EPFP Alumni Stories
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Welcome to the EPFP Alumni Stories! Here we highlight the work of EPFP alumni around the country by featuring guest blog posts about our three pillars: Policy, Leadership, and Networking. For more information or to report abuse of this feature, please contact the EPFP national program staff at epfp@iel.org.

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Cross-Boundary Leader: Jason Smith (DC EPFP 97-98)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Thursday, November 5, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader

Jason Smith (DC EPFP 97-98)

Jason Smith is managing partner at Widmeyer Communications (a Finn Partners Company), where he oversees Widmeyer Education, the agency’s PreK-12 practice. Since joining the company in 1996, Smith has worked with many leading education organizations and foundations, including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and ExxonMobil’s education initiatives. He also served as the project director for the rollout of the Next Generation Science Standards, and works with several clients to maintain support for Common Core. Prior to joining Widmeyer, Smith worked in the public sector practice group for Towers Perrin, an international management consulting firm, where he worked with school superintendents and state education agencies. He also worked in the offices of Rep. Virginia Smith (R-NE) and Sen. Terry Sanford (D-NC).

The Importance of Communication in Education

In 20 years of working in education communications, one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in the field is how education leaders now recognize the importance of communications in their work. When I started in this field, education issues didn’t play out in the public the way they do now. Relatively few folks thought much about public opinion on education issues. A lot of this changed with curriculum wars in the late 1990s.  They awakened a much broader swath of general population to the idea that public opinion could have influence over what’s going on in public education.

The challenge with this, of course, is how to effectively communicate what the education sector is doing. The education sector has the tendency of being “small-c” conservative, reticent, and reserved about early adoption of strategies. At Widmeyer, we’ve always had to strike a balance between being knowledgeable about the cutting edge communications strategies, but not forcing it upon clients who aren’t ready.

The significant growth of digital communications over the past decade or so has radically changed how people communicate about education. With so much information -- including schools’ performance data -- now available online, the general public knows so much more about education. This has led to the popularization of the public education discussion. Now we are all more aware of global education rankings and there is a more vested interest and opinion in the conversation.

The volatile public reaction to Common Core is without precedent, and is an example of how social media can elevate an otherwise esoteric topic like academic standards into a critical public interest issue. People who have no direct connection to public education have joined the Common Core debate and have taken a stance on the issue. In 2008, the Broad and Gates Foundations spent $60 million to try to make education a core issue in the presidential campaigns. Looking back, it seems like a quaint notion to remember how we used to wish people would talk about education in political campaigns, when Common Core and testing are now major political topics at the national level.

A critical lesson for education leaders emerging from the Common Core fight is the importance of conducting opinion research and testing messages. We learned the hard way that our intuition often leads us astray when we speculate how parents and teachers will respond to what we believe are compelling messages.

Hot Topics in Education

Race is quickly becoming the biggest issue in education today. We are finally no longer afraid to talk about the role race plays in education, and why so many communities of color are forced to attend sub-par schools. We’re now talking about re-segregated schools and about the lack of diversity in the reform community. I really applaud what Secretary Duncan has done to draw more attention to this issue.

Another major issue in education is the growing schism in the Democratic Party between the reformers and those who want to maintain the status quo. The historical alliance between unions and liberals has evaporated. Politically, we now see some extraordinary examples of strange bedfellows, such as far-right populists and far-left progressives both advocating for eliminating annual testing in ESEA reauthorization. Political alliances are in flux, and I think it will be a long time before we see how that settles out.

And of course, the role of technology in schools remains a topic of great interest, primarily because we simply haven’t seen the results we’ve been promised for such a long time. So many initiatives began with fanfare and good intentions. We are working hard to find ways for classrooms to adopt technology to help students, especially students who are struggling. Yet we confront major failures in education technology—like what we’re seeing in Los Angeles right now—that set the movement back. We clearly aren’t going to stop using technology in schools, but its promise proves more elusive than its advocates wish.

Cross-Sector Leadership and Challenges

Cross-sector leadership is important in education because student success often relies on support from the public health and social services sectors as well. They play a big role in the overall equation of what a child needs to succeed—it’s much more than just what happens in a classroom. My team at Widmeyer does a lot of work with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which approaches child welfare issues through the multi-sector lens of academics, health, and economic security. All three need to be in place for a child to be on a promising path to a productive and rewarding life. In education, we need to remember to look across sectors in order to do what’s in the best interest of a child.

