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Interview with Sara Ewell, Ph.D. - Assistant Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs for the Graduate School of Education at Northeastern University

About Sara Ewell, Ph.D.: Sara Ewell is Assistant Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs for the Graduate School of Education at Northeastern University, where she also served as Director of the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program from 2019 to 2022. Under her leadership, the Ed.D. at Northeastern University joined the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED), and garnered acclaim as the 2022 CPED Program of the Year.

Dr. Ewell has had a longstanding passion for teaching, mentorship, and fostering social justice in academic settings, interests which she has cultivated through both research and practice in education. For example, she has taught public school students at the K-12 and college levels, and worked as a research assistant for the Center for Teaching Quality and at the University of North Carolina. More recently, she has authored the book chapter “Defining Problems and Facilitating Change: Starting from a Place of Justice,” published in Ed.D. Programs as Incubators for Social Justice Leadership. In addition, she has written on her study of the role of service in teaching through her chapter “Service Is the Rent We Pay: Theory and Practice of Pre-Service Teacher Education,” published in Exploring Cultural Tensions in Service-Learning.

Dr. Ewell earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Boston College, her Master’s in Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and her Doctor of Philosophy in Culture, Curriculum, and Change from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Interview Questions

[] May we have an overview of your professional and academic background? How did your bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees prepare you for your career in education research, innovation, and program development/improvement?

[Dr. Sara Ewell] I’ve always really loved teaching and learning from a very young age. I loved working with kids, and was a summer camp counselor during high school.

When I went to Boston College, I decided to explore the field of communication. I am really grateful that, throughout my time at Boston College, I had a lot of opportunities for different internships around the city. I interned at CBS Boston, the YMCA of Greater Boston, and volunteered in the Boston Public Schools. Upon reflection, I think about how important all of those experiences and opportunities were for me, in terms of clarifying for me that I wanted my career to be in teaching.

I decided to earn my master’s in education because in Massachusetts you need a master’s degree in order to get licensure as a teacher. I chose a program where I co-taught full-time in a large urban school with the head teacher. I essentially volunteered for the year of my master’s program, and the courses came to the school, and that’s how I earned my master’s degree and my teaching license.

It was really important to me to not just sit in the classroom, but to also engage with experiential learning, because that is how I learn the best. I worked in a handful of urban districts when I started my career as a middle and high school teacher. I saw how kids were not being well served by the system. I really became much more interested in the social justice aspect of education, more than the content area that I was teaching as a classroom teacher.

That was when I started my trajectory to earning my Ph.D. with a focus in urban education. I began looking for programs that had an orientation around social justice and social change. I also looked for a program that offered graduate opportunities with hands-on learning.

I ended up getting my Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. My Ph.D. was in Education with a focus on Culture, Curriculum and Change. All of my courses and experiences grew my academic and professional knowledge around issues of social justice. My dissertation chair, George Noblit, was phenomenal and I focused on the role of university-school partnerships in increasing retention of urban teachers. I felt that my doctoral courses exposed me to new ideologies and philosophies, and I was very excited about this academic career path.

As a graduate student I also had many opportunities to work across campus and the non-profit community. I co-led an initiative looking at diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. I also worked for the Center for Teaching Quality where there was a lot of work with teachers in the classroom as well as work on topics related to teacher leaders, teacher reform, and program evaluation. There was also a lot of work around National Science Foundation (NSF) grants and program evaluation.

In the middle of my doctoral degree, I was hit by a drunk driver while I was driving home from work. I was halfway through my doctorate at that point, but I had to spend a long time in the hospital. It was a very serious accident, and I was very lucky to have survived. I was able to slowly transition back to school but I really had to learn new ways of learning–what learning meant to me, what it meant to have accommodations, and different learning styles. I latched onto what I had known prior to my accident, “I learn best with hands-on stuff.” So, I worked with my chair and my advisor on how I was going to complete my dissertation and what was important to me. It really was on-the-ground experiential work.

When I graduated, I knew that I wanted to be engaged in both research and practice, and I sought out a faculty position where I wasn’t doing research all the time. The scholar-practitioner model of education was really important to me very early in my career.

