Sifting through an electronic stack of older documents, I ran across an assignment from my freshman year of undergraduate school that caught my attention. It was my personal mission statement. In it I wrote, “My personal challenge is to learn as much about the people around me and people of different places as I can.” Life circumstances have evolved and some of my goals have changed, nevertheless, the essence of my personal challenge has not changed a great deal. I am still very much interested in learning from others and applying the results of my observations to enhance institutions, processes, and policies, specifically as they relate to international education and opportunities.
My passion for working with underserved groups and interest in international education was sparked during my undergraduate years at the University of Washington. While there, I was accepted to a prestigious fellowship program called the Institute for International Public Policy (IIPP) that encouraged me to use my Spanish language and cultural competency, enhanced by my experiences abroad, to encourage and support individuals from diverse backgrounds. Soon after, I began working on these issues with the Digital Learning Commons (DLC) in Seattle. That experience led me to joining the staff of University of Washington’s Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMA/D). Both of these opportunities taught me the importance of valuing diverse perspectives by working both as a part of a small staff and independently to achieve ambitious organizational goals. This is one of several reasons why I have chosen to apply to the George Mason University’s (GMU) Education and Human Resources PhD program in International Education.
Through my involvement with the DLC and later with OMA/D, I was motivated to work more intimately with policy development and implementation and more broadly international education. As an IIPP alum, I kept in close contact with the fellowship staff and was fortunate to find an opportunity to work with the UNCF Special Programs (UNCFSP), an organization dedicated to enhancing educational opportunities and resources for minority communities. As the program manager of the IIPP program at UNCFSP, I have been able to work alongside organizational staff to generate proposals for funding opportunities, implement program evaluation, collect and organize data, and contribute to reports for the U.S. Department of Education. I also took on the task of enhancing the management of knowledge and cords for a specific program through database maintenance. In supporting program components, I have come to coordinate webinars, manage listservs, and regularly monitor website content. This has allowed me to work closely with the program Director and government agencies, like the U.S. Department of State, to arrange events and outreach efforts. All of these experiences coupled with my ability to quickly learn changing systems, gives me confidence in my ability to meet the demands of the rigorous coursework of the program.
My ultimate goal is to work with institutions of higher learning, abroad and/or domestically, to explore ways in which institutions and educational policies could be enhanced by introducing international components into them. I would like look at approaches to building collaborative inter-sectoral partnerships that would develop strategies to enhance education systems and support models of learning that teach global competencies and sustainable and healthy living practices.
As a personal advocate for the improvement of education standards, I am committed to ensuring that every stakeholder involved in the education process has access to information and support mechanisms. The education program at GMU will give me the opportunity to further improve in areas that I have less experience, such as research development and advanced statistical analysis. I would also be able to support the contributions the Education program has made to the body of knowledge and techniques in the area of comparative and international education development. With so much to gain from this program, it is my fervent hope that I will contribute to the program by providing a unique perspective, valuable experience, a willingness to work hard, and a demonstrative passion for education.
The availability of resources, mentoring, and opportunities for campus involvement have also led me to the conclusion that the GMU’s Education and Human Resources doctoral program international education is the program that will best lead me to achieving my goals. GMU has a long-standing history of producing qualified professionals and contributing research in the field of international education. The program allows students to work on research and policy issues closely aligned with my interests and abilities. It would give me an exceptional opportunity to learn from and work with seasoned researchers and practitioners in areas of analysis aimed at improving existing educational systems and policies. The GMU School of Education also has a number of centers, departments and course offerings that focus on issues that I am interested in investigating like cross-disciplinary models of education, social justice, and the integration of existing and future technology into education.
They say the most talented and bright leaders are not those who presume to know everything about their craft; they are the ones who know how to seek out the resources that will help them get to the solution. Applying to the GMU Educational and Human Resources doctoral program is part of my effort to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to address issues in international higher education and continue on my quest to address my personal challenge.