Leadership Lessons Learned

The best leadership lesson I’ve learned is the power of servant leadership. The most important contribution I can make to my organization’s success is make sure each member of my team has the resources and support she needs to be effective. That support takes many forms. Sometimes, it’s simply expressing my faith that a young staffer can handle the job we gave him. Other times, it’s to make sure we’ve provided the necessary professional development, or given a staffer the technology she needs, regardless of whether others think it’s a perk she’s not yet entitled to. But always, it’s working hard to make sure everyone on the team knows I want them to be successful, and believe they will be.

Another critical component of effective leadership is understanding how to encourage the creative conflict that makes us better professionals, and to be OK with being wrong. I insist my team speak up when they disagree with my suggestions, and I change my mind frequently when they push back with points of view I hadn’t considered. I have no use for the so-called “Yes Men” you find in many organizations. 

EPFP Experience and Value

EPFP had a huge influence over my career. As someone who never went back to get an advanced degree, it’s the closest I came to public policy grad school. The relationships I built with the Fellows in my cohort were incredibly important, and I’m close with several of them still today, almost 20 years later. At Widmeyer, we’ve sent half a dozen folks through the program because we know the value of what Fellows learn, and whom they meet.



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Cross-Boundary Leader: Micah Ann Wixom (CO EPFP 14-15)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Friday, October 23, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Micah Ann Wixom
(CO EPFP 14-15)

Micah Ann Wixom is a policy analyst at the Education Commission of the States (ECS), a national nonpartisan organization that tracks state policy trends, provides unbiased advice to state education policymakers, and creates opportunities for state leaders to learn from one another. Prior to joining ECS, she worked for the Constituent Services Unit of the Legislative Counsel Bureau in Nevada, where she helped legislators respond to constituent questions and concerns. Wixom has also worked as a volunteer coordinator for Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas and as a performance auditor for the Arizona Office of the Auditor General in Phoenix.

State Policy Implementation

As I have worked with legislators and other state-level leaders who make education policies, I have found that they have differing levels of expertise in education policy—some have backgrounds in education or a great deal of experience crafting education policy, while others are new to the area. Regardless of their background, I have seen that these leaders really care about education issues and genuinely want to do what is best for the students in their state . That is why they need to hear from people invested in state education policy—like teachers, parents, and students—because these state leaders are making policies that directly affects these folks. That’s also why there are local, state, and national organizations, like ECS, that can provide help and guidance to legislators.

I think every state legislator and policymaker and every state has different areas of education that are priorities for them. For some leaders and states, achievement gaps are a big deal, while funding is a main issue for others. I think issues around English language learners (ELLs) are also a growing concern nationwide, especially for states that haven’t traditionally had large ELL populations. To meet their needs, many states are looking for innovative ways to serve their students that are a little outside the box, like online schooling, and these new efforts are quietly growing.

Opt-Out Laws in States

One thing we’ve seen in the growing opt-out debate is that situations vary from state to state. In some states, opt-out is a big deal and is gaining statewide attention and traction, while in other states it’s almost a non-issue. I think this variance is really interesting. It’s hard to say what this speaks to and why states differ so much on the topic, and at the end of the day, we’re not entirely sure why so many people in certain places are choosing to opt-out of standardized testing for their children. However, a lot of states are using this debate as an opportunity to rethink their testing strategies and how they are testing kids, what types of assessments they’re using, and if they’re testing too much.

Cross-Boundary Leadership and Challenges

In the ECS mission, we talk about working across the P-20 continuum, and this is built into the work that I do. I think it’s important for us to understand that different phases of education don’t exist independently—for example, what happens in early learning affects kids in the long term. Working across sectors, both within and outside of education, is critical because we’re all connected and involved in the education and well-being of students at some level.

Cross-boundary leadership comes with its own set of challenges, and I think it’s easy for people to get buried in what they’re doing and forget to stick their head up to see what else is going on around them. It’s important in any field, but especially in education, to recognize that issues don’t exist independently from each other. We must be able to involve people from other sectors, like health care and business, which can sometimes be difficult to do.

Leadership Lessons Learned

One of the biggest leadership lessons I’ve learned is how crucial communication is. I’ve seen again and again that if a leader at any level can communicate well, they do a better job of building trust and confidence among their team and those they work with. Sometimes this communication also involves saying things that might be hard for people to hear, but it’s important to be able to do so in a respectful and constructive way.

