[My grandparents] sacrificed to send their children to school, and, consequently, my parents sacrificed to educate us kids.
“Growing up, education was hugely important in my family, who fled Vietnam for America in the 1970s. My grandparents held high regard for education even though my maternal grandmother could not read or write. They sacrificed to send their children to school, and, consequently, my parents sacrificed to educate us kids.
“During high school and my undergraduate program, I took a buffet approach and studied chemistry, astrophysics, business, design and computer science. I found that I absolutely loved working on design; especially, human-computer interaction and interactive design and research.
“After college I mainly worked in finance and strategy consulting for technology companies to help my family financially. But in my free time I became involved in projects and organizations that focused on design, technology and education.
“Later, when colleagues applied to business schools, I took a different path and applied to Stanford’s Learning, Design and Technology M.A. program. Despite my parents’ reservations, it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I took classes at the GSE, in the department of computer science and in the d.school (Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford).
“My LDT program allowed me to engage in an array of projects. I developed close friendships with talented and intelligent classmates while working on amazing projects that tied into my personal interests. For example, I designed applications for children with learning disabilities and autism because I was inspired by my aunt who had a severe learning disability. Growing up beside her and watching her light up while playing with technology made me want to design for people like her. I also created curricula for informal learning spaces, designed tangible user interfaces, worked on a journalism project with Knight Fellows and worked in internships designing for Intel and for toy companies.
“My GSE experiences launched me into a career at Sesame Workshop and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center where I did research, wrote publications, made creative technology, produced content, and orchestrated business partnerships.
“Despite family pressure to take the normal path of business school and stay within a singular specialty, I was able to craft my own career based on what I was passionate about, and it paid off. I recently left Sesame to join LEGO Education to work on front-end innovation in Denmark, which is where I live now. It’s unlike New York City and Palo Alto, and it's hyggelig (cozy; pleasant)!
“Happy 100th birthday, GSE! Thank you for empowering me to pursue my dreams.”
Anna Ly earned her MA in 2012 in Learning, Design and Technology. She works on front-end innovation at LEGO Education.
STORY AND PHOTO COURTESY OF STANFORD GSE 100 STORIES