Welcome Home to Holmes

Phillandra Smith Holmes felt like home. This year was my first time attending the AACTE Holmes Scholar Summer Policy Institute and this was also the first year my university was participating in the program.

As one of the two inaugural scholars for Syracuse University, I did not know what to expect. I don’t think either of us did. I knew we were going to Capitol Hill at some point; that was clear to me. I received an outline of the days’ events and sessions, but I still felt like I lacked a point of reference for what I would encounter. To say that I had some trepidation is to put it lightly, but I tried not to let that dampen my excitement. What I did not expect however, were the feelings of validation, empowerment and sense of belonging I walked away with or the relational connections I made over the few days. I am not sure anyone could have prepared me for that. But my gratitude to my university and AACTE for this experience is immense.

Blown away from my first day, I entered an atmosphere where everyone was incredibly welcoming and exuberant. Initially, I thought everyone must have known each other perhaps from a prior AACTE event. I found out I was wrong when people started talking to me. There I was hugging and laughing with people I had met only a few minutes prior. This was family. Very soon after initial introductions, we were sharing research ideas, talking about topics we wanted to write on, encouraging and seeking advice from those in their dissertation phase and just feeling connected and at home. We exchanged contacts and are keeping in touch.

With presenters such as AACTE consultant Jane West speaking to us on policy and advocacy, I knew I was in a good place. Her point, “You cannot effectively advocate for the needs of your students until you can advocate for yourself,” resonates with me even now. Other presenters such as Larry Walker and Andrew Daire shared on “Advocating Your Needs Effectively.” Each session gave us strategies to effectively advocate for ourselves and teacher education while highlighting the importance of doing both. The sessions were practical and informative. AACTE gave me the tools I needed to effectively communicate my needs and the needs of teacher candidates.

Day on the Hill was another unforgettable experience. As I walked around Capitol Hill for our appointments, I knew my voice mattered. In addition, this put in perspective for me the labor of love advocacy really is and how important it is to be connected to a cause you truly believe in. I made a short video with my mentor and colleague at Syracuse University while in Washington, DC that you can view here.

Doctoral pursuits can be isolating. I am thrilled to be connected to all the Holmes Scholars I met at the Summer Policy Institute.

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