Some of my favorite leaders I’ve seen and worked with during my career have been those who are able to create a positive and safe environment. Too often we think of leadership as a grand act and leaders as very visible, vocal, and public figures. In my experience,  the most effective leaders quietly create positive environments that help them do the work they believe in and encourage their staff to succeed.

EPFP Experience and Value

When I participated in EPFP, I was relatively new to the education field and to Colorado. It was a great opportunity for me to broaden my knowledge about education policy in a general sense, but also specifically related to what’s going on in my state. This was really important to me because much of the work I do is at a national level and I wanted more exposure to what was happening in the education field in my state and in my community. I really enjoyed being able to interact with all kinds of professionals in education, from teachers to principals to state-level education leaders.

EPFP is valuable because it provides the opportunity for Fellows to connect with people who you might otherwise not be able to work with. I think that’s really important in today’s policy environment. We get so polarized and partisan about issues that it’s more and more difficult to build relationships with people outside of our area of work, but EPFP allows you to learn how to and begin to foster those relationships.


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Cross-Boundary Leader: Sarita Brown (TX EPFP 83-84)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Friday, September 18, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Sarita Brown
(TX EPFP 83-84)

Sarita Brown is president of Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit organization that accelerates Latino success in higher education by linking research, policy, and practice to serve Latino students. Prior to co-founding Excelencia in Education in 2004, Brown was appointed as executive director of the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans under President Bill Clinton and Secretary of Education Richard Riley. She began her career at the University of Texas at Austin building a national model promoting minority success in graduate education. Brown is on the board of directors for ACT, Catch the Next, and Editorial Projects in Education.

Supporting Latino Student Success in Higher Education

The biggest change I’ve seen in the support for Latino students’ success in higher education over the last decade has been the growth of the number of education leaders, policymakers, and investors who understand the importance of addressing this topic. In the last 10 years, it has become much more common for people to talk about the Latino community and make the point that they are our future workforce and contributors to civic leadership. This has been great—but it’s still just people talking and not doing much about it. I want to see more of this conversation being translated into action.

Another big change in the last decade has been the dominance of the linking of immigration and Latinos. Understanding of who immigrants are, the impact of immigration in American society, and the proportion of America’s Latino community that are recent immigrants has become increasingly distorted. I don’t believe this is intentional by the media or advocates, but many people who don’t think about immigration much or don’t work on the issue on a daily basis seem to believe all Latinos are immigrants and undocumented, which is inaccurate. Over 90 percent of today’s Latino students in K-12 and postsecondary education are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. When I speak publicly, I’m assertive about this point and try to help people realize there are so many things that higher education and public education can do to better respond to Latino students and families that have nothing to do with changes to the country’s immigration policies or to students’ immigration status.

What Policymakers and Higher Education Leaders Should Know

Since launching Excelencia in Education in 2004, we’ve worked to demystify who the Latino population is, where Latino students are located, what institutions are graduating larger numbers of Latino students, and the practices and factors of these institutions that are helping Latino students thrive. Our research covers the state of Latinos in education from early childhood all the way through professional education. It’s all data-driven so policymakers and higher education leaders can find that helpful to gain a better understanding of who these students are and what they need to succeed.

Our goal is to inform policymakers and higher education leaders. We advocate but do not lobby. Through our research, we can highlight the nexus of where higher education and policymakers need to intervene to ensure Latino student success. By presenting this information, we work to connect policymakers to the institutions that have used effective and innovative strategies to help Latino students graduate and build significant skills.

Another issue we try to bring to the attention of policymakers is the challenge of meeting the financial needs of low-income students attending college. Financial aid and the fact that the current model of aid does not reach all high school students who need it is a focus of ours. This was actually how we put Excelencia in Education on the map in 2005, with our report, How Latino Students Pay for College. We found that while Latinos were applying for financial aid, they were receiving the least amount of aid, regardless of need. So we asked policymakers why is this is happening, what do we do about it, and what does this mean for Latino students? Latino students need support while they are enrolled in a college or university, but they also need the appropriate financial resources to be able to get there.