I interviewed for tenured track positions and for a variety of different roles, but the work at Northeastern was really exciting to me because it was a scholar-practitioner model of working with Ed.D. students who were doing change work on the ground. Northeastern was a small Ed.D. program when I started, and it offered me a lot of opportunities to have leadership roles that I was not going to necessarily have in some of the tenured tracked spaces that I interviewed for.

So this is what really brought me to Northeastern, and I am really passionate about working with students who are taking what they are learning in the classroom and bringing it out to the field.

[] Could you elaborate on your responsibilities as Assistant Dean of Academic and Faculty Affairs for Northeastern University? What educational programs do you oversee, and how do you guide fellow faculty members and administrators in optimizing education outcomes across the different schools and departments at Northeastern?

[Dr. Sara Ewell] On July 1, 2022, I started as Assistant Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs. I’m the only assistant dean for the Graduate School of Education. I work to support our programs such as the Ed.D. program, a MEd in Learning and Instruction, a MEd in Higher Education, and a master’s program in learning and design technology and a Master’s in Teaching.

I don’t have supervisory oversight of those programs–nobody formally reports to me. I provide support and accountability for all of these programs, including academic policies and addressing faculty members’ needs and concerns, whether they include promotions and evaluations, workload, and/or professional development. I work to make sure that the Graduate School of Education is moving forward in the direction of the university.

I see myself as a layer between what our faculty and students are passionate about and ensuring that our work in the Graduate School of Education aligns with the university’s mission and goals. Northeastern is focused on experiential learning and social justice, so the university is very much aligned with what our faculty and students are invested in. My work as the Assistant Dean is to get my arms around all the moving pieces and make sure that all the pieces fit together, even if everybody else can’t necessarily see them all.

[] You are also Director of Northeastern University’s Ed.D. program and a Professor in the Graduate School of Education. Under your leadership, Northeastern University’s Doctor of Education program joined the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED), and won the 2022 Program of the Year Award. What motivated you to connect with the CPED and to have Northeastern join the CPED consortium? Could you describe the application process to become a member of the CPED?

[Dr. Sara Ewell] Dr. Jill Perry, the Executive Director of CPED, came to Northeastern very early. Our dean had brought her in as a consultant. I remember having a really awesome conversation with her about change work on-the-ground and why I was at Northeastern. From the moment we started engaging with CPED, it was an awesome match for me personally and professionally in terms of passions and expertise.

I’ve been super lucky to be working with them since 2014, when I became the liaison between Northeastern and CPED. It has been a collaborative, collective work over many years. I’ve been to all of the convenings since 2014. I’ve led different workshops. I’ve maintained a pretty close connection with CPED and followed all of the different pieces.

In fall of 2017, we had a new dean for the Graduate School of Education come in, and she was interested in learning more about the Ed.D. program. She came with me to the CPED convening that year out in California. It was the first time that I really had buy-in from someone above me about the work that CPED was doing. For years I had been talking to faculty about the fact that our students were kind of halfway there in terms of really differentiating the Ed.D. from the Ph.D. We had made some significant revisions between 2011 and 2016 where students were no longer searching for gaps in the literature. They were choosing a scholar-practitioner topic; however, they were still doing a traditional five-chapter dissertation using traditional research methodologies– qualitative and quantitative, case studies, phenomenology, narratives, that sort of thing.

Our students were researching problems found in a professional setting, and they set out to understand more fully what was causing those problems, which was really interesting. It’s important work, but we felt like our students needed to take the next action step of, “Okay, now you have an understanding of why X is happening, why don’t you try something to change it and see whether or not it works? Rather than simply stopping your research at what the literature says, talk to your participants and see what is aligned or isn’t aligned.” We want to do action-oriented work. We had talked about social justice change work a lot. We were all really committed to that.

So I brought our new dean with me to the CPED convening in 2017 and shared my ideas with her. I told her, “You know I don’t know exactly what this could look like, but I’d really love for you to keep an open mind and come hear about a few other programs that have started doing this dissertation-in-practice that is more action-oriented. It takes the scholar-practitioner piece to a different level and really differentiates between the Ed.D. and the Ph.D. programs.”

