Education consultant Erika Tate has a plan for getting students interested in learning. And it’s the intractable problems that stare at them right outside their class windows. Asthma and environmental decline are just some of the issues that face people of color in their neighborhoods. Tate recognized this when she was an engineering student.

So, instead of becoming an engineer, she went to work fixing her community’s problems. That’s what she’s doing now. But she’s doing it as a businesswoman. Her three-year-old consulting firm, BluKnowledge, has her traipsing across the country to work with schools, universities, non-profits and governments.

“If you take a curriculum and you center it on something that’s meaningful in the community… then students can connect to it as both learners and as experts in their community,” she says. “You want to make learning exciting and engaging because our whole goal is that they keep learning after they leave school and they figure out how to do that and how to ask questions and stay curious.”

Tate does this by designing education materials around partnerships and collaborations that ask people to talk about what concerns them. Her eye for social justice issues started when she was in college. She worked in an office at Brown University that focused on outreach to minority students.

“That’s where I began to merge this desire to help people understand what’s going on and give them ideas about careers or paths that they might not have known with thinking about how to use your education for social justice issues,” she says.

Taking the plunge into business wasn’t easy. Of course, there are the normal concerns of any new entrepreneur: how to pay the bills. But if you think that collaboration goes easily with education and social justice, you must be living in some bizarre dictatorship.

“I’ve come to appreciate those ‘sticky moments’ in collaboration when it might seem that one is at odds,” she says. “When you do find a good collaboration, you get more out of it than you would if you were just by yourself.”

Tate’s style puts people at ease. I meet people like this occasionally and decide instantly that I want to interview them. She’s passionate, creative and working for positive social change. She’s exactly what this podcast is all about.

I’m pleased to feature her in this 15 minute interview. It was recorded at ThincSavannah, the co-working space in downtown Savannah where Tate shares an office with a host of other young professionals.

 

Theme Music:

Open Those Bright Eyes” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/