Born and raised in Sacramento, Calif., Mariama Grimes has spent the last few years in Cambridge braving the cold and attending the Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed. L.D.) program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE).
Now Mariama has joined Strategies for Children for the next ten months to lead a project in support of SFC’s strategic plan implementation and local community work. This year-long residency is an experience that culminates with a dissertation. We’re happy to welcome her aboard, and we look forward to the outreach work she’ll be doing in various communities.
“I’ve always been interested in politics,” Mariama said in a recent interview, explaining that as a kid she had playing cards that featured politicians rather than baseball stars. In addition, Mariama’s father, Roy Grimes, was involved in educational policy in California, serving as president of the Sacramento County School Board and of the Sacramento City Unified School District.
Mariama earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles, as well as a Master in Public Administration Degree from the University of Southern California.
Her career includes working at St. HOPE a nonprofit organization founded by former National Basketball Association player Kevin Johnson, who played for the Phoenix Suns and is now the mayor of Sacramento.
When St. HOPE accepted the job of converting Sacramento High School to a charter school, Mariama became the director of community outreach. She found herself translating this significant policy shift into personal terms, which once meant sitting at one grandmother’s kitchen table explaining how the charter school’s new approach would affect that woman’s grandchildren.
Mariama went on to work for the California Legislature in the Office of the Legislative Analyst, a nonpartisan entity that provides fiscal and policy advice to that state’s lawmakers.
She discovered that her professional passion was a hybrid of policy and education, so when she learned about Harvard’s program, she was drawn to its bold interdisciplinary approach to preparing educational leaders.
Praising the faculty of her doctorate program, Mariama mentioned former Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville who invites education leaders into the classroom and also helps students focus on how they can succeed after they graduate from Harvard. Mariama also talked about Ronald Heifetz, a Harvard Kennedy School professor, whose research and teaching focuses on adaptive leadership: “the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive.”
HGSE’s educational leadership program has also taught Mariama how to function as an effective team member and leader. She says that she and her fellow Ed. L.D. students are learning to use each other’s strengths to achieve their goals.
While she works on her capstone project at Strategies for Children, Mariama will focus on three core issues:
- Launching an outreach project that helps communities expand their early education and care programs so that they can help more children today and potentially make better use of increase state funding in the future.
- Analyzing her own development as a leader over the next 10 months. And,
- Examining the larger impact her work has on the education sector.
“Self, site, sector,” she says, summing up the capstone approach.
What does her father think of her experiences? “It’s like he’s going to the program with me,” she says. “He’s getting his shadow doctorate.” And he adds to her education with lots of real world feedback.
Mariama expects to graduate next spring, and she’s excited about using her Harvard skills in the real world.
“I want to be in a place where there are forward thinkers, innovative thinkers,” she says. That could be in Boston, California, or any place in between — wherever a strategic leader can help people thrive in the midst of constant educational change.