She came and listened, and she was really excited about it. From there, things just started moving pretty quickly. When we got back to Northeastern, she sold it to the Dean of the College. All of a sudden it was like, “Okay, we’re going to do this. We’re going to really overhaul the Ed.D. program and think about what it could look like.” Having CPED behind us as a standard of excellence within the field really helped establish our work. The Northeastern program has now expanded substantially, with over 1,100 students.

[] Could you also go into the process of working with faculty at Northeastern and serving as a liaison? How do CPED’s annual convenings help Northeastern University’s program to continue to innovate and improve? And how did Northeastern adapt CPED’s frameworks and guiding principles to your specific program and Northeastern’s mission statement?

[Dr. Sara Ewell] The CPED convenings and subsequent relationships have been really helpful in terms of creating thought partners. I feel like every relationship or conversation that I had at the convening or follow-up was another little nugget of the big picture. I went to sessions where someone might share a template and it’s like, “Wow that’s a really great idea to use that kind of a template to help students organize the literature review” or “That’s really interesting, what you’re doing to ensure that social justice is infused throughout the program.”

I also talk to people about their programs. For example, I talked to people from Arizona State who do action research about IRB because it was something we were trying to sort out within the context of a large university like them. These ideas inspired me to think about how to apply them to Northeastern.

At Northeastern, we have always talked about our Ed.D. program having a focus on social justice change work. Social justice is a really important piece for us. We have always had a social justice course, but it lived in one of our concentrations so not every student took it. As part of our Ed.D. revision process, we totally overhauled this course and made it part of our core curriculum so that students take in their second term, regardless of what their dissertation topics are.

For example, you may not think social justice issues relate to the topic of professional development of non-profit workers. However, we want students looking deeper than the surface level and have them take a step back and ask, “Okay, even in this sort of change work, who has a voice at the table? Who traditionally has not had a voice at the table? What do we know about power and privilege?” Our program wants to really get the students to dig more deeply into that work and step out into their change work. Social justice language is also in all of our admission materials, emphasizing that we want to prioritize students’ change work to be in the service of a more just and equitable society.

As faculty, we are passionate about social justice and want to make sure that we understand what it can look like for different students. Besides making the social justice course mandatory, we use the social justice lens throughout all of our courses as a way for us to differentiate that work. We have some students coming into our program who really haven’t thought about issues of power, privilege, or equity at all. At the other end of the spectrum, we have some students coming in who have a master’s degree in social justice areas of focus. So, it has been very difficult over the years to figure out how to do something for every student when there are very different needs.

We have a handful of very talented faculty members who have developed several courses and ensured that we have incorporated a social justice lens and a discussion of equity issues into our program. It really lives everywhere now in our program, as a foundational value.

Changing the program wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Some faculty felt strongly that they wanted the five-chapter dissertation with traditional research methodologies, especially a strong quantitative element. It was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to sell this to the faculty, and I spearheaded all of that work and really brought people together. Obviously, it was really helpful that senior-level leadership at the university wanted it to happen. So even though some of our faculty were hesitant about it, it was sort of a conclusion, “Well this is what we’re doing. While we hear your concerns, it’s still happening.”

We had eight different working groups thinking about various program elements from dissertation research methodologies to what a proposal looks like to what forms a final dissertation-in-practice could take. Out of those working groups rose the idea that we were going to do action research. While our dissertation-in-practice would have some traditional elements to it in terms of a literature review and an action research design, it would also have a dissemination component and other action-oriented pieces that we wanted to document.

Many of our faculty members were comfortable with action research since it is an established research methodology, and it has historical underpinnings in the research canon. As I share a reflection as how we landed on action research, I think it was due to faculty’s familiarity and comfort in terms of, “I was trained in qualitative methods, so this is something that I can wrap my head around and it is grounded in traditional qualitative methods.”

Our Ed.D. program is fully online, except for summer residency. Our students are all over the globe. A lot of the other CPED programs have done some really innovative things, but we started thinking about how those ideas weren’t a match for Northeastern. It would be difficult to do some of the things other programs are doing at our current scale, or we just felt like it wasn’t a match online. We wanted to do something that looked a little bit different. So it’s really about taking ideas and a sense of community from the CPED convenings and then coming back with those insights and working with your unique program.

