Education Policy Initiative graduates spread their research skills across the country

June 24, 2022

Government consulting, examining the effects of free tuition, teaching sociology – all are activities that recent graduates who worked with the Education Policy Initiative (EPI) at the University of Michigan are pursuing, putting their research and analysis capacities to work advancing education across the country, and creating professional and academic networks they will use in the future.

Two EPI postdoctoral research fellows are moving on to exciting new opportunities. Marissa Thompson, who earned her PhD in sociology at Stanford University, was named IES Predoctoral Fellow of the Year for 2021 and was with EPI in 2021-22. She will be joining the sociology faculty at Columbia University as an assistant professor. 

“My research has benefited immensely from feedback from the EPI community during CIERS seminars,” she says. “I especially appreciated the opportunity to join new projects with EPI faculty. I’m excited to continue these collaborations in the future!” 

Tareena Musaddiq, who earned her PhD in economics at Georgia State University, was a postdoctoral fellow in EPI from 2020 to 2022 and is moving on to Mathematica, working “at the intersection of data science, social science, and technology.”

“I had access to key resources that allowed me to analyze and causally evaluate education programs and work on topics I felt passionate about. The program also allowed me to build a strong network of colleagues whose research interests align with mine and with whom I hope to continue working,” she says.

Three predoctoral fellows from the second cohort of U-M’s interdisciplinary Causal Inference in Education Policy Research (CIEPR), are graduating with PhDs, including Amanda Weissman (School of Education, PhD in education studies), Emanuele Bardelli (School of Education, PhD in education studies), and Shawn Martin (Joint PhD in public policy and economics).

Martin will be joining Cornerstone Research as an associate. “The courses, research seminar and interactions with faculty and other fellows, provided numerous opportunities for me to develop empirical research skills, which are not only crucial to answering policy-relevant questions in education, but also valuable to analyzing a wide range of issues,” she says.

Among the Ford School’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) graduates, Alex Baum and Darian Burns worked on important research for EPI, producing a policy brief, "Increasing Economic Diversity at a Flagship University." Baum also worked with EPI on the evaluation of Michigan’s third grade reading law and Michigan comprehensive literacy grant evaluation. During the summer between his two years at the Ford School, he worked in the executive office for Governor Whitmer, reporting to the education policy advisor to the Governor. This summer he starts as a research analyst at Mathematica, primarily working on advancing education-focused research and projects that support government agencies, school systems, foundations, and other stakeholders. 

“My experience at EPI has directly prepared me for the role at Mathematica. In fact, collaborating with a Mathematica researcher on an EPI project is what ultimately led me to apply for the job! I’m deeply grateful to the EPI team for the support and opportunities they have afforded me, and for the doors EPI has opened for my career,” he says.

Burns worked alongside project manager Jasmina Camo-Biogradlija and predoctoral research fellow Elizabeth Burland on collecting qualitative data from parents regarding how they and their children (who graduated from high school) think about choosing a college. 

She says, “Every one of my experiences at EPI were rewarding and unique ways to merge my personal passions in education equity and policy and my graduate coursework. I am confident what I’ve learned will propel me to succeed in my future as a professional in education policy!”

EPI also benefited from undergraduate involvement, including Sophia Yoon, who got her BA from the Ford School, and Ali Usman and Emma Brown, who both graduated with a BS from U-M’s School of Information. 

Yoon says, "Working with EPI as a part-time research assistant gave me valuable skills and knowledge on how to conduct quantitative and qualitative research methods. Through working on the longer-term college acceleration project, as well as helping out with smaller assignments, I learned a lot about the field of education policy and how it intersects with equality and other areas of policy. Everything I've gained from EPI has led me to my upcoming full-time role as a state and local government consultant, and I hope to continue expanding on my knowledge in this area of policy when I attend graduate school in the future."

“I really enjoyed learning about what it is like to work in policy and research. This experience helped me become a design intern at the Aspen Institute's Tech Policy Hub. This summer, I am continuing to work with EPI and the Hub while taking on a UX Design Internship through Ann Arbor SPARK's Digital Summer Clinic,” reports Brown. “From there, my goal is to find a full-time job as a UX Designer in the Ann Arbor area.”

Congratulations to all of our graduates!