Profile with Mallory Dwinal

Mallory Dwinal (Washington & Brasenose 2009) will begin earning her MBA at Harvard Business School this fall. Mallory is a member of USA Today’s All-USA Academic Team and founded an education program to help non-English-speaking students improve their performance in school. She also founded Social Enterprise for Language Foundations (SELF) in 2008, a volunteer program working to improve the English skills of students at Stockton Elementary School and Peirce Elementary International Studies School on the North Side of Chicago. She holds a BA in Spanish, Economics and International Studies from Northwestern University and a DPhil in Education from the University of Oxford.

Rhodes Project: Where do you call home?

Mallory Dwinal: Technically, I would call Gig Harbor, Washington home. It is a small suburb about an hour south of Seattle. I’m living in DC right now. I am originally from the Midwest, so home is kind of all over. I was born in Iowa, but then I also lived in Illinois and Nebraska. I moved around until I was about ten.  

Rhodes Project: What do you like to do in your free time?

Mallory Dwinal: In my free time, I love to do all the unoriginal stuff--hang out with friends, travel and read. Beyond that, I really love studying and practicing other languages. I majored in Spanish but I also speak French, Mandarin and German (though some far better than others). Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to practice any of them except for Spanish lately, but I’m hoping that next year I’ll get a chance to practice some more.

Rhodes Project: Who is your favorite author?

Mallory Dwinal: My favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut. He wrote Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, and Player Piano, among others. He’s an American author who wrote primarily from the 1950s to the late 1990s. He has a really irreverent writing style, and he’s very interesting.

Rhodes Project: What is something interesting that you learned recently?

Mallory Dwinal: I’m taking a group of kids from my school to Costa Rica in a week. I work as a Teach for America corps member in a high poverty area in D.C. The kids have been working all year and they fundraised over $35,000, so we’re all going for a week-long trip. As we get ready to leave, my female travelers have been teaching me all about black hair. All of my students are African-American, so they’ve been explaining to me all the issues we are going to have going out into the rainforest. I had no idea just how different hair care would be, but I’ve learned a lot from them and from the Chris Rock documentary Good Hair.

Rhodes Project: At what point did you become passionate about education?

Mallory Dwinal: In college. Education is something that I always really loved. I just didn’t realize that I loved it because I was always in it, if that makes sense. I was always a student and had never seen anything else. It wasn’t until I got to the end of my college career and I started realizing that I would be leaving the school environment that I really came to appreciate how much I loved it. Around that time, I was volunteering in an English-as-a-Second-Language program. I was leading a program to tutor English language learners in Chicago public schools and I realized through that experience, as well as through reflecting on my own experiences, that this was something I really wanted to do long term. 

Rhodes Project:  What was your favorite part of writing your DPhil?

Mallory Dwinal: Probably all of the flexibility. I had so many opportunities to just go on trips with friends, to meet up with people in the middle of a random workday and to really make my own schedule. I loved that flexibility.

Rhodes Project: What advice would you offer to a young woman about to enter graduate school?  

Mallory Dwinal: There’s never any harm in asking. What I mean by that is there are all kinds of rules and structures and assumptions about what you’re supposed to do. I found that if something doesn’t work for you and you just ask someone – sometimes for permission, sometimes for forgiveness – you can almost always make the changes you need to make your schedule suit what you need.

Rhodes Project: If you had unlimited resources to address any one issue, global or local, what would it be?

Mallory Dwinal: I’m going to sound like a broken record, but it would have to be education reform. It would not just be fixing schools and providing resources for them, but providing enough resources for the social services that surround the school and dictate how successful the community is. In terms of continuing adult education, childcare, healthcare, nutrition – all of the sorts of issues that affect education – I would also direct resources to those in addition to the schools themselves.

Rhodes Project: If you could have dinner with a historical figure, who would it be and why?

Mallory Dwinal: I’m such a hypocrite—I made my 9th graders write an essay about this and never came up with a good answer myself. If I had to pick one historical figure, I guess it would be Leonardo DaVinci. He was so brilliant in so many different ways that I can only assume he was also a phenomenal conversationalist.

Rhodes Project: What is something you are looking forward to right now?

Mallory Dwinal: I am starting up at Harvard Business School in the fall. My plan is to take two years to get my MBA and use that to apply for a start-up grant to start my own charter school. I’m really looking forward to learning about the different types of business management, finance, and all of the kinds of issues that could help me run a more effective school so that I can start one as soon as I finish my MBA.

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