Three of William & Mary’s Holmes Scholars participated in the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s (AACTE) 2019 Washington Week in Arlington, VA from June 3 - 5 as part of the organization’s Annual Day on the Hill. The Holmes Program, a branch of AACTE, encourages diversity in education by providing mentorship opportunities to students from high school through doctoral programs who are interested in education careers. William & Mary’s fourteen current Holmes Scholars are high-achieving doctoral students from populations under-represented in higher education.
This year’s Washington Week participants, who recently completed their first year as Holmes Scholars, included Kirstin Byrd, a Ph.D. student in Higher Education Administration; Denise Lewis, a Ph.D. student in Curriculum and Learning Design; and Jingjing Liu, a Ph.D. student in Higher Education Administration.
Lewis reflected that learning about the Four "Ps" of Policy and Advocacy (players, politics, processes, and policy) during a presentation by Jane West, an AACTE consultant, was a highlight of the event. The Four "Ps" serve as a framework for thinking about policy and advocacy, provide four lenses for analysis, and offer a way to organize strategy. The concept explains that policy is never unanimous, but is always contested, revisited, and changing. West concluded her remarks with a profound statement on the importance of advocacy: "You are either at the table … or on the menu!"
Lewis found the talk highly relevant for her plans to advocate for engaging educational technology in the classroom by focusing on the development and dissemination of empirically sound research during her time at William & Mary. "And I will not be on the menu!" she added.
The presentations and discussions throughout the day included a review of new evidence regarding the declining enrollment of diverse education students in higher education, the importance of self-advocacy, and the work of translating policy into practice. These sessions prepared participants for the opportunity to advocate regarding the policy on research and programming that focus on minority populations during AACTE’s Day on the Hill.
The full-day orientation on June 4 offered a variety of workshops and training that helped participants build skills and provided advocacy preparation. The congressional visits on June 5 allowed participants to meet with members of Congress on Capitol Hill regarding important educational issues. Throughout the three-day event, Holmes Scholars had access to engage with diverse policy leaders including deans of schools and colleges of education, local principals and educators, elected officials and their staff. "I had a great learning experience," shared Liu. "The advocacy preparation and communication raised my awareness of improving education policy in a rational and constructive manner."
Byrd added, "Washington Week was very exciting and informing for me. I was able to interact with AACTE members across the nation. While on Capitol Hill, I was able to bond with VCU students and share meetings with them. When meeting with staffers, I asked about accessing education from prisons, what role the community has in addressing child abuse among their students, the FAFSA drug policy, free community colleges, and combining local education and enterprise. Staffers discussed the school to prison pipeline, child homelessness, free online K-12 education, K-12 special education rights, ‘ban the box’ regarding the FAFSA drug policy, Pell grants, and childcare for the poor. I also learned about networking, applying for faculty positions, and more about my local government."
Overall, William & Mary Holmes Scholars found Washington Week to be an opportunity to better understand the connections between research, advocacy and policy while expressing their views on education to their Congressional representatives. Encouraged by the deep passion of participants at Washington Week, William & Mary Holmes Scholars are committed to working hard to improve education and producing positive change. Furthermore, the experience of learning about advocacy successes inspires scholars going forward.