Who better to advise students on their future after high school than Mike Dunn, Eagle Rock’s new Dean of College & Career Counseling? For one thing, this Michigan-born school administrator joins us after 11 years as a history teacher, coach, and director of college counseling at a small independent school called AIM Academy outside of Philadelphia.
Previous to that, Mike was on the founding team of a Big Picture high school in Philadelphia where he helped students re-engage in their high school experience and pursue diplomas that were meaningful to them. And even before that, he was a Service Learning fellow right here at Eagle Rock.
More important, Mike has plenty of experience when it comes to applying to and attending schools of higher learning. In fact, he has received degrees and certifications from four different institutions of higher learning, beginning at Michigan State University where he earned a degree in history. After that, Mike attended and earned a graduate degree in teaching from Wayne State University in Detroit. He later earned a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA, and just this last spring, he completed his Doctorate in Education from Northeastern University.
We asked Eagle Rock’s newest administrator to tell us a little more about his background and experience, and he agreed. Here’s Mike Dunn, in his own words:
Eagle Rock School: Why did you choose to apply to Eagle Rock?
Mike Dunn: Since I began teaching in 2007, I have been searching for a school that is the most authentic place for students and teachers to be. A school that does things because it knows they are right. A place where student voices are heard, and where young people can actually thrive. I believe Eagle Rock is that place.
There is learning that happens at Eagle Rock School that could never be captured on a test or packaged and sold. The relationships built, the confidence instilled, and the skills gained are remarkable. An Eagle Rock grad is an absolutely inspiring person. Eagle Rock is a real institution of learning for all who dare to be here. This sense of authenticity compelled me to apply to my current role at Eagle Rock School.
Eagle Rock: What exactly do you do at Eagle Rock?
Mike: I help students figure out what they want to do after they graduate, and then help them design a path to reach their goals. My work is super individualized, as I see each student’s future path as being particularly unique to their strengths, preferences, goals, homelife, and so much more. It’s like constructing a personalized puzzle for each prospective grad.
I am also working on reaching out to and supporting alumni in their pursuits after graduation. I’m hopeful to facilitate some unique opportunities for alumni to connect with current students and give back to Eagle Rock in meaningful ways, and also to offer some coaching for alumni who might still be figuring out what their future path looks like.
Eagle Rock: Where did you grow up and what did you want to be when you grew up?
Mike: I grew up just outside of Detroit, Mich., in a small working-class neighborhood. When I was super young, I loved to draw and wanted to be a cartoonist. I then fell in love with science, and when I started my college career, I was deciding between biochemistry and history. I stuck with history as I began to uncover the stories of African Americans, labor movements, and feminism. At the end of undergrad, I started a small business offering consulting services work for summer camps.
Eagle Rock: What’s something most people would be surprised to know about you?
Mike: I haven’t always had the most positive experience in school. This is really my motivation for making school more authentic for students, and why I love working at Eagle Rock. When I was growing up, I mostly just complied with what my parents told me and what my school asked of me. It was a transactional experience, and super underwhelming. I wish that I had had a school experience that was experiential, interest driven, and one through which I could have loved to learn much earlier in my life.
Eagle Rock: Tell us about your hobbies or interests outside of work?
Mike: I love playing and making music and hanging out with my dog (@kellyintherockies on Instagram). I also host a podcast called RethinkingEDU, and dabble in graphic design work. I drink my fair share of coffee, occasionally make things out of wood, and I play Dungeons & Dragons. And I enjoy hanging with my partner, Caitlin. She’s awesome. Additionally, I feel privileged every day I get to wake up, catch a glimpse of Shaman Peak, Bonepipe Peak, and Armadillo Peak, and be in a place that inspires me to be a better educator and person.
Eagle Rock: What reality television show would you like to be on and why would you win or be the first person kicked off?
Mike: I would love to have been on the West Wing. I want to be in the mix with Josh, Sam, Toby, and Leo (members of the President’s team). I would love to help make impactful, thoughtful decisions that have the potential to change people’s lives for the better. That would be an everyday dream come true.