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: Karen Mapp (MA EPFP 98-99)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Karen Mapp
(MA EPFP 98-99)

Dr. Karen Mapp is a senior lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and the faculty director of the Education Policy and Management master’s program. For the past two decades, Dr. Mapp has focused on the cultivation of partnerships among families, community members, and educators that support student achievement and school improvement. At HGSE, she has served as the co-coordinator of the Community Organizing and School Reform Research Project and as a faculty member in the Doctorate in Educational Leadership Program. Prior to joining HGSE, Dr. Mapp was the deputy superintendent for family and community engagement for Boston Public Schools and was also president of the Institute for Responsive Education. She has written and co-authored several articles and books about the role of families and community members in student achievement and school improvement, including Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships.

Dr. Mapp is a member of the Board for the Institute for Educational Leadership, a founding member of the District Leaders Network on Family and Community Engagement, a trustee of the Hyams Foundation in Boston, and serves as a consultant on family engagement to the U.S Department of Education.

EPFP Experience and Value

I was recruited to become an EPFP Fellow when I was at the Institute for Responsive Education because of the school, families, and community partnerships work I was doing there. I had no policy experience except what I had learned during graduate school so I thought EPFP would be a good opportunity to meet people on the political side of the spectrum. Our speakers were great; we got to hear from former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and learned a lot from him about the real policy process and how important it was to build relationships with people and constituents.


I felt like EPFP gave me exposure to all sides of the policy process—not just the glamorous part, but also the hard work, focus, and intentionality across all players to move the process along. What I didn’t like at the time but now realize is how slow the policy process is; it’s full of push, pull, and compromise. I also really enjoyed my time spent in Washington, DC, for the Washington Policy Seminar. I had the opportunity to talk to some of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s staffers and sat in on a congressional hearing, which really exposed us to what this work means and what it requires.

EPFP has come a long way from when I was a Fellow. I participated in a panel for the Massachusetts cohort and was very impressed with the sophistication of the questions Fellows asked. They are getting even deeper exposure to what it takes to move the work, not just in terms of being a policy leader but being a leader at large in their sector and related sectors. EPFP helps Fellows see the world through an education lens and build a network of fantastic people working at all levels in education—something you might not be able to do through your job alone.

Dual Capacity Building Framework and Family Engagement

If we want effective partnerships between home and school, then both sides need to have opportunities to build the capacity to partner with each other. That has been a hot topic for many districts and states—and even the federal government. Often the focus has been on “fixing families” and creating interventions that try to get families to value education and support their kids’ learning. But the important thing is for schools to engage families; you have to build the capacity of teachers and staff to engage families in their work. And this realization is continuing to grow. Ten or so years ago there were few people in my role, which is working with superintendents on family engagement. Now our District Leaders Network has more than 130 members and is continuing to grow, which is an indicator that people are realizing how important this work is.

Family and Community Engagement Opportunities and Possibilities

I’m more optimistic now than I have been in quite a while about the growing interest in this area of work. I’m very hopeful about the opportunities for relationships between families and schools and districts, in part because of IEL’s support. We’ve seen the growth of the District Leaders Network and especially the Family and Community Engagement Conference. I also held a family and community engagement institute at HGSE this summer and, because of its success, we will be expanding it from 2 ½ to 4 days with more than 150 people already on board. I get a lot of calls from districts and state leaders who are slowly but surely understanding that family and community engagement is the missing link in their school improvement efforts. Sec. Duncan has also talked a lot about the importance of family engagement. This is the type of thing that will help this work move forward. It will never be totally complete and there’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re on the right track.

Cross-Boundary Leadership

Any work in the education sector requires multiple stakeholders to be engaged. In my experience as a deputy superintendent in Boston and doing research on family, school, and community partnerships, I’ve learned that the best initiatives that are sustainable and have high ownership are ones where stakeholders get together, think about a problem, create solutions, and execute together. It doesn’t work when we try to attack a challenge in silos; often we spend more time correcting misunderstandings rather than focusing on kids. Because education is everyone’s business, you have to be a boundary crosser in order to be successful. You can’t do this work unless you understand and situate yourself in the space where different people’s perspectives are.

