A few years ago, Joshua Delaney was teaching algebra and special education to high school students in DeKalb County, Ga., a diverse area just outside Atlanta with an especially large Latino immigrant population. Many of his students and their family members were undocumented.
When the Obama administration first considered and then authorized Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an immigration policy that gave children of undocumented parents a temporary reprieve from federal deportation, the impact for Delaney was tangible. The shift wasn’t some policy abstraction up for debate on the web or on the newspaper opinion pages. It was real life.
“While I was in the classroom, while I was teaching algebra, I could not help but notice the amount of policy that was impacting the lives of my students — education policy, but also immigration policy and social policy,” he said while sitting in a busy cafeteria near the Hart Senate Office Building.
“I became more and more hungry to learn about that and to learn, ‘OK, how can I take this firsthand experience I have with my students and activate that in a policy direction and become involved in the policy-making apparatus?’” Delaney said. At the time, he didn’t quite know what that meant, just that policy was being made somewhere over his head and he wanted to learn how to influence what was happening on the ground.
So he decided to go back to school, earning a master’s in education policy at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. After graduating in 2014, he received a fellowship for former teachers and headed to Washington for his “dream job,” working for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat. Now, as Warren’s senior education policy adviser, Delaney handles issues that affect students from early childhood education through graduate and adult education.
“I really feel like I am living my vocation,” Delaney said, describing it as “the unique intersection of what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about, and what the world needs.”
Well said, Mr. Delaney, and very well done, though we know you're just getting started. His perspective on vocational intersections is a great next statement in this conversation about what students can do with arts, humanities and social sciences degrees. People living their vocation - that's what the world needs.
Image: Joshua Delaney, senior education policy adviser for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer