Associate Professor Rebecca Lowenhaupt shares her expertise of immigrant communities with the Lynch School
For the past 20 years, Rebecca Lowenhaupt has dedicated her career to educating underserved communities and inspiring future generations of educators, working alongside school leaders to serve the greater community. As an associate professor of educational leadership, Lowenhaupt is able to share her knowledge of immigrant communities with Boston College’s diverse student body.
My original career plan was to become an education leader. I went to graduate school, where I learned that I loved engaging in research. After grad school, I had some questions that were still unanswered, like how do we take what we know about school leadership, instruction, and supporting immigrant families and communities and create adaptable, context-sensitive practices? So I decided to pursue an academic career. I began teaching at Nativity Prep in Boston, a school that serves low-income students and a lot of immigrant families. There, I became committed to and interested in how you set up schools that build on the communities and cultures that they serve by best utilizing assets at their disposal. That experience was really foundational, both in terms of introducing me to a Jesuit philosophy of education as well as helping me get a handle on which aspect of justice I was particularly interested in. Ultimately, I honed in on how to help schools fight for racial justice and how to assist schools in becoming places of support for students who are typically marginalized by society.
Broadly speaking, one career goal has always been to have an impact on others. I serve as an advisor to students in our master’s program, helping them both navigate the program and formulate their professional plan or plans after they earn their degrees. I am lucky in that I get to work with aspiring school principals and superintendents—young teachers trying to figure out a path and interested in or troubled by some of the justice issues in their schools, and wanting to take on leadership roles to address those issues. Our program is set up for students who have a very clear idea that they’re on a path to school leadership. While not all of our students aspire to become principals, they have leadership aspirations or are interested in serving by influencing policy. Some imagine themselves as instructional experts working like a curriculum coordinator. Some want to write curriculum. Others want to start programs outside of school that serve marginalized groups or students. While we certainly act as a leading principal preparation program, we are proud to serve educators with other professional aspirations and a variety of career goals.
For me, Our program is extremely collaborative. We have students from all over the world who are justice-oriented thinkers from every kind of educational context. We have students from all different kinds of schools—urban schools, suburban schools, rural, Catholic, private, public.
Many students come to the Lynch School looking for a community of learners that includes students and faculty who can come together to work on issues of justice. Some are propelled by an interest that involves thinking about the structure and design of schools as they impact marginalized groups. Other students arrive at the Lynch School searching for partners in figuring out a path to leadership or seeking a space to reflect on their own place in the world and the contributions that they would like to make.
Students make sense of new information in relation to their prior knowledge, and they do that through reflection. What I’m excited about for our students is the opportunity to engage in a structured, collaborative reflection on their experiences with education, while those experiences are happening. There is an explicit attention paid to reflection in all of our classes. We’ve built our program around making space for such purposeful reflection, helping students consider how the actions and efforts of the individual can impact a social justice cause. In doing so, we teach our students how to engage in critical reflection as a skill. This is a really powerful way to make their professional lives ones in which they’re learning and growing.
“I am lucky in that I get to work with aspiring school principals and superintendents—young teachers trying to figure out a path and interested in or troubled by some of the justice issues in their schools, and wanting to take on leadership roles to address those issues. ”
In addition to students on the principal path, we support students who maybe have a few years of teaching, who love the enterprise of education—giving back to their community by teaching future generations—but don’t see themselves in the classroom long term. One goal of our program is to give students a space and a mechanism to reflect on what their path might be and what they hope their ultimate impact will be on the groups they educate.
I have several students who are thinking, I might want to go deep into college access issues, or maybe I want to explore some ideas about education policy and how screwed up it is, so I want to find a way to engage in the policy process.
More than anything, I think what unites our students is that they're aspiring to make change in the world. And they’re trying to figure out how to do that.
One of our anchor experiences is that students have to write up an instructional vision. So even if they aren’t in teacher roles, they have a strong, authentic understanding of what they think good teaching and learning looks like.
We believe that students must be able to understand and interpret the law in regards to both their legal obligations as well as being able to identify where there is ‘wiggle room.’ This way, when they encounter policy, our students can make sense of it and adapt it to serve their purposes.
We also believe that students need to be data literate and understand how to make sense of a variety of forms of data they may encounter in their schools. For example, our class on policy analysis is focused on taking a more critical approach to what data counts, what it means, and how to use it in the service of their vision. For many school leaders, there is an abundance of data available within their schools that can help them make important decisions, like test scores, attendance data, and other pieces of information that capture students’ perspectives. Other schools look at which parents attend certain events or take exit surveys of staff who leave. Ultimately, we want our students to be able to interpret that data through a justice-oriented lens to figure out what is and isn’t working, and for whom.
We want our students to feel like they have a shared commitment to making the world a better place, and that they know how to access the information to help them get there. Ideally, our students leave the Lynch School feeling like they have the skills to find those resources and to make decisions that are in the service of supporting those most marginalized.
I hope that students leave feeling like they can be agents in their own schools or educational organizations. And they can be agents of positive change, that they don’t see structure as limiting, but are able to navigate strategically through the kind of constraints that they might have.
“I hope that students leave feeling like they can be agents in their own schools or educational organizations. And they can be agents of positive change, that they don’t see structure as limiting, but are able to navigate strategically through the kind of constraints that they might have. ”