NEBHE is pleased to welcome Stephanie Miranda Murphy as its new policy research analyst.
She joins NEBHE from the James B. Hunt Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy in Durham, N.C., where she supported research on key issues and challenges in K-12 education, higher education, educational governing structures and public policy.
Murphy is pursuing a doctorate in political science at the University of Toronto, where she has also worked as lead academic coordinator and graduate teaching assistant. Her thesis is on “The Foundations of Early Child Care and Lifelong Learning: Rousseau’s Educational Project in The Emile or On Education.” She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas, where she has also taught courses on government and politics.
She is a product of the public K-12 school system and a first-generation college graduate who grew up in an immigrant household in which neither parent held a high school diploma.
We took the opportunity to ask a bit about her background and goals.
NEJHE: What kind policy challenges did you explore at the Hunt Institute?
Murphy: While the Hunt Institute works with policy leaders nationally, as a North Carolina-based organization, much of the work done there focuses on education in the Tar Heel State. One of the key challenges the organization continues to explore is helping the state develop a statewide postsecondary attainment goal–North Carolina is one of only nine U.S. states that does not have one—and establish a comprehensive education plan for the state from early childhood through postsecondary education.
NEJHE: Having studied and taught at the University of Toronto, how has that city’s multicultural spirit informed your thinking?
Murphy: My exposure to a mosaic of traditions, viewpoints, histories, languages and so on certainly expanded my horizons. Each Toronto neighborhood embodies its own distinct culture, and I very much enjoyed experiencing so many truly authentic elements of other people’s ways of life. You could essentially “travel the world” in one day. But even so, one of the most beneficial outcomes from my time in Canada was the knowledge I gained about the various cultures within and across Canada. I had the opportunity to travel throughout Canada, and it was fascinating to join the cowboy culture of Alberta at the Calgary Stampede, to wear a hollowed out watermelon as a helmet at a Saskatchewan Roughriders game, and to have a drink with a roomful of Canadians from just about every province as they all belted out Stan Rogers’ “Barrett’s Privateers” in unison. Our neighbors to the north have a breadth of unique traditions to showcase.
NEJHE: What makes higher education policy in New England an attractive next step in your career?
Murphy: New England is a unique region and a fascinating case for several reasons. It has a history of being a trailblazer in higher education, and it’s home to some of the nation’s finest postsecondary education institutions which provide strong training to our region’s workforce so that they can compete in nearly every sector of the economy. And even though it is, in many ways, a culturally cohesive region, each state is nevertheless very much its own distinct area, with varying politics, populations, traditions, history, etc. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to get hands-on experience with higher education in New England and to learn more about the ins and outs, the strengths and the challenges that the region faces.
NEJHE: Who has influenced you most—academically and professionally?
Murphy: From an academic standpoint, my biggest influence has been the chair of my dissertation committee, Clifford Orwin. His exceptionally high standards and honest feedback continue to push me to be a better writer, a clearer thinker, and a more perseverant worker. Personally and professionally, I have always looked up to certain strong female figures throughout history. My favorite figures include Queen Elizabeth I (her 1588 Speech to the Troops at Tilbury is spectacular!) and, in the world of education, my fellow Texas native Margaret Spellings.