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Amanda Lu

“The Stanford GSE community is such a strong community of passionate scholars and advocates. I felt like it was the place that was going to develop my academic and practical skills the most.”
GSE Program: 
Joint MA/MPP program in Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies (POLS) and Public Policy
Wilmington, NC
BA in Political Science/Government, Harvard College
Year of GSE degree: 

What’s unusual about POLS?

POLS attracts people with so many diverse backgrounds, experiences and points of views. The synergy that happens when we all get in a room can be amazing! It’s also a program that stresses both strong academic preparation and the acquisition of practical skills. I feel prepared to enter a world of practice or to engage with high-level theory.

Describe a class that you have enjoyed.

My favorite course from fall quarter was Justice, a cross-listed course, which I took as part of my MPP requirements. The goal of the course was to learn about the philosophical underpinnings of justice. Professor Rob Reich was an evocative instructor who pushed the thinking of all his students. I left the course with stronger convictions in why I believe in equity, but also more actionable questions about what is necessary to provide equality in society. It’s a course that will inform whatever work I do in education policy or practice.

How about another highlight from the fall quarter?

As part of POLS seminar, Leslie Chin [an instructor at Stanford Graduate School of Business] facilitated several sessions of seminar and focused on interpersonal leadership skills. I was so impressed by my cohort’s ability to listen and learn from each other and to exhibit vulnerability so readily with a new group of people. In a very short time, I gained concrete leadership skills and felt a strong level of comfort and support within my cohort.

What are POLS students like?

Our cohort is a diverse, purpose-driven, kind and intelligent group of individuals. Everyone has a unique view of what it takes to improve educational outcomes, but there is an overwhelming willingness to listen to each other’s ideas and collaborate. People have honest and open conversations with each other, and it has been in these conversations where I have really been able to develop and get support for my ideas.

What advice do you have for students who are trying to decide whether to attend POLS?

For any graduate school decisions, it’s important to make sure that your personal goals and the goals of the program align. The goal of POLS is to create education leaders who are open-minded, creative, analytical and results driven. It’s an open goal, and you will need a level of willingness to embrace the unknown, but it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience for myself and my classmates.

Any tips for incoming students to help them get the most from their time at Stanford?

Familiarize yourself with faculty members with similar interests so that you can make connections quickly. The faculty are such a great wealth of information and experience and you want to make sure that you make your time with them count!

Amanda Lu

What were you doing prior to applying to the GSE?

I spent four years working as an ACT Prep/AP Statistics teacher and college counselor at Edna Karr High School in New Orleans.

What are your career plans?

I’m interested in working either as a high school or district level leader in a school that serves diverse student populations. I want to work on issues of equity and access for historically marginalized groups, specifically in terms of access to higher education and preparation for career opportunities.

Why did you decided to pursue a graduate degree through POLS?

Out of all the degree programs, POLS provided the best combination of practical and academic training. Our POLS project is a great opportunity to apply research and academic theory in a practical setting. I also saw great value in participating in a cohort with people from diverse backgrounds in education.

Why Stanford?

The Stanford GSE community is such a strong community of passionate scholars and advocates. I felt like it was the place that was going to develop my academic and practical skills the most. The quarter system also allows you to get the most out of a 9-month program. It moves fast, but you learn more!

The Bay Area is also a really interesting educational landscape. You can observe (and work with!) so many different types of schools, organizations and companies who are attacking issues of education equity, access and quality from so many different angles.

What’s something fun that you do to relax?

I love hosting dinner parties for my fellow POLsters and unwinding over good food and good conversation. I have also been trying to explore the natural beauty of the Bay Area. There are so many different local hikes and parks to explore!

This interview was conducted via email in February 2016.

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