Inside the mind of NuVu | and how it affects the administration
Through the glass pane of the fishbowl, I observe a member of the NuVu administration; She has to substitute in because a coach is sick, taking time out of her already replete workday. She’s happy to help, but she had to reschedule a call and push back some work she was planning on getting done. Every little complication adds delay. The NuVu machine runs very tightly, there is little room for error without causing congestion down the line. When one part of NuVu sneezes, sometimes literally, the whole school catches a cold.
I can always feel the draft beneath me as I walk up the cold concrete flight of stairs corralling me to NuVu Innovation School. Glass panes framed by the metal handrails slightly tint what lies behind. Up and around the corner is the entrance, it’s neon pink cavern pulling me in.
For the students, NuVu is the most freeform school experience on the east coast. People climbing into the laser cutter, trying to clown-car as many people in it as possible. Shooting each other with staple guns trying to pop the balloons attached to their opponents (wearing safety glasses, of course).
For the administration of the 10-year-old education startup, however, NuVu is a fast-paced regimented workplace with very little room for error.
In 2010 NuVu was founded by 3 MIT graduates. Saba, a calculated decision maker, the rhyme and reason of NuVu; David, the first coach; and Saeed, the visionary.
“Between Saba, myself and Saeed, Saeed came up with the idea.” Late in the night - sitting in our respective desk chairs - I'm interviewing David Wang.
“ I certainly would say NuVu isn't in its infancy anymore.”
Early on, Saeed saw NuVu as his baby; but he enjoys watching it grow. Predominantly he likes facilitating the proliferation of creativity, through teaching its methods to the younger generation.
“It’s true that Saeed has a strong hand in how NuVu runs and he has a lot of opinions of how things should be done.”
Saeed has become more mellow over the years; He’s learned an understanding of what it is like to be a teen, how they view the world and take in information. Using all the information he’s amassed over his time running NuVu he, in parallel with Saba, has created a pedagogy of creativity.
In 2014 there was a dilemma; how does NuVu grow? At the time, two options were present:
- Grow mothership as it is now, a physical school
- Create a program to spread the NuVu philosophy
The outcome: NuVux. A program where a NuVu studio is setup in other schools around the world in order to bring creativity education to students, not the other way around.
Notwithstanding their progress Saeed and NuVu still have a long way to go
I sat in on a NuVuX / Mothership meeting on Monday. Similar to the Mothership only meetings on Wednesday, all the communication was very rushed. The administrators would almost fight to ask Saeed questions, like a White House press briefing. A short discussion followed the scuffle. “I don’t know” is his catchphrase, he uses it as a cue to share more information.
When a decision is made the administrators quickly move onto the next topic, wasting as little time as possible. If a decision is not reached, the topic will be pushed to the next meeting. They repeated this over and over in an almost methodical way; It’s clear its been this way for a while.
Commonly seen wearing bright, flashy clothing, Jenny Kinard is the administrative equivalent of Lesley Knope. She is the conduit between the administration and the parents, students, and coaches.
Jenny has 4 recurring meetings every week; the staff meeting, the NuVu mothership meeting, the NuVu mothership/NuVuX meeting, and the coaches’ meeting. During the mothership meeting is her chance to ask permission from Saeed for all things NuVu.
Jenny takes various questions and complaints from lower down and packages them for Saeed. She includes as much information as possible so he can be satisfied with the conclusion. If there is a troublemaker student or a big purchase that needs to be dealt with this is where it happens.
Naturally, given only an hour to get through a whole week’s affairs, the meeting becomes competitive in nature. Because of Saeed's grip on NuVu’s brain, staff don't have much freedom to act autonomously.
Jenny feels as this is not always enough time to process and receive feedback on all of her responsibilities. Despite growing pains and hiccups, Jenny, just like the rest of NuVu Cambridge staff, remains determined and presses on. She is dedicated to the students, her co-workers and NuVu’s mission. And so, she filters in and out of studios to substitute for coaches during a season of runny noses to ensure the school continues to run as smooth as it can.