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The Bigger Picture

Posted by on Monday, November 29, 2010 in Peabody People, Winter 2010.

Jessica Lewis and her family are Vanderbilt through and through. She and her husband, Hi Lewis, BA’99, MEd’01, received their undergraduate and graduate degrees at Vanderbilt. Their two children were born at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and attend the Vanderbilt Child Care Center. Lewis works as a research associate at the National Center on Performance Incentives or NCPI (see “7 Great Ideas”) located at Peabody, and she, too, was born at Vanderbilt. “My mom was doing some law school coursework here at the time,” she explains. “We’re ridiculously connected to Vanderbilt and proud of it.”

Lewis is also proud of being a member of the first cohort of students to enroll in Peabody’s revamped Ed.D. program in 2004. The program, which stresses bridging theory and practice, has been lauded as a model for educational doctorates, and it was the new approach that drew Lewis to transfer from an education policy program at The George Washington University.

“I wasn’t sure what field I was interested in until my senior year, when I did some coursework in human and organizational development and had a practicum in education,” Lewis says. “Education policy seemed like a good fit. Policy is about the bigger picture in education, but I didn’t envision being a researcher until the final year of my doctoral work.”

Lewis’s work at NCPI involves evaluating teacher compensation reform across the nation, such as statewide programs in Texas that use pay for performance in their public schools. “It’s a combination of project management, because each of our studies involves people across the country, so it’s managing that work within the greater evaluation,” she explains. “Then there’s a niche of research work that I lead, whether it’s survey work or interviews, and there’s pulling all the information together and writing, reporting and presenting.”

Being with a group of people with such varying and vast experience, it brought real life to the conversation in class.”

— Jessica Lewis

That first cohort of Ed.D. students has remained close. “Being with a group of people with such varying and vast experience, it brought real life to the conversation in class,” Lewis says. “It creates accountability; you want to work hard together and push your friends along.”

It was with members of her cohort that Lewis collaborated on a book, Leading Schools During Crisis. “I wouldn’t have done [the book] if I had not had the connection with these people who were in my cohort,” Lewis says. “The book didn’t begin with me, but it was a great experience, and I certainly got to play an integral part in pushing along the project.”

With two children now, Lewis is happy to be involved with Peabody and Vanderbilt as an alumna, staff member and parent. “Now I think beyond just the day to day details of what I do at the office. It’s what an organization can provide for the kids, too,” she says. “There are so many aspects of Vanderbilt that have been beneficial through different phases of my life.”


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