Leading Across Sectors

Working across sectors gives you the opportunity to have a more significant impact. Each sector has its own language and perspective, and it’s challenging to find people who are “multilingual” in that they are proficient across multiple sectors, so it is important for leaders to be able to have knowledge about sectors other than their own. If you’re trying to make change happen, you have to have people in different sectors be willing to reach across, build bridges, learn together, and develop functional relationships so things get done. Ten years ago this was seen as a really innovative, novel idea, but now it’s a required skill set.

However, that doesn’t make it any less challenging, especially since change happens so quickly today. Leaders need to be able to prioritize, and know what the next important issue is and which individuals can be connected to work together toward a common goal—all at the same time. We used to talk about a year-long program being fast, and now projects are happening in 3-6 months. This means leaders need to be forward-thinking, adaptable, and open to making connections.

Leadership Lessons Learned

I’ve learned that it’s important to stay true to yourself. I was very lucky to find a cause early in my career that became a life calling. Staying true isn’t about being dogmatic or unwilling to learn from ideas and challenges—you definitely still have to adapt to new and sometimes difficult environments and situations—but it’s about understanding what you want to change and staying on the path to continue doing that.

Another lesson I’ve learned is that leadership is fundamentally about how effectively you engage and inspire other people to share your vision. Clear articulation about what you want to accomplish is key. Sometimes it seems that only the one in front and the great speaker are recognized as leaders. I think true leadership is demonstrated by the capacity to bring others along and reach your goal together. A quieter, humbler kind of leadership that moves people to act is valuable. Leadership is about inspiring, catalyzing, and bringing others along.

EPFP Experience

My experience in EPFP was very significant to my career. Because it was early in my career, I was introduced to leaders across the country that I wouldn’t have otherwise met at that time. I still have friends and colleagues from my program who I’ve kept in touch with through all these years. For me, EPFP was a systematic way to go through the skill sets, issues, and opportunities that were important to education and to my work. It also gave me the opportunity to learn about myself as a professional and part of a community wanting to affect change, which was quite significant. Because of EPFP, I came to better understand my role and future opportunities as I decided what I wanted to accomplish in the big picture of national and regional education issues.

EPFP’s Value Today and in the Future

I’m a big believer in intentionality—having something like EPFP, particularly with its history, is very intentional. It adapts and grows while asserting a view that education is a worthy calling, an enterprise based on human experiences, and that leaders are people who are connecting with each other to make it happen. You learn from different components of EPFP and what makes the program so significant is that it offers them all together and provides a community that IEL has systematically maintained. To me, all of that is intentionality—beginning with an idea and committing to cultivate and sustain it even as education changes.


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Cross-Boundary Leader: Dr. June Atkinson (NC EPFP 84-85)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Monday, August 31, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Dr. June Atkinson
(NC EPFP 84-85)

Dr. June Atkinson is the State Superintendent of the Public Schools of North Carolina as well as the President of the Council of Chief State School Officers. As state superintendent, she heads the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), oversees reform initiatives such as the Accountability and Curriculum Reform Effort (ACRE), and strives to increase the opportunities and success of the nearly 1.5 million students in North Carolina’s public schools. Previously, Dr. Atkinson has worked on instruction and curriculum development and has served as a business education teacher, consultant, and director with DPI. For her dedication and service to education, she has been awarded the State Policymaker of the Year Award from the State Educational Technology Directors Association, the Champion of Children Award from the North Carolina Association of School Administrators, and the North Carolina Association of Educators Inclusive Leadership Award. Dr. Atkinson is a current member of the Board for the Institute for Educational Leadership. 


EPFP Experience and Value


I graduated as a North Carolina EPFP Fellow in 1985, and since I was relatively new in a leadership role, there were many benefits that I gleaned from EPFP. The Fellowship helped me to understand the impact of policy on what happens in the classroom as well as just how complex the public education system is. Furthermore, the network that I developed with the EPFP Fellows in my class and with others who were a part of EPFP was very valuable. I was also able to meet people whom I would have never had the opportunity to meet had I not been involved in EPFP, such as journalists, lobbyists, and others involved in education policy. Not only were the networking opportunities very beneficial, but I believe that EPFP provided a safe environment for Fellows to discuss issues and to get feedback from colleagues. I was able to learn how policy is developed, all of the different players who are involved in the process, and the impact that policy has on public education. I have come to realize that the skills I received from EPFP are still relevant and necessary for those involved in public education today.

