A Conversation with Minerva Graduate Student David Sall

Jul 22, 2022

This is the first in a series of profiles introducing students from Minerva’s incoming Fall 2022 graduate class. If you would like to learn more about our graduate program, please visit minerva.edu/graduate-programs.

“It is really important to me to feel mission-driven by whatever I am doing. Even though it might not always feel like it, I want to know that I am working toward a broader purpose.”

Originally from Portland, Oregon, David Sall completed his undergraduate studies at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio, gaining a Bachelor of Music in Clarinet Performance and Bachelor of Arts in Politics, which drove his interest in public policy and, particularly, public education. After graduation, David went on to teach sixth-grade history classes at the University of Chicago Charter School as a Teach for America Corps Member. It was his work there that inspired a fascination with education equity and he decided to pivot into education technology.

David’s growing interest in this field guided him to enroll in a graduate program in Technology, Innovation, and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. After obtaining his Master’s degree, he began working as a salesperson for an edtech start-up providing an app to early childhood educators, where he eventually led the company’s growth strategy in marketing and sales. Since then, David’s jobs have always contained a mixture of education, sales, and technology, including sales of emergent technologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and ultimately culminating into his current position as an Account Manager at LEGO Education, focusing on helping school districts implement hands-on learning and cross-curricular STEM education.

David first heard of Minerva’s innovative, highly selective model of higher education only two years after its foundation, while he was studying at Harvard in 2014. Combined with a global rotation and remote learning pedagogy, he was confident the institution would gain a lot of attention in the coming years. In 2018, he saw an advertisement on social media regarding Minerva’s Master of Science in Decision Analysis (MDA). At that time, he was focused on developing his interpersonal and project management skills, so the concept behind the program deeply resonated with his professional ambitions.

David was intrigued by the data aspect of the program, particularly the ability to make more data-oriented decisions. More than that, Minerva’s holistic and interdisciplinary approach to education appealed to him, as he did not want to exclusively focus on the quantitative side of things. At the beginning of 2022, David realized that, with the increasing complexity of the world around us, having a framework to navigate decision making is critical for both professional and personal development.

According to David, what makes Minerva stand out the most compared to traditional institutions is their ability to leverage the concept of an international community to its full potential. Moreover, the interdisciplinary nature of learning, habits of mind and foundational concepts, focus on bias identification, and great emphasis on practical skill sets distinguishes Minerva’s MDA from other programs he has been a part of.

Furthermore, David highlights the importance of online learning, which has been an inherent core of Minerva’s curriculum long before many institutions were forced to switch to online instruction due to COVID-19 regulations.

“The pandemic crystalized the importance of a dynamic remote learning experience. I think Minerva is just so ahead of the curve, even compared to elite institutions around it . . . because Minerva’s programs were intentionally designed around remote learning.”

Given David’s educational background, it is particularly satisfying for him to see a program with such an intentional instructional design.

David plans to apply the skills he learns throughout the MDA in his career at LEGO Education. He wants to contribute to the company’s mission in a meaningful and authentic way and, in the long term, make a real difference. Since not many have heard of LEGO Education, even though LEGO is a widely recognized company worldwide, there are many high-impact decisions to be made in order to expand the brand. David wants to acquire the skills necessary to systematize his thinking and competently dig into any problem the company may encounter in the future. He believes that it is valuable to have a framework to make sense of the decisions that need to be made, so he can easily learn from them and move forward.

David acknowledges the MDA program’s novel structure and rigorous curriculum may seem intimidating at first look. Nonetheless, he recommends prospective students put aside their hesitations and apply.”As I went through the interview process and interacted with faculty and students, Minerva’s philosophy became much clearer. I’ve never been so excited to be part of a learning community.”