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The Mixed Methods Blog
The Mixed Methods Blog

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Congratulations to Four Graduating CCRC Staff Members

Selene Sandoval, Maggie Fay, Lindsay Leasor, and Heidi Booth

Graduate students are essential members of the CCRC team, conducting research and supporting our work while completing courses and writing their dissertations and theses. We are so proud of the four CCRCers who graduated this year, three of whom earned master’s degrees at Teachers College and one of whom completed a PhD at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center. Some of these graduates will be sticking around CCRC, while others are moving on to their next role. We are grateful for all of their hard work and wish them the best. Congratulations Heidi, Maggie, Lindsay, and Selene!

Heidi Booth, Senior Research Assistant

Heidi Booth is graduating from Teachers College with an MA in education policy and a concentration in data analysis and research methods. Booth decided to study education policy to learn about how barriers built into education systems prevent those systems from adequately serving students and facilitating upward mobility. Her capstone project explored the role of postsecondary institutions and student support services in promoting the persistence of student parents.

Booth started at CCRC in September 2018 as an office assistant and later joined the research team to work on a project examining effective professional development for community college instructors. She will be working on the project through early summer and is looking for a full-time research position.

“While I have hopes of pursuing a PhD in the future, for now I am excited to find a role where I can continue to grow as a researcher and learn more about programs, systems, and policies that expand access to higher education and foster social mobility,” Booth said.

Maggie Fay, Research Associate

Maggie Fay has worked at CCRC for about 10 years and, at the same time, plugged away at a PhD at CUNY since 2014, where her sociology research focuses on students in remedial math courses at CUNY community colleges. Working at CCRC introduced her to the complex topic of developmental education, which became the focus of her research, she said, because “college remediation accomplishes pretty much the opposite of what it is designed to do.” Remediation is supposed to increase access to higher education but instead weeds out many students.

“College remediation/developmental education is a great exemplar of how policies designed to democratize access to upward social mobility in the U.S. and disrupt patterns of social stratification end up backfiring spectacularly,” Fay said. “In this sense, I believe there is a lot to learn from the mechanisms at work in remedial classrooms that stymie student progress.”

Fay’s dissertation is titled Learning to Fail?: Students Experiences in Remedial Mathematics in Community Colleges.

At CCRC, Fay is working on projects studying developmental education and guided pathways, including one project seeking to create alternatives to algebra in high schools. Fay is also working on a CCRC project examining how guided pathways reform affects students experiences in STEM programs, particularly underrepresented students in STEM.

“I would have never been initiated into the dark arts of college remediation, or learned most everything that I know about conducting research, if I hadn't worked at CCRC,” she said.

Lindsay A. Leasor, Research and Development Assistant

Lindsay Leasor said she is a psychology person at heart but ended up in the economics and education master’s program at Teachers College after she worked closely with low-income and first-generation students as a financial aid officer at Columbia University.

“I saw firsthand how postsecondary finance and institutional and federal aid policies directly impact students' lives and their educational outcomes,” she said.

TC’s Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis allowed her to take an interdisciplinary approach to critically examine such policies. Leasor wrote her thesis on the changing skill requirements in the labor market and the factors that allow postsecondary institutions to meet these shifts in demand; the project won a departmental certificate of excellence.

Leasor began working at CCRC in July 2019. She assists with the development of funding proposals, and this summer, she will work with researchers on CCRC’s advising team to collect qualitative data. Leasor intends to apply in the fall for a PhD program, where she will utilize what she’s learned about the ripple effects of social policy decisions.

“Designing educational systems that are responsive, flexible, and equitable has implications for both personal and societal welfare,” she said. “What's funny about education is it’s a very long-run payoff, and I would argue that’s why CCRC's efforts to produce rigorous research and improve the research-to-policy pipeline are imperative.”

Selene Sandoval, Research Assistant

Selene Sandoval graduated from TC with a degree in education policy and social analysis with a focus on sociology and education. Since she started working at CCRC in November 2019, Sandoval helped to develop CCRC’s research on community college finance and contributed to a project on English language learners.

In her own research, Sandoval explored graduates’ perspectives on diversity and inclusion in selective public high schools and the political, legal, and social aspects of the policy debate around schools that choose students based on a single standardized test.

“Throughout my own educational experience, I have lived through the inequalities in our system and understand firsthand the barriers first-generation, low-income, and/or underrepresented minorities have to overcome for upward mobility,” she said.

However, despite the challenges she faced, Sandoval said she has seen a shift in education policy and research over the past few years to focus more on equity.

Sandoval recently returned to her hometown, Los Angeles. She plans to serve her community while continuing to explore the narratives of underrepresented populations and highlighting the importance of integrating qualitative and quantitative research to inform policy.

“I am a firm believer in self-advocacy for students in higher education institutions who come from backgrounds similar to mine,” she said. “We are more than a statistic or a ‘story of success’ grappling through immeasurable odds. Our voices and our journeys are testaments to the structural changes that have to be made to ensure that everyone has the same chance to succeed, regardless of their background.”

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