Last summer, when Israel Tovar ’17 founded the InspireNashville College Awareness Initiative — a campaign of presentations and radio talks encouraging low-income students to pursue higher education — Yale’s nascent Education Studies Scholars program did not have the funds to support him. But after receiving a six-figure grant, the program can now support projects like Tovar’s.
Still, many students and faculty members involved with Education Studies are advocating for an even greater influx of resources.
Started in 2013, Yale’s Education Studies program is an initiative that provides undergraduates with coursework focused on an interdisciplinary understanding of education. Scholars take classes in topics ranging from education policy to youth instruction. And over the past two years, the program has grown in interest and offerings, especially after receiving a $300,000 grant from the Endeavor Foundation, an organization which provides grants for educational purposes, this past summer.
But while this money will allow students like Tovar to receive financial support for their initiatives, other scholars and professors say the program needs more resources.
Originally designed as a three-year pilot, the Education Studies Scholars program will be evaluated next year, and the University will decide whether to continue or even augment Education Studies’ funding. Director of Education Studies Lizzy Carroll said she does not believe Yale would increase its funding of the program before this review.
Carroll said the grant money has allowed the program to add new courses, fund a Field Experience Fellowship to support Education Studies Scholars’ summer internships and research plans, and have lecturer Richard Hersh serve as Senior Advisor to Education Studies, working largely on faculty outreach. The program even aims to host a national conference on education at Yale in 2016.
While specific plans for growing the program have not yet been discussed, Carroll said she is hopeful that if the program’s demand continues to exceed its capacity, there will be opportunities to include more students.
“I am optimistic about our ability to grow,” Carroll said. “It’s just a process that doesn’t happen overnight.”
Grace Lindsey ’15, an Education Studies Scholar who serves on the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Education Studies, said she feels there is sufficient attention being paid to the program’s needs, adding that former Dean of Yale College Mary Miller’s commitment to special academic programs on the whole was exciting.
Still, other students and faculty highlighted areas of the Education Studies program that need to be expanded, even after receiving the $300,000 grant.
“I think the fact that we offer so few education studies classes shows the lack of support we’re getting from the administration, from a student’s perspective,” Tovar, an Education Studies Scholar, said. “There’s so much interest in Education Studies. I feel like the University should be investing more in our program.”
Carla Horwitz, a lecturer in the Child Study Center, said she thinks the lack of full time faculty members focused on education reflects that the University’s priorities lie elsewhere. She added that one way to improve the study of education at Yale would be to bring in more scholars researching topics such as educational policy and early childhood education in order to increase course offerings and internship opportunities.
“I do think that would do a lot to [meet] the need,” she said.
One big limitation is the size of the program itself, Hersh said. Scholars culminate their careers with a capstone project in a senior colloquium, and with current staffing, the program only has the capacity to offer one section of the class, according to Carroll. The program currently admits about one third of its applicants, for a class size of 20 students, Carroll said.
Another current drawback of the program is the number of course offerings. This year, the Education Studies program offered six courses, with other Yale College courses in political science, sociology and psychology available for elective credit. According to faculty interviewed, the program is working to add new courses each semester.
Additionally, students and professors said the courses that are available are often oversubscribed. Last Wednesday, nearly 150 students signed up on OCS for just 20 spots in child studies professor Erica Christakis’s “Concept of the Problem Child” class, which counts as an elective in the program. Christakis said she plans to offer the course in a lecture format next semester but added that many other Education Studies courses are best taught through small group discussion.
“[To accommodate all interested students] there just isn’t enough space, there aren’t enough resources, and there aren’t really enough people doing the teaching,” Horwitz said.