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After receiving encouragement from his dad, Kaufman decided to give education a try

Nine years ago, as a BYU sophomore, Trent Kaufman never imagined that he would find himself at the Harvard Graduate School of Education pursuing a doctorate in education. In fact, back then he was having a hard time imagining himself pursuing anything.

“[In 1997] I scheduled appointments with the business school and the McKay School of Education, with the hope of finally finding a major,” said Kaufman, who comes from a long line of successful businessmen. “During my visit with a business school counselor, the average salary of exiting graduates impressed me.”

This meeting prompted Kaufman to plan to forego his appointment at McKay School of Education altogether. Fortunately, he decided to call his dad and let him in on his plans before actually skipping the appointment. “I told him that I was going to cancel my appointment at the McKay School and become a businessperson like him,” Kaufman recalled. “I expected to hear a sigh of relief. Instead, he seemed disappointed, wondering if I had made the choice because I wanted to follow in his chosen field. He encouraged me to keep my appointment and an open mind.”

Kaufman took his father’s advice, and ended up choosing education over business not for the financial rewards, but for the personal rewards he expected to find as an educator. According to Kaufman, he has “immersed” himself in public education since that appointment in 1997. Through the Washington Seminar program, he student taught in inner-city Washington, DC. With the help of Dr. Joseph Matthews from the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations, Kaufman formed a BYU chapter of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. In 2000 when Kaufman graduated from BYU with his teaching credential, he became a social studies teacher at Dublin High School in Northern California.

After teaching for three-and-a-half years, Kaufman earned a master’s degree and his administrative credential at the University of California-Berkeley. The next year he was promoted to assistant principal at Dublin High.

“During my tenure as assistant principal, I came to realize how much passion I have for education,” Kaufman said. “This passion was born back in my days in Dr. Cliff Mayes’ multicultural education class in the McKay building. It is this passion that drove Kaufman to his latest career move; Kaufman went back to school in 2005 to pursue a doctorate in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

While at Harvard, Kaufman has been conducting research on how to best prepare teachers and school leaders to improve public education. He believes that schools need to do a better job of “collaboratively setting measurable goals, consistently measuring with relevant data, and assessing adult as well as student performance.”

“My goals and aspirations are to make a major impact on the United States public school system through redesigning the training and credentialing of our teachers and school leaders,” Kaufman explained. “By retooling the training process for our schools’ professionals, my hope is that our schools can become places that are much more focused on improvement.”

September 2006