April 26, 2016

First Ph.D. Graduate in Education Policy Reflects on her Time in the Dual Degree Program

The UVA Curry School of Education continues to support the Virginia Education Sciences Training (VEST) pre-doctoral fellowship program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences. This interdisciplinary program has been supporting Ph.D. students at UVA for over 11 years!

With more than 80 alumni across education, economics, sociology, and psychology departments at UVA, VEST has produced highly trained professionals who hold positions from postdoctoral scientists to education statisticians to assistant professors. The VEST program applies rigorous research methods and analytical techniques in the social sciences field to study school and classroom effects.

We sat down with Eva Galdo, a 2015 graduate the Education Policy program, to learn more about her educational experience and her professional life beyond UVA. Eva Galdo, Ph.D. is currently an associate education research scientist in the Standards and Review Office at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the U.S. Department of Education.

Eva Galdo, Ph.DQuestion: What made your path at UVA unique compared to other students?

Galdo: I participated in the VEST fellowship program for four years but also enrolled in the dual degree program through the Curry School of Educations’ Education Policy Ph.D. program and the Frank Batten School of Public Policy and Leaderships’ Master of Public Policy (MPP) program. This was very positive for me and allowed me to have different experiences than other students. I took courses in both schools but also had flexibility to take other classes in departments like Economics. I also got to experience lots of faculty support across the programs, which isn’t typical. It helped shape my trajectory through that program in a very unique way!

Question: What type of work are you doing in your current position?

Galdo: I work with the research grant and report peer review processes at IES. The work is not in a particular topic area, so I really have broadened my expertise in educational research. When I was in graduate school I focused on early childhood, but now I get to think and read about different topic areas in education. At IES, I have a hand in providing input on whether a research report is meaningful, whether the research questions are important, and whether the method is appropriately addressing the question. I love the people I’m working with it and that I’m making sure that we are putting out research that is high quality.

Question: What does your day-to-day work activities look like?

Galdo: My daily tasks change depending where we are at in the grant review and reporting cycle. For example, recently we have been working on our research grant review panels. These panels take a lot of time, but are a very important part of making sure that everything is peer reviewed and IES is maintaining high quality standards if awarded. It is very interesting to listen to the conversations, debates and applications of the work. This is an important part of IES review system and my job.

Question: What advice do you have for students interested in educational science and programs like VEST and the MPP/Ph.D dual degree?

Galdo: Take advantage of all the seminars and labs that you can, and get exposure to different research questions other than your own! Try to be open-minded where your grad school career can take you. I didn’t know where I would go or where my work could take me, but I know that my graduate school experience helped me be more flexible and marketable on the market. In my case, the interdisciplinary training helped me bridge my graduate school work with the broad research related work I’m doing at IES now.

Galdo is the eighth VEST fellow alumni interviewed in this series. Read the other Q & A articles with Wei-Bing Chen, Erin Dunlap, Jennifer LoCasale-Crouch, Terri Sabol, Laura Brock, Myles Durkee and Maria Fitzpatrick.

Galdo was also a researcher at EdPolicyWorks, a joint collaboration between the Curry School of Education and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. EdPolicyWorks brings together researchers from across the University of Virginia and the State to focus on important questions of educational policy and implications for the workforce.