Ray Li

Li
Bass Connections is a program that has the audacity to take on the big, “so complex they’re scary” problems in society, while maintaining the flexibility to find solutions creatively.

Degree

Political Science, Public Policy Studies and Education ’15

Project Team

My parents immigrated to the United States in hopes of pursuing a better education, and so they raised me with the thought that education was the most important thing in one’s life. I quickly found out that the educational system in the United States was so complex it could only be understood if studied through many different lenses. This naturally led me to Duke and to Bass Connections as places where interdisciplinary investigation was possible.

Bass Connections is a program that has the audacity to take on the big, “so complex they’re scary” problems in society, while maintaining the flexibility to find solutions creatively. The Education & Human Development theme boasted many teams with tasks ranging from running a MOOC to advising the NC State Government on workforce education.

My team was focused on finding alternative curricula to better cater to students from disadvantaged backgrounds in North Carolina schools. The team based its research on an earlier iteration of the project that developed the curricula, and we were tasked with evaluating it and implementing it more broadly. Our team was composed of five undergrads, two grad students, two professors and two policymakers from the State Board of Education. We spanned many academic disciplines from public policy to computer science to neuroscience.

As part of the team, I interviewed teachers, principals and superintendents to hone in on our best practices. I visited some of the 30 schools that are now using our curriculum in order to sit in on classes to evaluate and tweak implementation. I gained valuable experience in IRB approval, qualitative interviewing and research project design, while making great friendships with students and professors. There’s also no better de-stressor in a tough week than watching the exuberance of kindergarteners as they learn names of animals and their favorite foods.

My Bass Connections experience inspired me to continue studying education policy from all angles. I pursued a DukeImmerse research project that used the same interdisciplinary methods to examine education policy and social justice in South Africa and the American South. I spent my summer in the US Senate doing education policy work for the HELP Committee, incorporating some of the knowledge I’ve learned from my own research experiences with Bass. Next year, I will be continuing my studies in education policy by pursuing a joint law and master’s in education policy degree at Stanford.