Category Archives: Perspectives

2017 Brown Urban Education Policy Conference

On May 16, 2017, the Brown University Urban Education Policy Master’s Program held its annual conference, featuring presentations of the work of the internships of 23 UEP students (a 24th in spirit from the maternity ward!) related to creating, supporting, and sustaining an equitable education system. UEP-Conference1

The day began with opening remarks by Dr. Kenneth Wong, Walter and Leonore Annenberg Professor of Education Policy and Chair of the Department of Education.


Panel 1 (“Involving Diverse Stakeholders To Build Student Agency and Civic Capacity”) was moderated by Professor Andrea Flores and featured UEP student panelists Melanie Bowdish, Maureen Dizon, Rebecca Lessard, Jeanine Mason, Sabrina Uribe-Ruggiero, and Kunal Vasudev. Teach for America Alumna Kristine Frech served as the panel discussant.


Panel 2 (“Assessing and Monitoring Conditions for Student Success”) was moderated by Professor John Papay and featured UEP student panelists Sam Ashley, Dalma Diaz, Martin Quirk, Michael Ricci, Kelly Rosiles-Villagomez, and Chun Wu. Mateus Baptista from the office of the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey served as the panel discussant.


Tom Flanagan, Chief Academic Officer of the Providence Public School District, provided an engaging keynote speech during the lunch portion of the conference, providing his own perspective on education equity.


Panel 3 (“Ensuring Equitable Opportunities to Improve Outcomes for All Learners”) was moderated by Professor Michael Grady and featured UEP student panelists Madalyn Ciampi, Briana Jimenez, Evert Justice Finger, Emily Lysaght, Karina Rodriguez, and Harkaran Uppal. Brown UEP alumna and Harvard Ed.D. candidate Heather Johnson served as the panel discussant.


Panel 4 (“Supporting Positive School Culture”) was moderated by Professor Matthew Kraft and featured UEP student panelists Megan Baker, Donald Kost, Ariel Neumann, Erica Prenda, Rebecca Salzman- Fiske, and John Sharrott. Kirtley Fisher, Performance Management Executive at the Rhode Island Department of Education, served as the panel discussant.


Site supervisors, colleagues, and friends of the 23 presenters learned about fascinating internship projects, many that will continue to be pursued in months and years to come, by Brown UEP students at sites in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Illinois, Washington, D.C., ,and India.

The Brown Department of Education congratulates all of our Urban Education Policy master’s program students for their wonderful work and presentations!

UEP Cohort XI 2


UEP Alumna Branta Lockett ’16 in BEST Program

Branta Lockett

Branta Lockett

The Brown Education Department would like to share an interview given to the Brown Graduate School by Branta Lockett, AM ’16, about her experience in the Brown Executive Scholars Training (BEST) program. BEST, established in 2010, is designed to expose doctoral and advanced master’s degree students to careers in higher education administration. Every fall, eight to 10 graduate students are chosen to participate in this 12-week mentored, education and training program, which is sponsored by the Graduate School and the Office of Institutional Diversity.


How did you hear about the BEST program? What made you want to apply?
I initially heard about the BEST program while attending Admit Day in March 2016. During this event Dr. Wong, Chair of the Education department, mentioned that several of the Urban Education Policy students participated in the BEST program and had great experiences. I decided to apply to the BEST program because I wanted to learn more about higher education administration. In particular, I wanted to learn how administrators can use their positions to help create environments that support the success of marginalized students at a university.

How has or how will this program help you in your career or studies after Brown?
This program will help me in my career because it exposed me to different leadership styles. I learned practical skills that I can use in professional settings.

Did you already have a career plan in mind? Has this program influenced you in any way to change/alter it?
Before participating in the BEST program, I considered a career in higher education administration. The BEST program convinced me to continue pursuing my interests in higher education administration and to even start looking for jobs that combine higher education administration with education policy, which is what I studied at Brown.

Who was your administrative sponsor and what did you learn or enjoy about working with him or her?
Dr. Gail Cohee was my administrative sponsor. I enjoyed speaking with her about her position [as Director of the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center and Associate Dean of the College] and how she uses her administrative role to help improve the experiences of students at Brown University. I also enjoyed learning about her career path to becoming a senior administrator.

