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ETS's Yvette Donado Addresses Opening of 45th Anniversary Conference of the National Urban Fellows

Theme of event is "Leadership for a Changing America"

PRINCETON, N.J., Jan. 28, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Yvette Donado, Chief Administrative Officer and Senior Vice President of ETS delivered the opening keynote address of the 45th anniversary Conference of the National Urban Fellows.  She outlined seemingly insurmountable challenges facing the United States and called upon NUF Fellows to bring their considerable talents to bear in addressing them. The conference is taking place at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Palm Springs, CA, January 26-29.

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"We recognize that America is changing perhaps more than at any time," Donado said. "I refer you to a hallmark ETS report, `America's Perfect Storm,' that identified three trends – or forces – that if left unaddressed imperil our very democracy.

"The first force is declining skills. Many adults lack the skills needed to participate fully in an increasingly competitive work environment. The second is sweeping demographic change. We will be 360 million by 2030, increasingly older and more diverse. The workforce is being shaped as never before by immigration, retirement of baby boomers and birthrates. The third is seismic changes in our economy. Profoundly restructured, today's labor markets are far different from those of earlier decades.

"And, the authors of America's Perfect Storm tell me that conditions have worsened. You've seen reports that bemoan our educational standing among OECD countries. We have a way to go if we are to realize President Obama's goal to have the highest percentage of college graduates by 2020." 

"I need not draw a picture," Donado told attendees. "You NUF fellows illustrate the challenges and the opportunities of demographic change better than any research report. You are the products of it. You live it every day. 

"You know the numbers. By 2050, we will be a minority majority nation. America was not finished in 1965. Around that time, immigration from developing nations surpassed immigration from Europe. America is changing. Diversity is nurturing us, improving us more than at any other time.

"Do you know that the biggest creators of new businesses in the United States are Latinas? We must not – we cannot – turn away these engines of change, prosperity and competitiveness. If we can harness the entrepreneurship, the hard work and the will to succeed of new Americans, our country will be the better for it."  

In her capacity as an executive from a nonprofit whose mission compels it to work to level the playing field, Donado offered six challenges that both ETS and NUF fellows – past, present and future – must overcome:  

Increasing educational opportunity for the disadvantaged - We leave the disadvantaged behind at our own peril. Whether you labor in education, environmental affairs, health care, civil rights… whatever you do, education is at the heart of it all.

Better serving the nearly 6 million English learners in our public schools - They are the fastest growing cohort in K-12 education, and too many are being left behind. The solutions are local, the solutions are yours.

Improving classroom instruction - Educators and school administrators around the country have told me of their hopes for better pre-service and in-service training. It seems that teacher education is still rooted in the past century. 

Replicating education models that work - For example, can we replicate what Julian Castro did in San Antonio – a ballot initiative to strengthen early childhood education?

Harnessing the power of new Americans - How will we take advantage of the 11 million who are poised to become new citizens?

Changing attitudes - Outdated attitudes are alive and well, as is a lack of civility. Such attitudes limit opportunities, including your own, and must be met with conviction.

Donado reminded the veteran NUF fellows that they are in important leadership positions and that they can take pride in NUF's contributions and add to its legacy. "These and other changes await your leadership. And, they await our willingness to give back," she said. "Because the changes I just mentioned will not be part of the lives of millions of Americans who live on the margins."

To overcome these challenges, Donado offered attendees the following suggestions:

  • Create a context. Help people see why they should commit to doing something differently.
  • Change the field of perception. Don't pigeon-hole yourself into one sector or improvement method.
  • Be curious, break the replication trap, find diverse information sources and get outside of your comfort zone to find ideas and inspiration.
  • Embrace dissonance. Conflict is part of the process of addressing mediocrity. Welcome conflict and make it productive.
  • Collaborate. Good ideas often start as hunches that mature by getting attached to other hunches and ideas. The only way for good ideas to mature is through open communication, teamwork and divergent thinking.

"You are on the front lines, in the trenches. You are grappling with change, overcoming the challenges – and leading," Donado concluded. "Much like Robert Frost's poem, you have taken the road less traveled. It is the road of uncertainty, the road of obstacles… But it will also be the road of returns, of benefits, of learning and of accomplishments. You will prevail."

Fellows Overview

National Urban Fellows' Academic & Leadership Development Fellowship Program is a rigorous, 14-month, full-time graduate degree program comprising four semesters of academic course work and a nine-month Mentorship assignment. During their Mentorship, Fellows complete course work via distance learning. Fellows receive a $25,000 stipend, health insurance, a book allowance, relocation and travel reimbursement, full payment of tuition, and professional leadership development.  Additionally, Fellows are required to make a $5,000 co-investment to their National Urban Fellows experience.

The program culminates in a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the City of New York's Bernard M. Baruch College, School of Public Affairs. An MPA degree is awarded to Fellows upon completion of all academic and program requirements.  Following graduation, Fellows become part of a prestigious group of well over 1,400 diverse public service leaders who have gone on to assume influential positions across government, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. 

About ETS

At ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as conducting education research, analysis and policy studies. Founded as a nonprofit in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores the TOEFL® and TOEIC ® tests, the GRE® tests and The Praxis Series™ assessments. www.ets.org.

SOURCE Educational Testing Service

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