We’re not far enough in for me to give you any concrete graduation data in terms of how much of a difference the changes have made. However, I can anecdotally tell you that students say, “We’re so glad we picked this program. We have friends who are in other Ed.D. programs that have a more traditional model, but I have such strong relationships that even on the days when I didn’t want to keep going, I knew I had to get to the finish line because I would be letting people down if I didn’t.”

[] Northeastern University’s Ed.D. program features an embedded dissertation, wherein students identify their problem of practice and draft a preliminary action plan at the beginning of their enrollment in the program. Could you elaborate on the embedded nature of the dissertation, and the support that students receive during their work on their dissertation-in-practice?

[Dr. Sara Ewell] We did not use an embedded dissertation model before our revision of the program. Before, we followed what we called a “Stage Model.” It was structured in a way that students first got through all of their courses and then they were assigned a chair and then they started their dissertation. Students consistently told us how difficult it was to basically start at ground zero, even if they had worked on a literature review during their coursework. They felt like they were falling off a cliff because it was just too big a leap to go from completing coursework to independent research.

One of the things that we built into our dissertation-in-practice is students are now matched with a chair in their second term, and they’re doing cycles of action research throughout their coursework. So when they get to the end of their coursework, they already have a strong relationship with their advisor. They’ve already done a cycle-and-a-half of action research. They have an action plan. Things are very much in motion when they get to that point.

Students who go full-time can complete the program in three years. We have a lot of students who are what we call “half-time” or “part-time” students, so it looks a little bit different. Basically, a year of their coursework is completing what we call “cycle zero.” During this cycle, they are learning interview and observation skills as well as the principles of action research as a research design and methodology. They’re practicing all these skills–basically doing “soft interviewing.”

Then in their second year of coursework, they do their first full, real cycle (i.e., “cycle one”) of data collection where they have a very defined research question. They go out to talk with people to ask questions and learn: “I’m really interested in learning about what you think could be done about problem X.” They spend about a year collecting, analyzing, and reflecting on that data.

Then they come to a proposal defense once they have done a literature review and analyzed all the collected data. In “cycle two,” they propose the action steps they plan to take and how to evaluate those actions. They take these actions and evaluate them in the third year when they’re not in classes. They are required to put together these very structured, deliberate action steps and then do the research to evaluate, “What did I learn from my participants? Did this work? Did it not?”

Then their final dissertation-in-practice offers a reflection on the whole process, as well as a dissemination of everything that they’ve learned. The final reflection offers them a chance to review their research, discuss the results of their action steps, and think about future recommendations. They might come to the conclusion, “This is what I learned and actually it was really off the mark from my initial hypothesis.”

For example, in a case where a student creates and implements a mentoring program for female education leaders, that student may find out that a mentoring program is not what this group needed, but that they needed X, Y, and Z interventions instead. A dissertation in practice focuses on action and solutions-oriented research, or using hands-on interventions to determine what would work best in addressing a specific challenge in the education leadership space.

[] Your research interests have a strong social justice emphasis, and you published a chapter in the book Ed.D. Programs as Incubators for Social Justice Leadership, entitled “Defining Problems and Facilitating Change: Starting from a Place of Justice.” Could you elaborate on how your commitment to social justice and education equity, and your intensive research in these areas, helped you to shape Northeastern University’s Ed.D.?

[Dr. Sara Ewell] I wrote that chapter in 2018, and then I’ve written a handful of shorter pieces since then on questions like how can we use Ed.D. programs and the scholar-practitioner model. My research really centers on the question, “What does it actually mean to be a place that fosters social justice in equity change work? How do we make that happen? What does it look like? What are the habits of mind? What skill sets, such as compassion, critical thinking, and knowledge base do students have to have and what does that look like?”

This is something I have thought about and researched for a long time. In my trajectory at Northeastern, I’ve done some research about what a scholar-practitioner model that fosters social justice looks like online, when students are not necessarily sitting in a classroom having intimate conversations with each other face-to-face. We can build up that critical consciousness through an online environment using synchronous sessions, discussion boards, and papers in addition to fostering the chair-student relationship.

I’ve also done research on what a chair-student relationship could look like. What does it mean? How does it foster a social justice mindset and change work in the online environment?

[] According to your research, what are the elements of a critically conscious online learning environment that fosters a social justice-oriented approach to education leadership?

