Q&A with SAJE Fellow Emily Wingfield
By John Stuetz ’20M
Emily Wingfield ’22 is a member of the first Social Action and Justice Education (SAJE) Fellowship cohort at Arcadia University. The fellowship will provide preparatory programs and leadership training for SAJE fellows to teach in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms—aiming to address the nationwide shortage of educators of color by recruiting and retaining fellows who lead schools, programs, and educational opportunities geared toward diversity, equity, and social justice.
What is your hometown?
I am from West Chester, PA.
From what high school did you graduate?
I graduated from the Episcopal Academy in 2018.
What are some of your favorite hobbies?
Some of my hobbies include listening to music, watching Netflix shows (currently watching Schitt’s Creek, Queer Eye, and Pose), reading (currently reading Call Me By Your Name), thrift/vintage shopping, writing (both fiction and non-fiction).
Do you expect to find others with similar interests at Arcadia?
I do expect to find others with similar interests at Arcadia. Especially going into the Secondary Ed Minor and SAJE Fellowship, I’m excited to find others with similar career interests as me.
Who are a few musical artists that have been on your “quarantine playlist”? Any go-to tracks?
I’ve been listening to THE ANXIETY, Joji, Dominic Fike, Mom Jeans, and Wallows. I love pretty much every single song by all of those artists but to pick some favorites I’d have to go with:
- Meet Me At Our Spot, After You Cry, Poolside – THE ANXIETY
- Sanctuary, Gimme Love, No Fun – Joji
- Açaí Bowl, Chicken Tenders, Babydoll – Dominic Fike
- OK, Scrawny, Remember When – Wallows
- Shred Cruz, Near Death Fail Comp (Must Watch Til End), Scott Pilgrim v. My GPA – Mom Jeans
What are some of your favorite social media follows right now? Any reasons why?
Recently I’ve been following a lot of activist-oriented accounts on Instagram. I think some of those accounts are doing a great job of presenting information in a concise, easy to understand way. And a lot of the posts are aesthetically pleasing which for sure helps!
My favorites of those accounts I’ve been following (all on Instagram) are:
What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
Most recently, I pioneered an effort at my alma mater (Episcopal Academy) to advocate for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts at EA. I started doing this by writing a testimony of my experiences of discrimination and injustice while at EA and collecting testimonies of others. We were able to collect over 100 pages of testimonies and are still collecting them today. We also collected signatures of those EA community members standing in solidarity with the students who wrote testimonies. We have collected over 700 signatures and are still collecting signatures.
After collecting those testimonies and signatures, I, along with a few other alums, founded the Episcopal Academy Coalition for Inclusivity and Equity (EACIE). We wanted this to be more than just a discussion, we wanted responsive action and sustained change. We are currently working alongside the Admin and Board of EA on various different task forces to address different areas within EA that require DEI work. In addition to the task forces I am a part of, I am spearheading the development of a mentorship program.
The mission statement for the EACIE is: “The Episcopal Academy Coalition for Inclusivity and Equity is a wide network of community members committed to shifting the community culture by fostering justice, equitable access, and inclusive environments for all marginalized and underrepresented groups.”
This is one of my proudest accomplishments as it relates directly to my career interests. Through this work with the EACIE I have been able to gain valuable experience that I will take with me through the future. I hope to work not only as a Secondary Ed History teacher in the future, but I also hope to do DEI work in schools as well. This work is helping to prepare me for that.
In addition to the work aiding my career growth, it has also been a great healing process for me. While attending EA I experienced a significant amount of discrimination as a result of being a mixed woman. I dealt with trauma that I am still recovering from today. Working with the school to help ensure that no other student faces the same struggles as I did is helpful in that recovery process. It is comforting to know that EA is going to become a better place than it was when I was there. It has also been incredibly healing to see the Admin’s and Board’s receptiveness to this work. While attending EA I never felt fully supported. But through this work, I am beginning to feel like the school is supportive of me and other students who look like me.
So, you’re a prestigious SAJE Fellow. Congratulations! How did you hear about the SAJE Fellowship?
I heard about the SAJE Fellowship through my high school college guidance counselor. I had attended the University of Pittsburgh for my first two years of college, but decided to transfer following the end of my sophomore year. I reached back out to my high school college guidance counselor for advice and help with the process and she suggested to me to look at Arcadia and the SAJE Fellowship. I had explained to her my intense interest in pursuing a career in education and specifically my desire to do DEI work within schools and thought the SAJE Fellowship would be a perfect fit for me and my goals.
The SAJE Fellowship is a cohort of students pursuing careers as educators for social justice. First, what led to your interest in pursuing the field of education?
When I was first attending college I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I went into Pitt as a Psychology major, however, after taking a few classes in that field, it became clear that I was not interested in pursuing a career in Psychology. During my second semester of my Freshman year I took a History course that I absolutely loved. After thinking and reflecting for a while, I decided that History was far more interesting to me and switched my major. After diving more into the History major I knew for sure that it was the correct path for me, however, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do with a History degree.
