Nicolás Olguín

MA in Educational Studies: Teaching and Learning

Student status: Alum, graduated 2015

Geographic region of origin: Santiago, Chile

Education prior to Ed Studies MA:

I did my undergraduate studies at Universidad de Chile. First, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish and Spanish American Language and Literature, majoring in Linguistics (2004-2009). Then I became a professional Spanish Language Teacher, doing a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education, Majoring in Spanish Language (2011-2012). Finally, I did a postgraduate Diploma in Language and Indigenous Cultures (2013).

Prior to joining the program: 

After I graduated from Universidad de Chile, I started teaching at middle and secondary school level. After a couple of years, the wheel turned a little bit and I developed an interest for educational assessment and curriculum design. I had the chance to collaborate with former professors at my old School of Education at their courses. This allowed me to study assessment principles and curriculum development more in depth. With this background, I started working for the Chilean government, elaborating questions for reading and writing SIMCE tests, which is a Chilean standardized test. At the same time, I worked as an instructional designer for a private company, developing e-learning courses about various subjects related to professional development.

Why the Teaching & Learning program? 

I decided to apply for this program considering three main aspects. First, the Teaching and Learning program provides strong vocation for leadership training for both classroom and outside practitioners. Furthermore, I sensed a constructivist orientation that is directly connected with my initial teacher training and the hint of educative-country project we are trying to build now in Chile. As an undergrad, I had the opportunity to work with models of this kind, which echo what is being developed in the United States. Second, the program fulfilled my desire to stay on track as an education professional in areas such as curriculum, assessment and teaching practices, but also allowed me to develop new knowledge and skills on a broad scope of areas, such as technology and education and international education. This is a versatile approach and definitely a highlight at SOE. Finally, for me, it seems essential to establish educational practices that embrace the diversity within educational institutions. A society like ours, democratic but unequal, needs to grow considering differences between people. We need professionals who accept that challenge and the Teaching and Learning program at SOE is aiming in that direction.


My internship consisted in working as an educational consultant for the En Nuestra Lengua (“In Our Language”) Literacy and Culture Project. This is a cultural/educational project that has taken the form of a Saturday school program for Latino students in Ann Arbor, around grades K-6. The main objective of this project is to maintain and improve the academic literacy skills of the students in Spanish as their first language and provide access to cultural practices from their Latino tradition. The regular school system provides plenty of learning opportunities, but tends to override the heritage of students with foreign background.

The En Nuestra Lengua Project is a relevant actor for the Latino community in Ann Arbor, helping students to read, write, do math and sciences in the language of their families. As a consultant for this project, my main role was to work together with their director, U-M professor Dr. Teresa Satterfield. I worked to identify opportunities for improvement and generate an assessment framework for the students as an alternative to traditional grading. I developed a system of digital badges for the program and analyzed the viability of its implementation via digital platforms. This experience allowed me to go hands-on with curriculum analysis, alternative assessment development, class observation, action-research practices and many other activities. This was one of the most important parts of my master's program, because it put me on that complex spot where you have to be confident in your knowledge and be able to recap and apply every resource you’ve cultivated during your classes.

Individualized course of study: 

Courses I chose included:

These courses represented an answer to my need for a wide view of educational trends, problems and research. I wanted to get the most complete experience from the SOE, so I decided to take a wide variety of classes. In the end, I was very happy with the experience because it met my professional and academic needs. It is a good idea to talk to your advisor before making any decisions and think of what comes next in your career. With this in mind, I was able to organize and design a road of learning experiences that resulted in a relevant understanding of many educational themes that touch deep into my current line of work and go above and beyond.

I loved having the opportunity to take two doctoral seminar classes. This opportunity is not offered to master’s students everywhere, so I jumped on the opportunity. Having taken these classes played a big role in my decision to pursue a doctoral degree. 

Highlights of the Michigan experience:

I stayed for one year at Michigan and there are so many important people and places I’ll remember. Every professor I had was respectful and had a drive for high quality teaching practices. My advisor, Gina Cervetti, warmly received me and helped me during the program. The whole SOE community is an excellent group to be part of and the school itself was as welcoming as could be, being a cozy place to be during winter and a refreshing one during summer.

My classmates were an amazing group of people. They came from China, Japan, Korea, Egypt, UK, and, of course, the U.S., among other different places. This mixture of cultures and experiences was an asset during the program because it helped open my eyes to different ideas.

Outside the school, I enjoyed the beauty of the wonderful campus, the libraries and the downtown. Ann Arbor is a great place to live, having that combination of pure nature—with its parks, lakes and rivers—and an exciting true city feeling. Be sure to check out a hidden gem on North Campus, the Computer and Video Game Archive!

Diversity, equity and inclusion:

Today in Chile we have a highly diverse reality in the classroom. The Mapuche indigenous people, among others, and Latin American immigrants constitute a good portion of students who pass through our schools. Besides this, we also find an incipient integration project for people with special needs who require skilled care in their educational process. In addition, there’s the need to bring issues of gender equality to the forefront. I see it as an educational imperative to embrace the diversity of ethnicities, nationalities, capabilities and genders within educational institutions.

Within my professional project, diversity integration at curriculum level can be found. The Teaching and Learning program provided me with tools and insight into the U.S. situation on this matter, which I believe is representative of worldwide trends. Schools and communities are becoming more and more diverse. As educators, we must address diversity and be grateful for all the enrichment that it brings to everyone’s culture. I believe the School of Education, at an interpersonal level, cared for me as a Latino student. But this is not an accident; it is part of a larger project of what it means for them to be a school for educators. Hence, this project flows through the academic level. They address diversity and hold a high standard when it comes to study, practice and reflection on issues of diversity locally and worldwide.  I found that equity and inclusion were central to the educational project of the institution.

Life after U-M:

Currently, I’m working for the Chilean government as a reading assessment professional and I’m in charge of the 2016 national reading standardized test. This is a continuation of my past experience, but with bigger responsibilities. This high-stakes test is taken by around 250,000 students in Chile. My main role is to assemble the test by selecting texts and questions, following guidelines from our national curriculum and gender and accessibility policies. I must also consider many variables in the process, which are related to literature, literacy, linguistics, pedagogy, sociology and assessment principles. The Teaching and Learning program provided me with an important base knowledge on educational issues and a deep understanding of pedagogical frameworks and practices, which allows me to better face the challenges of my job with solid professional criteria.

Nico invites prospective students to contact him with any questions about the program and student life.

Olguín’s program of study: