Brian Dillon on the ESJ Project

Author: Brian Dillon

January 30, 2020

What did you study through the ESJ Project? What are some of the larger take-aways from your research? 

I studied the impact of the Ateneo Center for Educational Development (ACED) program on public schools in Manila, its efforts at community-building and holistic school development, and its work related to the Jesuit mission of Ateneo de Manila University. 

As I have worked in public schools in Washington, DC, and Philadelphia since graduation, I think constantly about the impacts of poverty and politics on public education, and so much of what was happening (positively and negatively) in Manila is very similar to what we face here. 

What was it like studying social justice at a Catholic institution abroad, especially having attended Georgetown? 

Ateneo was similar to Georgetown in that it was connected to many of the most powerful people in the country, but it also tried to serve the local community. Their relationship to the political environment in the Philippines was fascinating to learn about, and it felt great to be studying similar issues on the other side of the world.

What did you find to be the most challenging and rewarding aspects of the program? 

I felt most challenged when I landed in the Philippines with an address, a contact person, and 5,000 words to write. I was most intimidated when I went to the first research meeting and had no idea what some of the experienced researchers were talking about. Luckily, Dr. Elizabeth Andretta was able to catch us up to speed on everything from interview methods to Bourdieu’s theory of social reproduction in just a couple of meetings. I met one of my best friends, Ryan Covington, through ESJ, and we still talk with amazement about how much we learned from her in such a short time. 

It is rewarding to look back at this as my first serious independent research work, as I am now starting a qualitative dissertation proposal for a doctoral program in educational leadership at the University of Pennsylvania. Things have certainly come full circle in many ways!

What is your current occupation? How did your involvement in the ESJ Project inform your plans after the program? 

I am an assistant principal at a neighborhood charter school in Philadelphia and a full-time graduate student in the Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. ESJ was one of a few foundational moments in my career!

Brian Dillon