As a Neighborhood Schools Program (NSP) teacher’s aide at Murray Language Academy in Hyde Park, Stephanie Wallen, AB’21, has grown to love teaching in an urban public school. And thanks to an NSP fellowship, she’s also had the chance to envision herself in other roles that drive educational change.
Wallen was selected to receive a 2019 Milgrom Education Impact Fellowship, funded by a Milgrom Community Service and Innovation Fellowship grant to the Office of Civic Engagement and UChicago Career Advancement. Since 2017, the Milgrom Education Impact Fellowship has been awarded to more than 100 UChicago students who have worked with nearly 3,000 children in South Side schools and nonprofit partner organizations. The program not only encourages students to serve the community, but also aims to help them become leaders in the improvement of urban education.
“When you work in a school, you see people in different jobs, but you don’t really delve into the ‘why’ behind what they do,” Wallen says, “and you don’t see the roles that affect schools but are hidden, like researcher or policymaker or government official.” For six months, Wallen and her fellowship cohort met weekly to discuss education policy with professionals in a wide range of roles, including Murray’s principal and Teach for America’s UChicago campus recruiter. “Through Milgrom, we learned to look at each school as an ecosystem and understand how all the factors and stakeholders interact,” she says.
Wallen’s fellowship experience inspired her to add the College’s new minor in Education and Society to her double major in public policy and sociology, and to begin an NSP internship in an Illinois state representative’s office for a close-up look at government’s role in education policy. “Last year, I thought I’d probably go into teaching, but the Milgrom Fellowship has opened my eyes to so many possible roles” that she plans to keep exploring, Wallen says.
“The Milgrom Fellowship was one of the most influential opportunities I’ve had around education. It gave me the chance to explore and see myself not only as a teacher, but also in other roles that can have an impact.”