Making Our Mark

Erin (Aloan) Grogan ’01

Erin (Aloan) Grogan ’01

Erin (Aloan) Grogan ’01 earned a B.S. in psychology and political science before earning a Master of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University. Today, she is senior director of research and evaluation for College Advising Corps. The national nonprofit organization is focused on increasing the number of low-income, first-generation and underrepresented high school students who enter and complete higher education. Prior to joining College Advising Corps, Erin spent more than 11 years as a partner leading the research and evaluation team at The New Teacher Project (where she worked closely with Lesley Guggenheim ’02, who was a vice president). Her research has been published in journals such as Developmental Psychology and Education Researcher, and presented at practitioner-oriented conferences around the country. She was formerly a third-grade teacher with Teach for America in Baton Rouge, La., and was also a charter school administrator in Philadelphia. Erin is certified via the Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship, Intl. as a therapeutic horseback riding instructor, and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Council for the Horses and Humans Research Foundation. She and her husband, Rich, are reviving an old horse farm in southern Vermont, where they have three Morgan horses.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?

Having worked in education, first as a teacher and then as a policy researcher for nearly 20 years, it’s challenging to watch the policy pendulum swing back and forth cyclically. What was old becomes new again, yet there’s little meaningful progress in how well our education system is serving our students. The interplay of local and federal policy is difficult to navigate and so often unresponsive to research. Spending time in schools and classrooms with real students, teachers, counselors and principals is the best antidote to discouragement and recharges me to think about translating research into practice in more useful ways.

Who inspired and/or inspires you, professionally and personally?

When I think about my time at Union, several professors inspired me and set me on the professional path I’ve followed. Zoe Oxley and Richard Fox in the Political Science Department instilled a love of policy, debate and rigor in arguments, while bringing theory to life through experiential learning. Linda Stanhope in psychology nurtured the curiosity that guided me towards becoming a researcher. Seeing Beth Wierzbieniec ’99 and Jennifer Caruso ’00 go from Union to careers in public education through Teach for America led me down that path as well, forever reshaping my career plans.

What advice would you offer today's women students, not just at Union, but across the country?

One of my mentors once told me, “Always be the person who says yes when an opportunity presents itself.” It’s amazing what unexpected doors open when you are in the right place at the right time and willing to take a chance. Being the kind of person who says yes and then follows through so often sets you up for a path you might not have imagined.

What was your most formative experience at Union?

Union changed my life. I can’t imagine selecting just one moment, so here are several standouts. Many late, silly nights eating takeout with some of the best friends I’ve ever made in the “Florida Room” of Gamma Phi Beta’s Hickock House (and becoming the first sophomore to be Gamma Phi president). All my years serving on Student Forum, but most especially as student trustee. Planning Student Activities events and staring out of our fourth-floor campus center office at a dark, quiet campus late at night. Professor Fox’s Congressional Politics class. Zoe Oxley’s mentorship and her leadership of our Washington, D.C. term, during which she helped me secure a memorable internship at Children’s Defense Fund. My first trip to Europe through the National Health Systems term, and going to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and presenting my first research paper. And the friendship and wisdom of far too many people to name who opened up new ideas, possibilities and options that have stayed with me since.