Student Spotlight: Scott Latham Broadens His Interests in Education Policy at U.Va.

Scott Latham
4th year Ph.D student in the Education Policy program at the Curry School of Education, a researcher at EdPolicyWorks, and a VEST pre-doctoral fellow.
Hometown: Hazlet, New Jersey

Question: How did you end up at the Curry School of Education?

Latham: I was a Psychology major at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, and my faculty adviser was a hardcore classical behavioral psychologist, like Skinnerian Behaviorist. But he was super interested in education and in ways to improve the education system, and it sort of rubbed off on me. I started looking for Ph.D programs, and was reading a lot of the research that different professors were doing. The research here really spoke to me, especially Daphna Bassok’s work in early childhood.

Question: Why did you choose the Education Policy Program?

Scott LathamLatham: Mainly my Ph.D adviser, Daphna Bassok, who has been phenomenal to work with. When I visited U.Va., Jim Wyckoff [Director of the Education Policy program] explained the amount of direct mentorship students have, and how much one-on-one time I would get with Daphna. Throughout the program I have had a direct line to her anytime I have questions about anything, which has been incredibly helpful. It also mattered to me that all the students coming into the program were fully funded so I could focus on research from day one and wasn’t scrabbling for my own funding. Also, the U.Va. campus is totally gorgeous!

Question: What are you currently working on?

Latham: I’m working with two nationally representative longitudinal studies that follow kids from kindergarten through middle school. We are studying Quality Rating and Improvement Systems to examine the accountability of early childhood. This work is really important because in the past 20 years or so there’s been this huge increase in the amount of money devoted to early childhood through the expansion of state-sponsored Pre-k systems. We are looking at this investment to see if it has meaningful impact on child development.

Question: How has your time at U.Va. changed you?

Latham: I came here with a pretty strong interest in early childhood, but I’ve learned a lot about other hot topic areas of education policy, especially teacher labor markets. I think I have a much broader sense of what’s important, and am open to areas of research that I hadn’t thought about before coming to this program. EdPolicyWorks and the Education Policy Ph.D Program do a great job of exposing students to really smart, thoughtful people in academics and the private sector. Students get good face time with these people and can ask questions from our own research or pick their brains on important topics and the way they think. I think that’s been incredibly helpful in my career development!

In the future, Latham hopes to be doing research in academic or in private think-tank firms. He is also a fellow in the Virginia Education Sciences Training (VEST), a pre-doctoral fellowship program funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences. He has his MPP from the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy as part of the dual degree program.

EdPolicyWorks is a joint collaboration between the Curry School of Education and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. EdPolicyWorks brings together researchers from across the University of Virginia and the State to focus on important questions of educational policy and implications for the workforce.