currently an Assistant Professor in the Statistic Group at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. My research is focused on developing new methods for causal inference and expanding on current ones, to improve the evidence we can obtain from both observational studies and experiments. My work also primarly focuses on using these methods for building new evidence on pressing educational policy questions.

Eric Chan

Economics and Education Program

Teachers College, Columbia University, Ph.D. 2018

Assistant Professor of Statistics and Public Policy

Babson College

 

My interest in education piqued when I started working as a data analyst for the Boston Public Schools. There, I ran engagement surveys for parents, students, and teachers and analyzed the results. I found it fascinating that there were large gaps in parent engagement between high- and low- achieving schools, and desired to dive more into the subject through research.

I initially searched for graduate programs in education, but I soon realized that economic inequality was a significant determinant of family engagement. I widened my search for economics programs, and found TC’s Economics and Education program to be firmly what I wanted to study. I soon enrolled in the M.A. program, but proceeded to continue in the Ph.D. program.

During my doctoral experience, Professor Peter Bergman told me about his interest in studying how families respond to information and its effects on student outcomes. Soon, I was working with Peter on projects directly related to my subject of interest. My dissertation even focused on the role of parents as a determinant of educational inequality.

This led me to a tenure-track position at Babson College, where my studies currently help me pursue policy-oriented research using advanced quantitative methods. Since I am employed in a quantitative methods department in a school of management, I am seen by my peers as the expert on statistical analysis of education policy issues. Recently, I was tasked with studying the effect of the institution’s instructor evaluation on teaching behavior. The skills I learned in the Economics and Education program gave me much insight into answering such real-world problems.

Economics and Education

Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2018

Data and Assessment Specialist

New Bedford Public Schools – New Bedford, MA

Prior to applying to Teachers College, I was first an AmeriCorps volunteer at a high school in Philadelphia and, later, an elementary school teacher in Boston. The principals and instructional coaches at those schools emphasized the use of data in instruction, and I saw the tangible impact that this had on my practice. Making data-driven instructional decisions made me a more confident young teacher and informed a host of choices I made in the classroom. However, I had very limited experience with interpreting data from an undergraduate degree that had emphasized soft skills rather than hard ones. I loved being a teacher, but after four years in the classroom, I decided to make a shift towards a different type of role. At this point, I had the education “bug” and wanted to find a new role that kept me as fulfilled as I had been as teacher.

When I began looking at graduate programs to help me make that transition to a new role, I wanted to make sure that whatever I studied would include coursework in hard skills. While data and statistics were included in many education policy programs, the Economics and Education program at Teachers College appeared to have a stronger focus in quantitative methods. I ultimately chose this program over others based on a combination of that quantitatively rigorous coursework and the reputation of the university.

The program was exactly what I hoped it would be; throughout the 11 courses, I was exposed to a well-balanced mix of educational policy, statistics, data science, and economics. The program does allow a lot of flexibility, and – in hindsight – I wish I had committed to taking even more challenging courses in data science and research methods. Ultimately, I think I got a lot of value from the courses I did take, and the majority of people in my cohort felt the same way.

In addition to the coursework, I was able to get involved with the broader Teachers College community by engaging with my department’s student leadership group, a group dedicated to rural education policy, and several of my professors through lecture series and their own research. I also took three internships while I was a student; I interned at two different think tanks in their education policy divisions and with the New York City Department of Education’s enrollment office.

Since leaving Teachers College, I’ve worked as a consultant for NYC DOE, a data associate for a Harlem-based charter school network, and – now – as the leader of data analytics for a small urban school district in my home state. Within two years of finishing the program, I now advise the superintendent directly, conduct ad hoc research projects, develop data tools for principals and district-level leaders, and serve as a member and, occasionally, leader of several district-wide working groups. 

As I look towards the future, I have more ambitious professional goals for myself than I had before my experience in the Economics and Education program. I love my current job a lot; it is challenging, engaging, and still gives me that same sense of purpose I had as a teacher. I’m not sure what the next steps in my career are going to be, but I haven’t ruled out a return to Teachers College to continue on with a PhD.

