This past spring, Jasmyn Gilmore MPP '21 completed her capstone research with New America. Her research interests lie at the intersections of social policy, such as education and housing policy. She worked with New America for a final capstone project.
We connected with Gilmore to learn more about her work with the New America Foundation and how it impacted her capstone project and interest in educational policy.
What got you interested in these topics?
Even before coming into the BA/MPP program my senior year of undergrad last year, I had found that inequality was something that deeply troubled me and I wanted to do something about it - however, in what capacity, I had not figured out yet. I think taking Public Policy and the Black Community with Professor Alana Hackshaw in the African American Studies Department my sophomore year is where my interest in education-based policy work first began to grow. This class was my first academic-based exposure to learning about the impacts of public policy both historically and currently in creating and sustaining inequity in this country, particularly for people of color.
Learning the significant role of equitable opportunities and accessibility of quality education sparked an interest in learning more about this intersection between policy and social inequity (particularly education), leading me to shortly thereafter apply to and begin classes in the BA/MPP Program.
What has your work with New America entailed?
At the beginning of the fall semester, we picked our top 5 client project selections from a list the professors provided. Based upon my interests in education policy and desire to gain some more hands-on knowledge and experience working more directly in the field, I found that New America's project was of most interest to me. I had a brief interview with them to ensure I would be a good fit and was so excited to learn that I was selected to work with them.
For the project, I was asked to use the RAND Corporation's recent American Instructional Resources Survey (AIRS) data to help identify educators' needs across different demographic subgroups and contribute to an understanding of how teachers are finding and using culturally relevant and/or open education resources as well as which teachers are most familiar with these resources and materials. In addition to the required project course paper, I have also asked co-author a three-part blog series with one of their staff to highlight the major takeaways, contradictions, and challenges indicated within the data.
What have you learned through the experience?
I've learned so much throughout my time working with New America about K-12 education policy - the value of digital materials, culturally responsive and inclusive pedagogy implementation, representation, funding, resource, and opportunity access). I learned about so many facets of this field and ways to contribute to education policy - more than I ever realized were possible. I've learned so much about each of these areas and feel that it has only solidified my passion for this work.
Hearing about other staff members’ projects and passions as well as receiving their feedback and advice on my own blog series contributions during team meetings has been so inspiring and helpful throughout my project development process. My co-author, Sabia Prescott, and project supervisor, Lisa Guernsey have been especially helpful and supportive. I've learned so much about blog-style writing (compared to the traditional academic style writing that I've grown so accustomed to), effective data analysis, and how to synthesize information in concise, digestible ways for the larger public - rather than targeted for professors or other academics to read. I honestly have loved working with New America and could not have asked for a better experience to close out my graduate career. Overall, it has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience that has provided an amazing opportunity to learn by doing within this field.
How has your time at SPP helped in your professional experience?
In my time working on this series and my capstone, I've been able to apply critical thinking, research, and data synthesis skills that I've been able to develop and hone throughout my time in the SPP. Both my work in my previous courses and the guidance of previous professors have definitely equipped me well for this learning experience. I also feel that having the space and opportunities to write about inequities within various facets of social policy in my other courses have informed my interest in delving deeper into education-based inequities. In addition to my time working alongside peers, advocating for greater inclusivity and diversity within the SPP school itself has helped to inform my fervent desire to fight for change and to advocate for the environment/broader world that I want to see.
How are you pursuing your passions?
It is because of this program, its course offerings, and the capstone opportunity I was afforded that I was able to gain the exposure and experience in this field that I have gotten over the past year. It has allowed me to have experienced and experimented with different areas within the social policy that have led me to find my current passion. At times, I was not sure if I would ever be able to decide what I liked best and wanted to focus on, especially trying to learn and figure this all out through online classes in the middle of a global pandemic. Yet, these experiences have helped me to explore, grow in, and develop my passion for fighting to address educational inequity, particularly with an asset-based framing lens. And for that, I am truly grateful to have found something I am passionate about and cannot wait to see what's next for me pursuing it.