What piece of advice provided by the speakers resonated most with you?
Dr. Liza Cariaga-Lo, Vice President for Academic Development, Diversity and Inclusion, gave us great advice for how to manage encounters with students and faculty who are upset or distressed about a given situation. She explained to us that the person is most likely upset because they are really passionate about the situation. Therefore, it is important to not only listen to their concerns but to really try to understand their perspectives and consider those perspectives as you try to help them resolve their concerns. Administrative work is demanding but it is important to honor how others feel and let them know that you care while also remembering not to take their criticisms personally. This is practical advice that is useful for working with people in any setting. 

The Brown Education Department Speaker Series Presents Dana Goldstein

Last week the Brown Education Department Speaker Series concluded for the semester with its fourth and final speaker of the year. The department welcomed Dana Goldstein, a 2006 Brown graduate, journalist, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession.

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In her book, Dana Goldstein asks, “Why is teaching the most controversial profession in America?” Historically, American public school teaching developed as an explicitly working class job. Yet at the same time that we pay public school teachers poorly, police their political activity, and prevent them from influencing the curriculum, we have come to expect teachers to play a key role in the eradication of poverty and inequality.

Goldstein outlined in her presentation how many attitudes about the school reform debate are old and cyclical rather than new conversations.  Moral panic, for example, has frequently caused us to focus on who is teaching rather than addressing structural issues. The concept of data-based reform is also not new, with the idea of pay tied to performance being almost a century old. Goldstein further outlined how valuable data that is not test scores is historically ignored, even if it yields important insights, such as how school funding correlates to teacher effectiveness. The media further exacerbates issues with this conversation by incentivizing focusing on extremes rather than on how to improve the average teacher.

Ultimately, Goldstein concluded by noting the underlying issue that education reform is usually done to teachers, not with teachers, and that if we are truly going to increase the prestige and effectiveness of American public school teaching, we need to use a new strategy: conceiving of teachers as intellectuals, and allowing them to collaborate to exercise real professional discretion and leadership.

The Brown Education Department Speaker Series Presents Dr. Douglas Harris

Douglas Harris_Headshot
The Brown Education Department Speaker Series held its second installment last week, and was proud to feature Dr. Douglas Harris, a Professor of Economics, the Schleider Foundation Chair in Public Education, and founder and Director of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans (ERA-New Orleans) at Tulane University.

Dr. Harris delivered a presentation to the Department entitled “Taken by Storm: The Post-Katrina New Orleans School Reforms and their Effects on Students“. The school reforms put in place in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina represent the most intensive test-based and market-based school accountability system ever created in the United States. Collective bargaining ended, school choice expanded, and nearly all public schools were taken over by the state. Now ten years later, Harris’s study is providing New Orleans with the first examination of the effects of this package of reforms on student achievement.

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Harris walked Education Department faculty and students through his research step by step, showing that even when controlling the data for other influences, over time the reformed system of schools had clear, statistically significant positive effects on student outcomes.  Despite these encouraging initial results, Harris cautioned that this extreme overhaul approach may not be generalizable to other geographic locations, but was only successful in New Orleans due to a specific combination of circumstances, such as population characteristics and the rapid influx of passionate teachers to the area post-Katrina.

Student Perspective: Melissa Lovitz at ParentCamp USA

Students in the Urban Education Policy Program can apply for travel funding, allowing them to explore education conferences or attend meetings relevant to their internships.  Current student Melissa Lovitz (UEP ’16) recently took advantage of this travel program, flying to Washington D.C. to attend ParentCamp USA, an “un-conference” opportunity for parents and teachers to come together and model the four core beliefs highlighted in the book “Beyond the Bakesale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships“.

Melissa was kind enough to share some of her thoughts and reflections on her experience at ParentCamp USA. Read her words below!

“As part of my internship at Achievement First in Rhode Island, I had the opportunity to attend the first ParentCamp USA at the U.S. Department of Education. Not only did I have an incredible time but I also learned a lot. What follows are three lessons I gained from my experience.

  1. Networking is essential

My first reaction following ParentCamp USA was “there was so much networking!” I quickly realized that relationships and connections are inexplicably valuable in this work. My favorite moments of the day were from the conversations I had and the individuals I met. I loved sharing insights, questions, and concerns. I also really appreciated hearing directly from parents about their experiences and ideas regarding family and community engagement. The ParentCamp USA space was designed so that everyone (researchers, students, nonprofit managers, parents, etc.) was considered important in the discussions and workshops. Therefore, it was easy to engage in meaningful exchanges. Over and over again I experienced moments when it “clicked” and I knew I was in the right field. I knew what I was talking about and felt confident participating. I was motivated by each person I met and by everything I was hearing and learning.

