Every semester, our students and faculty delve into research and projects that benefit the campus, community and world around us.

In these snapshots (1-minute reads), you’ll get to know some of the diverse, independent problem solvers at St. Edward’s who are confronting critical issues and making the world a better place.

Truth to Power

At St. Edward’s, the Social Work faculty want students to understand the importance of policy and advocacy in their field and the power of their own voice. 

With that in mind, a delegation of faculty and students went to the Capitol to meet with legislators on Social Work Advocacy Day, March 4th. 

st edwards faculty and students posing in front of the Texas Capitol

While it was primarily a virtual event, the St. Edward’s group toured the capitol building, went looking for a student's grandfather's photo (a state representative in the 65th Legislature), spoke with the office of Rep. Gina Hinojosa of House District 49, and later met with Senator Eckhardt and her staff of Senate District 14. 

“Several students came prepared with talking points on issues of concern to them and to their community-based internships, specifically related to the school-to-prison pipeline and the experiences of LGBTQ+ kids in the child welfare system, and they did a great job communicating those concerns effectively using research evidence and the lived experience of marginalized communities,” said Laurie Cook Heffron, professor of Social Work. “Our students have mighty voices!”

Positive Change

While conducting research, Bianca Neal ’23, a doctoral student in Organizational Leadership and Change, discovered that Latinas are vastly underrepresented in faculty positions in higher education nationally.

 “There are numerous reasons, but part of it is that the structure (of support ) is not there,” Neal said. “From a student’s perspective, there’s an information gap and lack of guidance."

After learning about Neal’s research, a St. Edward's classmate connected her with the Executive Director of the Proctor Institute, The Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions, and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Chair at Rutgers University who was working on similar diversity efforts.

That connection proved to be worthwhile. Conversations between Rutgers officials and Neal led to a new program under the Rutgers Graduate School of Education called Latinas Excelling at Doctoral Degrees (L.E.A.D.D.).

The program, which starts this year, is intended to prepare undergraduate Latinas and women of color for graduate school by strengthening their confidence, validating their research interests, creating community, and sharing resources to combat cultural and academic isolation. In addition to working on her doctorate, Neal is now a visiting scholar and curator for the program, which will enlist 10 female Hispanic undergraduates for its first cohort.

Once she graduates, Neal hopes to continue this "work to diversify the professoriate and positively impact the landscape of higher education."

Meeting of the Minds

The power of teamwork, networking and experiential learning merged at the second annual HSI Battle of the Brains. Founded by St. Edward’s University Entrepreneurship alum Gregory Gibson, the HSI Battle of the Brains took place from March 8–12 during SXSW in Austin.

The event brings together teams of students from Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) around the country to solve a problem as they vie for the title of HSI Battle of the Brains Champion. Sponsors include KPMG, Amazon, Home Depot, and others.

battle of the brains

A team of The Bill Munday School of Business students along with three faculty members (Chandra Srivastava, Katherine Lopez and, Robert Denton Bryant), took on the challenge, competing against 10 other universities.

Morgan Buyse ’22, who served as a product manager on the St. Edward’s team, said “I've always been eager to participate in events that allow me to flex my creative and critical thinking muscles. In our 24-hour hackathon, we were challenged to create a digital solution to empower KPMG teammates to reduce their carbon emissions from in-city transportation.”

The team advanced to the final and gained an invaluable experience.

“By the end of our week at Battle of the Brains, I left invigorated, proud, and ready to seize my next challenge,” Buyse said.

Trailblazing Alum

In a trailblazing move, Arrian Ebrahimi ’21 has become the first St. Edward’s student or alum selected for a Yenching Scholarship to Peking University, a prestigious fellowship that enables scholars to study and research at one of China’s leading universities.

Ebrahimi, who starts the fellowship in September of this year, said his interest in China studies began when he interned with the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), where he now works in government affairs and global policy.

“I continued my internship through my third year at St. Edward’s and decided to graduate a year early in order to join SIA full-time,” Ebrahimi said.“Since then, my work has continually deepened my understanding of China’s role in global technology supply chains, and my existing interest in antitrust and intellectual property law spurred an interest in the Chinese approaches to these same issues.”

His time at St. Edward’s as an Economics major also prepared him for this new academic journey. Language professor Hsing-Chih Yu provided Ebrahimi with a solid foundation in Mandarin, and the Office of Fellowships helped him succeed in the highly-competitive fellowship application process.

"Arrian is a perfect example of someone who came to our office early on, and kept applying to different fellowships and scholarships until he was awarded this fantastic international opportunity,” said Dina Guidubaldi, director of the Office of Fellowships. “His hard work and persistence really paid off, and we're so excited to see what he does next.”

When he returns, Ebrahimi will be attending law school at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.

The Poetry of Service

This spring, Taylor McGee ’22, a Religious and Theological Studies major, was one of four students selected nationally for the Social Poet: Emerging Justice-Seeker Award from Network Advocates for Catholic Social Justice.

The award recognizes remarkable justice-seekers, dubbed “Social Poets” by Pope Francis, who “have the ability and the courage to create hope.”

Social Poet: Emerging Justice-Seeker Award from Network Advocates for Catholic Social Justice nominees

McGee was selected on the basis of her service, advocacy for inclusion, commitment to justice, and leadership. She was recognized in April at the “Network 50th Anniversary Gala: Justice Ablaze” in Washington D.C.

“Taylors contributions extend from serving under-resourced communities to leadership roles in campus ministry, to participating in racial healing circles to challenging peers in the classroom,” said Kelley Coblentz Bautch, professor of Religious and Theological Studies. “We are so proud of Taylor.”