2023 Spring Every Learner Everywhere intern Chidinmma Egemonu understands first-hand the difficulties students face navigating equity and educational technology in higher education.
“As an immigrant growing up in the United States, I had to figure out the educational system on my own,” Egemonu says. “Although my parents always encouraged me to utilize educational opportunities, they had less experience navigating through application processes. Even applying for high schools, I had to do so much research on my own and to talk to helpful teachers. It could be overwhelming, but it instilled in me a passion for helping other students in my situation.”
While in high school, Egemonu served as an ambassador for her city’s public education fund and participated in other education-related clubs and ventures. “Through those experiences, I noticed how certain socioeconomic disparities impact educational attainment, so those experiences fed my interest in education research,” notes Egemonu.
Born in Nigeria, Egemonu moved to Florida when she was five years old and is currently a senior at Vanderbilt University, majoring in cognitive studies and human and organizational development in the Peabody College of Education and Human Development. There, Egemonu has been able to extend her passion for education beyond the classroom through her work with a chapter of Design For America, a network of student-led organizations working to create social and community change through interdisciplinary collaboration.
“In a recent Design For America initiative, we created both physical and virtual books for K-5 children of Nepalese refugees,” Egemonu explains. “Many parents of these students say they didn’t have enough culturally-relevant materials for their kids. We were able to work with the Tibetan Central Administration in India to make both physical and virtual books available to increase accessibility.”
Why Every Learner internship?
Egemonu was drawn to the Every Learner internship as an opportunity to learn new perspectives on education.
“In a lot of my classes, we study how children learn and what strategies to use in the classroom,” Egemonu says. “Learning more about the administrative side of education through the Every Learner Everywhere internship really interests me. I also want to learn more about the different network partners and how they focus on market research when it comes to education.”
Egemonu also values Every Learner’s emphasis on equity for racially and ethnically minoritized, poverty-affected, and first-generation students. She has experience facilitating discussions about equity in her college classes and hopes to bring skills she has learned to her internship at Every Learner. For example, a past professor of Egemonu’s reached out to her this year to speak to students traveling abroad to Italy, an experiential learning opportunity Egemonu had previously pursued.
“I spoke to the class about navigating different identities, language variances, and understanding social cues in an unfamiliar country,” Egemonu says. “This was a valuable and interesting way to incorporate diversity issues into the higher education experience and think about them globally.”
The long-term project that Egemonu and other Every Learner interns will tackle is an analysis of academic continuity plan analysis. “We are investigating questions like, ‘do the university’s continuity plans value communication?’ and ‘how do their plans for natural disasters or other emergencies, such as Covid-19, make sure students and staff don’t feel isolated?’” Egemonu says.
After college, Egemonu hopes to work in banking, and she is especially passionate about funding educational technology. This professional goal stems from her work at an education technology company during her sophomore year.
“I worked on the strategy side, but I also thought the finance side was incredibly interesting,” Egemonu says. “I would like to work toward making educational materials more accessible for low-income kids.”
Egemonu’s educational, co-curricular, and internship opportunities have taught her a lot about education, equity and education technology, and also about herself.
“My experiences have led me to understand how much privilege exists in the American education system,” Egemonu says. “But we still have a lot of tools at our disposal. Taking the time to think outside of myself and consider what would be helpful for other groups of people has been so valuable. I want to be able to make a lasting impact on kids’ lives everywhere.”Download What Our Best College Instructors Do: Reflections by students about meaningful learning experiences