HAEd Exec Team Member in Spotlight: Nell O'Donnell, Vice President

Full Name: Eleanor Barron O'Donnell Weber (a mouthful!). I answer to any and all of those names, but most people call me Nell O'Donnell or Nell Weber. 

Degree & Graduating Year: Ed.M. in International Education Policy in 2010, and currently working on my EdD at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (hoping to graduate in 2018)

Position on HAEd: Vice President

Current Role or Job: Currently working on my doctorate in education, where I'm learning about parents' beliefs about their role in their children's education, especially during the very early (preschool) years.

Why did you join HAEd?: 

I was talking with a good friend and frequent collaborator, Vanessa Beary, and we were shocked to find that the Harvard Alumni Association didn't have a shared interested group focused on education. Since we are both big believers in "being the change," to paraphrase Gandhi, we decided to found one, along with several other amazing people (that I hope will eventually also be profiled in future newsletters). 

What do you hope to achieve through HAEd?: 

In my capacity as Vice President, I hope to create systems and processes so that this organization exists long after the founding team passes the baton. Overall, though, I hope that we at HAEd can serve as a powerful convener of ideas, people, and opportunity for alumni from all over the Harvard network. It is also my hope that this will have positive repercussions for the educational opportunities of people far and wide, beyond just those who have had the privilege of attending one of Harvard's schools.

What cool ideas and events do you have up your sleeve for the coming year? 

I'm working on organizing a screening of "He Named Me Malala," the documentary film about education advocate and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai in Cambridge, MA. 

Name one person you have met through HAEd that you really admire or think is awesome! 

A few months ago, an alumnus approached us about starting a Detroit chapter. Cameron is now co-president of that chapter, in a city that desperately needs resources, attention, and revitalization. I am so excited that he is bringing his passion for education as well as his background as a Marine to our team!

What do you think is the most exciting thing happening in education right now? 

Here in Massachusetts, we are about to vote on Question 2, which would raise the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state. It has been so exciting to see the extent to which people are fervently sharing their vision for the kinds of schools and opportunities that they want our state to provide to its children as they debate this important issue. 

What do you love most about Harvard? 

As both a former and current student, I have both nostalgia for the exciting, whirlwind year that I spent as a master's student, as well as enthusiasm for what is still to come in terms of exploring the Harvard community, learning from  faculty and peers, and continuing my own research. However, if I had to pick one thing I love most, it would be all of the free food. 

Is there anything else we need to know? 

I would love to get more people involved in starting HAEd chapters around the country and around the world, so please get in touch with me if you are as excited as I am about discussing how we can expand educational opportunity to all.