Challenges of Cross-Boundary Leadership

People are often not taught the importance of cross-sector work. I once heard a superintendent say that they are trying to concentrate on what they have control over, which is only the classroom. I think that is a narrow perspective because children spend a lot of time in their communities and with their families. If you only think you’re concerned about one small piece and don’t see how all of the pieces connect together, you haven’t engaged the stakeholders you need in order to succeed. It’s understandable that this might sound overwhelming, but in my work, I try to show that working across boundaries actually makes your work easier. It may require an initial investment but once you make those connections and have a network of support, it makes your work much easier and more enjoyable.

Leadership Lessons Learned

The relationship piece has been huge for my work. I still don’t think people understand the importance of building relationships; they’re the glue that holds everything else together. People often think relationship building is touchy-feely and simply an accessory to the work of successful districts and educators, but I know from my experience that it’s the central factor to the success of the work that we do.

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Cross-Boundary Leader: Kent McGuire (CO EPFP 80-81)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Kent McGuire
(CO EPFP 80-81)

Dr. Kent McGuire is the president and CEO of the Southern Education Foundation, where he leads the Atlanta-based organization to advance equity and excellence in education in the American South. Prior to joining SEF, Dr. McGuire served as dean of the College of Education at Temple University and was a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. He has also served as senior vice president at MDRC, Inc., and as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, and has previously worked in the education programs at the Pew Charitable Trust and the Lilly Endowment. Dr. McGuire has also written and co-authored various policy reports, book chapters, and papers in professional journals, and he currently serves on many boards, including the Institute for Educational Leadership, Cornerstone Literacy, The New Teacher Project, and the Alliance for Excellent Education.

EPFP Experience

I was in my 30s and was the perfect program for me to do as I was beginning to look ahead to my career. To meet people who older than me and who worked in similar ways in different spaces was really eye opening and a confidence builder. As I got to know people, I learned the program wasn’t all work, but work and play. The informal time allowed us to build relationships and helped us understand how similar we all really were. It was a perfect way to show how big the world is and how much you had in common with people. It was also my first foray into demystifying Washington at the local level. I still remember my experiences as a Fellow and have sponsored a few employees from organizations I have worked at to be EPFP Fellows as well.


Cross-Boundary Leadership

In my role, I work across many different sectors. I am currently working in philanthropy and have worked in that sector before, and have held roles in the government, higher education, and research companies. I’ve been an elected school board member, worked with schools and school districts, and, as an EPFP Fellow, I worked on state policy at the Education Commission of the States. Within my work in education, I’ve focused on questions of equity and opportunity from a broad range of vantage points and have found myself needing to work across sectors several times. K-12 and higher education, for example, don’t communicate easily and are like ships passing in the night, so conversations between the two have to be mediated. Research and practice have the same problem—they speak different languages and have different incentives but focus on the same thing.

To effectively lead and function across sectors, you have to become bilingual and learn the languages and norms of each sector to gain the trust and confidence of players. You also have to learn to facilitate relationships and communications across sectors, and you get better at it the more you do it. In doing this, I have been able to develop networks in each of these worlds, which gives me perspective and intelligence that is useful to my work.

Lessons Learned

I’ve learned to listen and honor the differences, norms, and traditions that operate in the education world. In the research community, I’ve learned to value evidence as the basis of deciding. In the world of practice, data-driven as it has become, I’ve learned to honor procedural and craft knowledge and observe how experienced people do things. The real trick there is learning how to blend those ways of knowing and standards of evidence. In the policy and philanthropy arenas, I’ve learned that interest groups are key. While there are some commonalities among everyone, each group honors different traditions and norms you need to be aware of. The cross-sector aspect is challenging to sustain because it runs against the grain and can get complicated, but it’s important. You have to have power and patience and respect the cultures, norms, and metrics that groups operate by. As you develop relationships with them, however, you become a bridge that mediates relationships and pulls people together.

