Q&A with Cory Heyman, Vice President and Senior Director of Creative’s Education for Development Division

By Michael J. Zamba

July 31, 2022

Meet Cory Heyman, VP at Creative Associates International from Creative Associates Int’l on Vimeo.

Cory Heyman, Ph.D., joined Creative on Aug. 1, 2022, as the Vice President and Senior Director of the Education for Development Division. Heyman has worked at the nexus of the private, public and nonprofit sectors for three decades, with a career focus on reducing poverty and increasing social mobility in the United States and around the world.

At Room to Read, from 2010 to 2016 he was the Chief Program Officer, followed by holding the post of Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Director of Room to Read Accelerator from 2016 to 2018. From 2007 to 2010, he was the Vice President and Deputy Director of the Center for Gender Equity at the Academy for Education Development (AED). Heyman stepped out of international development to be an owner of a franchise restaurant business that focused on providing healthy meals and employment skill development in south central Pennsylvania, which included two locations.

Heyman earned a Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a B.A. in Political Economy and Industrial Societies with a concentration in Education Development in Developing Countries and M.P.P. from the University of California Berkeley.

Below are edited excerpts of an interview with Heyman prior to his first day at Creative.

What inspires you to work in international education?

: I have been excited about international education for my entire career. As part of my undergraduate work, I came to understand education as the most important institution when it is done well for helping people to break cycles of poverty, for being able to take control of their lives and for being able to make career decisions.

So I decided very early on in life that I wanted to focus my career on education in the international space. Education is fundamental to everything that we do in life. It provides the opportunity for social mobility but also critical thinking skills. As we have a world of disinformation people who have more education have the opportunity to think critically and assess information for themselves and make the best decisions possible for them in life.

In international education what excites me most is the opportunity to serve communities around the world that may not otherwise have the resources or the experiences to help all children to succeed. And organizations such as Creative Associates play an important role in facilitating educational outcomes.

You have three decades of working in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. How does all that relate to education?

Heyman: I have been very lucky in my career to have had many different job opportunities in the public sector, in the private sector and in the nonprofit sector. And my reflection is that it really takes everyone from all sectors to make education successful.

For example, I ran a nonprofit organization in the late ‘90s that Creative Associates was a part of that brought together governments and businesses and educational institutions to work on educational outcomes and workforce opportunities for disadvantaged students in the District of Columbia area. And it was exciting to hear the discussions among all the parties to figure out jointly what is important not only for students to learn but what they actually need to be able to do when they graduate from school to be successful in the long run.

I think that business plays an important role in helping to educate government and the school systems about how best to support children to transition effectively to work after they complete school. And oftentimes nonprofit organizations fill in the gap where there isn’t already government expenditures or private investment in supporting education. There could be a particular community that needs support. There could be a particular way of supporting education that is innovative and isn’t yet part of the government system. So, each sector plays an important role in achieving the best education possible.

How do you define success?

Heyman: When I think about success, I think about it in two different ways. One is the success at the individual level. Every day somebody is able to learn something new and take that information and make their lives better is a success in my mind. It is always inspiring to go into the field and to see a child in a classroom who has had an a-ha moment where they understand something now that they didn’t a few minutes ago. And then to see that child take that information and use it to foster further learning. So, it is always inspiring for me to see that kind of success on an individual basis.  

And then in terms of success at a larger scale the goal is for many more children and many more learners to have those experiences so that they can assimilate knowledge and skills and attitudes and behaviors in ways that can help them in their own lives, it helps their families and helps their communities and makes the world a better place.  

So my ideal of success is for more children to have opportunities to learn than have had them in the past, for them to use those opportunities to change their own lives and then for systems to be able to create more opportunities for economic growth, for social cohesion and for a world in which we can all be proud where we think about environmental goals, where we think about opportunities for all, where we live in a way that we can support each other. 

When you’re working with partners whether they’re institutional partners like ministries of education or informal groups like parent teacher associations or even professionals like educators themselves how do you get them to agree on what their goals could be, or do they need to agree on their educational goals?

Heyman: The question of how to get everybody to agree on educational goals is a huge challenge. Oftentimes we find with our clients that they have established initial goals with host governments or with host communities.

But then once you get into the field, it’s clear that there’s still a lot of work to do to make sure that everybody is aligned around goals. The first task is to listen and make sure that everybody in the room has a voice, that there is the opportunity to build trust and the assumption that everyone is working toward the same ultimate goal which is ensuring that children and adults have the educational experiences to lead good lives.

I think that if people are trusting of each other and they are listening to each other and they are communicating clearly there is an opportunity to start projects with an aligned set of goals and work together for the success of everyone.

Reading your resume you have a distinguished list, a long list of research articles and publications which easily could be grouped into that phrase and to those words thought leadership. How do you translate the so-called thought leadership into implied implementation?

Heyman: I have spent a lot of my career writing reports, writing a book most recently in 2018. And in each instance, I do my very best to use those opportunities as ways to collect the best information possible about what’s going on in the communities in which we work as a basis for thinking about better strategies for success in the long run.

Rather than writing theoretical articles with lofty goals, it’s more important to me to clarify what is actually happening in the field so that we can be better prepared to achieve the goals of our projects. The way that I think about my previous writing and what I would like to do in the future is to continue to use those as opportunities to inform people about the realities in the field and about the ways in which we can be most successful in supporting the communities in which we work.

In some cases that is through new creative solutions and in other cases it’s getting back to the basics and simply implementing the strategies that we know have been successful in the past and do them with the degree of quality that we know will achieve success in the future.

Sign Up

For our mailing list


Comments are closed.