Interview with Allen Kenneth Schaidle
Over an early morning phone call (Allen lives in Iraq!)
How he’s making a difference in the world: Allen believes education is the gateway to having a better life and access something everyone should possess. His impressive experiences have led him around the world where he currently serves as the Director of Student Services at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS).
Allen’s energy is contagious. His thoughts on the world are well constructed yet, you can tell, when speaking with him, he is constantly questioning his beliefs so as to never settle in his way of thinking.
While his path thus far seems planned and intentional, Allen would argue the opposite. He remained open to possibilities and listened to those around him to make decisions about his education. He holds three degrees:
- Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and Teaching from the University of Kansas
- Master’s degree in International Education Development focusing on Higher Post-Secondary Education from Columbia University in New York
- Master’s degree in Higher Education from the University of Oxford
“I found during my undergrad I was interested in education, how it overlaps with sociology, economics, history, cultures, and generally how it can connect all of us,” Allen explained to me.
That interest led him to obtain a master’s degree in Education, and that experience led him to research opportunities, fellowship opportunities a second master’s degree. Because of his cross-cultural experiences and studies, he has been interviewed an insane amount of times, by both in print and online platforms, including The New York Times, MSNBC and several universities. It’s seriously impressive. You can check out all of the cool things he’s done here.
Currently, in his role at AUIS he tackles problems from helping refugee students acclimate to the University, to supporting the study abroad programs, to handling cultural conflicts on campus.
“I hope to continue my work abroad and back stateside, experiencing and learning all I can.” Allen said. “In my opinion, the biggest hurdle Americans face right now is perspective.
“People don’t realize how you see the world is not how the person next to you sees the world.”
Exposing myself to diversity teaches me how people see the world very differently. These experiences I have had valuable and I would like to bring them to the U.S. to advance educational experiences in the USA.”
Q: Allen. Share your wisdom with us. What is some advice you have to people who are pursing their passions/working towards creating a more just world?
A: Find what lights your fire. I wake up every day excited I get to go to work. I’m the happiest when I see others succeed. You need to find that excitement in your life.
Also, if you want to be successful, you have to put in the time. If people come into work at 10 AM, you have to come in at 9 AM. Once you find what gets you excited, invest! Read about it all the time, network all the time, and meet the people who are in your field. You have to put in the effort others won’t.
Everyday is a cycle of learning, action, and reflection. I’m a big fan of sitting down and reflecting. What happened today? How does this connect to my long-term goals? How did my privilege come up in my conversations? Did I use my privilege to empower others or worse, suppress?
“Read everything you can get your hands on. If you’re not reading, you’re doing it wrong.”
Go to the extra lecture, read, have an honest support network. Without my family and friends, I would fail.
Cut out social media.
Most importantly, be stupidly curious. I still feel like I’m as curious as my 4 years old self. I still become engrossed with topics and research them to death. But it’s what constantly keeps my perspective growing.
Q: What books/reading material do you recommend?
A: Lecture by David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College, “This is Water.”
“Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America,” Cornell West
“Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society,” by Raymond Williams
“Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives,” by Peter Orner
Poetry is also important. It’s the best way to sharpen your critical thinking skills. Some of my favorite poets include:
Edgar Allen Poe
Allen Ginsburg. His poem, “America,” particularly resonates with me lately.
Read more about Allen on his website.