Exploring education from all angles | News from MIT

As a tenth grader, David Spicer organized a student petition to create more advanced placement classes in high school. He knew another high school in the area offered a dozen more and saw no reason for the difference. After collecting 250 signatures from classmates, he presented it to his school’s principal, then circulated it to the school district’s superintendent.

In retrospect, Spicer says, “I was definitely a bit of an annoying high school kid, but that experience taught me the importance of not only standing up for the issues you care about, but the issues that affect the people around you.” It was also his first exposure to complexity. of education policy and management, a subject in which he has continued to be interested ever since.

Now a senior studying political science and president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (UA) Undergraduate Association, Spicer continues to explore education from all angles. “Education is one of those things that everyone has experience with,” he says. “And those experiences inform how you think about issues in education.”

Thinking about these questions goes beyond just the classroom, where Spicer has balanced theory and practice while taking courses spanning education policy, research and leadership at MIT and Harvard University. He has also worked at various levels of education, from teaching in K-12 classrooms to interning at the US Department of Education.

Spicer’s passion for education and education policy ties into his involvement at UA. Beginning as a member, then chairing the Community and Diversity Committee for two years, and now serving as president, Spicer often finds himself face-to-face with various stakeholders—university administrators, faculty, members of the Cambridge community—tasked with stands up for his fellow students.

“I’ve always been really interested in the biggest, most pressing issues of student life, whether it’s mental health, diversity, equity and inclusion, or community service,” Spicer says. He praises the UA as “one of the most enjoyable aspects of my journey at MIT so far,” as well as a vehicle for sharpening his own advocacy skills.

From Cambridge to LA

This semester, Spicer spearheaded the launch of the UA Leadership Forum, designed to bring UA staff and committee chairs into conversations with local, state and federal policymakers. The series aims to provide professional development opportunities and “burst the MIT bubble” by getting student leaders to think about how problems can be solved on a larger scale, not just on the MIT campus.

Spicer also took many opportunities to “pop the bubble.” As UA president, he spoke on a student panel at the Ronald Reagan Institute to talk about topics such as freedom of expression, digital citizenship and pandemic learning. He has also spoken with producers and directors in Los Angeles to help them more accurately represent the student experience in films and shows.

“I’ve really enjoyed the fact that being UA president has put me in a position to elevate the conversations that students hold so dearly at the local level,” Spicer says. “I’m in this position to bring this to national attention and bring it to the people who are making changes who are going to take what I’m saying and incorporate it.”

Cultivating community

Spicer grew up in a small town in southwest Louisiana — “the kind of town where you know everybody” — but when it came time to choose a college, he “wanted a 180 on the town.” MIT certainly fulfilled that desire, and the small, tight-knit political science department also contributed to that decision: “I knew I wanted to do social science, and I like having that little sense of community while also having the advantage of being in a big school and life in a big city.’

Giving back to communities is important to Spicer. For the past five semesters, he has been a teaching assistant for Concourse, a first-year learning community that emphasizes the study of the humanities alongside the sciences.

Asked what his plans are after graduation, Spicer says he wants to return to Louisiana to serve on the Board of Regents, which oversees higher education policy in the state. He has already worked for Louisiana Education Commissioner Kim Hunter Reed and appreciates the fact that he not only got the chance to interact with state government, but also with officials in other states.

“There is a real emphasis on building relationships in higher education. That’s a lot of collaborative space. It’s also a very innovative space,” he says.

Looking further into the future, Spicer hopes to attend law school and earn a doctorate in educational leadership.

“Education law and education policy are different, but they have these really amazing and amazing conversations with each other. For a state like Louisiana, I think it’s really critical that we can bring education law and policy together in a conversation.”

As a personal goal for this senior year, Spicer is focusing on cultivating the friendships and communities he formed during his years at MIT.

“I just want to make sure that when I graduate, I walk away very happy and keep these contacts with so many amazing people that I’ve met.”

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