Taylor Hoogsteden, '20

October 8, 2019
Senior receives Governor's Fellowship to work on education policy

Tutoring in a Richmond after-school program for low-income children brought education inequity to life for a University of Richmond student from West Windsor, N.J.

“In the fall of my sophomore year, I volunteered as a mentor with the Youth Life Foundation of Richmond to fulfill the community service element of Dr. Julian Hayter’s leadership studies class Justice and Civil Society,” said Taylor Hoogsteden, ’20. “It was the first time I witnessed firsthand racial and social injustices.

“My mentee was in fifth grade but read on a first-grade level. She was just learning addition and subtraction. I realized her life outcome would not be as good as it could have been had she gone to a different school or lived in a different neighborhood.

“That experience catalyzed my desire to incite change in education policy.”

Hoogsteden, who is majoring in leadership studies and minoring in education and society and law and the liberal arts, dug deeper into education inequity by taking other community-engaged-learning classes. These included Urban Education taught by Dr. Mark Richardson and Leadership on Stage and Screen taught by Dr. Kristin Bezio. In the first she interacted with elementary school students in a reading program, and in the second she worked with high school students to stage a performance of a Shakespeare play.

“I led a third-grade book club for children in a Richmond public school,” Hoogsteden said. “I saw the lack of resources at the school and the students bringing so many issues into the classroom.”

Determined to learn more about the effect policy has on public education, she applied for and was accepted into Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s 2019 Governor’s Fellows Program. With the support of a Robert L. Burrus Jr. Fellowship, she undertook her Jepson internship as a Governor’s Fellow under Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.

University of Richmond alumna Tori Noles, ’18, a Governor’s Fellow during summer 2017 and now special assistant to the Secretary of Education, served as her immediate supervisor.

“When studying education issues from an academic standpoint, we theorize about how to fix things,” Hoogsteden said. “I realized during my fellowship that some of the issues are more complex and the solutions more difficult to find than I thought at first.

“I engaged in a lot of policy research on student homelessness and food insecurity on college campuses across Virginia. In crafting budget and policy proposals to address these issues, I drew on concepts I learned in Dr. Tom Shields’ leadership studies class Education and Equity.

“He emphasized the need to look at policy through an equity lens. In my proposals, I recommended increased resources for colleges that have student populations that are more likely to be impacted by student insecurity issues, such as homelessness and food insecurity.”

Her budget and policy proposals resonated with Virginia Deputy Secretary of Education Frances Bradford and Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. The 2020 General Assembly may consider her proposals, Hoogsteden said.

Although her eight-week Jepson internship as a Governor’s Fellow formally ended July 31, she continues to work eight hours a week in the Virginia Education Secretariat while simultaneously completing her academic requirements as a senior at University of Richmond and serving as co-president of the Jepson Student Government Association (JSGA).

“I loved my fellowship,” Hoogsteden said. “I actually had some power to address educational issues. If you really want to help people, you have to work at the local or state level where you can truly understand the communities and issues at hand.

“After I graduate, I hope to continue working in state government in any job that allows me the opportunity to improve society through public service.” 

Update: In March, Hoogsteden received a full scholarship through the Jepson Scholars Program to attend the University of Oxford, where she will pursue a Master of Science in Education (higher education) beginning in October 2020.