Amanda Danks, a doctoral student in the educational evaluation and policy analysis program at the NC State College of Education, has a busy summer ahead of her.
She was recently accepted into the competitive SREE Summer Fellows Program, which aims to pair educational researchers with philanthropic organizations that are seeking research information but don’t have the time, expertise or access to obtain it.
She will work with the Siegel Family Foundation on research surrounding competency-based standards and preparation for the workforce of the future.
“As a Ph.D. student with three young children and a spouse, I do not always have time to support philanthropic endeavors that I value. This is a great way for me to build my research skills and support an organization doing great work for students across the country,” she said.
In addition to committing to spend 400 hours on her work in the SREE Summer Fellows Program, Danks will be traveling to Glasgow, Scotland, in August to present at the World Congress of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities.
Although she initially thought her efforts might be just an “exercise in submission practice,” she will have the opportunity to blend her training as an economic evaluator and her expertise on students with significant cognitive disabilities to facilitate a 90-minute discussion at the conference.
Throughout her career, Danks has moved from work in the classroom to work at the state level in order to advocate and work to improve educational experiences for students with developmental disabilities.
She was first inspired to become an advocate after experiencing educational inequity while working in the Baltimore City Teaching Residency Program. She has also worked for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, where she developed policies related to the testing of students with special needs. Last year she worked as a fellow in the University of Notre Dame’s 2018-19 Reform Leaders Summit, which aimed to educate and equip leaders with skills they need to support parental choice public policy in the United States.
“As teachers, we are not supposed to have favorite students, but my experiences working with this unique population are my favorite,” she said. “Working with and working for these students gives me pure joy. They remind me that we are all unique and stronger than we think.”
When the summer is over, Danks said she plans to “take a breath” before beginning her dissertation and entering the next phase of the doctoral program.