Tomorrow’s Learning Leaders – A Decade in the Making

With commencement season in full swing, we decided to talk to some of our graduates about their experience at NC State. Our “Tomorrow’s Learning Leaders” series will take a look at what our newest graduates have to say about becoming educational innovators.

Brooke Ashley Shurer came to NC State to work in the Study Abroad office, but stayed to complete two degrees in the College of Education. Currently the Director of International Programs at Meredith College, she will receive her Ph.D. in educational evaluation and policy analysis at NC State’s spring commencement on May 7.

Shurer sat down with us to reflect on her time at NC State and talk about her future plans.

Why did you choose to come to NC State? When did you begin your studies?

I came to NC State in 2005 as a full-time employee in the Study Abroad Office. I chose to do my graduate work at NC State because I appreciated the practical relevance of the courses within the master’s of education program in higher education administration. After completing my master’s degree, I continued on to the Ph.D. in educational research and policy analysis.

What is the greatest challenge you had to overcome during your time here?

Without question, the greatest challenge was the fact that I have worked full time and attended school part time through a decade of master’s and doctoral study. I could not have done it without the support of outstanding colleagues and friends, an incredibly understanding partner, and a phenomenal academic advisor/dissertation chair in professor Audrey Jaeger. The dissertation process was challenging, but I remained motivated by selecting a research topic I loved, creating a strong support network, working with my chair to determine a reasonable timeline for completion, and determining my most effective strategies for writing.

What has been your best NC State memory?

Oddly enough, my best memory was my dissertation defense. While I was a bit nervous, the defense was a tremendously gratifying opportunity to share the knowledge I had discovered through dissertation research. I am so glad I invited my parents, partner and friends to attend the defense, as their support was critical during graduate school. A wave of relief washed over me when I was finally called “Dr. Shurer,” and I was able to immediately give celebratory hugs to those who helped make it possible.

What do you plan to do after graduation?

I am currently on the faculty at Meredith College as Director of International Programs. I adore my job, and I’m grateful to the College of Education for helping me get here. After learning that my NC State doctoral degree was influential in my job offer, I am especially thankful for the good advice of my faculty advisor and mentors to continue with the Ph.D!

What is the most important thing you’ve learned in the College of Education?

I have discovered that for me, it is not enough to be an excellent practitioner or an excellent scholar; I must be both. I am a better administrator when I make decisions that are informed by research. Conversely, I am a better scholar when I explore research that will be immediately relevant to working practitioners.

Has there been a particular faculty or staff member that has greatly influenced your education?

Yes! Audrey Jaeger was my master’s and doctoral advisor, and my dissertation chair, so we have collaborated for a decade. I will never be able to fully express the depth of my gratitude for her steadfast encouragement and support of my educational journey. Her extraordinary investment in my academic growth has been the most important aspect of my nearly 30-year educational career.

How do you think the College of Education has prepared you for a career after graduation?

I appreciate how the excellent faculty within the college challenged me to think more deeply and critically about my focused field of international education, yet also illuminated important connections with larger K-16 educational issues. I also appreciate the many ways that my accomplished colleagues in the programs have broadened my professional network and furthered my academic growth. From both faculty and peers, I have developed a strong foundation to be a thoughtful and effective educational administrator.

What advice would you give students considering pursuing a degree in education?

I would tell them the following: Build strong connections with faculty and fellow students. Choose a research topic that you love. Find opportunities to apply what you’re learning in your courses to your professional life. Attend the Graduate School’s Dissertation Institute. Finally, don’t stop reading research, asking questions, sharing knowledge and challenging yourself after you graduate. That’s good advice for me, too!