Hello! My name is Ryan Steinly, and I’m a rising junior majoring in Spanish and Classics with a certificate in German. This summer, as a Brackenridge Fellow and the recipient of the Dick Thornburgh Fellowship, I’ll be conducting public policy research and working with the resources in the Thornburgh Archival Collection. On campus I work as an ambassador for the Dietrich School, giving tours and leading information sessions, and I spend some of my free time rehearsing with my acapella group C Flat Run, as well as with the Heinz Chapel Choir!
Through my research project, “A Holistic Evaluation of Pennsylvania’s Language Access Plan”, I’m looking to investigate the challenges non-native speakers of English experience in immigrating to Pennsylvania, due to the state’s lack of an effective policy framework to provide resources and systemic support for English-learners. Specifically, though this population greatly increased in Pennsylvania between 2005 and 2015, the educational achievement gap between English-learner students and their English-speaking peers only worsened across that same time frame. Therefore, through this work, I aim to identify the precise ways in which the state’s current policies are failing to meet the needs of English learners, so that I can develop possible solutions to this achievement gap.
In order to inform my perspective to analyzing the state’s language access plan, I’ll begin my research by examining the current status of Pennsylvania’s English-learner population and identifying their needs in terms of educational, professional, and governmental support. I’ll then work to evaluate Pennsylvania’s language framework by researching how the state has allocated federal grants created for English-learner support, as well as by investigating the historical updates and revisions (or lack thereof) of the policies to meet the diversifying needs of Pennsylvania’s ever growing English-learner population. Throughout, I will be comparing the state’s attempts to aid English-learners with those of other states with greater success in eliminating disparities between the populations. Professor Balderston of the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures will mentor me throughout this fellowship. Through this work, I hope to increase the quality and quantity of resources provided to such a critically underserved group.
I’m greatly interested in continuing to research and work against the inequalities that can arise from language barriers, and I am hoping to further this work through a Bachelor of Philosophy degree with the Honors College. For the future, I aspire to attend law school and pursue a career in immigration law, to work at the intersection of linguistics, law, and equality. This fellowship provides me with the great opportunity to better understand the challenges involved in the immigration process and the ways in which it places specific hardships on non-English speaking immigrants. Furthermore, the experience of engaging with such a dynamic, interdisciplinary cohort allows me to learn from my peers and practice communicating my research to a broad audience. Through the summer workshop series, I look to gain more specific skills in different aspects of the research process, such as applying for publications and pursuing national scholarships. I’m looking forward to beginning this research and engaging with the cohort of scholars!