Meg Bradbury Stowe ‘92 attended Whitfield from 8th through 12th grade. She studied Biology & Studio Art at Denison University, which included a study abroad experience on the Great Barrier Reef at University of Queensland, graduating in 1996. She earned her M.Ed. from Lesley University in Boston, Massachusetts, focusing on Adolescent Education, Integrated Curriculum Design & Project-Based Learning. Several of Meg’s family members attended Whitfield: her mother, Elizabeth Woods Bradbury ‘63; her uncle, David Woods ‘62; her sister, Elizabeth Bradbury Pollnow ‘90, and her brothers, Slade and Trask Bradbury, who attended from 1989 until 1991.
What were some of your favorite classes at Whitfield? Why?
I loved art because it taught me to “see”. There were many Mindfulness lessons teacher Ann Kram taught me before that word was commonplace in schools. To notice things about our surroundings, the outside world, and to quiet the mind so I could connect it visually to my inside world was a gift.
I also loved biology. To have had a biology teacher identify some of my early affinities for the natural world and to celebrate them as strengths as academic pursuits was empowering and helped fuel my identity as an academic, not solely an athlete.
In many of my English and history classes, we looked at the experiences of people in parts of the world that were not typically explored in schools at the time. Whitfield has always seemed to be ahead of its time in so many regards. This perspective-taking has directly impacted my work to this day in innovation, entrepreneurship, and global collaborations, requiring cultural competencies
that were first generated at Whitfield.
What are you most thankful for from your Whitfield experience, both in and outside of the classroom?
At Whitfield, you can do it all! I was able to play sports, be an active leader in student council-type organizations, lead community service work, spend time in the art studio and regularly spend time with teachers as well as students across grade levels. I am grateful for the caring and committed faculty, the passionate athletic coaches, the extended and connected family of staff on campus (which included Chef Lola, Mickey and Rickey at the time), and Dr. Mary Burke.
How did Whitfield prepare you for college and beyond?
One of many mantras we heard almost daily was “Teacher as Coach”, and this was evident in the many projects and experiences we had as students, where we would be guided while learning was facilitated rather than imparted for us to regurgitate. Whitfield’s early designation as a Coalition of Essential Schools, Ted Sizer’s model, taught teachers to teach students how to think critically, see the bigger picture, make connections to the outside world, and use our skills and understanding to make learning visible. As a member of a small graduating class of 40 students, it was hard to hide. Every voice counted, and our classes and outside activities required everyone to fully engage. We felt we could take part in so many different aspects of the school. This allowed us to build skills in multiple areas and then go out and engage in our university settings more easily. I deeply appreciated the opportunity to love and excel in biology and the natural world, make art, play sports, and be pushed by all of my teachers; even through growth and discomfort, we were supported, seen, and known.
The former Head of School, Dr. Mary Burke, played a significant role in my life - probably more than she knows. As the always visible and deeply passionate female leader of our school (rare for the time and geographic location), Dr. Burke made apparent and accessible the critical components of what Whitfield was doing as a school. Her constant storytelling and purpose-setting as a learning community has since translated into my practice as a leader and an educator. Sharing the WHY behind a school’s mission, vision, and practice was paramount, and this had a significant impact on the trajectory of my life.
What were your primary interests and activities while you were at Whitfield?
As a teen, I loved doing service projects and spending time working with younger kids. I played field hockey with an amazing group of teammates and coaches, and my time on the basketball court was so memorable, with teachers and families always lining the sidelines with cheers of support.
What opportunities did Whitfield provide you that you might not have had elsewhere?
Whitfield provided a nurturing and productively challenging environment in which I developed agency, autonomy, and curiosity. Because the school overtly talked about its pedagogy constantly, we absorbed that by osmosis. Thus, we left having a clearer (for some, this might remain subliminal) understanding of why we learn, how we learn best, and how to use it to make a difference.
What skills do you use in your career that you began forming at Whitfield?
As Director of Innovation, I am constantly “peering around the corner” and looking beyond the horizon to create relevant, meaningful, and collaborative experiences and models to generate impact for students and the many stakeholders working on the future of education (FOE).
I work with many social entrepreneurs, working across sectors to solve adaptive complex and complicated challenges. Connecting these stakeholders to education enables new and exciting collaborations and experiences, benefitting all involved.
Whitfield taught me to see the bigger picture. Innovation is NOT a shiny tech-enabled gadget. Rather, it’s a mindset; one that asks us to get comfortable with ambiguity, re-evaluate our relationship with failure, and inspire people to use what they know, and are able to do, to impact a community, a cause, or the world. Innovation is creativity with a job to do and asks us to imagine what might be, using new skills, sometimes technologies, and our understanding of systems to solve problems worth solving. Whitfield helped hone my voice and with an emphasis on open-ended projects, equipped me with the mindsets required in this role as well as the role of founder of a social venture, Girls Leadership Collaborative (2014), a leadership development organization designed for adolescents to find their purpose, develop as a leader, and make a difference. As founder, there is no play-book to what it is you are creating. You are constantly required to integrate your knowledge, be a self-directed learner, and test, measure, iterate, and refine, all while seeing the world from different perspectives.
Describe your career.
I am currently Director of Innovation at Rocky Hill Country Day School in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, working with all faculty, staff, students, and administration. I oversee several programs I had the opportunity to build here in 2017 with exceptional teammates. The Embedded Entrepreneurs Program (E2) engages our community with social entrepreneurs (founders after a “triple bottom line” or social impact of some kind built into their business model) who work across all sectors - from the arts and design, to XR (augmented, virtual and mixed reality technologies), to prosthetics companies using BCI (brain-computer-interface) technology to enable mobility for amputees, to a company working to disrupt the learning profile and high costs associated with administering neuropsychological evaluations in the education space. These founders and their teams gain much from embedding in our N-12 school, but through facilitation, we mine these teams for the critical skills and mindsets to make visible the competencies we developed as hallmarks of our academic program across all content areas. Students benefit from hard skills such as academic content and expertise provided by these collaborations, as well as real-world practice communicating effectively, exploring experimental design and user-testing and prototyping with students as young as Kindergarten all the way up through our upper school!
The Innovators-in-Residence Program (IIR), also generated in 2017, brings people who are doing big, bold work to our campus to raise the bar, generate new ideas and conversations. These individuals challenge us, ask us to look at the world in a different way. All of this is designed to support and amplify the work teachers are doing every single day in their classes.
Finally, Hack for Global Good was created BY students, FOR students. My role also supports individual student’s interests and passions. Two students approached me to ask if I would help them create a hackathon-style experience that would bring together students from public and private schools to learn and create. This simple request by students not familiar with a hackathon has resulted in our global event, Hack for Global Good. Each year students select a theme, which is inspired by the UN Sustainability Goals, to come together to “hack” in teams, culminating in pitches and prizes for the Moonshot Award, the Global Impact Award, and the Best Pitch. We leverage the entrepreneurs in our E2 Network and many amazing corporate, governmental/policy, and higher ed stakeholders to engage in this work.
I believe my work in Innovation and Education benefits directly from my experience as a founder of a social venture. That work, both the creation of it as well as the constant evolution of it in response to the needs of young people, their caregivers, schools, and communities informs what I build and design at RHCD. In a VUCA world, (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) we need to develop student capacity for critical thinking (note: not void of content -as you can’t build something without tangible materials!), creativity, problem identification, agency to take initiative, and the social-emotional skills and regulation to support wellness - both physical and mental. I believe so much of what has come to be in my life was a result of the exposure and opportunities that came from my experiences as a Whitfield student.