School Systems Need Management Systems Too

in Graduate Students, News, Students
October 26th, 2012

Education Pioneers: Career Options Beyond the Classroom

Sometimes internships can reveal unforeseen opportunities.

With summer 2012 internships as Education Pioneer fellows, six Boston University full-time MBAs, all class of 2013 students with a concentration in the Public & Nonprofit Program, worked on diverse projects, and all for the cause of better public school management. Each came away with a new understanding of how education works—and how management principles can make things work better.

Education Pioneers (EP) is a national program that focuses on attracting leadership and management talent for positions in school systems outside the classroom. The program exposes business students to the research, management, and organizational challenges that are similar to those in many businesses and nonprofits.

Dana Connolly worked in San Francisco with the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), a network of 125 charter schools serving more than 39,000 students across the country. “My specific role,” says Connolly, “was to support the Talent Team, which is responsible for the acquisition, development, and retention of ‘superstars’ who will maintain the extraordinary momentum of The KIPP Foundation, which supports the KIPP network.” She created the group’s first ever “State of the Talent” report to analyze trends in turnover rates, professional development opportunities, alignment with core values, and other aspects that define the nature of the talent at the Foundation.

Pammi Bhullar chose to become an EP fellow “to gain a deeper understanding of the education sector, and to learn how knowledge of organizational development can help to improve student achievement.” She worked at Boston Public Schools (BPS) in the Finance and Budget Office, where she collaborated with central office and school leaders to build a culture of documenting and effectively communicating policies and procedures.

“By the end of the internship,” Bhullar says, “I documented fifteen processes,
created a standard template for future documentation, and created a centralized location in the form of a wiki for school leaders and department heads, among other tasks. Hopefully our work will enable BPS to decrease the time spent on transactional issues and more time on empowering school leaders to make financial decisions.”

At Educate Texas, Matt Roper worked on the programmatic strategies tied to organizational goals: more effective teachers and more students with the access and skills required for postsecondary education. “My main role,” Roper explained, “involved identifying specific metrics to measure the performance of their strategies and the progress toward their organizational goals.”

Sonal Dhingra spent her EP summer traveling across the US making movies. “My project was to create the digital and social media presence for Curriculum Associates’ relatively new education-technology product, i-Ready. This footage will be used to build up the organization’s YouTube channel and expand CA’s social media footprint.”

With her noneducational background (State Street and then AmeriCorps), Dhingra says, “I basically thought you could only be a teacher or a principal in education. But after this summer, I’ve learned that there are so many more things going on in this sector, and I’m excited to see firsthand that digital and social media marketing are a part of it.”

“Prior to the fellowship, I’ve worked as a management consultant focusing on process redesign among other roles,” says Renato Orozco. He became an EP Fellow to learn how to use data analysis, monitoring, and evaluation to drive impact in the social field. Orozco’s assignment was with Teach For America in New York City, and his work helped the organization to make changes in teachers’ preparation, support, and development.

“Apart from the high level workshops that deepened my understanding of education, the relationship-building with other like-minded fellows was fantastic,” Orozco says. He paired up with other EP fellows who had innovative ideas for start-up social ventures.

“In October, we’ll be launching a pilot project in two Brazilian towns. It’s a youth-led, community-executed approach to social and economic development in small towns. It uses common methods and tools that businesses employ to reduce cost or raise productivity, but we use them to reduce infant mortality or to raise school performance.”

“While I was already certain that I would return to the field of education after business school,” says Rachel Alexander, “the fellowship helped me refine my understanding of the type of organization where I’d like to work: one that is nimble, collaborative, and moving the field forward in a significant way.” Alexander worked with Boston After School and Beyond, a public-private partnership dedicated to supporting, strengthening, and expanding Boston’s after-school sector.

“I researched funding sources and best practices to build a comprehensive development strategy for 2013,” says Alexander. “The program catalyzes partnerships between school staff, community-based out-of-school-time providers, and other key stakeholders, allowing them to align their work and match more students with quality summer and after-school programs.”

Public & Nonprofit Program Faculty Director David Stolow commented that the school’s partnership with Education Pioneers enables BU’s MBA students to apply management skills across multiple sectors. “Our Education Pioneers worked in diverse settings. The common bond in their experience was the opportunity to apply core ideas from their management education to create value for students, schools, and communities.”

In photo: Six MBA’13 students completed internships with Education Pioneers. Front, from left, Renato Orozco and Matt Roper. Back, from left, Dana Connolly, Sonal Dhingra, Rachel Alexander, and Pammi Bhullar.