It wasn’t until I went back for my second year working as a camp counselor at the YMCA by my house that I knew I wanted to pursue education. Working at the ‘Y’ has been one of the best experiences of my life. I know that sounds dramatic but it’s true! I have always had a passion for working with kids, but it wasn’t until that second year that I realized the true reward and importance that working with children and in education can have. Throughout my time at the ‘Y’ I have had many of my campers and their parents write letters to me thanking me for the impact I had on the child’s life. You never know what might be going on in a child’s life outside of camp or school, but you as an educator simply being a positive part of their life can greatly impact them. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing your work was able to accomplish this. It is because of this that I want to pursue a career in education to continue to help children learn and grow to the best of their abilities and exercise a positive influence on their lives. Specifically, I want to be a social studies teacher working with primarily grades 7-12.
After deciding to pursue a career in education, I decided to transfer. I hope to teach in the Greater Philadelphia Area and thought it would be beneficial to complete my undergraduate degree in the area as well. I also have many more networking connections here than Pittsburgh, and continuing to build connections in the specific region that I want to work in will be incredibly helpful in the long run. After looking into programs throughout the area, I discovered Arcadia and was very interested in the SAJE Fellowship and decided to apply.
And what were some of the factors that contributed to your interest in pursuing such a career through the SAJE Fellowship specifically?
The SAJE Fellowship presented an incredibly unique opportunity and I knew I had to apply. I aspire to be an educator that is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and I wholeheartedly believe that the SAJE Fellowship will help me in becoming that educator that I aspire to be.
As a student of color, I have first-hand experience of the struggles that BIPOC individuals face in educational settings. Because of this, I am a strong advocate for social justice and believe that education is one of the best ways to achieve this. Education is incredibly important in paving the way for new opportunities, but unfortunately, high-quality education that can nurture this opportunity is not available to all. Through my work in the education sector, I hope to address not only this injustice but all injustices in society. The SAJE Fellowship will help prepare me to enter the world and accomplish just this.
Additionally, the SAJE Fellowship will help me in becoming a stronger advocate and leader for social justice issues. Not only do I hope my activism will play a role in my career in education, but I also hope that my activism will extend its way throughout all areas of my life and I believe the SAJE Fellowship will help me accomplish this.
Finally, as I mentioned before, I am incredibly interested in pursuing a career in DEI work within schools. The SAJE Fellowship will be very vital in helping me to gather experience and preparation for this role.
Switching gears, it’s of course a unique time for our country, with renewed awareness and focus on the systemic racism that has long existed in America. Has anything stood out to you most regarding issues of race and social justice this year?
For me, it is incredibly hard to pick one thing that has stuck out to me the most regarding issues of race and social justice. It has all stuck out to me. I have been reading, watching, and hearing about countless injustices. I’ve been writing about them and talking about them. I’ve been reflecting on my own experiences with racial injustice and other social injustices.
These past few months have been horrible. These have been some of the most hellish weeks of my life and I do not think I will ever recover from it. I’m exhausted. I’m sad. I’m angry. It is so hard to find the right words to say or how to get my message across because frankly I’m lost. I cannot understand how a country that claims “liberty and justice for all” can be full of so much hate and injustice. Clearly, this time we find ourselves in has been an incredibly trying time not only for me but for many others. But in addition to being a daily struggle, this time has also been incredibly enlightening. I have begun to expand my breadth of knowledge on various social justice issues through reading, watching, hearing, and talking.
My activism is not perfect. I am not perfect. I have made mistakes in the past. I have neglected to speak up in times when I should have and I am angry at myself every single day because of it. But I am learning and growing. I am seeking out the resources to learn more and educate myself. I will not sit idly by any longer. I am going to work to be more educated on social issues and more consistent in my activism. I want to devote my life to making this world a better place. This time has pushed me to become fully devoted to standing up for my community, for my friends, for my family.
This time we find ourselves in has shown to me that I must no longer be silent. I must be active in my efforts of anti-racism and my efforts to advocate for all marginalized and underrepresented communities. It is my responsibility to stand up for what I believe in and as traumatic as these past months have been, this time has been a wake up call and push in the right direction to be sure that I am doing just that.
What is a quote you wish everyone would live by?
When asked how I define my philosophy in life, I always return to the following quotation from Martin Luther King Jr. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
Ever since I was a little girl I knew that that one thing I wanted to do in the future was help people. I have always been driven to spur positive change not only in the lives of others, but to spur change that will help in creating a more equitable, just, and inclusive world overall.
King’s quote perfectly encapsulates these feelings. Each day I walk this earth I ask myself what am I doing to help others? I strive to be a selfless, kind, considerate individual and believe that that is what all individuals’ goal in life should be. Although it is important to take care of ourselves and our needs, ultimately we must devote ourselves to helping others because doing so is not only rewarding for us, but it will help in making the world a better place.
Is there anything else you would like the Arcadia community to know about you before signing off?
I look forward to becoming a member of the Arcadia community and hopefully seeing everyone in the fall! I can’t wait to continue my undergraduate career at Arcadia and within the SAJE Fellowship!