Recent Alumni Events
More than 70 members of the Riverdale community attended the sixth-annual Alumni Career Networking Panel Discussion on Monday night, during which five Riverdale alumni and the school’s inaugural Zagat Global Fellow discussed their work in education, including evolving trends in the field and, more specifically, how educators embrace and support cognitive diversity in our schools. Moderated by Riverdale Head of School Dominic A.A. Randolph, panel members shared insights into a variety of educational opportunities available to populations that historically have been underserved due to socioeconomic barriers and diverse learning needs.
David Levin ’88, co-founder of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), and Tiffany Austin Liston ’94, chief operating officer of the Public Prep Network, described how charter schools across the country, particularly in urban areas, provide necessary alternatives to underfunded, low-performing public schools. In describing his motivation for establishing a reasonable and affordable option for students in these areas, David stated emphatically, “Demographics should not dictate destiny; zip code should not equate to a person’s future choices.” Tiffany enthusiastically agreed, describing the reason for her interest in developing partnerships with Riverdale and its peers as a desire to provide access to those who would not otherwise have it.
Similarly, Dr. Ellen Condliffe Lagemann ’63 noted, “I firmly believe that education is one of the ways we can address inequality in the United States.” As the Levy Institute Research Professor at Bard College and a distinguished fellow at the Bard Prison Initiative, which gives incarcerated men and women the opportunity to earn a college degree while serving their sentences, Ellen has a particularly unique lens into the diverse educational needs in our country. She stressed that universities have the power to transform individuals and societies, and that they must recognize their public purpose.
Also representing an unconventional approach to education, Laurence Lederer ’91, currently a partner in Branford Castle, Inc., a private-equity fund, has had years of experience investing in and working with for-profit, post-secondary schools that provide vocational training. Many of the students who attend these schools are nontraditional students ranging in age from 18 to 50+ and can include immigrants, veterans, or career-changers, for example. He noted that a liberal arts or community college education does not effectively prepare all students for the job market and that vocational training can offer a more practical and economically sound option for many.
Lana Jacobs Edelman ’00, an educational evaluator for the Stephen Gaynor School, works with children who have language-based learning needs. She stressed the importance of identifying the individual strengths and requirements of the students she sees and the challenge of doing so within the confines of a brief interview. Her advice to those considering a position in education is to identify their personal passions and assess how they might use those in ways that are fun, engaging, and different. She recalled a Riverdale teacher who had complimented her reading skills early on – inspiring her to study literature in school and ultimately translate that interest to helping students learn how to read and write.
Also taking part in the panel was Dr. David James, the deputy head of Bryanston School in England and the 2016 Riverdale Zagat Global Fellow. The Zagat Global Fellows program, established by Tim Zagat ’57, fosters partnerships between Riverdale and schools worldwide with the purpose of increasing Riverdale’s global connections and deepening our community’s understanding of other cultures. David offered insight into the evolution of trends in British education, noting that the conversation in the U.K. is revolving primarily around what is happening today in the States – such as character development, underfunding, and teacher retention – with solutions being articulated in a similar language to what is happening here. He underscored the importance of today’s educators having a sense of their own strengths and weaknesses while remaining “ambitious for yourself and for the children.”
The event was organized by Riverdale’s Alumni Association Executive Committee (AAEC) and held at the offices of Sidley Austin thanks to Nick Lagemann ’91. The AAEC represents the interests and activities of the school's alumni body and helps develop programs, initiatives, and events that promote the general welfare of the school and increase alumni participation in both events and annual giving. Previous networking events have featured the art, entrepreneurship, real estate, social and digital media, and finance professions. For more information on the AAEC, or to learn how to become involved, click here.