An Education with Eileen Davidson
By June Hatch
We strive to empower our students to be leaders and instill confidence and independence in each girl. These sentiments were echoed throughout my recent conversation with Eileen Davidson, my former high school principal and current president of The Ursuline School in New Rochelle.
I was somewhat anxious the morning of my interview with Mrs. Davidson — as one always is when they are summoned to the principal’s office. My apprehension was misplaced; she and I had a wonderful and warm conversation, and I am prouder than ever to be an Ursuline alum.
Major improvements have been made and impressive academic programs launched since my day. It was such a treat learning about all Ursuline has to offer.
Mrs. Davidson has worked in the educational field for 38 years, the last nine years as head of Ursuline. When asked to describe the Ursuline experience, she replied, “Dynamic. In addition to a rigorous academic curriculum, we strive to offer something for every girl so each one feels that they are contributing and participating in this amazing community. Being part of a club, team, or council helps build the confidence needed to lead and pursue dreams. Service is another big part of an Ursuline education.
She pointed to the signature Personal Development program, which, through both courses and supplemental activities, helps students learn about themselves, connect with others, and prepare for and bring change to the world beyond the school walls.
Through the Innovation Campaign, which Mrs. Davidson has spearheaded from its inception, the campus has been transformed with the addition of an innovation hub, high-tech media and conference center, and student commons.
“The girls are loving the common spaces, where they can collaborate while socially distanced, enjoy free time with friends, schedule group meetings in the conference rooms, or wait for their rides in a safe and well-lit space. Both the Innovation Hub and Media center offer state-of-the-art facilities and technology,” she noted.
What has long distinguished Ursuline, said Mrs. Davidson, are “the people, the programs, the faith.” She is especially proud of the some of the recently established programs that many other girls’ schools don’t offer, notably Scholar-in-Residence, Global Symposium, and Capstone.
Each year an alum is chosen to teach students about different careers. This year, Dr. Armbrister, an international project manager with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, is partnering with teachers in several departments to share her international experience and expertise in economic and social development, global health, and ethnic equality with students. The Scholar-in-Residence program is funded by an E.E. Ford Foundation grant.
Through classroom projects, research, and service initiatives, Global Symposium takes students on a school-wide exploration of important concerns facing the world today.
After completing a research paper on an independently selected global issue, each student, in spring semester of their senior year, makes an oral presentation of her Capstone project to administrators and a faculty committee.
The College & Academic Guidance Department guides and supports each student through the college selection process starting freshman year and ramping up in their junior year. The goal is to develop a college list that matches the student’s educational, social, geographic, and financial needs.
Members of the Ursuline School class of 2020 were accepted by some of the most selective universities in the nation, including Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Duke, and USC.
At the end of the school year, Mrs. Davidson is set to retire. Although she will be greatly missed, she leaves the school in a strong position, and the programs she developed and the culture she created at Ursuline will live on.