Education Policy and Leadership Alumni have careers across the education policy world. Some of our alumni shared more about their career paths.
Jeremy Akiyama (he, him, his)
Graduated: On-Campus, Fall 2016
Current Position: Principal at Aspire East Palo Alto Charter School (EPACS)
Undergraduate Degree: University of California San Diego, Political Science and Urban Studies and Planning
Past Experience in Education: Jeremy previously taught in Prince George's County as a TFA corps member in an elementary school. Then he continued teaching in California before taking on the Principal role. In March 2020 he transitioned into distanced learning and supported their school community through the COVID-19 pandemic. During Jeremy’s time in the EPL program, he interned at the DC Office of the State Superintendent and Education Counsel, while also serving on a panel at the Department of Education featuring AAPI Educators in the Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia area.
What skills or knowledge do you use from the EPL Program in your current role? The EPL program taught me foundational skills in education policy. For example, the role of local, state, and federal policy and the ways legislation can affect what happens in a classroom. Learning about school funding, education law, and key policies like the Every Student Succeeds Acts gave me an understanding of what advocacy levers to pull and the “why” behind so much of what we see at the local level. The EPL program also connected me to different educational organizations in the DMV that helped me to narrow my scope of work while also experiencing a range of other organizations outside the classroom I wouldn't have had access to.
What advice do you have for current or prospective students? Take advantage of the community of educators and professors at AU and in the Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virgina area.
Gloria Molina-Estolano (she, her, hers)
Graduated: On-Campus, Spring 2015
Current Position: Director of Policy and Advocacy Fellowships at Leadership for Educational Equity
Undergraduate Degree: University of California San Diego, Communication
Past Experience in Education: Gloria taught high school Spanish in DC for 3 years and has worked at education nonprofits and Charter Management Organizations for the last 7 years.
What skills or knowledge do you use from the EPL Program in your current role? The EPL program taught me to think critically about the policy making process and how policies enacted at all levels of government ultimately impact classrooms, teachers, and students. I use the skills and knowledge gained from the program to help other education leaders enter the policy and advocacy space in an effort to transform public education in our country.
What advice do you have for current or prospective students? Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions and think big! Think expansively about what policy solutions could help solve the problems you are seeing. There are so many ways for you to make an impact.
Riqia E. Taylor (she, her, hers)
Graduated: Online, Spring 2021
Current Position: Owner and Lead Consultant, Ingenious Leadership Consulting LLC
Undergraduate Institution: Virginia Commonwealth University, African American Studies
Past Experience in Education: Riqia’s past experience in education primarily focused on spiritual growth and leadership development of middle and high school students in Richmond, Virginia, and college students that attended Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Union University.
What skills or knowledge do you use from the EPL Program in your current role? The knowledge and skills that I developed in the EPL program prepared me to start my own leadership consulting company. I now have the opportunity to motivate and cultivate leadership skills in youth and young adults using educational tools. Courses like 'Education Leadership and Organizational Change' provided me the necessary tools to communicate efficiently and professionally with my clients. Upon graduating, I felt so confident in my ability to lead in education that I made the bold decision to work for myself full-time. I now assist educational institutions in the public, private, religious, and government sectors in reimagining what leadership development looks like not only for their young audiences but also within their organizational structures. The proseminar course prepared me to produce a deliverable that I added to my portfolio. As a result, I booked my first three clients for my company in less than three weeks after graduating.
What advice do you have for current or prospective students? Do not be intimidated if you do not have a background in formal teaching. My goal was to be a leader in education, but I feared that having no experience in a traditional classroom would hinder my success in the program. Knowing my "why" and focusing on achieving my goals kept me grounded in the confidence that I could still succeed in a program designed for someone just like me!
Melinda Daly (she, her, hers)
Graduated: Online, Summer 2020
Current Position: Vice President of the San Ramon Valley Education Association
Undergraduate Degree: University of Arizona, Political Science
Past Experience in Education: Teacher
What skills or knowledge do you use from the EPL Program in your current role? I loved the EPL program. I learned about the inner workings of education policy on the local, state, and federal level. Collaborating with peers from all over the country allowed me to gain perspective about what issues educators are facing nationwide. After graduating, I had the knowledge and confidence to enter a new leadership position in my district.
What advice do you have for current or prospective students? Start a group text with your peers! Use the wonderful advising staff as much as you need to. Enjoy this time!
Alex (Wolitzer) Helwink
Graduated: On-Campus, Fall 2015
Current Position: Learning Support Specialist at The Potomac School
Undergraduate Degree: Skidmore College, Psychology
Past Experience in Education: Alex began her career in education as a DC Special Education Teaching Fellow and taught multiple subjects for students with a ranging degree and type of special needs. Then she transitioned to a career as a Learning Specialist and worked with students in a more individualized model.
What skills or knowledge do you use from the EPL Program in your current role? Especially now that I'm transitioning into a role of more divisional leadership and building out a learning support program, I use a great deal of the common themes and threads from all of my classes on leadership. One of the most important aspects of the perspective on leadership that I took away from the program and my time at AU was the importance of being a servant leader: being there for those you lead and not yourself. It guides all that I do and helps keep what's truly best for the students at the center of my work and efforts!
What advice do you have for current or prospective students? Find ways to connect to all that you are learning, even if you think that a course isn't "your thing" or that you won't use something later. You will! It just may not be clear at the time. Also, I can't stress enough how important it is to establish your community and connections at AU because you are so lucky to have it; once you're an AU Eagle, you're an AU Eagle for life! And don't forget to stop and reflect on everything from time to time. Things can move pretty fast, and it can be easy to get caught up, whether you're a full-time student or taking classes at night after work, like I did. But if you make the time to really sit with and digest what your professors (and peers) are teaching you, it will really stick and in a much more meaningful way!
Cherelle A. Jeffries (she, her, hers)
Graduated: Online, Fall 2020
Current Position: Human Resources Manager at D.C. Public Schools
Undergraduate Degree: Delaware State University, Biology
Past Experience in Education: Prior to joining D.C. Public Schools as an HR Manager, Cherelle worked in administration for Howard University. She has served in many roles as an administrator in education but has not yet served as an educator.
What skills or knowledge do you use from the EPL Program in your current role? The EPL program gave me the opportunity to learn about policies that impact education as a whole, some of which can heavily impact teacher recruitment and retention e.g., teacher compensation scales and teacher licensure. The knowledge of past and present policies has informed my strategies on hiring teachers.
What advice do you have for current or prospective students? For prospective students, come in with an open mind and listening ears! For current students, hold on, it's almost over! My peers taught me a lot about being an educator without me stepping foot inside a classroom. As I listened I learned how policies impact educators and how it flows into the classroom, it sparked more passion to become an educator. It was a pleasure to have some commonalities in perspective and by the end of our journey, I gained many techniques to take with me into the classroom.