The Mixed Methods Blog
Meet the PEAR Fellows: Taylor Myers
For Taylor Myers, higher education is an ideal field for blending her interests in human development, social welfare, education, and organizational theory. The Postsecondary Education Applied Research (PEAR) fellow wants to produce research that informs our understanding of equitable access and success and how students’ personal, professional, and academic experiences shape policymaking and postsecondary outcomes.
Read on to learn more about Myers, who is a senior research assistant at CCRC.
What were you doing before you became a PEAR fellow?
Before becoming a PEAR fellow, I was a doctoral student at Teachers College for two years in the Education Policy program. I have also been working at CCRC as a senior research assistant for several years where I support research projects focused on guided pathways implementation and students’ program momentum and transfer outcomes at community colleges.
Before starting my program at TC, I worked in higher education policy at California Competes, a state-level research and advocacy think tank. In my role as a senior policy researcher, I conducted policy analyses on higher education issues relevant to the state, advocated for policy changes, collaborated with state legislators and their teams on bills and agendas, and designed and carried out research studies on topics such as equitable college access, the needs of student parents, and the role of state-level coordination on postsecondary policymaking.
What would you like to accomplish while you’re a PEAR fellow?
I am really looking forward to beginning my PEAR fellowship apprenticeship this summer. I will be working with the MASS Transfer Team at the Department of Higher Education in Massachusetts. I am excited to work with multiple data and policy teams at DHE to analyze student outcomes after they transfer from community colleges. I’ll be applying some of the methods that I helped develop for previous CCRC working papers on transfer and early momentum, which will be a novel approach to thinking about the role of transfer on students’ economic and social mobility in Massachusetts.
What does the PEAR fellowship mean for your career?
The PEAR fellowship is an incredible opportunity to apply my professional and academic skills to cutting-edge research questions in ways that are meaningful and relevant to our field. It has already provided me the opportunity to forge new relationships with colleagues who I may otherwise not have collaborated with and has been a great jumping-off point to reach outside of my current networks and connect with researchers and practitioners across sectors and geographies. My participation in the PEAR fellowship has opened many new professional doors in just a short time and I’m hopeful it will be a catalyst to building my career in applied research!
What are your research interests?
My research interests include a wide range of postsecondary topics. I have a lot of questions about organizational and institutional planning, policy, and governance within higher education institutions and how this impacts students. For example, how do colleges and government systems work together to identify postsecondary policy goals; who is involved in identifying these goals; how is progress assessed and what decisions are made as a result?
I am also very interested in thinking about how student voice and student experiences are centered in policymaking and what this means for our understanding of equity, access, and success. I’ve explored this in a few ways during my time at TC including thinking about how students’ build early program momentum at community colleges, and whether students with identities that are historically underrepresented, such as first-generation students, returning adult students, or students with dependent children, have different postsecondary outcomes because of their experiences.
What would you like to do after your fellowship ends?
After my fellowship and after defending my dissertation, I plan to work in applied research with a nonprofit research group or state or local government. Wherever I might end up, I welcome the chance to tackle challenging postsecondary policy questions, with a research-focused lens, that center students and their diverse needs and experiences.
What initially attracted you to the field? What motivates you to stay in it?
Accessing and succeeding in college are opportunities that must be available to anyone who seeks them. My background and experiences navigating college as a first-generation student inspire me to keep advocating on behalf of all students.
In high school, my goal was to get accepted to college. After that, I didn’t really have a plan. I struggled with several classes early on in college and felt like a complete imposter. I eventually found my footing in a program that prepared undergrads to study public health and health policy in graduate school. I loved thinking about social policy and welfare at the community level and I also gravitated towards the quantitative methods for analysis that was part of the last year of the program. My internship for this program was based in a public school, and I found myself leaning towards education and social policy as interests much more than public health. I spent the next several years working at education non-profit organizations and I knew that this field was going to be my home. Earning my MPP and working in higher ed policy at the state level confirmed that education policy was right for me.
Needless to say, it was a winding path that led me to this area of research, but I’ve found it blends my interests in social policy, education, and community welfare beautifully. It has also been an amazing field to learn and apply new theories and methods because it is always evolving.
For a researcher interested in human development, social welfare, education, and organizational theory, higher education sits at this incredible intersection where so many different questions about the human condition can be explored. We know that acquiring knowledge, thinking creatively, problem solving, and collaborating don’t end when high school graduates walk across the stage. And we know that colleges can support these activities and be critical inflection points in people’s lives. I’m motivated to stay in this field to ensure that opportunities to learn and access social and economic mobility through college credentials are available to anyone who seeks them. To do this, we need to think critically about the policy space, the decision makers, and whose voices and experiences we prioritize and center.