At first, the Richter Scholar Program didn’t appeal to Sophie Faylor ’17. The Ann Arbor, Michigan native assumed it was all about research in the sciences.
Her impression changed, though, when she read the very first project proposal, titled “Poverty and Education.” An elementary education and English double major, it was the project for her. Even better, she’d get to work with Professor of Education Dawn Abt-Perkins, the first faculty member she had ever met during a visit to the College.
The Richter Scholar Program has attracted more professors outside of science disciplines this year. Shubhik DebBurman, chair of the Honors Fellows/Richter Scholar Committee, attributes this to the introduction of a three-week option last year, which popularized this year due to word of mouth. Previously, only a 10-week research program was offered through Richter. About half of the 21 three-week projects are more humanities-focused projects.
Faylor and Chelsea McDonald ’17 of Evergreen, CO, together are writing a literature review that Abt-Perkins will use for her book on teacher education reform in high needs schools.
“We are reading countless numbers of journal articles—some from Professor Perkins and some we’ve located on our own—and finding out what field experts’ opinions are about how to teach students in poverty,” McDonald said. “We want to argue that it’s wrong to classify kids as ‘impoverished’ in schools.”
Faylor went on to explain that one goal of their research and Abt-Perkins’ book is to explain the necessity of pre-service teacher education to eradicate typical presumptions about high poverty schools.
McDonald elaborated: “A large part of our research has to do with teacher paradigms and having them acknowledge where they’re coming from, what they think of poverty, and how those views affect how they work with impoverished students,” said the politics and sociology and anthropology double major with an interest in pursuing educational policy as a career.
Both students are keeping reflection journals throughout this process; what they have found particularly interesting is how their own thinking has been shaped over the course of the past three weeks.
“Professor Perkins has helped us understand our own paradigms and the conversation currently happening about how classifying students as impoverished does more harm than good,” McDonald said.