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2021-2022 Graduate Student Ambassadors- Gage Matthews

Program Area of Study

Ph.D., Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development (ELPHD), Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis


As a doctoral student, Gage’s research focuses on power differentials in the educational system and their relationship to place-based policies for school improvement, student supports, and student assignment. Prior to joining his program, Gage was a secondary biology teacher in multiple schools and districts. His roles focused on equitably leading science courses for culturally and linguistically diverse students as well as advocating for holistic academic and social support for students with chronic illnesses. In his spare time, he loves to hike, camp, cook, bake, read, and solve crosswords as often as possible.

Why NC State?

At the UNC Hospital School, I served as an instructor and advocate for students with cancer or blood disorders. This role involved direct support of students and families, but also substantial interaction with schools across North Carolina and beyond. Working in this context exposed me to the ways that students are and, too often, are not equitably served by district policies governing student services during medical crises, not to mention the influence of medical, housing, and wealth inequities. This drew me to my program to learn about policymaking in education and the potential for improved outcomes for students.

One insight gained so far…

One of the most influential courses I have taken so far focused on historical perspectives of revolutionary education, primarily among communities of color. As my work centers on school reform and place-based policies, understanding the history of communities’ insistence on strong and representative education for their children added important context to my ongoing work. Throughout this course, we read works about pedagogy and school structures that challenged hegemonic systems of education to prioritize children’s culturally relevant growth in the face of forced assimilation. Incredible discussions with classmates framed the ways that these challenges shaped education in the past and present, and the ways that today’s issues flow from historical conflicts over self-determination and education. While there have been many courses that have influenced my thinking, this course reframed how I think about my work and my dissertation, and challenged my preconceived notions and standard research framing on a daily basis.