The North Carolina EPFP program has become an integral part of education and leadership development throughout the state. Being an EPFP Fellow is a great complement to professional development provided to those who work at DPI, and it gives someone an edge over another person who may be applying for the same job. EPFP has made work on the ground more collaborative and teamwork-based, and it helps some of our mid-level managers see the complexity of the decision-making process of senior leadership. For the most part, anyone who has been in our department for more than four years will have gone through EPFP, and it has helped us to work better with our General Assembly members. EPFP certainly contributes to our leadership development in the state, and without it, it would be difficult for us to have sustained leadership or policy development.


The Value of Career and Technical Education


As a student, I experienced the benefits of career and technical education (CTE) because I was able to apply the skills I learned in high school to my college work. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t use the skills from my CTE courses, such as accounting and shorthand. CTE is a way for students to see how their education is relevant to potential careers. When students can see the relevance of their education, they are more likely to graduate and to become interested in other subjects. This is why I majored in business education and became a teacher.


I have also been able to see firsthand the impact that workforce preparation and career education have had in North Carolina schools. These courses allow students to develop problem solving, teamwork, and creative thinking skills. Not only has CTE positively contributed to graduation rate increases, but students are earning more credentials, such as in information technology and Microsoft. Students are able to earn extra endorsements along with their diplomas—such as “college ready” or “career ready”—and more students are able to get these endorsements through career tech schools. By bringing businesses directly to schools, CTE programs allow schools to involve businesses and industries in meaningful ways while also garnering greater support for public education.


Being a Female Leader in Education


As the first woman to be elected state superintendent of North Carolina, I believe I can be a role model for women teachers who see themselves in administrative and leadership positions in the future. When I meet fellow women teachers, I like to plant the seed that they should aspire to take leadership positions, whether that’s in a local school district, a public school, or an administrative office. During my time as state superintendent, I have noticed an increase in female leadership in education. For instance, more and more women are being appointed principals of large high schools, which was not the case 15 or 20 years ago. Furthermore, local boards of education are hiring leaders regardless of gender, focusing more on whether the candidates have backgrounds in curricular development and professional development. These issues are becoming more prominent in school and district leadership.


Leading Across Boundaries


As a state-level leader, I work with every stakeholder in education, from parents and students to teachers and principals to superintendents and policymakers. Through this, I have learned the importance of always listening before talking and creating opportunities in which I demonstrate that I am willing to listen to diverse views. I do my homework before I meet with people, so I understand what issues are important to them. I have established advisory committees for parents, teachers, and principals, and I visit schools often to get every perspective. I make sure that anyone who wants to contact me can do so, and every so often, I will call someone after reading a letter to the editor in a newspaper so I can further discuss an issue. I also host the Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year summits every year to listen to concerns of teachers and principals. I meet with district superintendents several times every year.


Leading across boundaries can often present challenges, and through my work, I have come to understand the importance of legislation, quality policy, and finding a win-win situation in any issue. Above all, it is extremely important to be able to see more than one side of an issue.


Leadership Lessons Learned


First and foremost, I have learned that all leaders have just one thing in common: followers. You have to support the people who will be delivering what you want to accomplish. If you don’t support them, they won’t support you, and you won’t be effective. It’s also important to have a general concept of where you want to take public education, and it’s your responsibility as a leader to break that vision into smaller steps to carry it out. This requires practice and being strategic in identifying the steps for making change. Eventually, change should become a part of the fabric and culture of your organization so when new leaders step in, things continue to run smoothly.

Another lesson I’ve learned is that sometimes you have to repeat a message over and over in order for it to stick. It has always made me smile inside when staff members, teachers, principals, or superintendents say virtually the same things that I have previously said because it shows me that my message is getting through, and I am being an effective leader.


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Cross-Boundary Leader: Dr. Jan Hively (MN EPFP 82-83)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Monday, August 17, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Dr. Jan Hively
(MN EPFP 82-83)

Dr. Jan Hively is the co-founder of several advocacy networks for aging adults, including the Pass It On Network, the Vital Aging Network, and SHiFT. She spent much of her career in leadership positions in government, education, and nonprofit sectors, where she served as president and executive director of the Golden Apple Foundation for Excellence in Teaching in Chicago, founder and executive director of the Minneapolis Youth Trust (now AchieveMpls), deputy mayor of Minneapolis, and director of outreach and a faculty member at the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development. Dr. Hively was a congressional appointee to the White House Conference on Aging in 2005, received the Dutch Kastenbaum Award from the Minnesota Gerontological Society, and was named a National Purpose Prize Fellow by Civic Ventures. She received her Ph.D. in education for work and community from the University of Minnesota at age 69.

