Question #2: How do you see your unique identities intersecting with Open?
I was reflecting on this question and it’s a good question because it makes me think; what are my identities? I thought about myself as an academic and a researcher. My background is in Educational Psychology and I have a Ph.D. Before moving into philanthropy, I did a lot of work around learning and assessment in classrooms and trying to understand that. So, I have that piece of my identity. I have developed an identity as a Program Officer now. I’m a Black woman, so there’s that piece. And also, personally, I’m a mom and a wife.
The strongest connection is probably around the academic researcher side and the program officer side. The researcher part of me has always been interested in how to create motivating and engaging learning environments, and how to create spaces where kids love to learn and want to learn. Elements of Open Education really resonate with that part of my interests because I see that at the core of what we’re trying to do in Open Education is create more equitable and inclusive environments, where everyone has the information that they need to learn, where everyone can be creators of knowledge and have agency in that. That’s always what I’ve wanted and loved to do through my research.
Another part of my research that I enjoyed was collaborations — trying to find spaces where we could bring together policy and practice in the classroom, and exploring that intersection. I see a lot of potential for that and a lot of activity around that in Open Education because if we don’t attend to those intersections it’s hard to move the work forward. There are a lot of fun questions we get to grapple with there.
On the program officer side, there’s the strategy piece, of course. Open Education is core to my day-to-day, but I was thinking more broadly. At the Hewlett Foundation, we have some core principles around openness, transparency, and learning that are how we operate as a foundation. I feel like I can live into these principles through the work that I get to do in Open Education. The content of my work and these practices or principles are really tightly connected. That feels good to have that synergy.
In terms of coming to this as a Black woman, I think about the liberation of knowledge and information, empowerment in ownership, and creation as something that I want to actively play a role in facilitating and wanting to bring to people. I also think about how the field of Open Education still has a lot of work to do around racial equity. But in general, in the field, I see a willingness and wanting to acknowledge and connect different cultures and communities. Creating community is central to some of this work that we do in Open Education. Again, those elements resonate with me culturally.
I had a harder time making the connection with being a mom or a wife. Although, I think I do try to talk about sharing and collaboration and have honest conversations with my kids about the different kinds of assignments that they have and whether or not they’re honoring them as individuals or if they’re having to conform and contort themselves to do something that’s performative or procedural. I think there’s something there about my experience in Open Education that helps me bring a lens to what they have to navigate in school.