Monday, November 24, 2003
Your Average Overachiever: An HGSE Student Profile
By Julia Laughlin
APPIAN STAFF WRITER
Upon first meeting Yoan Anguilet, you’ll know right away
that he is not your typical Harvard overachiever. The Ed.M. candidate
in the Technology in Education program opens his mouth and out comes
English tinged with an authentic French accent, giving everything
he says an unintentional air of glamour and a certain je ne sais
You might also be clued in to Anguilet’s unique flair when you see him
in a fedora on his website (www.anguilet.net). Or maybe it’s when he compares
the rivalry between Harvard and his alma mater, MIT, to “two lovers, fighting
to prove their love.” Or when he describes the company he started at age
22. This man is one of a kind.
Now 23, Anguilet comes to the Harvard Graduate School of Education
from Gabon, in western Africa. Gabon is a minute but developed
country, with a mere one
million inhabitants-- but boasting the second largest rainforest in the world.
Teachers in the country can have as many as 100 students per class, which would
preclude much individualized attention.
As a result, Anguilet pursued an advanced research project while
at MIT, attempting to use technology to address the lack of educational
resources in his native
nation. His project, which won the Institute’s prestigious Nylander Award,
used computers to prepare African students to pass the all-important baccalaureate
exam, a requirement to move on to higher education.
This led to his development of his company, Education and Technologies
for Communities in Africa (ETCA), in the summer of 2003; it aims
to use computers to improve
education for predominately French-speaking areas in Africa.
Still impassioned with these projects, Anguilet is now designing
simulated lab equipment on the computer, combining his technology
prowess with his love of
education. He explains that teaching science and mathematics is a challenge
in Africa because schools lack hands-on lab equipment, such as microscopes.
His computer program will “stand-in” for the absence of actual equipment.
Perhaps more challenging than this is how to prepare people to accept
technology when so many people are, as he says, “tied to tradition.” He wants
to make the transition easier for people.
For example, it may sound like music to US children’s ears,
but Anguilet contends that the lack of homework in Gabon is a very
serious problem. “It is terrible!” he exclaims, explaining
that his computer quizzes, lab equipment, and ‘teacher assistants’
will provide much-needed help for Gabonese teachers.
For the moment, Anguilet is quite happy here-- although he was surprised
at the “maturity level” of many of the HGSE students, a euphemism for
the average age of his peers. But he appreciates the friendly atmosphere at
HGSE as opposed to MIT where, he says, little socializing takes place.
He cracks up when I ask about hobbies, modestly chuckling, “I don’t
have a lot of hobbies.” However, those that he does mention are certainly
emblematic of his eclectic interests. For example, he likes listening to Zouk
(a form of Caribbean music), salsa, R&B and, he admits while laughing, country.
And don’t forget Michael Jackson.
After a pause, Anguilet mischievously adds that he also enjoys composing
music and is co-producing a album for his younger brother, the suave
Gael Amour (www.gaelamour.com),
who is the self-proclaimed “nouveau prince” of Zouk and wrote his
first song for a sweetheart from Holland at the age of 11. After visiting Gael
Amour’s website, it is difficult to say which Anguilet brother wins the
top prize for panache.
Still, it is difficult to beat Yoan’s diverse talents, which also include
cooking French food. But he is disappointed that Cambridge does not seem to
sell the Kassava leaves required for his favorite Gabonese dish, “feuilles
Despite his assorted interests and his warm personality, when asked
what makes him unique here at HGSE, Anguilet laughs, “well, I
am the only student from Gabon!”
We think there is a lot more that makes him unique.
Julia Laughlin, a masters candidate in the Specialized Program, is a member
of the Appian Board of Editors.