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Meet an Alumnus: Geordie Brackin

Posted by on Monday, April 9, 2018 in Alumni, .

Geordie Brackin, M.Ed. 2010

Director of Global Innovation, Bridge International Academies


“I came to the CDA program having themed interests in education and community-building, but not knowing what my path would be. I’ve now been living abroad and working in international education for the past 6 years and I owe that to the experiences I had in the CDA program and the sensibilities it gave me. “

Q:   Can you tell me a little bit your background—where you’re from and what you did before coming to CDA?

I grew up in Philadelphia and did my undergraduate at Vanderbilt. I was a double major, so when I graduated, I had a degree in Education and an English degree. I went into journalism and was a journalist for about 6 years. The last journalism job I had was as an editor at Men’s Health magazine. While I was there, we started this non-profit within Men’s Health where we partnered with schools that had their funding for physical education cut and we brought in additional resources, training, and equipment. I found that I was way more passionate about that than I was writing articles for the magazine, so I took it as a sign that I should get back into education and community-based work.

At that point, I remembered how transformative my education was at Peabody; I’m a very practical learner and the whole Reflective Practitioner model at Peabody of theory, practice, and reflection working together really resonated with me. I remembered that from my undergraduate days and came back to Vanderbilt for a master’s degree in education.

Q: What were some things you were involved with during your time in CDA?

While I was in the CDA program, I was influenced by all of them but there were two professors in particular that really shaped my time there. One was Sharon Shields, who I did community work with focused on service learning. And second was Brian Heuser, who works in the I.E.P.M. (International Education Policy & Management) track. I was a graduate assistant for his service learning class, where we studied the history of South Africa and the implications for modern education. Over the summer, went with 15-20 undergraduates to Cape Town as part of the VISAGE program. We were based at the University of Cape Town and did a service-learning component in the townships each day, where we would go to a community center and hold classes on computer literacy.

I became deeply interested in South Africa and, more broadly, how universities engage with larger community issues around education and equity. I came back for my second year in CDA and was on fire with those interests and a desire to continue that type of work. I finished my year in CDA and completed my final project on ‘Integrating a Reflective Practitioner Model for International Service Learning.’

Q: What did you do after graduation?

My experience with the service learning course inspired me to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in South Africa. I applied for the ETA program, got that, and moved to South Africa in the fall after graduation.

At the end of the ETA, I wanted to stay working in education in South Africa, so I got a job working at the LEAP Science and Math school, a college prep high school. I worked there as a teacher and leading instructional design. During that time I actually had a couple visits from CDA professors—Doug Perkins and Sharon Shields both brought groups of students to visit the school in South Africa.

From there, I moved to Kenya and for the last 5 years, I have been working for Bridge International Academies, which is one of the largest networks of affordable private schools in the world. The schools are designed for families living at the bottom of the pyramid, in places where parents are making about $2/day, but still want access to a great education for their children.

Q: How did your CDA experience tie into that? What some big take-aways for you from the program?

The idea of being a Reflective Practitioner has been instrumental in my work. Secondly, the idea of working in partnership with communities, especially when it comes to big issues like education and equity, is something that is fundamental throughout my work.

The program provided a solid foundation with just enough choice to allow me to seek out opportunities that fit with my passions. There was just enough lateral movement within the program for me to pursue interests as I was exposed to them. I came to the CDA program having themed interests in education and community building, but not knowing my exact path. I’ve now been living abroad and working in international education for the past 6 years and I owe that to the experiences I had in the CDA program and the sensibilities it gave me.

Q: Do you have any advice for CDA students or people who are interested in your field?

One piece of advice would be to come to the program with an open mind, and to pursue new ideas and ways of learning as much as you can. Before coming to the CDA program, I had only been to South Africa for vacation. But I was open to new experiences and courses of study and now my life’s work is pursing equity in international education. It was only by being open to the opportunity while I was in the program that this path opened up to me.


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