Alumni in Action
“Coming out of my internship I learned that 'job descriptions' don't matter.”
Debra Kurshan - 2006 New York
Spotlight on Debra Kurshan
I began my career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana running an HIV/AIDS and Technology education center for two years. Next, I worked for World Links, a non-profit that manages educational technology projects in developing countries. We worked with Ministries of Education and other non-profits to train teachers on using technology in the classroom and to set up technology centers in schools.
I have always been passionate about education and inequality. As an Urban Studies major at the University of Pennsylvania I dedicated a lot of time through my course work and extra curricular activities to volunteering in the West Philadelphia Schools. Although I worked on international education issues after college, I knew that I wanted to return to working on urban issues in education and wanted to gain management skills to help in solving those problems. My experience in schools in West Philadelphia made me realize that while teaching may not be my calling, I do have valuable skills to bring to the education sector. I realized that an MBA would help me understand more about the intersection of business and the social sector which would make me a valuable asset to the education community.
My summer fellowship was challenging because of the conditions in which I was working, both from a management and facilities perspective (summer in New York in a 5th floor school building without AC), but it was valuable because I learned first-hand the challenges a charter school faces operating in New York City facilities.
Coming out of my internship I learned that "job descriptions" don't matter and I wanted to find something where I could grow and develop professionally while also working on something I cared deeply about.
I realized I was interested in a larger view that would allow me to affect systemic change than working from inside of one individual school. I saw New York City from a school perspective and I thought there would be benefit in transferring that knowledge to working centrally for the NYC Department of Education.
Charles Best, the founder of Donorschoose.org was the most memorable speaker during the fellowship. I was inspired by his ability to identify a problem, develop an innovative solution to solving that problem and make it happen. He is a true social entrepreneur and that was inspiring to me.
I have my own desire to be a social entrepreneur and start my own organization one day.
The fellowship proved helpful in my full-time job search. I met with many people in the NYC education community who were familiar with Education Pioneers and thought highly of the program. This helped to facilitate conversations and provided me with a level of credibility.
On a regular basis I work with partners through my work with charter schools and facilities. Having met or at least heard of so many key players in New York's education community during my fellowship, I am now in a position where I work with them regularly to solve problems and identify space for charter schools. I have also interacted with current fellows during their summer to provide information and resources.