[Dr. Sara Ewell] The notion of critical consciousness is crucial in social justice change work. If you’re going out and presenting yourself as the knower of all and basically doing change work to, rather than with a community or organization, you’re not doing social justice change work. You’re basically going in and layering on all of your own cultural assumptions and all of your biases, power, and privilege. You’re layering that on to someone.

Showing up to do the work, listening first, being a collaborator, and having mutual relationships so that social justice change work is done in collaboration with communities and individuals are all crucial for laying that groundwork for meaningful change. It has been a big part of the way we think about our doctoral program. We want to ensure that we build those skills in students who are doing change work: to be reflective, to ask questions, to sit back and observe, to listen to community members, and to really understand all of the different pieces of identity and demographics and how they fit together.

Regarding the online piece, I’ll share an idea that is not mine, but from one of my colleagues, Dr. Wendy Crocker. She’s the lead for our Leadership and Social Justice class. She created a library within this core class for all of her students, where she has articles about raising critical consciousness and an understanding of identity through stories and narratives. A big part of the work to create this library was asking students to bring in articles and their own reflections to share with other students. Dr. Crocker did this over the course of a year and very strategically built this library out, and got so much amazing feedback from her students.

This kind of interactive knowledge building and sharing connects with my own research, in that I’m frequently thinking about how we as educators need to meet students where they are. When I talk about the spectrum of the ability to think about social justice change work, is the student just walking into this and thinking about it for the first time or is it something the student has been working towards for 20 years? It is important to differentiate and then create opportunities so that all voices are heard. Whether the class is in person or in an online environment, it is easy for the loudest voices to rise to the top. Are we always really understanding one another, hearing one another, and understanding all of those different aspects?

Creating something collaborative like my colleague’s library offers the opportunity in an online environment for students to learn from one another, reflect, and to have a voice, while also having the space to think about and discuss ways to apply what they have learned in their specific context. Encouraging students to examine how critical consciousness plays into their own professional setting and their research site is really important in building the skills to become instigators of positive change.

We introduce that in our first two classes and then in the second semester when students take the Leadership for Social Justice class in tandem with the Collaborative Leadership class. So, they’re thinking about critical consciousness and the critical context piece at the same time that they’re going out and starting to do some of these interviews within their work setting.

In our program, it was paramount that we create a safe space for students to share their experiences with one another, and to learn from each other as they are also going out and doing experiential learning in the field, applying concepts they’ve learned in class to their specific education-related context, and reflecting with their colleagues and peers about what is working and what is not. We want to create a sense of community within our online cohorts so that students can come to class discussions feeling like they can ask any questions, talk about the difficult challenges or uncomfortable moments they have encountered in the field doing their change work, and to be open with each other about what it is like for them on the ground.

[] Where do you see the Ed.D. as a degree going in the next 20 years–how will it be different from its current iteration, what curricular components will be present that are not present now, and how will it combine professional knowledge, technical skill, and tactical evidence use? What challenges do you see the Ed.D. encountering as it seeks to change and improve?

[Dr. Sara Ewell] At Northeastern, we’ve been working for four years to make the dissertation-in-practice program a reality for us. We know that this is exciting and a moment of celebration, but it also is a marker for us that there’s something else ahead. Things are going to move in another direction at some point.

When I think about the next 10 or 20 years for the Ed.D., it is my hope that there are more colleges and universities that join CPED, whether formally or informally, and that we will really see the distinction between Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs. From colleagues whom I meet at conferences or just by looking at websites around the country, we still have a lot of Ed.D. programs that I think are viewed as Ph.D. programs. You can’t really put your finger on the differentiator between the Ph.D. and the Ed.D. So, I really hope that in the next 10 years there won’t be so much a discussion about what the differences “should” be, but rather there is just a factual understanding that the Ed.D. and the Ph.D. are distinct and serve different student populations.

In the field of education at large, my hope is over the next 20 years that we will see real change in public education due to the shift in change work to focus on social justice. Our students are changing things for children in public schools, often with underrepresented populations both domestically and globally. I’ve worked with CPED on a few committees over the years to look at community impact. It is really powerful and interesting to me.