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Cross-Boundary Leader: Kathleen Fulton (DC EPFP '04-05)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Kathleen Fulton
(DC EPFP '04-05)

Kathleen Fulton is a writer and education consultant specializing in teaching quality and technology. Her book, Time for Learning: Top 10 Reasons Why Flipping the Classroom Can Change Education, was released in June 2014. After a decade serving as Director, Reinventing Schools for the 21st Century, at the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), Ms. Fulton retired in 2011. Prior to joining NCTAF, she was project director for the Congressional Web-based Education Commission, served as associate director of the Center for Learning and Educational Technology at the University of Maryland, and worked as a policy analyst for the U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. Since her retirement from NCTAF, Ms. Fulton has been consulting with a wide range of clients, including the National Council of Teachers of English, the State Education Technology Directors Association, the U.S. Department of State, and others. She has also written articles on the topic of flipped classrooms for Phi Delta Kappan, School Administrator, and other publications.

EPFP Experience

EPFP was a great experience for learning about all of the different places where education policy is conducted in a variety of settings and organizations here in Washington and beyond. It also provided great opportunities for networking! I found that the Fellows brought diverse perspectives and enjoyed hearing of their work and challenges. I loved our field tours, especially when we visited the statehouse in Virginia and saw state legislators in action. I thought EPFP was a great chance to do the equivalent of graduate-level work with focused and thoughtful discussions and challenges. EPFP can get you out of your own little niche and help you to see the broader education space.

Time for Learning: Top 10 Ways Flipping the Classroom Can Change Education

My new book, Time for Learning, is about just that: how precious classroom and teaching time can be used in different ways to support learning. It’s also about how students can be engaged in different ways. The book is illustrated with vignettes that describe how a variety of practitioners are flipping their teaching. I believe this is something educators want—and need—to learn more about. It is also written for policymakers, suggesting ways to consider this new educational phenomenon, give it perspective, and show how it fits into today’s education reform movement. I would like for the book to be a resource that helps to expand our conversations about technology and teaching and how technology can offer opportunities for greater student engagement and achievement.

Research on the Flipped Classroom Approach

One pleasant surprise to me was the amount of work that teachers have put into learning a new approach, aligned with their willingness to take risks and go out on a limb and do something differently, especially if they’re the only teacher in the school who has tried flipping their teaching. It truly shows the power of teacher grassroots creativity. My research on flipping also provided concrete examples of teacher collaboration in some school teams. It’s definitely a bottom-up approach to change, and it appeals to teachers because it’s teacher-led and directed; in fact, it could be problematic if teachers were required to flip their classrooms. It then might be seen as “just another reform du jour” and teachers could lose that buy-in and creative spark that makes it so unique. It has been interesting to follow an innovation coming from the grassroots that is having a broad impact in a pretty short amount of time and is creating so much positive momentum. I learned that this fast pick-up is largely because of the visibility and collaborative aspects of social media and the internet—it’s not just about technology, but technology is a key driver for the spread of innovation. 

Cross-Boundary Leadership

I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had many experiences in cross-boundary leadership throughout my career. Much of my first experience with school policy came from volunteering, as a PTA president in my children’s public schools in Washington, DC. My first paid position in education was as a staffer for a member of the DC school board and I have also been fortunate to have experience working at the federal level (for the U.S. Department of Education), for Congress (in the Office of Technology Assessment), in higher education (at the University of Maryland), for a private sector consulting firm (Issue Dynamics), and then, at NCTAF, a nonprofit with state-level partners. As a result, I was able to see education through a variety of lenses. Having those experiences has helped me reach across silos and see things from the teachers’ perspective, the administrators’ perspective, state and local policymakers’ perspective, and higher education perspective. This also inspired me to write my book in a style that would speak to and reach a broader audience than just teachers or just administrators.

