“Expanding the types of opportunities that are available to people regardless of background, having an authentic choice—and the support to succeed” is what expanding education means to Ph.D. candidate Taylor Burtch. Taylor received her undergraduate degree from the University of Toledo, then earned her master’s degree from the University of Florida in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies before pursuing her doctoral degree in higher education administration from UF’s College of Education. Taylor says that she always knew she wanted to get a Ph.D., though it wasn’t until she conducted research for her master’s program at the Pace Center for Girls here in Gainesville that she knew she wanted to focus on higher education. Taylor feels that a Ph.D. in higher education will allow her to continue her research while looking at it from a new perspective. Her program is allowing her to explore her life-long fascination with research and educational policy.
Taylor credits the College of Education for preparing her for various of professional roles, including her most recent position as a legislative fellow for Representative Wilson (FL-24) in her congressional office. “Honestly, the UF College of Education has prepared me for a variety of roles, and that’s kind of the beauty of it. I think this experience was that last piece.” During this fellowship, Taylor has done both qualitative and quantitative research on college access with a specific focus on the policy implications of that access. Her work is visible in the American Teacher Act, a bill Representative Wilson introduced, which will incentivize an increase in teacher salaries to reflect inflation. Taylor recognized the importance of this work when her nieces and nephews experienced a teacher shortage at their school. Although early in her career, she already sees the changes her policy work is creating for future generations.
Taylor’s desire to focus on policy in education ultimately led her to UF’s College of Education.
“I chose the UF College of Education because it had a reputation for being oriented toward policy. I was also offered a research assistantship that afforded me the opportunity to do interesting and meaningful work.”
Additionally, she was impressed with the community of outstanding scholars as well as the dedication and passion of her fellow students. Her advisor, Benjamin Skinner, Ph.D., is guiding her while she completes her research. Her doctoral project studies how adverse childhood experiences impact students in college. Taylor is analyzing how trauma impacts students’ trajectories during their K-12 education and their college experience. Additionally, she is working with Justin Ortagus on a program evaluation through Helios.
Pursuing opportunities presented to her as a UF student has allowed her to experience the field while completing her doctoral program. They are also shaping her future career goals and trajectory. Taylor states that once she has her Ph.D., she will seek out a policy-oriented research position. She hopes to connect the research she’s done as a UF student with her future endeavors. Reflecting on her education and experiences, she says the program has “opened up” more “possibilities than I thought were there.” Hear from Taylor live as she discusses Bridging Research & Policy: An Overview of February UF College of Education’s Legislative Fellowship Program on February 9th as part of the Education Policy Research Center’s Research Brown Bag.