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Bringing Innovation and Change to the Education System

07-02-2014
Diana Frink

Master of Public Administration
alumna Dania Frink (’13)

After a demanding process, Master of Public Administration alumna Dania Frink (’13) has been selected as the recipient of a year-long Education Pioneers fellowship. She will be working with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation (Schusterman) in their new San Francisco location, where she will be expanding their educational investment work, specifically in teacher preparation and development. “I am very excited to be making the transition to the philanthropic side of the education sector,” Dania said. Frink credits the MPA program and the University of San Francisco for preparing her for her past role at the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), the Education Pioneers fellowship, and for her time at Schusterman. “While earning my MPA, I was in school part-time and working at the EOYDC full-time. The MPA was such a hybrid program, designed for working professionals, it challenged us to network and develop professionally.”

Frink was selected for a year-long fellowship with Education Pioneers (EP), an organization that seeks to identify, train, connect and inspire future leaders who are dedicated to changing the education system so that all students have access to quality education. Every year, EP provides a select group of promising innovators in education with 10-week or year-long fellowships, which started last Monday. “So far it’s very exciting,” she said. “I have experience in many areas of the education sector, except for philanthropy, so I'm very happy that this is what I’m going to be doing now.”

Frink shares, “My project at Schusterman is to create a formal grant making process for the Foundation, and establish the metrics by which grants will be measured and evaluated. I will also help assess potential grantees. This is a great opportunity to design and execute major organizational policies and systems. Additionally, being located in a region that’s rich in social innovation and social justice, it is inspiring to see emerging solutions for some of the biggest issues we face in education.” She added, “One thing I can say with great confidence is how practical the MPA program was,” said Frink. “We were provided with hands-on tools that I could use immediately at work. I was challenged by my professors to really take what I was learning in the classroom and apply it right away in my professional life. It would not have been the same without all those amazing professors and their varying fields of expertise.”

Once her fellowship is over, Frink hopes to be offered a full-time position at the Schusterman Foundation. Schusterman is a global organization that seeks to empower young people to create positive change for themselves, the Jewish community and the broader world. The foundation provides grants and works collaboratively with others to support and operate high-quality education, identity development, leadership training and service programs designed to help young people cultivate their growth as individuals and as leaders. “I really, really love the fact that the Schusterman Family Foundation has a unique philosophy on grant making,” Frink said. “It's much more of a partnership, a collaborative process. Schusterman recognizes that the grantees are the people on the ground doing great things, and hold a tremendous amount of expertise. It’s not just about funding initiatives, it’s also providing support: this means creating learning communities among organizations, and making sure that knowledge is shared. It’s about recognizing that ultimately organizations are much more powerful together.”

“Although Schusterman is an established organization, the SF office is relatively new,” Frink said. “It’s less than a year old, so it will be similar to working at a startup in that I will witness many of the processes from the ground up. This will be a really valuable learning opportunity.”

Before being awarded the fellowship, Frink worked at the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), which primarily serves people between the ages of 6 and 24 by providing educational and cultural programs like visual and performing arts. “I was a participant in their program many moons ago. I grew up there,” said Frink. “I most recently served as EOYDC’s Communications Director and it was quite rewarding to give back to the place that poured so much into me.”

Frink expressed her belief that the arts of writing, conversation and networking have been lost, but that these skills were emphasized in the MPA program. At USF, she learned the details of good written and verbal communication, the art of persuasion and how to effectively communicate her cause, thorough research skills, quantitative analytics, evidence-based leadership and the intricacies of policymaking. “I’m forever a fan of the MPA program,” said Frink. “It’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made.”

Written by Inge Lamboo