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College of Education > News and Publications > News: Jan. - March 2011 > EPS Students Attend Washington Policy Seminar

EPS Students Attend Washington Policy Seminar

Undergraduates as well as graduate students met with administrators in the nation's capital.

EPS in DCby Joe Savrock (March 2011)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Undergraduate students and graduate students in Penn State’s Department of Education Policy Studies (EPS) recently attended a policy seminar in Washington, D.C. The group met with policy makers and administrators for discussions on a number of educational issues.

The March 2 event, dubbed the Washington Seminar, was organized by Penn State EPS faculty as a way of giving EPS students a taste of operational policy making. “It was very interesting to see things from a lens unlike those in the practicing world of education,” said EDLDR doctoral student Dustin Dalton.

Added EDLDR doctoral student Tammie Burnaford, “I truly enjoyed the day and learned so much about how our federal policies are formed and where our educational system could be going with educational reforms.”

In all, 10 undergraduate students in the Education and Public Policy program and 35 EPS graduate students participated, along with EPS faculty members Erica Frankenberg, Dana Mitra, and Bernard Badiali.

“The seminar revived a tradition that had been hosted by the late Dr. William Boyd of taking students to Washington to learn about the federal policy-making process and actors, as well as to focus on current educational policy issues,” said Mitra.

The Penn State group was hosted by the Urban Institute, an entity that conducts research, evaluates programs, and provides information on social and economic issues in an effort to foster sound public policy and effective government.

The group heard presentations from and asked questions of a range of policy makers and interest groups.


  • Elizabeth T. Boris, founding director of the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute.
  • Christina Baumgardner, aide to Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA).
  • Christopher Swanson, vice president of research and development for Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) and director of the EPE Research Center.
  • Michael Hansen, research associate from the Education Policy Center at the Urban Institute.
  • Reginald Felton, National School Boards Association director of federal relations, and Naomi Gittins, National School Boards Association deputy general counsel.
  • Heidi Glidden, associate director of the American Federation of Teachers.
  • Adai Tefera, fellow for the Congressional Black Caucus in the office of Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA).


EDTHP doctoral student Nnenna Amu commented that she liked hearing from people in the applied research sector to see “academic research, scientific-based research, and evidence-based practices” as it relates to educational politics and policies.

Another EDTHP doctoral student, Tiffanie Lewis, stated, “After attending the seminar, I believe the education policy process at the federal level is more complicated than I once considered. It seems like everyone has a vested interest in affecting change in policy and that there is very little room for accommodating everyone’s requests.”

Frankenberg believes the experience greatly improved her students’ understanding of policy issues. She stated, “The speakers at the seminar spoke about a number of current policy issues that we have studied or will be studying in our class. The speakers also discussed the policy process, such as the prospects for ESEA Reauthorization this year.” The ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) would ask states to adopt college- and career-ready standards and reward schools for producing dramatic gains in student achievement.