You can’t separate strategy and culture

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For the first time since we launched Deans for Impact, we’re looking to expand the staff team.

What’s it like to work at Deans for Impact? My colleague, Rashi, recently asked our team to describe the culture that new folks will be joining. Some of the descriptors: professional, reflective, collaborative, committed, creative, passionate, purposeful, positive, fun.

We spend a lot of time talking about culture at Deans for Impact because we believe that our organizational ethos should reflect the types of changes that we and our members aim to see in the field of educator preparation.

We don’t think that strategy and culture can be separated. They’re embedded together in the questions we ask of ourselves, our members, and the field.

So, in the spirit of transparency (one of our guiding principles), here are three questions that we ask of ourselves and our member-led programs — and that we’ll be asking candidates as we look to expand our team.

Do you seek out data to let you know how you’re doing? As WestEd and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation recently profiled in a series of case studies (including three featuring programs led by our members), teacher-candidates and teacher-educators in pioneering programs generate data constantly and use it, in appropriate context, to pinpoint areas of individual and organizational growth. “Data” mean more than information gleaned from periodic, high-stakes assessments. Data are also the insights collected formally and informally each day.

At Deans for Impact, we are building a habit of looking at data. That means not just regularly reviewing dashboards of key organizational indicators, but also making our individual growth goals transparent and setting aside regular time for written and verbal feedback – the everyday data that help us get better. (We’re also tracking team predictions for each presidential primary contest, but writing about that here could jeopardize our 501c3 status).

Do you feel professionally accountable to yourself and the people you serve? Our recently released policy brief contains a simple truth: the programs led by our members want to know how their graduates are doing in the classroom because they feel responsible for teacher quality and accountable to the K-12 students taught by their graduates.

That same spirit animates our staff team. We set ambitious goals for ourselves because while we know that the road to transforming educator preparation at scale is messy and complex, we believe that every student deserves a teacher who has been prepared to be good on day one, and great over time. We try to model good pedagogy in our own work (and occasionally succeed) — whether facilitating sessions among our members or running monthly book clubs among our team.

Do you get better by learning from those with diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences?  Our members represent a diverse set of institutions – private research universities, former land grant colleges, historically black and Hispanic-serving institutions, and new, practice-focused programs. Our members reject institutional silos and petty academic squabbles that distract from the urgent and important work of preparing great teachers. They want to build bridges between K-12 and higher ed. And they insist that an increasingly racially and ethnically diverse K-12 student body suffers when its teachers do not reflect that diversity.

We aim to build a staff team that embraces difference as a source of strength. We come from a range of backgrounds and corners of the country and, collectively, have worked in district schools, charter schools, private schools, city government, state government, higher education, a teachers union, consulting firm, law firm, private equity firm, foundation, and schooner. We’re getting better at talking about the ways that diverse perspectives and identities, including race and gender, impact our efforts.

But what unites all of our work – our strategy and our culture – is a relentless optimism in the ability of American educators to create the greatest system of educator preparation in the world. We’re not naïve about the history of failed attempts. But we choose optimism over pessimism, solutions over complaints.

We hope you’ll consider applying to join us. Or tell a friend, a colleague, a family member. We’re looking for great people. We offer competitive compensation, benefits, Cuvee coffee, and a great Vietnamese food truck around the corner from our office.

Peter Fishman

Vice President of Strategy

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