Challenges to Leading across Boundaries

I’ve always heard about silos within education and that groups don’t connect with each other, but that has not been my experience. I’ve found that if you have a problem that everyone cares about and you have a wide-reaching voice, you can really work across groups. Part of the challenge in education is balancing the Washington and policy vision with that of people who are “in the trenches,” i.e. teachers, principals, and local administrators. It’s an inside the Beltway vs. outside the Beltway kind of mindset. I’ve had the opportunity to spend time on both sides of this divide and gain a perspective of how they each work. Too many people have a view and lens developed from just their one career role—and that’s where something like EPFP can make a big difference.

Leadership Lessons Learned

Respecting the perspectives of others with whom you are working is very important. As a leader, you have to listen to all sides, and do your best to understand the constraints and challenges each person faces, and be realistic about where and how you can be most helpful. It’s also important to trust your instincts. They’ve been developed over time and are built on knowledge, experience, and, hopefully, wisdom, so they’ll probably serve you well if you pay attention to them. I call my career one of “focused serendipity”—always making connections and following those leads to ever more interesting and challenging opportunities!

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Cross-Boundary Leader: Moryah Jackson (SC EPFP '10-11)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Monday, March 2, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Moryah Jackson
(SC EPFP '10-11)

Moryah Jackson is an independent education consultant who works with education organizations to help them address the challenges they have. Most recently, Ms. Jackson helped to launch Transform South Carolina, a grassroots initiative to advocate for improved public education in South Carolina, and ran for her local school board. After pursuing a career in the Foreign Service, she began a career in education, including serving as the director of outreach and recruitment at a technical college and working with high school students on college planning. Ms. Jackson is currently a doctoral student in the education leadership program at the University of Florida and is writing her dissertation on leadership development.

EPFP Experience

I participated in EPFP after learning about the program through my work on the improvement council at my son’s school. I was intrigued by EPFP and thought it would be a good opportunity to learn about what’s going on in South Carolina, especially from a practical perspective. Our coordinators were fantastic and really made the program personalized for each of us Fellows, and it gave us a strong theoretical foundation in education policy. We had the opportunity to hear from high-caliber and dynamic speakers and to talk to teachers and leaders of education organizations, and we even met with Sen. Lindsey Graham while we were in Washington, DC, for the Washington Policy Seminar. I loved the policy perspective of the program, visiting the South Carolina statehouse, and learning about how decisions are really made in our state. And it was because of my EPFP experience and the encouragement of my site coordinators that I ran for my local school board.

My own personal experiences have made me passionate about education and I saw EPFP as a great way to continue learning about it. I am a first-generation college graduate. I was a homeless youth, and my grandmother told me that to break the cycle of poverty you have to go to college, but I didn’t have a strong support network to help me navigate through the application process and selecting classes. I went to Columbia College in South Carolina, a small private women’s college, and was so fortunate that it was a very nurturing environment. I learned so much there and, as a low-income student, received the support I needed to ensure I did well and graduated. Because of that great experience, I went on to earn my master’s degree at the University of South Carolina in public administration, and am now a doctoral student in educational leadership at the University of Florida.

One of my favorite parts of EPFP, even now as an alum, is the network participants are welcomed into. It truly is invaluable. I was able to speak with people and leaders I would have never been able to connect with otherwise, build relationships with people across the state with diverse backgrounds, and, at the Washington Policy Seminar, I had the opportunity to meet Fellows from other EPFP sites across the country and learn about policy on a national scale. 

Designing 21st Century Learning Systems

I most recently worked with Transform South Carolina to launch the initiative as a grassroots effort to pull people together from different areas and sectors—from parents, teachers, and students to business leaders, elected officials, and school and district administrators—to help move our state’s education system forward.

