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deLaski Family Foundation update from Kathleen deLaski

Summer 2013 - As we promised when we launched the website in March, we will try to send periodic updates of progress and activities of the Foundation. This spring and summer there are two areas to highlight. In March, my daughter Catherine and I traveled to Haiti to see the project that my father has funded since 2010 and had always hoped to visit himself. The Center for Mind Body Medicine has been a long-time grantee as Dr. Jim Gordon flew into war and disaster zones around the world to deliver alternative mental health services, largely for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My father was supportive of Jim’s idea to bring these services to Haiti after the earthquake and the Foundation has funded a team since, led on the ground by the able Dr. Linda Metayer. Haiti lost many of its mental health professionals during the earthquake itself, and when we visited the makeshift office, Haiti’s directors of Mental Health told us in a meeting that the train the trainer program has been so successful that they hope to expand it all over Haiti, if the funding can be secured. (Photo 1)

Drs. Metayer and Gordon have trained all types of staff to be able to deliver alternative mental health support, from teachers to midwives to nurses to police workers, 15,000 Haitians have benefited already from learning strategies such as meditation, guided imagery, breathing techniques, to name a few. The Defense Centers of Excellence for Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress has funded a longitudinal study to assess the positive results in treating PTSD for veterans. Early results are encouraging.

The most heartwarming were our visits to schools and orphanages (Photo 2). These techniques clearly help draw children out to talk about their experiences and fears resulting from family upheaval and loss. And college students meeting with a mentor in an 8 to 10 week group seem to share a special bond (Photo 3).

Soon, we will post interviews I did with Drs Gordon and Metayer during this trip. We also had the pleasure of running into Bill Clinton who was working on economic development initiatives. He had appointed me as Pentagon spokesman 20 years ago and also had appointed Jim Gordon to a mental health commission, so we had an impromptu meeting about the Center’s work in Haiti (Photo 4).

The other update relates to a few grants that form the basis of our new portfolio around the concept of “reinventing college.” The deLaski Family Foundation will be the founding funder in the creation of an education design lab that will assist George Mason University and others adapt to the rapidly changing higher education landscape.

The Lab is built on the belief that “talent is the new oil” and that we have to develop the possibilities of students beyond those with the “well funded /well prepared” jackpot profile. That’s only about 10% of students, by my guestimation. We see our work as pushing the window open into the future of workforce development and using design thinking to iterate some pathways that challenge the boundaries and structures of education. Some of the current standards we hope to challenge…credits, advising, majors, competencies, internships and what it means to be “workforce ready.” But by starting this lab in partnership with an ambitious and innovation-hungry public university, we have a real laboratory/skunkworks with students mostly not in that 10% to push from inside as well as outside the system.

The lab will test new education models through design challenges and prototyping in, for starters, three categories:

1. Helping students find passions and pathways (from high school)

2. Affordable and efficient college journey (more flexible and customized degree completion s to save money yet maintain liberal arts exposure)

3. Workforce preparation that incorporates apprenticeship models and 21st century skills development

We’ll be sharing more about this in months to come. If you’d like to be added to our specific listserv on this topic send us an email.

And finally, we want to give a shout-out to EnstituteU, the non-traditional higher education pilot in NYC. Their first class has just finished its first year in the “learn by doing” model of immersion in the start-up technology world. They have received significant coverage for the power of the new model. See New York Times link: Interestingly this one story drew 400 emails from employers who want to source employees through this apprenticeship program.

Looking forward to sharing more over the new months.

Be well,