Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends

Two Alumnae Receive Levitan Prize at Reunion

June 17, 2015

Jessica McGettrick accepts an award, surrounded by alumni friends
Surrounded by fellow alumni at Reunion, Jessica McGettrick ’95 accepts the Harry S. Levitan Prize for Excellence in Education.

By Kerri Farrell

The Brandeis Classes of 1980 and 1995 had another reason to celebrate at Reunion.

Reunion attendees Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson ’80, Heller MA’06, Heller PhD’06, and Jessica McGettrick ’95 received the Harry S. Levitan Prize for Excellence in Education at their class dinners on June 6. Established in 2000 by Dr. Joseph Levitan, a local optometrist and generous Brandeis supporter, the Levitan Prize recognizes alumni for leadership in the field of education through their teaching, research or volunteer efforts.

Nsiah-Jefferson is a senior scientist and lecturer at Brandeis’ Heller School for Social Policy and Management, and an affiliated faculty member in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program (WGS). She chairs the WGS concentration of Heller’s master’s in public policy program, and is coordinator and advisor to students enrolled in the MPP/WGS joint-degree program. In May, she received Heller’s Mentoring Award for her exemplary work guiding Brandeis students.

“It is my goal to carry out the legacy of Harry S. Levitan, an eminent educator, by continuing to focus on the role of race, class, gender and other identities, and their intersections in public policy education,” Nsiah-Jefferson said at Reunion. “As diversity and inclusion are an emerging priority in education and the larger society, it is our responsibility to prepare our students to be effective leaders who have the capacity to address the most persistent challenges of the day.”

McGettrick, who earned a master’s degree in fine arts from Emerson, has spent almost 15 years teaching drama and acting at the F.A. Day Middle School in Newton. In addition to directing and writing plays at the school, she serves as vice president of the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild’s middle school executive council. Many of her student-teachers over the years have been Brandeisians.

“I have been thrilled to have Brandeis education students as student-teachers,” McGettrick said. “They arrive well-prepared and ready to work with students. One served as a maternity leave substitute for me, and another took a part-time job in our department and worked with our sixth grade for a year.”

For McGettrick, the Levitan Prize was an unexpected – but much appreciated – surprise. “It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized with the Levitan Prize,” she said. “I have much to do to continue to live up to this recognition and to refine and innovate for the 21st century in my theater arts classroom.”