Getting the initiative up and running was a daunting task, but very exciting! The leaders of the initiative knew it would take a lot of heavy lifting across sectors to really gain support and redesign public education. We first hosted a summit and invited school districts across the state to tell them about the initiative and encouraged them to bring community supporters from their districts, like school board members and teachers. We had great speakers, including a college student who discussed integrating technology in education and a business leader to talk about what the future of learning looks like. Following the summit, we asked districts to apply to be involved in the initiative, and the response was overwhelming. So we invited the districts back together for a two-day workshop that was really hands on—a deeper speaker series, academic discussions, a session on how we could grow creativity and innovation in South Carolina. The leaders of the effort then used what we learned and heard in this workshop to inform our visits to schools and districts, and we continued to build partnerships in communities across the state, talk to leaders about their long-term needs, and work with participating schools to identify outcomes, organize data, and provide technical assistance.

The most interesting part of this work—and about 21st century learning—is that it’s truly a collaborative effort. Creating this new education system involves focusing on integrating technology and helping students develop 21st century skills, which in turn requires teamwork from folks in different areas, including the education sector as well as business, community, and policy sectors. It also requires collaboration among teachers and administrators to share information about what is working in their schools and districts and help each other replicate best practices.

Cross-Boundary Leadership

Cross-boundary leadership all comes down to listening. Being a successful leader requires you to listen to people and build relationships early on, and I love talking to people and learning about their background and what their needs are. Education impacts the entire community, so it’s important to know what the needs are in business communities, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits, and then figure out where you can have common ground among all of those needs. When you can hear people’s needs and understand where the resources are to help them meet their needs, you create a win-win situation for everybody. It’s also very important to be open, honest, and genuine, and not just “talk to talk.” Leaders need to collaborate and maximize the limited resources we have to be successful. If you’re willing to take more time to listen, build relationships and work together, and keep student success at the forefront and move toward that direction, it makes a huge impact on all involved.

Career Challenges

Running for my local school board was very challenging. I have a sense of urgency in that we can’t wait for tomorrow to improve our schools and help our students—they need us today and need help now. It breaks my heart that we’re losing students every day as leaders often are slow to come together and figure out what needs to be done. My campaign was my first experience running for an office and I really wasn’t connected to the political machine or know how it really worked on a local level. I saw how my district was performing and genuinely wanted a voice and to make a difference because our schools and students needed help now. Although I was not elected, the experience taught me a lot and gave me a new perspective on our political process. And I truly wouldn’t have been prepared for running if it wasn’t for EPFP.

Leadership Lessons Learned

My advice is to really learn how to lead change. I’m really big on the idea that the only constant is change, but people aren’t comfortable with it. It’s so important to understand the change process; we live in an age with so much information sharing and technology that change happens even more quickly. It’s important for leaders to see themselves as change agents and to continue to have a vision and be bold and constantly reach for that.

Communication is another crucial part of leadership. There are so many communication tools today, and having an idea of branding, sharing, and communicating your vision is critical. It’s important to know when to provide data and evidence in depth, but also to know how to get a message out succinctly in a 140-character tweet or present it visually in a YouTube video.

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Cross-Boundary Leader: Terri Ferinde Dunham (DC EPFP '93-94)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Thursday, February 19, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Terri Ferinde Dunham
(DC EPFP '93-94)

Terri Ferinde Dunham is a partner at Collaborative Communications Group, where she has managed, facilitated, and supported groups that expand learning opportunities and redefine professional development. For more than a decade, Ms. Dunham has managed the National Network of Statewide Afterschool Networks. She has also written and published the groundbreaking compendium Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning Programs for Student Success, and currently serves as the director of the Expanded Learning and Afterschool Project. Prior to working at Collaborative, Ms. Dunham worked at the U.S. Department of Education for 10 years and was recognized as a Fellow with the Council for Excellence in Government. In 2014, she was named one of the top 25 most influential people in afterschool by the National AfterSchool Association.

