“The School of Education Graduate Student Council is important because it teaches you about the leader and person you are,” said Alaysia Bookal ’22, president of the council until she graduated in May with an MEd in education policy and leadership and an MA in political communication. A self-described ‘introvert through and through,’ she says SOE-GSC helped her develop essential leadership and interpersonal skills that aid her at work and at networking opportunities. “I knew becoming president would be difficult, and my time as president pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and become the leader I strive to be.”
Facilitating professional and extra-curricular opportunities to enhance students’ academic experience, the SOE-GSC was formed in 2021 to hold events, advocate for SOE students, and raises awareness of the school throughout the larger university and Washington, DC. The council seeks to use events to increase graduate student participation and engagement to cultivate a community of anti-racist educators, leaders, and policy influencers. The council leadership does important work speaking about, for, or against pressing issues the education community is passionate about.
Bookal ran for president of the new organization using the knowledge she gained as chairperson of the Academic and Professional Development Committee in the School of Public Affairs Graduate Student Council. “During my term as chairperson, I saw the impact each event had on the student body and loved learning about each graduate student's interests and career aspirations. With passions for education and policy, I was determined to serve during my final year in the School of Education,” she said.
Because she took online and in-person classes, she met a variety of students using each learning modality, asking for feedback for the council. After hearing about challenges faced by students with disabilities transitioning back to in-person learning, she was proud of her advocacy work to ease the adaptation. To let students in other schools learn more about SOE, she worked with the School of Public Affairs Graduate Student Council president to connect students at the two schools through networking opportunities and to share advice and concerns.
Being president reinforced the importance of Bookal’s time management skills. She woke at 4:30 each morning to do schoolwork before driving an hour and a half to work as an elementary school educator and equity fellow, and then a teacher development coach for Baltimore City Public Schools. After work, she drove the same distance to classes on campus in DC and used the drive time to listen to cases for her education law class or speak with fellow SOE-GSC leaders. “Every minute of the day I was doing more than one thing!” she recounted.
Post-graduation she is an elementary school educator for DC Public Charter Schools. In two years she plans to study for a doctorate in educational leadership and a law degree with a specialization in education law. Her long-term career goals are to advocate for equitable educational resources for low-income students and represent the interests of public-school teachers through school-based leadership and policy implementation.
The SOE-GSC presidency is currently vacant, so eligible students should consider running for president, vice president, or positions in finance, communications, social and academic planning, or marketing. Bookal encourages everyone to take advantage of this amazing opportunity to serve and strengthen their leadership skills, and she volunteers to be a resource if students have any questions. “I highly encourage anyone who has a love for service and leadership to join.”