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We are pleased to share with our readers the following interview with Jeffrey Puryear, Senior Fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, conducted by Carmen García Guadilla. Based on a successful career dedicated to working with the Ford Foundation and the Inter-American Dialogue in Latin America, Puryear shares some reflections about his academic training, the Ford Foundation, Chilean intellectuals, and the challenges of improving education policy in the region.
Biography (in the words of Carmen García Guadilla)
Jeffrey Puryear is a Senior Fellow in the Education Program at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, DC. Until 2014, he was vice president for social policy, and co-directed (with Marcela Gajardo of Chile) the Program for Educational Revitalization in the Americas (PREAL), which has had a major impact on education policies in the region. Puryear’s work in Latin America extends back many years: he was previously director of the Ford Foundation’s regional office for the Andes and Southern Cone in Lima.
These and other activities related to education and to the role of intellectuals in Chilean politics have made Puryear a highly regarded person in several Latin American countries. Thus it is important to understand his career path. Why did Puryear become interested in the role of intellectuals and in education policy in Latin America? What is his academic background? What are his interests in and connections to our region?
Puryear studied in a small rural public primary school near Lansing, the state capital of Michigan in the United States, and in a public secondary school in Eaton Rapids. As a youth, he completed his bachelor’s degree (BA) in Social Sciences, in one of the universities in the state—Michigan State University. He then moved to Durham, North Carolina, to do his master’s (MA) in Sociology at Duke University. Later he completed a doctorate in comparative education at the University of Chicago, which had one of the leading centers of work in that area. Even later he was a “Research Scholar” at two other prestigious universities: New York University and Stanford University.
It’s fair to say that Puryear has lived a multicultural life. He was born in the United States, but has worked in Peru, Colombia, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. He is married to a Chilean, has a Chilean daughter, an Indian son-in-law and a Jack Russell Terrier puppy. His favorite pleasures include tasting good wine and skiing in Colorado. He lives in Washington, DC and has a lovely cabin in the woods on Lake Michigan—ideal for writing his memoirs. We expect those memoirs to develop what in this interview is just a preamble.