We hear and internally collect all of these stories of our graduates regarding their change work projects, accolades that they received, and research they have published. At the end of the day, what did it mean to their communities? How do we start to really collect some of that data so we can understand the true community impact?

My real hope over the next 20 years is that the world thinks about PK-20 globally. We should think about individuals who are working in non-profits and for-profits. I believe experiential learning, particularly with an equity focus, has the ability to change lives. So, how do we leverage that even more over the next 20 years?

There are so many learners who need differentiated programs and support for so many different reasons. I think training generations of Ed.D. students who can home in on and understand how to assess and provide differentiated instruction across populations could be a real game changer for us.

I think there are a lot of aspects of the education space that are still relative unknowns. For example, what does DEIA look like? What does it mean to bring in DEIA? Diversity, equity, and inclusion and accessibility don’t get talked about often enough, and they are extremely important. My hope is that we get closer to those answers. I take a lot of pride in Northeastern and the faculty because we’re asking these questions every day of ourselves and of our students—in our one-on-one relationships and collective relationships.

To me, it takes a culture that values innovation, experiential learning, and taking risks to move from knowledge to action to change. You have to have a culture that’s willing to embrace this change work and say, “It’s not enough just to disseminate ideas. We have to do something about it.”

I’m going to use a very specific example. We’re now asking faculty dissertation chairs and committee members to not simply oversee data collection, but to also oversee the actions that our students take to initiate and implement change in their communities. And that’s a risk for our faculty. It’s an exciting risk, but one we have to acknowledge when we have cadres of students in the field working with different groups and implementing and gathering data on different solutions to education challenges they want to tackle.

I think that such acceptance of risk and this level of engagement are really necessary to truly change the larger culture as we define education broadly–for people to be willing to step out of their comfort zone of simply making recommendations and actually doing something. People have to feel safe doing it. They have to feel confident in what they’re doing, and that means the institutions of which they are a part have to be supportive.

I think there are institutions like Northeastern that really stand behind experiential learning and change work. We know we will hit bumps in the road and that things come up, but our institution is really committed to our cause and will help us work it out. For instance, as the Assistant Dean, I have to make sure we’re all moving in the same direction.

When I came back from a CPED convening, I told my dean at the time, “I want to completely overhaul the Ed.D. program. This comes from CPED but look at how it is an absolute match for Northeastern’s mission, vision, and academic goals. This is one way as a professional doctorate that we can reach those goals and this is what it can look like.” And I was fortunate enough to have a dean who was completely invested in the same things I was, and who was on board from the beginning.

Institutions are all going to be different. They have different missions and values, but I do think that people who want to change their Ed.D. programs need to 1) make sure that their university is aligned with CPED’s framework and 2) determine exactly what a CPED-informed program would look like for them. Without institutional support, I can imagine it would be very difficult to create an environment and a culture where students, faculty, staff, and administrators feel safe really going out and doing this.

I’ve talked with a lot of other CPED members who have run into so many roadblocks with using the term “dissertation-in-practice” at their institutions because it’s not commonly used. I came from a traditional Ph.D. program, so if you had told me about “dissertation-in-practice” 15 years ago, I would have said, “What are you talking about? That sounds ridiculous.” So I understand how much the weight of traditional academia factors into the barriers to change in education leadership and furthering the cause of the Ed.D.

I was extremely fortunate to find an ally in our university governance. I had to present data on CPED, who they were, what a dissertation-in-practice is, and why it would be useful to Northeastern. It was a really big victory for our program when I went in front of our graduate council to talk about all these different pieces and to have them approve of it. That support was huge in terms of getting the Ed.D. program to where it is today.

CPED is an organization that I and many others brought back to their institutions to say, “Look at what’s happening with our degree and our field. These are the forerunners. This is what the future looks like for Ed.D. programs, and this is what excellence looks like in our field.” We never would have been able to get where we are today without CPED behind us. They helped us demonstrate that we were aligning with excellence in our field.

Thank you, Dr. Sara Ewell, for your excellent insight into Northeastern University’s Ed.D. program, and your discussion of the importance of applying a social justice lens to education leadership pedagogy and practice!

About the Author: Kaitlin Louie is the Managing Editor of She specializes in writing in-depth content that helps students navigate important graduate school decisions. She earned her BA & MA in English from Stanford University.