Elementary Education Major Nominated for Truman Scholarship



Elementary Education major and Truman finalist Chauncey Stephens.

Chauncey Stephens, native of Gonzalez, La., is an aspiring educator and passionate volunteer. Stephens is currently a pre-service teacher in the Elementary Grades 1-5 Teacher Education Program in the School of Education at Louisiana State University. She is also a member of the Ogden Honors College.

When entering college, Stephens initially did not want to be a teacher.

“It wasn’t even in the realm of possibilities,” she said.

She began in biological sciences, cognizant of her desire to work with children, and was drawn to pediatrics. At the time, she was studying poverty in Louisiana and how that affected education. She realized how important education was to her, and ultimately decided to change her major to Elementary Education, where her true passion lay.

“I plan on committing my career to meeting the needs of communities, especially as those needs relate to poverty and education,” said Stephens. 

She is currently working on her honors thesis with advisor Dr. Margaret-Mary Sulentic Dowell, Associate Professor in the School of Education.

Interested in how poverty and education interact, her thesis will focus on the destabilization of communities in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The school system, impacted by hurricane damage and sweeping reform, changed from a traditional, neighborhood or community school system to a charter system.

“A family could have three children, each at different schools across the city,” said Stephens.

Stephens will conduct qualitative interviews with families, educators, and community members, and then compare this data to previous research to analyze how the removal of traditional, neighborhood schools has impacted communities in New Orleans.  

“Over the last two years, I have been fortunate to have Dr. Margaret-Mary Sulentic Dowell serve as my professor, advisor, and mentor,” said Stephens. “Some of my fondest memories with Dr. Dowell have been spent sitting in her office discussing public education and the current reforms that have been implemented in Louisiana and New Orleans in particular. She has challenged me to grow as a student, researcher, and leader. It has been her guidance, continued support, and consistent encouragement that have helped me get to this point in my collegiate career and create a vision for my future in public education.”

Stephens has a vast array of experience in the field of education. She interned at the Ascension Parish School Board in Gonzales, La., where she engaged in discussions with educational professionals, including district staff, principals, and teacher leaders about school improvement models. This internship allowed her to observe the true meaning of how to be a servant leader in public education.

Stephens is graduating in December, but her impact in the field of education will continue. She plans to attend graduate school for a dual master’s degree program in education and social work.

Most recently, Stephens was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Truman Scholarship, which offers up to $30,000 for graduate study to future “change agents” committed to working in the field of public service.

"Chauncey is the epitome of an elementary education major and most deserving of a Truman Scholarship. She is a strong thinker and is civically engaged. I have been honored to serve in the capacity of her undergraduate thesis advisor through the Honors College," said Dr. Sulentic Dowell.

Stephens is currently at the LSU University Laboratory School, in Instructor Diane Moran’s fourth grade math and science classroom. During her time in the School of Education, her coursework has allowed her to work with students individually, in groups, and now in the classroom. In her current field experience, she spent five hours a week in classrooms interacting with students and leading small groups.

During Stephens’ time at LSU, she has worked as a Resident Assistant in Laville Hall, where she supported 40 residents, promoting a comfortable living atmosphere conducive to learning and community building. She has been involved with Volunteer LSU since 2012, and she served as the 2015 Student Director. She managed the VLSU executive board of fifteen members, planning and executing service projects for LSU students. She participated in CHANGE Break, an alternative service break experience, three times, serving in Peru and Ecuador to work with community centers, elementary schools, and day cares by teaching English, assisting with construction and beautification projects, and engaging children in fun activities.

About SOE
The LSU School of Education (SOE) offers graduate and undergraduate programs in Curriculum and Instruction and in Educational Leadership, Research, and Counseling. The School’s mission is to prepare P-12 educational professionals to be leaders, practitioners and scholars knowledgeable in contemporary educational issues.

Visit the School of Education at lsu.edu/education

About CHSE

The College of Human Sciences & Education (CHSE) is a nationally accredited division of Louisiana State University. The College is comprised of the School of Education, the School of Leadership and Human Resource Development, the School of Kinesiology, the School of Library and Information Science, the School of Social Work, and the University Laboratory School. These combined schools offer 8 undergraduate degree programs and 18 graduate programs, enrolling more than 1,900 undergraduate and 977 graduate students. The College is committed to achieving the highest standards in teaching, research, and service and is continually working to improve its programs.

Visit the College of Human Sciences & Education at chse.lsu.edu.