  1. Talking about parent engagement without parents is irresponsible

One of the most meaningful challenges I left ParentCamp USA grappling with is the question of whether parents are partners or simply puppets. Ideally, schools and families strive to achieve authentic partnerships based on trusting relationships and collaborations. However, in practice this is not always exhibited. More often, parent involvement is driven by the school’s terms rather than the families’. In this way, when parents’ voices and ideas are not aligned with the school’s ideas, parent involvement and participation is not always appreciated. Based on what we are learning in our UEP coursework and what I experienced at ParentCamp USA, effective, genuine family engagement cannot be achieved unless parents have equal status and importance in the school environment and their voices are acknowledged as critical in conversations about family engagement.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of your “digital business card”

On the day of the event, #ParentCampUSA was the #2 trending hashtag on Twitter. In Co-Coordinator Dr. Joe Mazza’s opening remarks, Dr. Mazza urged ParentCamp USA attendees to participate in the “un-conference” online. He reminded us that networking is everywhere and explained the utility of each person’s “digital business card”. As we continue to live in a technologically consumed world, connections via social media can propel ideas forward and provide spaces to continue conversations well beyond the scope of a one-day event. While at first I was hesitant, because I was concerned I would be distracted, I did join the Twitter conversations and enjoyed seeing everyone’s thoughts and what they found important or valuable come up on the live feed throughout the day. This feature was especially influential for me during the closing session – a “smack down” designed to allow participants to share what they learned and their overall thoughts from the day.

ParentCamp USA inspired me to continue to learn about how to engage families, and to develop strategies that capitalize on the strengths and voices in each family and community.”

Thank you, Melissa!

UEP Alumni Speak at GradCON ’15


UEP Alumni Nikki Churchwell and Lindsey Cosgrove pose for a photo with current UEP students at GradCON.

This Saturday, November 14, 2015, the Graduate School held their annual Graduate Student Career Options Conference (GradCON); among the 42 Brown alumni invited to share their stories were two UEP Program alumni, Nikki Churchwell (UEP ’11) and Lindsey Cosgrove (UEP ’11).

Both shared how the knowledge and skills they gained from the UEP Program and Brown University prepared them to work in their current positions. Churchwell participated in the “Education” Alumni Panel, speaking of her experience working at Providence Plan and now as a Fellow at the U.S. Dept of Education. Cosgrove spearheaded the “Non-Profit” Alumni Panel, where she spoke of her role as Director of Institutional Philanthropy and Strategic Partnerships at Girl Scouts of Greater NY.

Current UEP students attending GradCON remarked that Churchwell and Cosgrove gave great advice on graduate school, interview prepping, and career choices, and appreciated the insight on how the skills and knowledge they gained during their UEP year were essential in moving forward into a career that fit their needs and interests.

Internship Spotlight: UEPs Reflect on their Year at Work

Arguably the most distinctive feature of the UEP year at Brown University is the nine-month internship component of our program. Our academically rigorous coursework in research and theory is grounded in the day-to-day realities of practice in an urban education policy setting. Students select internships based on their personal career goals and academic interests, and so our cohort finishes their year with a variety of unique real-world experiences.

As their internships come to an end, four members of the current UEP cohort were kind enough to share their experiences with us.  Their stories represent just a small sample of what a UEP internship has to offer – experiences local and far, with non-profits and school districts, in areas data-driven and policy-focused.  Read their words below!


Juan Carlos Carranza, College Visions

My internship site this year through the UEP program has been with College Visions (CV), a non-profit organization in Providence that empowers low-income and first-generation college-bound students to realize the promise of higher education by providing advising and resources to promote college enrollment, persistence, and graduation. Specifically, I have been working as a data analyst within the College Success Program, which follows students through college from enrollment to graduation.

Last semester, I cleaned and compiled student data and used it to calculate enrollment, 1-to-2-year persistence, and graduation rates for each cohort of students. This information has been useful in reporting information to funders, community members, and the board of directors. This semester I have helped create a data dashboard that will provide advisers and program directors with real-time information on program performance.

