2015 Participant Bios

Marlene Arellano '17 is a rising junior from the Windy City of Chicago. As an Anthropology and Latin American studies double major, she has a deeply-rooted interest in how educational opportunities and disparities affect Latina/o populations across the U.S. She will continue pursuing issues of (im)migration, education, and language after her time at Davidson through graduate studies in the discipline of Chicana/o studies. Marlene’s acceptance and enrollment to one of Chicago’s public selective enrollment high schools—an option available to only a limited number of students from low-income Latino communities—shed visibility on the interrelatedness of wealth distribution and access to quality education. She’s translated her desire to fight those injustices onto Davidson’s campus with her involvement in the Quest Scholar’s Network (QSN), the Organization of Latino American Students (OLAS), and the Student Initiative for Academic Diversity (SIAD). Her work at the Levine Museum of the New South this summer will allow her to explore the NUEVO South with high school students; this term is used to address the unparalleled growth of Latinos in this geographical region. She hopes her work can help them better contextualize the challenges and discrimination they face in this new South.

Yijiao Chen '17 is a rising junior from Shanghai, China. She is a Psychology major with an interdisciplinary minor in Applied Mathematics. Her passion for educational studies stems from her diverse educational background. Having attended schools in several different countries including China, the U.K. and the U.S., she has experiences with public and private as well as international school systems that are shaped by distinctive educational philosophies and learning cultures. Last summer, she interned with International House in Charlotte as a full-time tutor for its ESL literacy facilitation program, Youth English Tutoring Program (YETP). Her summer tutoring experience at Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools provides her with unique insights of U.S. public education, and draws her attention to the gap between limited resources and growing student needs, a familiar struggle she has seen before in other economic and cultural contexts. This summer, she will be working at UNC Charlotte Urban Institute as a research assistant where she will continue building a deeper understanding of U.S. educational systems from a researcher's perspective. Yijiao wantes to become a professional in international education policy and management in the future.

Caitie Connor '17 is a rising junior from Murfreesboro, Tenn. She is pursuing an English major and a Gender and Sexuality Studies minor. On campus, Caitie is a current member and rising communications director of the Union Board, plays viola in the Davidson College Symphony Orchestra, is a front of house manager for Duke Family Performance Hall and a stage manager for Tyler-Tallman Hall. Among many things, she is passionate about education access, nonprofits arts management, and arts education. Her mother's experiences as a Title I primary educator have made Caitie particularly conscious of the long-term impacts of opportunity gaps within primary education. This summer, Caitie will be working with the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte as an Out-of-School Time Special Projects Intern, helping to advance OST programming by researching current offerings, generating recommendations, and assisting in program design.

Arsalaan Hashmi '17 is a rising junior from Lawrenceville, Ga. He is an Economics major with a minor in Arab studies. He is originally from Pakistan and immigrated to the United States in 2003. His parents decided to immigrate in search of a higher quality of education for their kids and he has learned to value education through that experience. He attended a charter school and learned firsthand about the difference a high quality education can make. As a Davidson student, Arsalaan is involved with the Bonner Scholars Program and volunteered at the Ada Jenkins Center during his freshman and sophomore years. Arsalaan is interested in researching the economic impact of a high-quality education and plans to integrate his career with nonprofit work.

Will Hughes '17 is a rising junior and a Political Science major with an Educational Studies minor. A native of suburban Philadelphia, Will possesses a passion for educational reform, as well as issues of educational technology and access. While he does not know whether his post-Davidson career will be in the educational sector, Will plans on being involved in matters of education in some capacity in the future. At Davidson, Will is a member of Students Consulting Non-Profits and an active participant in intramural sports. In his spare time, he enjoys reading biographies, following his favorite Philadelphia sports teams, and listening to music, especially bossa nova. This summer Will will be working with Charlotte Lab School, a new charter school in Charlotte opening in the fall.

Morgan Mercer '17 is a rising sophomore from Gainesville, Ga. She is currently undecided towards her major but is leaning towards English and East Asian Studies. She believes that education is the great equalizer, where everyone should have an equal opportunity to succeed no matter his or her background. After her father was elected to her town's school board, she realized her passion for public education. Her goal is to make quality public education accessible to all students. At Davidson, she is a Bonner Scholar, a tutor in the Ada Jenkins LEARN Works program, actively involved in Davidson Outdoors, and in Davidson College's symphony orchestra. This summer, she will be working with Allenbrook Elementary School as the talents and contributions intern.

Elizabeth Prosser '17 is a rising sophomore from Wake Forest, N.C. She is currently undeclared but is considering a major in Hispanic Studies and/or Political Science and a minor in Francophone Studies or International Studies. As a Bonner scholar, Elizabeth has spent the past year tutoring at the Ada Jenkins center and teaching a Spanish class at Davidson Elementary through the Davidson College FLES program Davidson FLES-Foreign Language (Davidson FLES is a partnership between Davidson College and Davidson Elementary School) in Elementary Schools. From her experiences both as a student and tutor, she has seen disparities in the education system and believes that all children should have access to high-quality education. Elizabeth also works as a Davidson Outdoors trip leader and with International Justice Mission. Elizabeth is excited to be spending the summer working with Project Scientist, an organization that engages and empowers girls with a passion, talent, and aptitude for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM.)

Alejandra Rodriguez '17 is a rising junior from Chicago, Illinois. She is currently pursuing a Political Science major and an Educational Studies minor. She will be vice president of the Organization of Latino American Students in 2015-16. It was not until she came to Davidson that she realized how far behind she was from her peers. Given that her father only studied up to third grade and her mother did not make it through high school, she felt that coming to Davidson was the first step to ending the cycle of poverty in her family. Ever since she took a course on Latinos/as in U.S. education in the Fall of 2014, she became interested in the impact the current curriculum in public schools has affected students mentally. She realized how lucky she was for attaining higher education. Now, she feels that giving back through education scholars is her first step. This summer, she will be working alongside Ann Clark at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in the Office of Superintendent.

Jonathan Sheperd-Smith '18 is a rising sophomore from Atlanta, Ga. He plans on majoring in mathematics and participating in the dual engineering degree program. Jonathan's passion in equal access to a quality education stems from his own educational experiences, where he witnessed comrades struggle with state and national testing because of the curriculum and resources made available to them. As a result, he strongly believes that it is the responsibility of those blessed enough to have access to a quality educational experience to make a difference for those who do not. At Davidson, Jonathan participates in the Bonner program as a classroom assistant at Davidson Elementary, and is a member of the Davidson College football team. Jonathan plans on being a biomedical engineer, as well as one day returning to Atlanta to start a non-profit orientated towards helping local youth receive an educational experiencing regardless of their socio-economic position. Jonathan will be working with Project L.I.F.T. (Leadership and Investment for Transformation) this summer as the community engagement and measurement scholar. 

Jonathan Swann '18 is a rising sophomore from central Maryland. He is currently intending on becoming a psychology major, but is continuing to explore the options Davidson offers. At Davidson, Jonathan is involved in the Triathlon Club and is a student employee in the athletic department. His freshman year has been inspired by attending the lectures of various speakers Davidson has brought to campus, including U.S. Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Wright '57. With a background in public libraries and a love of reading, Jonathan is especially focused on improving child literacy. Jonathan is interested in understanding the impact of diverse backgrounds on children's routes throughout the education system as he works with Billingsville Elementary this summer.