“Next to God and family, education is the single most important thing in life.” I will never ever forget those words. My grandfather told them to me in 2008 at my undergraduate commencement ceremony. A week after his passing, I’m sitting here at midnight contemplating them, along with all of the other advice he gave me throughout my 25 years here—25 years that pale in comparison to his almost 92.
When I think about why I want to work in the education space, it’s because I have been instilled—from birth—with the idea that education is the key to change. It’s the key to growth, to advancement. Education is an avenue on which dreams, passions, and realities coexist and meld.
A passion for education runs in my family. And, as a fourth-generation college graduate, it was also expected that I’d go to college. In whatever form college will be in 18 years, I expect that my son or daughter will likely also attend.
But, when my grandfather hugged me and dropped that bit of knowledge five years ago, I know he wasn’t saying that my education was the most important thing in life. Education itself is important. It’s vital for everyone.
My grandfather was a strong supporter of the Civil Rights movement, and all of the members of my family were in astonishment earlier this year when we casually found a hand-signed letter from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. thanking my grandfather for his support. Equality was continually on his mind.
I was lucky to have had my grandpa for as long as I did, and also to have the ability to spend such a significant amount of time with him throughout my life. A few months ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table talking with him about #EMchat (because I talk to anyone about it who will listen), and we had an in depth conversation about college access and escalating costs. We didn’t come up with any solutions, but there we were, two college graduates (Amherst ’43 and Salisbury ’08) talking about the importance of higher education and the need for it to be ever more accessible—to all.
Two days after my grandfather passed away, I attended the College (Un)bound panel at AEI, listening to Jeff Selingo discuss his new book with Ann Kirschner, Siva Vaidhyanathan, and an audience full of academics and industry professionals. Many of the same questions my grandpa and I discussed were brought up, and I found myself lapsing between the panel and my own reflections.
I’m on board with pretty much any technology (in any industry) that creates efficiencies while improving experiences. But we have to remember always, that no matter how efficient a process is, if it isn’t reaching or affecting a diverse and deserving audience, it should be rendered ineffective.