Off the Tenured Track: An Interview with Fries Award Winner Sarah Enterline

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Dr. Patricia Paugh (University of Massachusetts), Dr. Sarah Enterline (Boston College), Dr. Marilyn Cochran-Smith (Boston College) and Dr. Tom Schram (University of New Hampshire)

On May 3, 2014, K12 Insight Vice President of Research and Evaluation Sarah Enterline received the Kim Fries Early Career Award from the New England Educational Research Organization (NEERO).

Sarah spoke about her early career influences, what the award means to her and what she hopes to accomplish in the future.

Evlondo Cooper: First, congratulations on winning the Kim Fries Early Career Award! How did you find out that you’d won? And how did you feel initially?

Sarah Enterline: The President of the Board, Steve Stemler, informed me that I’d won by unanimous vote. I was honored and humbled, especially considering that I’m the first recipient of the award. And having been a colleague of Kim’s, it’s very personal.

Kim was a remarkable person, and she contributed so much to the field of teacher education.

EC: Sketch some of your early education and research inspirations and how they influenced the professional path you’ve taken.

SE: I’ve titled the talk they’ve asked me to give “Off the Tenured Track.” In it, I discuss the research process outside of academia and the types of challenges and opportunities for educational researchers.

I’ve always been passionate about the idea that there should be opportunities for educational research outside of academia or higher education. And NEERO has done a good job of recognizing and encouraging researchers who aren’t only professors.

EC: Based on your previous research interests, do you feel it’s necessary to come out of the ivory tower to understand certain issues on the ground level?

SE: Yes, yes. My passion has always been about doing research that’s impactful. Not discounting higher education, but I find that research often doesn’t have much of an impact if it’s only published in a peer-reviewed journal.

What makes it rewarding for me is assisting practitioners who are in direct service to children. I prefer to use my research to help them make informed decisions — and to design better programs, academic structures and social supports.

EC: What brought you to K12 Insight? And can you describe how you and the company have evolved together?

SE: I came to K12 Insight with the idea that I wanted to make an impact at a broader level. And I believe that K12 Insight is fulfilling that mission and helping me achieve my goals as well.

As the company grows, we continue to explore and identify needs within the K-12 field. District and school administrators need the type of consulting we provide, and they see it as a valuable service.

EC: How did you become involved with NEERO, and can you explain a little about the organization’s mission?

SE: NEERO is an affiliate of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). They are a highly respected group of individuals, and the conference is open to beginning, intermediate and advanced researchers.

I initially joined to gain presentation experience. Since then, I’ve served in some capacity every year that I’ve been a member. It’s a great organization that nurtures young professionals by providing them with many opportunities to grow.

EC: What makes the Fries Award such a significant achievement in your career?

SE: I’m proud to be nominated for the type of work I engage in. Designing instruments to measure social justice, serving on task forces throughout the state, working with K12 Insight to help school districts — this is active and engaged work that makes a difference in people’s lives.

EC: Obviously, this is an important professional milestone. What are some other career goals you hope to accomplish?

SE: I’d say increasing the level of trust and expertise that practitioners and policy makers give to education researchers.

I hope that one day practitioners and policy makers will recognize the expertise of someone who has a background, advanced degree and years of experience in research, and see them as a valued partner rather than thinking they can do everything themselves.

Just as people see a doctor when they’re sick, I hope that educators will turn to education researchers when they want to diagnose and correct a problem in their districts.

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