Before UEP, I worked as a College Adviser with the College Advising Corps (CAC) at a high school in Providence. My work with the CAC helped provide me with a knowledge of the college access landscape in Rhode Island and nationally. My desire to continue working on issues surrounding college access and success led me to choose College Visions as my internship site. Through my work at CV, I’ve been able to get a deeper understanding of the challenges and supports that students face when trying to attain a college degree. I’ve been able to sit in on various meetings and engage with stakeholders throughout the state who are working in partnership to improve the opportunities for students in Providence. After UEP, I hope to continue working to ensure that all students in Rhode Island have equal access to post-secondary opportunities and support throughout their journey to college attainment.


Mateus Baptista, El Rancho Unified School District

I am working as a research consultant for the El Rancho Unified School District in Pico Rivera, California. I am researching the district’s college-going culture and to what extent it exists. I report directly to the Superintendent of Schools and have built relationships with various stakeholders from the Mayor, the board president, to families and students. I am drawn to this research because I am committed to increasing first-generation college attendance particularly at four-year universities. As the lead on this research project, I have enormous flexibility along with the necessary supports. This research project allows me to deeply explore an issue and determine the root cause of low college matriculation rates.

I have learned most importantly that I enjoy research and the autonomy it provides. This has helped me solidify a desire to pursue a PhD in the near future.


Reilly Pharo Carter, Leadership for Educational Equity

My internship this year was with Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), a nonpartisan, non-profit organization dedicated to empowering Teach For America corps members and alumni to grow as leaders in their communities and help build the movement for educational equity.

Through my work on their policy team, I focused on building members’ understanding and expertise relating to policy development and implementation. I work directly for the Senior Director of Policy Strategy and Support. Over the course of the year, my projects have ranged from the development of a new member toolkit aimed at building policy acumen for new members transitioning from the classroom to the policy world, to the support and planning of LEE’s annual Policy Leadership Academy, a three day, invitation-only conference for LEE’s most senior members.

I have deeply enjoyed my internship because it has provided me with opportunities to both expand my policy expertise, as well as expand the network of people I know in this field. My internship was virtual, so I was afforded a lot of flexibility and autonomy.

Sarah HalberstadtSarah Halberstadt, Annenberg Institute for School Reform

Through my internship as a Research Assistant at the Annenberg Center for School Reform, I have had the opportunity to use what I am learning in my UEP classes to help support the work of parents, young people, teachers, and activists at the front lines of education organizing.

I came to UEP straight from the classroom and knew that I wanted an internship that allowed me to practice policy analysis and research skills, but also enabled me to stay engaged with the people who I believe are the real education policy experts: students, educators, families, and communities. I got that opportunity through my work on Annenberg’s Pittsburgh Parent Power project funded by the Heinz Endowments in Pittsburgh.

From day one, the small team of Annenberg staff leading this project has included me in meaningful work. I have helped to revise and create curriculum and materials, I have traveled with the team to Pittsburgh to help facilitate cohort gatherings, and I have had the chance to learn from and amplify the voices of over fifty incredible parent organizers.

The best part of my internship has been watching very smart people work together and involve others in their work. I have had the chance to see what it looks like to effectively combine research and organizing in a way that brings people into, rather than excludes them from, education policy conversations.

Q&A with UEP Alum Havala Hanson, Senior Research Advisor at Education Northwest

Q: How did your experience in the UEP program prepare you for the work you are doing now?

 A: The UEP program did a really nice job of repurposing my skills for this type of work. I was a teacher prior to that which gave me a lot of really good perspective of what was happening on the ground. So UEP took those skills and added on top of it all of the research and quantitative analysis. I was research assistant for Ken Wong and that was really helpful going through, getting more experience with STATA. It’s a really useful skill to have on your resume.

Q: What advice would you give current UEP students?

 A. Quantitative methods are really important to get hired for a lot of jobs even if the job isn’t totally quantitative. It’s a skill that not a lot of people have. It’s difficult to find people who can do the quantitative analysis that can also talk to people and present things in a way that people who aren’t familiar with that type of analysis can understand and help them interpret and make decisions.  Also, my hope would be that everyone invest themselves in the UEP program and take what they can because the year goes by fast.

Q: What is one of your biggest takeaways from the UEP program?

 A: The strong cohort focus, it’s a small program and you get that high intensity focus with your classmates and professors, that’s all really important. We all continue to connect and the networks just keep going and going, so I felt really privileged being a part of that family and it’s just a really rich experience, it changed my life, it changed my brain.

UEP Alum Havala Hanson (right) and colleague

UEP Alum Havala Hanson (right) and colleague Sarah Frazelle