In July 2017, Kelly Gavin Zuckerman, Program Coordinator/Advisor/Lecturer, spoke with Tong Tong, Bryn Mawr College Class of 2016, about life after Bryn Mawr.
Where are you now?
I just started my journey at Brown. It is a program called Urban Education Policy. It is a three-semester program that is both research-based and professionally-oriented, so it’s very intense. It is in the form of a cohort so we have 21 students from all sorts of backgrounds. I think that it looks a lot like the 360 program at Bryn Mawr where we really share academic courses, we also share practice, and starting in the Fall, each of us is going to start on an individual path where we have an internship at any organization, district or school that we are interested in and alongside that we take two required courses and one elective where we get to personalize what we want to get out of this program. Like me, I really want to go data-oriented because I know that is something that I lack professionally. I have been trained a lot in terms of theoretical knowledge at Bryn Mawr because that is what Bryn Mawr’s education is all about—we are a liberal arts college—but I do find myself lacking data analysis abilities and those real things that you need for work and I really want to go for that.
What would you like to do after graduation?
I have a few different options. I would like to pass the test of the United Nations. I want to work for the UN. That has been my dream since I was a little kid. I think that it is so cool to work in different areas in the world and meet so many fascinating people. The second option would be to be a data analyst at a non-profit or at a university or at an education department for a district. The third option is pursuing a PhD in education or public policy.
How do you think that your work in the Bryn Mawr/Haverford Education Program has prepared you for your studies at Brown?
I have met the most important mentors in my entire life at Bryn Mawr who are Alice Lesnick and Jody Cohen. They helped me loads. I started my first class at Bryn Mawr with Alice and I ended my Bryn Mawr journey with her as my thesis advisor. I think one thing that is really helpful is the theories plus the praxis placements that together really gave me grounded knowledge of what the theories looked like in real life. For example, I did a 360 with Jody called “Arts and Resistance” in the prison and my experience in there was really powerful. I recognized the fear and bias that I had in me. I valued what we were doing there, but it wasn’t until after graduating from Bryn Mawr when I worked at a public school in Chelsea, Massachusetts that I saw the school to prison pipeline with my own eyes—that if my student dropped out, they wound up on the street, they got arrested, and they wound up at the prison like where I worked before. Bryn Mawr prepared me with enough theories and enough policy knowledge to help me make sense of it, to name what is actually happening and to understand what it means.
What is a favorite memory of your time in the Education Program?
It is not a favorite, but a most memorable one, I actually accelerated my coursework at Bryn Mawr. I was only at Bryn Mawr for three years and my senior year was very tough. I had a huge struggle with my mental wellness and I was in Jody’s 360 at that time, and that 360 requires a lot of emotional energy to go into prison and come out and process it all along with what was going on in my own life. We often read how some schools are not able to support students with special needs, with mental illnesses, but the education department at Bryn Mawr is really supportive. The professors were able to support me, to give me extensions, to guide me thorough the whole process, to give me alternative ways to finish my work. They were all understanding of what I struggled with and in that moment I saw that the Bryn Mawr Education Program is coherent with what they are teaching us. Other places they may teach you one thing, but behave in another way. The professors here are professors because they really care about education and they really care about each student’s well-being.
What advice do you have for current students in the Education Program?
Enjoy the moment with professors like Alice and Jody who truly believe in equality. In their real life, they are working, within their abilities, to make sure equity happens. I remember the night Trump got elected and I called Alice immediately and I said, “What do I do? I need to face thirty Latino students tomorrow, half of them are undocumented. What do I say?” and Alice told me “You just go in there and tell them no matter what happens you love them and that there are people on this earth who love them equally.” So the next day, I went in and I told my students, “No matter what happens we are going to get through this together and no matter how little we have right now we are going to be grateful for what we have.” Then I saw that Alice was going out and protesting for people who don’t have a voice and I knew that the Bryn Mawr Education Program was such a good choice, because even after graduating, I am seeing my professors advocate for minorities.