Ruby Bafu

PhD student, Sociology

Faculty advisor: Monica Grant

Ruby BafuRuby is a PhD student in Sociology. She is from Long Island, New York, and completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell University.

As a graduate student, Ruby is working with a midwestern school district to study how microschools, which are smaller and often more personalized learning environments, utilize unique strategies for educating and supporting their students.

“An understanding of microschools, which serve historically marginalized communities, offers fresh possibilities for improving the educational experiences of children from these marginalized communities,” Ruby said. “My research supports schools’ existing efforts to affirm and support all students of color.”

Ruby said that when the COVID-19 pandemic forced tens of millions of children into virtual learning, it also created an ongoing conversation about virtual learning. At the same time, educators and policymakers have been rethinking their approaches to school student engagement. Yet, few studies address this intersection of student engagement and virtual instruction.

For her study, Ruby will observe virtual instruction at a mainly virtual microschool and conduct interviews with and surveys of students, teachers, and administrators. She hopes to gain insight into how educators engage with students and manage students’ behavior in the context of virtual instruction. Ruby plans to share the results of her research study with the school district through a report based on her interviews and observations of students’ experiences.

“My research can amplify strategies that help support Black students, in addition to non-Black students of color, in hybrid learning environments such as the microschool,” Ruby said.

Ruby received a University Fellowship during her first year of graduate school in 2018-19, which allowed her to focus on her research and coursework. It also helped her secure external funding opportunities such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in 2020. With support from the NSF fellowship, she completed and defended her master’s thesis. She is still funded by the National Science Foundation and is collecting data for her dissertation.

Ruby’s work has also earned grants from the Women and Wellbeing in Wisconsin and the World Engagement fund, the Mellon Mays Graduate Initiatives Program, the Graduate School’s Student Research Grants Competition, and the American Sociological Association. Ruby has been a fellow at the Institute for Research on Poverty, and is currently a fellow at the Race, Ethnicity, and Inequality in Education Collaborative Training Grant Fellowship Program.