System Design and Management

The MIT Master's Program in Engineering and Management

Strategy, Simulation, and Analytics for the Complex World of Education

MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Series

Daniel J. Sturtevant, Ph.D., MIT SDM Alumnus
Jeanne Contardo, Ph.D., Independent Education Consultant,
Senior Advisor, Business-Higher Education Forum

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Date: May 5, 2014

About the Presentation

Getting education policy right is essential if the United States wishes to improve its high standard of living, economic strength, and societal health. But even education reforms based on sound research and crafted by well-meaning experts have often failed.

This webinar will review some of the many systems-based reasons why education policy is notoriously difficult to get right. For example:

  • Policy is often crafted by committee in highly political and polarized environments.
  • Individuals rarely understand how the system operates, what policy innovations will lead to good outcomes, or even why successful interventions work.
  • Policymakers seldom agree on the system's purpose, how to prioritize conflicting goals, how to measure success, or what principles should guide their actions.

In short, policymakers do not use a rigorous, systems-based approach to address the complex technical, business, and socio-political challenge of educating all children for a better world.

This webinar's presenters have collaborated on projects with K-12 schools, colleges, foundations, and at all levels of the government and the military. They will discuss using system dynamics to help diverse stakeholders understand the education system and design and test policies using simulation modeling and demo the new Aligned Workforce Model, which examines how workforce outcomes would change if policies were implemented that emphasized workplace competencies such as critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and effective communication.

A question-and-answer session will follow the presentation.

About the Speaker

Daniel J. Sturtevant, Ph.D., is an SDM alumnus and recent graduate of the MIT Engineering Systems Division doctoral program. His SDM master's thesis (conducted in partnership with Boeing) explored the 25-year decline in US-born engineering graduates despite their extremely high earning potential—a seemingly paradoxical violation of the law of supply and demand. Dr. Sturtevant has spent 15 years in the software field, where he built supercomputers, designed cryptosystems to prevent data theft, wrote Linux device drivers, and reverse-engineered computer hardware. He has built a variety of computer models applying system dynamics to explore educational questions and has worked with the Business-Higher Education Forum on several occasions to examine education problem of regional and national significance. He now works at Harvard Business School researching software architecture, its complexity, and its financial costs. He is also founding a startup, silverthread, Inc., focused on helping software development organizations reduce technical debt in large and long-lived systems. Dr. Sturtevant earned bachelor's degrees in computer engineering and political science from Lehigh University.

Jeanne B. Contardo, Ph.D., is a higher education expert who specializes in strategic planning, cross-sector partnership development (particularly with the business sector), research and policy analysis, and project management. In recent years, her work has focused on the development of unique tools and resources that can influence education change and workforce alignment, including online simulation models, information clearinghouses, and a policy series analyzing broad education trends in science, technology, engineering, and math. Dr. Contardo earned her Ph.D. in higher education policy at the University of Maryland, College Park. She has a master's degree in higher and post-secondary education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a bachelor's degree (cum laude) in English from the University of Washington.

About the Series

The MIT System Design and Management Program Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges.

Daniel J. Sturtevant

Daniel J. Sturtevant



Jeanne Contardo

Jeanne Contardo

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