Two Students Chosen To Join IRT Advisory Board

Alexis Lefft ’16 and Akhil Rajan ’17 were recently named the first two student members of the Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers (IRT) Advisory Board.

“[Lefft] and [Rajan] were chosen from a pool of 18 current students, all of whom were very impressive contenders. Ultimately, we were taken by the ways in which [Lefft] and [Rajan]’s life stories, interests and passions intersect with the mission of the IRT,” Julia Johannsen, IRT Advisory Board Chair, wrote in an email to The Phillipian.

Paul Murphy, Dean of Students, sent an email to the Lower and Upper classes encouraging students to submit an application for the board earlier this year.

The IRT Advisory Board helps fundraise and strategize for the IRT, which works to recruit college students of color committed to diversity in education, advising and counseling them throughout their pursuit of careers in education. The board meets twice a year, once in January and once in July.

Lefft, who lives in Lake Wylie, S.C., a predominantly white town, believes strongly in the importance of fostering a diverse teaching faculty.

Lefft said, “When I came here, I started thinking about diversity and what it means a lot more. Where I’m from, everyone was pretty much the same. I think a whole new set of issues are on the table when you’re in a diverse community.”

“For some people, it’s really important to have teachers that look like them,” she continued. “I think it makes people feel welcome in the broadest sense.”

Lefft looks forward to increasing knowledge of the IRT at Andover, where discussions on the value of diversity are common, she said.

Both Lefft and Rajan were exposed to the importance of education at an early age by family members with careers in education.

Rajan said, “Both my parents are educators, and I’m Indian-American, so I’ve seen a lot of other places where education is not how it is here; [I’ve seen where education is] not a right, but rather a privilege. That’s how I’ve always known there’s a special importance to education.”

The IRT works to increase the diversity of faculty in institutions of higher education, a cause that interests Rajan.

“Even in places like Andover, which is supposed to be this shining beacon of diversity, we have great and encouraging numbers in the student body, but in the faculty, we don’t see the same results. And that’s something that’s very troubling to me, personally,” he continued.

The IRT Advisory Board has been thinking of inviting Andover students to participate for years, but the 2014-2015 school year is the first in which students have been encouraged to submit applications. Johannsen hopes that having students on the board will increase IRT visibility on campus and with alumni, as well as serving as an opportunity for student members to learn what goes into running such an organization.

Johannsen said, “We will be able to teach [Rajan] and [Lefft] and all future [Andover] student board members about the importance of good governance and fundraising practices, the importance of philanthropy in general and the opportunities and challenges of making an impact through non-profit programs and volunteer work as board members.”

Rajan hopes to increase interest in the organization on campus as well and is excited by the prospect of contributing his perspective as a student with no professional experience to Advisory Board discussions.

Johannsen, too, is eager to see how Lefft and Rajan will strengthen the board.
Johannsen said, “As [Lefft] and [Rajan] bring the unique perspective of current [Andover] students, we would like them to find their voices at the table, to participate fully as voting board members and also to serve as ambassadors of [the] IRT on the [Andover] campus and elsewhere.”