Why did you choose the UVA School of Education & Human Development for your program of study?
There are lots of reasons, not the least of which is the Ed School’s outstanding reputation. The fact that I work at UVA and the Ed School offers generous financial support to offset the cost was also a huge draw. I did my master’s at the Ed School, and I was very happy to continue my studies with the faculty here. They know me and my research interests, so it was a seamless experience to work toward the terminal degree.
What is the most significant thing that has shaped your time here?
I think the events of August 11 and 12, 2017, solidified what I already knew, and that was that I had to follow my commitment to social justice in education. I was always going to focus my doctoral research on issues related to studying abroad during college, but the tragic events of that weekend in Charlottesville, and the resulting calls for action, led me to pursue a research agenda focused on the experiences of minoritized students and their decisions about whether or not to study abroad. This topic is gaining traction in the field, and it is critical that all students, regardless of race, have catalysts to inspire interest, drive intent, and lead to experiences to study in another country.
What is one thing you learned during your studies that surprised you most?
I was most surprised by the ways in which politics truly drives our education system in the United States. I was not naïve to this fact, but throughout my studies, it became abundantly clear that inequities in education across this country are due, at least in part, to the politicization of a system that should be based upon access, equity, and bipartisanship.
How are you feeling about being a member of the Class of 2021, completing your program in the middle of a pandemic?
It has certainly been a wild ride working on all of this during a pandemic. In some ways, I think it memorializes the experience such that I will look back and say, “I defended my capstone on Zoom in a suit and house slippers because I couldn’t do it in-person.” I would be lying if I said that finishing at this point in time wasn’t a little disappointing…I would have enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of a proper doctoral hooding and to have my whole family enjoy a spring weekend in Charlottesville during Final Exercises. But in the grand scheme of things, we are healthy, my family and friends are vaccinated, and I earned the degree fair and square. There is a lot to be grateful for, so I am doing my best to focus on that!
What will you be doing next?
Not much changes for me out of the gate professionally. I am going to keep laying roots in my role at the Law School and plan to take on more responsibilities and special projects. My wife and I are expecting our first child in June, and she has actually made me promise not to make any other big changes for a little while. I am happy to oblige!