EPFP Experience

When I was a Fellow, I was working for the U.S. Department of Education, and it helped to create my perspective on education at the time. I was able to see across organizations, boundaries, and sectors, which is very hard to do in a federal agency or organization. Having the opportunity to see what’s out there and how you can influence what’s happening across the board was very powerful. I particularly enjoyed the conversations with people I normally would not have had the opportunity to speak with.

EPFP gives fuel to the fire for early and mid-career professionals, which is one of the main reasons why I continue to sponsor Fellows at Collaborative to participate in the program. We have a bright, skilled, and thoughtful staff who know about education, but EPFP provides the depth of knowledge and connections that are invaluable to our staff and our work. The strength of the program and people is that they are steeped in knowledge that is based in practicality. Sharing knowledge with peers and getting new perspectives from Fellows and speakers is a powerful way to learn.

Creating Meaningful Change in Afterschool Policy and Practice

The National Network of Statewide Afterschool Networks (NNSAN) is a group of 48 state networks that work to create more and better afterschool networks, find funding for afterschool programs, and build quality systems for afterschool work. One meaningful aspect of this work is truly working across sectors for afterschool solutions. One example of this is STEM learning. In so many states, we need to build the STEM workforce and our students need to develop strong STEM skills. Afterschool programs can offer space for STEM-focused workforce development or build student interest in the area and create opportunities for communities.

The Expanded Learning and Afterschool Project (ELAP) is an effort to bring to the forefront the research and communications tools that talk about how afterschool works and impacts students. This includes compiling research and articles from many authors and initiatives about the ways and spaces in which afterschool programs work, as well as research on how they help to close opportunity and achievement gaps. Most recently, we’ve done research with the Afterschool Alliance that shows more demand than ever for afterschool programs, and we’re making the case for afterschool programs in a variety of settings and showing their results.

What Leaders Need to Know about Policy, Leadership, and Networking

From our unique view in the afterschool space, we see that leaders are looking at the broader view of learning to encompass all the spaces and people that are involved in education. Having a broad vision is important for creating a seamless and comprehensive system for the greater goals of preparing students for college, career, and life. Policy is more detailed and nuanced, so it’s important to look across sectors. Networking can help with this by allowing leaders to break out and see networks across boundaries to connect the dots to help and support young people.

Developing Education Leaders

I like the idea of helping all leaders be exposed to all areas, from high-level idea development to on-the-ground work. We also need to develop leaders who understand the value of partnerships. We are too often conditioned to think only about what we do and take on a lot that relates to that, but leaders need the skills to build and leverage partnerships to collectively do the work, which shows the power of collaboration. A lot of my work at Collaborative is around network development and building communities where professionals are sharing and shaping their leadership skills through peer engagement. Good leaders create, join, and participate in strong networks where they have peers no matter how isolated their work may seem.

Cross-Boundary Leadership

I am constantly trying to connect networks and resources to people and ideas who can benefit from them. My leadership role is being a connector. I am always scanning and seeing need and reaching out and bringing relevant resources in. In my specific area of expanded and afterschool learning, for example, I look for how college and career readiness and college access networks could intersect with and leverage our networks, and find ways to connect them.

Career Challenges

The greatest challenge I see is building a learning system that is cross-sector and child-centric. Policies and people are siloed, and there are so many components to consider: allowable and required uses of funding, getting credit in classrooms, etc. It’s very hard to break from the traditional model, even for places with a strong vision. Creating powerful conversations and convening people to work out problems and create good practices can create a new vision of learning.

Leadership Lessons Learned

Strengthening and sharing research is very important. I often find myself talking about leaders being articulate in their research, but we need to compile digestible bits of research that are easy to share and understand. On the communications side, we are always working to build our tools and graphics to share information more effectively.

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