Christin Gates has developed an avocation to help erase the inequities and inadequacies of the Mississippi public education system through policy making and social advocacy, using skills she has honed in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Mississippi.
“One thing I love about Ole Miss is the value it places on servant leadership,” Gates explained. “Beyond the classroom, I feel the sentiment of the university is to go beyond reading and writing, to taking the knowledge gained and making an impact on those around you. This value aligns with part of my favorite quote by Mary Church Terrell, ‘Lift as you climb’.”
Gates, a senior psychology major from Kosciusko, has a special interest in cross-cultural psychology. She credits Laura Johnson, associate professor of psychology, for providing “the spark that lit the fire for me to expand beyond what I imagined was possible.”
“Through her [Johnson’s] multicultural psychology class and as a member of her research team, I have been able to find the vocabulary and language to effectively promote social justice and diversity issues,” Gates said. “Since I have learned to understand the patterns and motivations of people, how we think and operate, I believe it will give me an advantage in how I communicate with others in my future career as a policy maker.”
Johnson supports her decision to attend graduate school. Gates has been accepted to Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, where she will work toward a Masters of Education in educational policy and management.
“Christin has been a joy to work with, exactly the kind of student that keeps me passionate about my own work,” Johnson said. “She has the perfect combination of social justice values, intellectual acumen, and ability to build diverse constituencies that are the hallmarks of a great leader and change agent, especially in our multicultural society. I am sure she will contribute to successful public policy initiatives that make a positive difference in the lives of many.”
Gates’ senior thesis project is a qualitative study of how the No Child Left Behind’s accountability system influences the ability of African American students to gain access to higher education. Her findings suggest that test scores under NCLB in this particular pipeline fluctuate; however, college access directly depends on the high school counselor.
RoSusan Bartee, associate professor in the School of Education at UM, who served as director of Gates’ thesis topic and her McNair research project, also had a strong impact on her development as a scholar and a researcher.
“With Dr. Bartee’s help, I was selected as an American Education Research Association Undergraduate Fellow,” Gates said. “This organization gave me the opportunity to be in the same room with researchers that I have read and admire. This experience humanized the world of academics for me.”
Gates’ academic honors also include a Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Fellowship, and she is a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholar.