Just as there is much more to know about students than their level of educational attainment and demographic background, there is more to know about a consultant than what is on her resume.
My life has made me sensitive to cultural divisions, socio-economic and educational inequalities, and power imbalances. My experiences have caused me to think about what it means to be excluded, threatened, or ignored, and how experiences of trauma and adversity can affect a person’s life, self-concept, and educational and career trajectories. They have also shown me the power individuals and systems have, both to wound, educate, and heal. My experiences have instilled in me a deep and abiding interest in exploring and nurturing human potential, and facilitating learning and development both for institutional, individual, and social change.
The short story is that I grew up with two parents and two sisters in an upper middle-class home in Denver, Colorado. I went to public school for grades K-5, private school for grades 6-9, and public school again for grades 10-12. I then went on to college and graduate school (twice), and proceeded to initiate and develop intercultural educational programs, build my communication skills, and serve as a teacher, mentor, and administrator in numerous professional settings while raising my family. The longer story is more informative, for my professional and personal histories together provide an explanation for why I do the kind of work I do. I hope you will read on.
Over the past 25 years, I have worked in adult basic education and higher education, as well as other professional settings. I have designed courses and taught English to speakers of other languages; community organizing and leadership development to immigrants; and reading and writing to adults with limited literacy skills. I’ve designed and managed successful educational and cultural programs, courses, and collaborations, and I’ve written grants and reports, planned events, and negotiated partnerships. Most recently, I’ve conducted qualitative research to learn about the lives, experiences, perspectives, and aspirations of adults with limited educational attainment — adults on the verge of college. I've consulted with college administrators and faculty seeking to deepen their efforts to reach, teach, and support learners with limited academic experience.
My professional experiences have provided me with a deep and broad understanding of adult learning and development, teaching, mentoring, intercultural and interpersonal communication, and program design and management. I bring to my consulting work an ability to listen, communicate, and strategize with many different kinds of people—from highly-educated professionals to those with very limited English language or literacy skills. I help practitioners think, learn, and articulate their visions of what might be. And I support them in creating and piloting new structures and approaches for educating students who have the most to gain from further education, but are the least likely to attain it. I also help students better understand the expectations of their professors and develop the skills that demonstrate their thinking and learning.
Clients and colleagues have told me they admire my ability to listen intently, analyze problems, conceive of creative solutions, create structure, and understand people and emotions. Someone once told me that I have my head in the clouds and my feet firmly on the ground.
I became more conscious about my life when I was about 10. The staff at the Jewish summer camp where I went for several years thought it would be important to teach the campers about the Holocaust. So, in addition to showing us movies (Elie Wiesel’s Night, I believe), they put us through an experiential simulation. Without giving us any advance warning or explanation, our counselors suddenly took on the role of Nazis, rounded kids up, and marched them away to the stables to work. Petrified and confused, I hid in a laundry hamper for over an hour until I felt it was safe to emerge. Although the camp was trying to solidify our Jewish identity, I came away feeling petrified of what can happen when powerful individuals and groups see others as different and inhuman. And I suppose I realized on some level the ways well-intentioned educational approaches can go very wrong.
Several years later, I went on to high school at a time when White kids were bused into a predominately Black neighborhood. My friends and I were proud to be part of this desegregation effort, but I remember walking by the auto mechanics classroom in my first days at the school, noticing that none of the kids looked like me. I was one of just a few White kids in the choir, and although I never got a solo, I loved listening to the strong voices of the kids who had grown up singing gospel music at church. The soccer and tennis teams, and most of the Honors classes were White; the football and basketball teams were more diverse. After school each day, I went home on the bus — back to my predominantly White community.
Thinking I might become a doctor, I went to an Ivy League university where I quickly discovered that my interests were actually not aligned with the pre-med curriculum. I studied in Paris during my junior year, and my host family consisted of two elderly refugees from Algeria. Although from a very privileged socio-economic class, they had been traumatized by their experiences during a bloody revolution and their emigration. When I met them 18 years after the war, they spoke repeatedly of all they had lost and how poorly they had been treated upon arriving in France. That same year, a close friend of mine was a Lebanese doctoral student whose parents and village were in the line of fire during the Israeli-Lebanese war. In addition to traveling to various European countries as a tourist, I also traveled to the former Soviet Union and East Berlin where I witnessed a world very different from the one in which I had been raised. When I returned to the US, I was one of a small number of students who petitioned to design our own majors. I called mine Western European Studies, and it included coursework in social history, psychology, French, and German.
That year abroad was not the Eiffel-tower-and-croissant experience I had imagined, but it had a significant influence on who I have become and the work I have dedicated myself to over the years. My interest in other cultures, power, privilege, social justice, education, learning, and change continue to draw my interest.
In 2016, I joined a local group called Undoing Our Own Racism. Once a month for two years, this group of White people met to explore the ways that growing up White in the US had influenced our thinking, attitudes, emotions, work, families, and everyday lives. One member described the group as "special education for people who are behind in their understanding of race and racism." While this group is no longer meeting, none of us is the same as we were before. We left the group committed to learning more about the history of the US and Black people's experiences, and to discussing and applying what we learn in our daily personal and professional lives.
To explore working together, please contact me.