Cross-Boundary Leadership

I first learned my leadership skills as a volunteer. When I was a homemaker, I was active in the League of Women Voters, where I was able to gain experience in the whole process of community organizing, including group facilitation skills, asking questions, and how to develop decisions by consensus.

There are a lot of different ways to learn valuable leadership skills. I’ve realized over my career that I really enjoy working through peer-to-peer networks rather than hierarchical organizations. I feel that networks are our future; peer-to-peer communication fits the time and capacity of people today, and provides grassroots experience, which is important.

“Meaningful Work Through the Last Breath”

I follow my mantra “meaningful work, paid or unpaid, through the last breath.” I continue to work on projects and issues I care about because they’re important to me and because I feel I can continue to make change happen. I’m an issues person—I do a lot of reading, receive articles about aging from all over the world, and look for upcoming trends and needs related to those trends. Much of the work I do involves connecting people and raising awareness of what is happening and facilitating discussions to gather and share resources to fill those needs. I also try to empower others with advocacy leadership skills and the tools to move ahead on their own. Once that leadership is cultivated, with an action plan and resources to move ahead, I can leave that work in the hands of capable leaders and move on to my next project.

I agree with Freud in that the two most important things in life are work and love. I’ve been a workaholic at times in my life and sometimes felt I’d lost my sense of balance, but I love the work that I do and can find it difficult to pull myself out of it. I’ve recently come to the realization, however, that setting aside time for personal interests, such as writing, is also very important to me, especially as I’m getting older. Although I love my work, I’ve begun to extricate myself from several projects so I’ll have more time to do other meaningful personal work.

Challenges in Leading Across Boundaries

The biggest challenge I’ve come across is shifting people’s attitudes, which I’ve most recently been addressing through my work in aging. Our attitudes are shaped by culture, and changing those attitudes can be extremely difficult when the culture around us still reinforces them. I believe that some changes are very important to make, such as moving from being passive consumers to proactive life planners, from dependency to self-determination, and shifting focus from needs to strengths.

For example, I firmly believe that aging adults need to be included in decisions made about their lives; one of the sayings I impress upon older adults is “nothing about me without me.” I want to help people make decisions for themselves for as long as possible, which requires self-advocacy. So I co-created an advocacy leadership development curriculum that is now used by senior service providers across the country and managed by the Life Planning Network.

Leadership Lessons Learned

I think one of the biggest leadership lessons I’ve learned throughout my career is that all of us are lifelong teachers and learners. Leadership is something you must consistently develop and work on, and as a leader, you are always passing along knowledge to others. In order to be an effective leader, you must understand how people learn and how you can help them grow. Workplace learning is not much different than school learning. In elementary school, educators teach students so they can do things on their own successfully. Similarly, in the workplace, leaders are successful when they are able to help their colleagues do something on their own and do it well. It’s important for leaders to help others understand this and to get everyone on the same page in knowing that by sharing our strengths, we help ourselves, each other, and our communities.

EPFP Experience

I really enjoyed my time as a Fellow, especially our cohort dinners. I loved the format of these dinners—conversational but informative—and have been actively involved in them as both a participant and as a presenter. What I particularly found to be great about EPFP was the network it introduced me to. I regularly reached out to EPFP contacts in my work on youth projects at the mayor’s office and while working at the University of Minnesota, and found the access to fellow leaders to be very helpful in advancing my work and projects. And, I always thought that the continuity of leadership from IEL and EPFP from Betty Hale, Mike Usdan, Van Mueller, and Marty Blank has been central to the quality of the EPFP experience.

EPFP is valuable because leadership development is so important. Everyone is a leader; we just need to learn and develop those skills, and EPFP does that. The program also provides continuity and clarity in a fragmented, complex world. It serves as a place within education to talk about important issues and share and experience different perspectives.

I think an interesting theme that EPFP might emphasize is the cradle-to-grave continuity of lifelong teaching and learning. With a large percentage of our population entering into their senior years, continuing to engage them in learning and teaching experiences is very important.


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