Many people think education degrees prepare individuals only to be teachers. However, a McKay School master’s graduate, now Dr. Donny Baum, has taken his educator preparation in different directions.
While completing his undergraduate degree in linguistics at BYU, Baum took some courses from educational leadership professor MacLeans A. Geo-JaJa, which centered on development and international development education. Baum then decided to pursue a master’s degree from the McKay School in Comparative and International Development Education under the tutelage of Professor Geo-JaJa. “He served as a research assistant,” Professor Geo-JaJa recalled. He further noted,
"Donny was an exceptional student. I saw in class that he had significant potential that was not actualized. I advised him to apply to the master’s program to work with me. He was great in all aspects of our collaborative sharing of knowledge for the two years he studied under me. I knew he would go places, but I had already seen that in him as an undergraduate."
Baum’s grandfather, who was involved with international education, encouraged Donny’s interest in the field. “The program at the McKay school was a perfect fit for my career interests and ended up being a great experience,” Baum explained.
During his master’s program, Baum worked and researched on the Navajo Indian reservation in the four-corners area. His master’s thesis focused on poverty and education among members of the Navajo tribe. “Donny determined how Navajo Indians on the reservations define development, which is quite a unique contribution for policy making,” explained Geo-JaJa.
With the guidance of Professor Geo-JaJa, Baum proceeded to the University of Minnesota to pursue a PhD in Comparative and International Education. While working on his PhD in a quality graduate program, he published multiple articles. He completed the degree in record time and received a job offer from the World Bank before he graduated. “I had just barely completed my dissertation and sent it off to my thesis advisor when I received the offer from the World Bank,” Baum said. “I moved to Washington D.C., and after a few months flew back to Minneapolis to defend my dissertation.”
Baum works as an education consultant at the World Bank with the responsibility of analyzing the role of the private sector in delivering basic education services in the developing world. “Our research programs identify the different types of private schools that are currently operating in Africa and South Asia,” said Baum. “We also look at the rigorous impact evaluation of various education interventions in the developing world—some of which deal with the private sector while others address issues of accountability in public schools.”
Donny Baum considers his master’s work at the McKay School to have been significant in providing foundations for his accomplishments. “My experience at the McKay School of Education in the Educational Leadership and Foundations Department prepared me very well to enter a PhD program in this field,” he explained. “There are many pathways to start a career in this field through degrees like education, international relations, international development, economics, educational psychology, or measurement.”