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Sullivan Scholar Sarah Guest of Vanderbilt Aims to Become a School Leader

It’s a wonder that Sarah Guest, an M.Ed. candidate and recent recipient of the Sullivan Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Scholarship at Vanderbilt University, finds the time to attend classes. She already teaches third-graders at Eagle View Elementary in Antioch, Tenn., and holds a second part-time job as well. But it’s her goal to become a true education leader, and she believes the Sullivan Scholarship will help her fulfill that ambition.

“I would not be able to experience this world-class educational opportunity if not for the generous scholarship provided by the Sullivan Foundation,” she said. “My future plans to become a school leader will undoubtedly be shaped by the peers and professors whom I am able to access through this program, and I will be forever grateful for the valuable experience [the Foundation has] made possible for me.”

Related: Past Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner helps prepare girls of color for careers in science

In the following Q&A, Guest, a Roswell, Ga. native and master’s degree student in Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development, talks about her Vandy experience thus far:

Q: Tell us about your background (where you’re from, interests, family, etc.). Why did you choose Vanderbilt, and what influenced your decision?

Guest: I was born outside of Birmingham, Ala., grew up outside of Atlanta, and have called Nashville home since 2006. I attended Vanderbilt for my undergraduate degree (BS ’10, Economics and Education), so Vanderbilt was at the top of my list for my master’s degree. Even a decade later, there are so many things that I love about Peabody. The faculty give personalized attention to each student, and I know that my intimate cohort of future leaders will be critical to my future success.

Q: What has been your favorite course thus far? What did you take away from that course?

Guest: My favorite course has been Organizational Theory and Behavior because of the combination of theory and practical application to case studies. The takeaways from the course that I can apply to my work right now within my role as an educator are that people develop sensemaking strategies to explain actions and situations and that there needs to be a combination of competition and corporate responsibility in the evolution of business.

Q: How is Vanderbilt preparing you to be a leader in education?

Guest: Already I have gained more confidence in my strengths as a leader in education even from my position as a classroom teacher and graduate student. Organizational theory, analytical analysis and systems thinking have all helped me think about education and education reform with different lenses. I have been leading from within organizations but without many official titles prior to coming to Vanderbilt, and I know that, moving forward, I will be able to dig deeper into more specialized classes that will prepare me for future endeavors.

Related: Special education major Morgan Crowe receives Algernon Sydney Sullivan Scholarship at Lees-McRae College

Q: What work or activities have you been able to participate in outside of the classroom? How have those activities complemented your studies?

Guest: I currently work fulltime as a third-grade teacher as well as working part-time at an office. In both work environments, I am able to observe how theories are at play and how conflict could be avoided or resolved more effectively. In meeting with parents who have additional stressors at play due to COVID-19, I have been able to put into practice what I have learned about having difficult conversations. I have also been able to facilitate discussions at school with my students and my colleagues about equity and equality that incorporated theories and evidence from articles that we read in class and/or books recommended to me by others in my cohort.

Q: Which faculty or staff member has made a significant impact on you? How have they influenced your development?

Guest: Professor Mark Cannon has made a significant impact on the way I think about problem-solving and having difficult conversations. The readings and discussions in his class are applicable across facets of my life besides business.

Q: How have you adapted to the current environment at Vanderbilt with the adjustments made in response to the pandemic?

Guest: At Vanderbilt, the adjustments to online learning has been smooth and has made me feel safe. Being online for my first semester has been a unique experience. However, I feel connected to my peers and my professors.

Q: In what ways have the adjustments made in response to the pandemic enabled you to thrive this academic year?

Guest: During my first year, the adjustments due to COVID-19 have allowed me to increase my technical literacy and my ability to collaborate online. It honestly has been a huge advantage to add to my skillset as companies are increasing remote employment opportunities, and most companies are part of global networks that will continue to increase their use of technology to connect.