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Three Questions to a NORRAG Member: Dr. Will Brehm

NORRAG is pleased to announce that it will work more closely in 2020 with FreshEd, a weekly podcast that makes complex ideas in educational research easily understood. It will co-organise three FreshEd Live events, the first of which will be with Arjun Appadurai, a prominent professor at New York University and Hertie School, Berlin. Supported by NORRAG, UNESCO, and the Globalization and Education Special Interest Group of the Comparative International and Education Society (CIES), this first FreshEd Live event will be held at the annual CIES conference in Miami on March 24 and 25, 2020.

We reached out to Will, the host of FreshEd, to find out about his recent move to London and his new position as a lecturer in education and international development at the UCL Institute of Education. We also asked him more about his work on FreshEd, his international experiences, and his involvement with NORRAG.

Your LinkedIn profile shows that you have been moving a lot during your career, and that you have recently arrived in London. Can you share with us what lead you to such a nomadic lifestyle, and what finally brought you to London?

I’ve been privileged to be able to move around the world over the past 14 years, living in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, and now the United Kingdom. Before that, I spent extended time in Taiwan and Austria. Most of these moves were professional (Cambodia, Japan, UK) or for my studies (Hong Kong, Austria). Each move meant a complete upheaval of life: new languages and cultures to learn, new apartments to find, and new friends to make. It wasn’t always easy and was often lonely. However, these experiences have shared who I am and how I see the world today. My transient lifestyle was indeed the reason I created the FreshEd podcast: it provided me ways to maintain my professional relationships worldwide.

I ended up in London after four years in Tokyo when I accepted a lectureship at the UCL Institute of Education. As is all too common for early career academics, temporary contracts are (sadly!) the norm. So, when an offer for a permanent position came from the famed UCL IOE, I didn’t hesitate one minute. To live in such a cosmopolitan city as London and work at such a vibrant university as UCL is a dream come true. I teach on the Educational Planning, Economics and International Development Master’s program (or programme!) and am affiliated with the Centre for Education and International Development. And, I of course continue to host FreshEd.

You host FreshEd, a weekly Podcast that makes complex ideas about educational research easily understood. What’s in stock for FreshEd in 2020?

FreshEd has grown over five years in ways I could never have imagined. The podcast started as a small hobby when I first moved to Tokyo in 2015. I would sit in my small apartment and teach myself how to edit audio, beg colleagues to be interviewed, and figure out the best way to host a podcast. Looking back at it, I really had no idea what I was doing! Fast-forward five years: FreshEd is now a registered non-profit in the United States, managed by board of directors, and relies on the tireless effort of six operational team members who live in the US, Japan, Indonesia, Turkey, and the UK. We also have Chinese and Arabic translators and a team of transcribers spread around the world. FreshEd is now far larger than one individual, something I never imagined would happen.

So what’s in store for 2020? Our goal is to serve as best we can the FreshEd audience. We plan to update our website by providing easier access to our growing archive of 185 episodes, engage our audience in new ways through social media, and further disseminate content in various languages. We will launch a Chinese version of FreshEd on WeChat later this year and continue to translate episodes into Arabic. We will also begin translating episodes into Vietnamese, Portuguese, and French. One of the most exciting things FreshEd has in store for 2020 is expanding our Live Events, first pioneered last year when I interviewed the Director of NORRAG, Gita Steiner Khamsi, in front of a live audience in San Francisco. That event proved very successful, giving audience members a space to interact in real life. This year we are planning three such events to be held in Miami, London, and Geneva. The first will be held in Miami as part of the annual conference of the Comparative and International Education Society. I’m happy to announce for the first time that Professor Arjun Appadurai will be our guest. With support from NORRAG, UNESCO, and the Globalization and Education Special Interest Group of CIES, he will join FreshEd in front of a live audience for a conversation about some of his ideas and how they might relate to education. The title of the event is “Where Progress Lies: The Failures and Futures of Education.” He will also join conference-goers and FreshEd listeners after the Live Event to discuss his ideas more informally. Stay tuned for more details! I’m proud of the success of FreshEd, but none of it would be possible, of course, without our devoted listeners and our supportive funders.

What is the added value of being a NORRAG Member and how do you see your work with NORRAG developing in 2020?

I am thrilled to announce that NORRAG and FreshEd signed a partnership agreement for 2020. This partnership will make possible the Live Events and provide funding for the French translations.

More generally, connecting with NORRAG brings FreshEd into an established network of education development practitioners, who happen to make up a large portion of the FreshEd audience. I hope more NORRAG members will not only listen to FreshEd but also be spotlighted on the show.  For NORRAG, I hope the partnership provides new ways to disseminate knowledge about education and international development. It is an exciting time for both FreshEd and NORRAG and I hope listeners become members and vice versa.

Other posts in the ‘three questions to a NORRAG Member series’

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