Economics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2018

Content Director
Hanover Research

My passion in life has always been to affect change in the education system. As an undergraduate, I studied mathematics and economics, while also having the opportunity to intern as at an education policy non-profit and teach high school Mathematics at a public school. My early interests in education and professional experiences motivated me to pursue a career where I could use economics to better understand how to affect this change in education I spoke about so frequently.  Stumbling upon the Economics and Education program in a search for greater opportunities to make an impact in education, I knew instantly it was the program for me. My experiences with my fellow classmates and incredible faculty gave me a solid knowledge of education policy, a deeper understanding of economic theories, and molded me into the professional I am today. As a master's student, I had multiple opportunities to apply the concepts I was learning about in my work as a Resident Researcher and the non-profit New Visions for Public Schools.

I am currently a Content Director for Hanover Research outside of Washington, D.C., where I lead strategic relationships with domestic and international higher education clients to help them solve critical issues within their institutions. I design and implement projects with a team of researchers to help institutions answer their most pressing questions, often utilizing economic theories, content knowledge, and research principles I learned in the Economics and Education program. I utilize multiple methodologies to go about answering the questions ranging from secondary research to qualitative, quantitative, and survey methodologies.

I am still connected to Teachers College in a number of ways and will forever be thankful for the opportunities afforded to me thanks to Teachers College and the Economics and Education program. During my tenure at Teachers College, I created wonderful relationships with my cohort and continue to stay in touch to this day.

Economics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2019

Program Officer – Research

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation - Kansas City, MO

The relationship between education and economic development first captured my attention in an undergraduate capstone course called State and Society. I had yet to decide what to do after graduation but was certain I wanted to continue learning about the role of education policy, human capital, and innovation in stimulating economic growth. I knew I should go to graduate school but had no idea what type of degree or field of study would be best. I ended up spending several years in Asia, teaching health and English in rural Thailand and starting a teacher training and job placement company in Shanghai, China, while I looked for the right graduate program.

I still remember exactly where I was when I discovered the Economics and Education program at Teacher’s College. While working in Asia, I had become increasingly interested in the gap between education policy and the functional skills needed to grow the local economy. I was curious if and how policy interventions could distribute the knowledge and skills among the local population and effectively close these gaps. After discovering the Economics and Education program, I stopped searching for other graduate programs and focused all my energy on applying to TC.

The knowledge and skills that I acquired during my two years in the Economics and Education program jumpstarted my career. Each professor has their own expertise, which exposed me to a blend of literature and theory across a variety of disciplines. In addition, the courses in statistics and data science provided me with tools to conduct quantitative analyses, which I previously had no experience.

The most impactful aspect of the Economics and Education program, in my experience, was the networking. Within a few months of my first semester, I received a TC email regarding a job at the New York City Department of Education. The department director was a former TC graduate. Despite being in my first semester at TC and having no prior quantitative experience, the director knew I was enrolled in statistics courses and trusted the TC program enough to offer me a position as a data manager. It was the best job I had ever been offered.

After graduating, a TC professor suggested that I look into working at the Kauffman Foundation. Being from Kansas City, I was familiar with Kauffman’s work in entrepreneurship and education but did not know any of the current staff. This professor happened to have a strong professional relationship with a few associates at Kauffman and offered to email them a recommendation. The introduction led to a full-time job as a research economist, where I currently manage a research grant portfolio and conduct data analysis on entrepreneurship.

My ability to perform the functions of my job is directly attributable to the knowledge and skills that I have acquired through the Economics and Education program. As I map my career path for the foreseeable future, I continue to reference the positive impact of my experiences at TC.

Charles Ogundimu

Economics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, Ph.D. 2014
 
High School Principal
New York City Department of Education
 
My interest in economics was piqued as an undergraduate majoring in Business Administration - with a specialization in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management.  Teaching middle and high school mathematics after completing my bachelor’s degree illuminated my interest in education, leading to my pursuit of graduate work first in computing, then in economics and education.  I was particularly interested in the congruence of resource allocation and educational outcomes in inner-city schools.  The Economics and Education program at Teachers College (TC) answered many of my then lingering questions.  I remained in high school teaching, transitioning into administrative and supervisory positions as I pursued my doctoral studies in the Economics and Education program at TC.  

