When Ferrum College alumna Star Norton ’11 began her doctoral candidacy at Virginia Tech three years ago, she knew she wanted to research the inequities experienced by African-American students within the education system. She narrowed her research field to include the experiences of 14 former students of Lee M. Waid Elementary School during the desegregation process which began in May 1965 in Franklin County, VA. Out of her research was born Lee M. Waid: An Oral Historical Case Study of Students from an All-Black Rural Virginian School between 1963 and 1970.
“This dissertation serves as the culmination of my research over three years and was a requirement in order to fulfill the graduation requirements to obtain my Doctorate of Education from Virginia Tech in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies EdD,” said Norton. She received her EdD in December of 2020.
The case study is a deep dive into Black education in Southwest Virginia when integration was happening nationwide, and includes accounts of commonalities and differences in students’ experiences. Among the interviewees was Ferrum College Associate Dean of Admissions Edwina Prunty.
“As an educational leader and qualitative researcher, I take seriously the importance of examining the inequities and tribulations faced by African-Americans before and after the desegregation of public schools,” Norton explained. “One way social justice researchers can make a positive impact is by talking with community stakeholders who lived through historic events, such as the desegregation of Franklin County Public Schools.”
Norton graduated from Ferrum College in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts with a double-minor in teacher education and psychology. At Ferrum, she served as class president for three years and vice president for one year. She also served as a resident advisor, member of Alpha Phi Omega, Student Leadership and Engagement worker, and in a variety of other clubs and organizations. In 2014, Norton earned a Master of Education in Administration and Supervision from Liberty University. She is the first in her family to graduate from high school and college.
Originally from the Tidewater area, Norton has remained in Franklin County since attending Ferrum College. She has served in various education roles, including as a teacher, instructional coach, and school administrator. She hopes that her research will continue to shed light on the history of desegregation of schools and the students who lived through it. She believes those past experiences can impact present educational policy and practice. “I hope that this study adds to the literature of the history, legacy, and influence of Black education,” she said.
Read Norton’s case study here.