Clairelise Rodriguez is a past member of the 50CAN team. 

“If I have seen further than anyone else, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”–Sir Isaac Newton

Education reform is, relatively speaking, an infant movement. We’ve spent years researching the right ideas, but much less time advocating for them. The Sierra Club is 119 years old, the Environmental Defense Fund is 44, and Greenpeace is 40. By comparison, most education reform groups are less than ten years old. We have a lot to learn, and we must learn it quickly if we plan to challenge the status quo.

50CAN University was founded on the belief that closing the achievement gap will therefore require nothing short of excellence: excellent education policies ushered into law by excellent advocates.

The word university is derived from the Latin “universitas magistrorum et scholarium,” which roughly translates as “community of teachers and scholars.” That’s exactly what we hope 50CAN University will be: a community of teachers and scholars striving for the level of excellence it will take to bring great schools to all of America. We are starting small—think it as a one-room schoolhouse with aspirations to be a bustling complex of ideas, discussion and debate.

Let me give you a tour of the campus.

The curriculum.

Being a great advocate doesn’t help kids if you are pushing in the wrong direction. Therefore, the starting point for any successful education reform effort is always the research. Our policy syllabus is a compilation of key research and resources on education policy, covering the core education topics, from teacher effectiveness to school improvement to data systems. We see this syllabus as a living document and we hope you will reach out to Gretchen Guffy, our VP of Research and Policy, to provide comments, ask questions or suggest other studies for review.

In addition to our policy syllabus, we also have an advocacy bookshelf, which showcases some of the advocacy literature 50CAN staff is currently reading. It includes case studies on advocacy tactics, memoirs from inside the political game, best practices from successful movements and other resources. Karen Silverman, our VP of Communications, is the dean of this section of 50CAN U, and she would love to hear from you about how we should continue to grow our library.

The faculty.

Our professors are the great advocates who inspire the 50CAN staff. Their portraits hang on the walls of our office as a visual reminder of the example of excellence they set and that we pursue in our own work. Find out more about our professors and why they inspire us here.

The crest.

No university would be complete without a crest to represent its identity and mission. Each element of the 50CAN University crest contains a quality we believe we need to embody to accomplish our goal.

  • The cap represents our mission: to give every child access to a great school so that they can eventually succeed in and graduate from college.
  • The motto “In scholis omnia mutantur” is a Latin phrase that means, “all things are changed in the schools.” At 50CAN, the belief that great schools change everything is the driving force behind our work.
  • The falcon is a symbol of one who does not rest until the objective is achieved. At 50CAN, we will not rest until every child has access to a great public school.
  • The number 50 represents the 50 places where change must happen to give our children great schools: America’s 50 state capitals.
  • The ant signifies labor, wisdom and providence in one’s affairs. As perpetual students of advocacy and education policy, we aim to be thoughtful and diligent in all of our work, from policy research to the selection of the reforms we advocate for to the way we advocate for those reforms. 
  • The torch is a symbol of truth and intelligence. We’re not advocating change for change’s sake. That’s why we search and then advocate for only the best, research-backed ideas.
  • The shield represents a defender. At 50CAN, we are dedicated to defending the interests of America’s youngest constituents because they can’t yet speak up for themselves.
  • The aspen leaves represent determination and overcoming one’s fears and doubts. No one said changing the status quo and closing the achievement gap would be easy. It will take hard work, courage and long-term commitment. That’s why 50CAN’s model centers on raising up local leaders in education reform who are in it for the long haul.

The future.

50CAN University is in a constant state of expansion, and in the months and years ahead we’ll be offering even more resources, including recordings of guest lectures and workshops by some of the foremost experts on advocacy and education policy. So stay tuned, and if you know someone who’d be interested in giving a guest lecture, get in touch with 50CAN President & Founder Marc Porter Magee.



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