Through my doctoral program, I had the opportunity to learn from distinguished faculty members who have been immersed in the study of the intersection of economics principles and education theory and practice.  The advantages of the exposure to the substantive verification of academic principles vis-à-vis practical applications that such training affords, are immeasurable.  As a practitioner, the skills that I have acquired as a result of my doctoral work in Economics and Education will continue to be invaluable to me in all dimensions.  Not only have I been proficiently trained to conduct, analyze and report meaningful empirical research to scholarly and lay audiences alike, I have also been well-prepared in how to properly translate research findings into practical use – two indispensable skills that have undoubtedly informed my role as a practitioner.  

Economics and Education Program
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2020

Culturally Responsive Coordinator
Denver Public Schools

I want to honor the Lenape Nation, bearers of the land Teachers College sits on. I want to honor my ancestors and their friends who without their resilience and joy, I would not be here. I want to call my European bloodline to use their privilege to abolish racial and ethnic systems of oppression.

There are voices who need to be heard. I used to believe the field of economics would save us, despite my economics’ advisor’s warnings while I completed my undergraduate training. I came to Teachers College knowing what to do, and left with a humbling understanding that I must ground my Self first. I used to believe charter schools and private schools aimed at serving students of color laid the foundation for college preparation. When Bettina Love called character education and social emotional learning – the essence of many of these schools – spirit-murdering, I paused my Self.

I am developing as an advocate for my community, but I must understand my own internalized racism and biases if I ever want to stand on that platform. My people are like water. When we encounter barriers, we navigate around them and show the way for others behind us. We find grounding in each other, and joy in reaffirming one another’s humanity. We stand for Black liberation, for in the mattering of Black lives, we all matter.

Oftentimes, in the Economics of Education, we may immerse ourselves in experimentation before grounding our positionalities. I am grounding myself and listening to my people as I engage with them as the Culturally Responsive Coordinator at Denver Public Schools. I will be pursuing my Ph.D. and continue to explore how to better listen and grow with my community to pass on our legacy. I am grateful to those whose shoulders I stand on. Gracias a todos ustedes.

Economics and Education Program

Teachers College, Columbia University, Ph.D. 2019

Postdoctoral Scholar

Golub Capital Social Impact Lab, Stanford Graduate School of Business

 

My interest in education started while I was volunteering at the Berkeley Engineers and Mentors (BEAM) program during my undergraduate degree. I visited nearby elementary schools and jointly created lesson plans (with fun and exciting hands-on activities) to engage students in the field of science and engineering. I still remember the smiles on students' faces after creating bottle rockets and circuits. This memory became a driving force to continue volunteering as a teacher/mentor across several countries. Over the years, I've noticed a large difference in education quality and opportunities and that the governmental policies played an important role in making this difference. I knew I wanted to learn more about education policies and how to evaluate them. I've searched for programs that align with my interests and where my quantitative skills can be useful. Teachers College Economics and Education Ph.D program was a perfect fit.
 
My doctoral program helped me build a fundamental understanding of the core areas in education research. I've learned what each policy/program aims to improve and the hows. I've also learned the tools of using causal inference for impact evaluation and the importance of looking at the intersection of education and labor market, crime, and technology. Professor Judith Scott-Clayton gave me the opportunity to work on projects that conducted research at these intersections. For example, we looked at the impact of financial aid eligibility on financial aid packages and labor supplies of community college students. This project helped me think about the broader parties that influence and are influenced by education policies/programs. Also, working with Judy helped me to bridge my prior statistical tools (e.g. machine learning and data mining) with casual inference for conducting education research.
 
I am currently a postdoctoral scholar at the Golub Capital Social Impact lab at Stanford GSB, where I lead research projects in education technology. I use machine learning tools (e.g Bayesian matrix factorization models, recommendation systems) and causal inference to help improve the effectiveness of education technology companies by aligning instruction to personalized student needs. The skills I learned from the TC economics and education program are used daily when thinking about the metrics and outcomes to measure learning and engagement and identifying features to develop that can help different parties influencing student learning (teachers, parents, students, principals, and policymakers).
 

 

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