The Falvey Scholars: Elizabeth Eby
Elizabeth Eby of Bedford, New Hampshire has been named a 2018 Falvey Scholar for her work on a project titled “Secrets to Success: A Comparative Study of Student Voice Initiatives in High Schools.” During her time at Villanova, Eby has been a member of the Blue Key Society and has served as a tutor for Campus Ministry and the Sophomore Service Learning Community.
Eby, who plans on pursuing a doctorate in education after completing the Alliance for Catholic Education program at Notre Dame, credits Professor Jerusha Conner, education, and Professor Stacey Havlik, counseling and education, and the honors program generally for helping her along the way. You’ll find excerpts of her conversation with Falvey below.
William Repetto: What made you choose Villanova during your college search process?
Elizabeth Eby: When I was going through the college search process, I knew that I wanted a Catholic school—that was one way for me to narrow my search down—with a strong academic program and a lot of school spirit, so that’s how Villanova got on my list. But a lot of other schools also fit that bill. Going through the college process I would say I didn’t really have a top choice. There were a lot of schools where I could see myself enjoying and doing well.
It wasn’t until I was accepted to Villanova and I came back for Accepted Students’ Day, I fell in love with the school on that day. Just everyone I met was so friendly and welcoming and approachable. I could sense a strong community, and I felt wanted. So that day coupled with, around the time of Candidates’ Day I was awarded the Presidential Scholarship, which was a big factor in my decision to come to Villanova, made me say yes and I absolutely loved it. I’m sad to leave.
WR: English, your major, and Business, your minor, are two seemingly very different fields. How did you end up studying both?
So, growing up, English and Math were always my favorite subjects, which is kind of weird because they’re kind of different disciplines. And so, coming to Villanova, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. I guess growing up I always had in the back of my mind that I might be interested in teaching, but coming to Villanova that wasn’t something I necessarily I intended on doing. So, I actually came as a business student and was thinking for a while of maybe majoring in finance and doing something sort of mathy and financey and I don’t know, I liked the idea of doing something sort of mathy but also working with people.
My sophomore year I took two English courses and loved them. And so, decided to switch out of the school of business, finish the minor, but major in English, so that’s sort of how I found my way into the English major. So yes, English has always been an interest of mine and teaching has always been an interest of mine, but it took me sort of—I sort of meandered to find my way here.
WR: Let’s talk a bit about your Falvey Scholars project. What was your research question?
EE: My research question was, “What conditions lead to the successful implementation and institutionalization of student voice programs in high schools?” Student voice is a growing concept in the field of education. It’s the idea of giving students a voice, or active role in educational decision making and planning, so giving students a say in their schools. There’s a lot of research out there that details why student voice is important, but there needs to be more research on how to best structure students voice programs and structure schools in a way that gives students a voice. My research question was an attempt to get to the how: what are the conditions are the key for successful student voice programs, what conditions need to be present in schools in order for these programs to be effectively implemented?
WR: And so did studying this just require going out to a bunch of schools and asking questions?
EE: Yeah, so I found three schools with active student voice programs and over the summer I interviewed principals, teachers, and students in the schools who were involved in the student voice programs to ask about their experience.
Will: What was the conclusion you came to?
EE: In my paper, I decided to highlight and focus on two key conditions for success. The first is the support of the administration, so the principals played a really key role in ensuring the success of the student voice program. And then the creation of a culture of care and trust and mutual respect. I detail that in my paper, and I also propose a framework that I call the Three P’s. I suggest thinking about Participation and Passion and Power, all elements that contribute to the success of student voice. So, my findings were twofold. Number one, here are the two conditions I found were most prominent across all three schools. Number two, here’s a sort of theory that I would like to propose and use to evaluate the three programs that I looked at.
I want to add that student voice is a very relevant topic given that all that’s going on in the news recently. We’re seeing students campaign for changes to the American educational system through the Never Again movement and the organization of marches and dialogues to protest gun violence, for example. Current events such as these indicate that students desire to be heard, and I think it’s important for schools to take that energy and help support students as they call for changes.
WR: Can you tell me a little bit about how the library here has played a role in your experience here at Villanova and getting to where you are?
EE: Through the library, I’ve just been able to have access to so many resources I wouldn’t have otherwise. For example, for several of my classes and also at the start of the VERF program we’ve had workshops led by library staff. Like, for some of my English classes, Sarah Wingo led some workshops for us. For the VERF program, Alfred Fry led a workshop for us. Those two individuals and the library staff in general have been super eager to share, “Look, here’s all the library has to offer you,” and also super willing to answer questions. So I think for this thesis project, I really took advantage of the library’s resources as I was conducting my literature review, and developing my research question, and looking for different methodological pieces to develop my methodology. I found the staff to be super accessible. Anytime I had a question, they were always willing to answer.
Article and photos by William Repetto, a graduate assistant in the Communication and Marketing Dept. at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.
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