Stutigo Swamy

April 27, 2012

Partnering with TED: The Next Generation of Visionaries

Stuti Goswami ('13) champions the Dream Act and Education Reform

By Kyle Holtan

Stuti Goswamy ('13) was among the students and faculty selected to present their own TED-style talks on ideas they are passionate about as part of UCLA Anderson's partnership with TED Conferences, LLC. Goswamy believes the DREAM Act would allow more people to pursue the American Dream in the United States. The DREAM Act is a bill that has been before the United States congress in one form or another since 2001. It would grant conditional permanent residency to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors, which would allow them to qualify for federal grants and loans as they pursue higher education.

But Goswamy's advocacy and passion don't end with the DREAM Act, and she has come to UCLA Anderson to gain the skills she needs to take part in changing the face of education in America.

"My passion still lies with my students," Goswamy said of why she believes so strongly in reforming education. As a high school English teacher for four years in South Los Angeles, she saw firsthand the hopelessness engendered in even high-achieving undocumented students.

"It was my 11th and 12th grade students just trying to apply to college," she said. "Seeing their acceptance letters and then their choosing not to go because they couldn't get money. It's devastating for a student to end their education at high school."

But federal aid for college is hardly the only problem facing America's inner-city schools, and the journey that led Goswamy to experience those problems also led her to see herself as more than an advocate for any single solution.

Upon graduating from Stanford, she heeded the call of Teach for America, which places recent college graduates in the classrooms of low-income communities, and landed in South Los Angeles. "It seemed like the greatest impact I could make right away," she said.

But as she grew in teaching experience, what started becoming clear to her was her place in finding the solutions.

"I thought I was going to be a teacher for life," Goswamy recounted. But changes at the Los Angeles Unified School District forced her into a new job with a Green Dot charter school where, she says, "I was not as good a teacher. Discipline was more important in the role and that wasn't my forte. And that is when I realized I wanted to go into management."

It is in the management of schools where Goswamy sees the possibility of real change occurring in the education system. The Green Dot school "was created and run by businessmen, most of them former consultants. I liked how they looked at the problem ... It was much more data-driven. It was a bigger emphasis on funding and finding money for solutions."

"I would love to be in a charter school management position," she said. But to do so effectively, "I need to get those skils, get that background, and then go back to education reform ... which is why I'm doing my MBA, and why I'm going to consult for a couple years."

And so? "Do I feel like I'm developing the skills I came for? Absolutely. Now when I think about running schools, I think about operations and finance and all of these other things I never really thought about."

In addition to her studies, Goswamy stays on top of developments in her field, and shares and tests them in case competitions and student organizations. "Anderson does a great job of connecting you with people who are interested in the same things you are," she explained. With the student organization Net Impact, she puts together education-focused Dinners for Eight "with COOs of LAUSD, of Green Dot, other organizations. I organized one with Education Pioneers."

"I feel like Anderson does a good job of saying 'You need to do this. It's good for you,'" she said. "If I hadn't been pushed to do this TED Talk, I would never have had the opportunity to share this story" of the DREAM Act.

When it came to choosing UCLA Anderson, in addition to the hardheaded, practical reasons for attending a world-class training ground of global leaders, Goswamy had another instance of bringing to bear her passion, of heeding the "emotional argument." Her passion is located in Los Angeles. "This is where I want to stay in education for the long run," she said. "This is where my students are, and I need to go to their graduations in June."

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