Emma Gelsinger ’20


Current position: Senior Director, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Austin, Texas

Emma currently serves as a Senior Director for Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Just prior she was a Research & Policy Analyst for the Office of Academic Affairs at the University of Texas System, collaborating with its eight academic institutions in the areas of academic planning, policy, and program review, student success, and educator preparation data and policy. Emma has over a decade of experience working in higher education that began as an undergraduate work-study student employee. During her Ph.D. studies she worked as Data Consistency & Policy Analyst, working across all seven campuses of the University of Maine System (UMS) to identify and resolve data issues that impact students, staff and faculty. In this role she also served as Operations Manager for the UMS Data Governance Program. Emma also previously worked as Research & Planning Associate at the University of Southern Maine (USM) to enhance the institution’s capacity for community-based teaching and learning.

Emma received her B.A. in International Affairs from the University of Maine in 2012. She completed her M.A. in Public Policy from USM’s Muskie School of Public Service (MSPS) in 2014, and shortly after began her Ph.D. in Public Policy at MSPS which she completed in 2020. Emma has completed Certificates of Advanced Graduate Study in Non-Profit Management and in Applied Research and Evaluation Methods. She also holds a Certificate of Completion from Virginia Tech’s Engagement Academy for University Leaders.


Title:  Federal Work-Study Program Equity: A Public University System Survey and Aggregate Data Analysis

Abstract:  The Federal Work-Study (FWS) program is designed to assist low-income students in funding their education, but minimal research exists on its effectiveness and equity despite over 50 years of operation. This study investigates FWS program equity using aggregate administrative data and a student survey at the University of Maine System (UMS). The survey was distributed to all student employees with a 12% response rate for FWS student employees (n=321). The sample size is small, with women overrepresented and men underrepresented, indicating results are not necessarily applicable to the full FWS student population.

Analyses were conducted on the relationship of wage rates, hours worked, type of position, and experience in the FWS program with gender and race, as well as the relationship between FWS award amount and income. Data on the FWS student profile and program administration were also collected. Using Chi-Square statistics, significant results indicated that within the survey sample women were more likely to work in administrative positions and men more likely to work in academic research/lab positions. FWS students were more likely to be women, have incomes under $10,000, less likely to study in S.T.E.M., and more likely to have lower GPAs. A marginally significant relationship between gender and hours worked per week was found where men were more likely to work more hours per week than women. This study had challenges with data collection and quality, and limited statistically significant results, but provides an initial investigation into the equity of the FWS program for students within a university system, as well as recommendations for further research and policy on equity.