Elaine Musgrave and Michael Wood-Vasey, Class of 2032 Parents

Elaine Musgrave and Michael Wood-Vasey first heard about the transformative power of an Ellis education from their friends, and soon enough were experiencing it for themselves through their daughter, Ella, Class of 2032. Attracted to Ellis’ emphasis on community and responsibility, Elaine and Michael wanted to send their daughter to a school where her voice would be respected, heard, and valued from a young age.
Daughter:Estella "Ella" Woodgrave, Class of 2032
Years at Ellis:2
Occupations:Elaine, Book Publishing | Michael, Associate Professor of Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh

Why did you choose Ellis for your daughter?
Elaine: Ellis was always a school we thought about because we live so close; when we passed by we would see the banners celebrating the students. We were also aware of Ellis’ involvement in the sciences, which was a particularly compelling message to us before we even investigated the School. I don’t feel that my education growing up gave me as good of a relationship with science and scientific concepts as I would have liked, so when I saw the STEM focus at Ellis, that mattered to me. I want girls to be given the tools they need to feel confident in understanding the world around them and how it operates.

Michael: Ellis was always the front runner because of our proximity to the School. We also have friends who are parents at Ellis and knew that they loved the School and so did their daughters. So that was something that we noticed and took into consideration when we were deciding.

Why do you stay at Ellis?
Michael: Because it’s working great for Ella. I never thought I would send my daughter to an all-girls school, mostly because it just wasn’t a thing in my head. But I teach physics and see how women are only a fraction of our community and dynamic. There’s an opportunity at Ellis for girls to learn from a young age that their voice is respected and should be heard.

Elaine: I like the fact that when there’s something we have a question about at Ellis, the teachers and administration are always so responsive and willing to work with us. For instance, we asked about piano lessons for Ella and worked with the School to find a solution for her. Because it’s a small school, every kid is seen as a person and not just a unit. The needs of each child are being served. The more I think about my own experience at a women’s college, specifically in today’s environment when we’re all so conscious about what it means to be a woman navigating the world, the all-girls aspect becomes more important to me. I think back to my college experience and how special that was to me, and I don’t know if I would have had that same experience at a coed school. Having that foundation where you know your voice is heard and listened to takes away a complicating factor for women.  

What does your daughter love about Ellis? What do you love about Ellis?
Michael: I asked Ella this question this morning and she said, “I love going to the art classroom with Ms. Ceurvorst.” Ella is very happy here. We love seeing that dynamic between her and her teachers, and we like the way specials complement the structure of the classroom. To see teachers who are not only fond of teaching but who are experts in their field teaching our daughter is really unique.

Elaine: She’s in pre-kindergarten and she’s already talking about artists I haven’t heard of! I’m excited for that to continue—her teaching me new things. I love how every time we come into the Lower School and walk down the hallway her teachers know and have a special relationship with her. Not just her homeroom teachers either, but the specials teachers who see so many different girls every day. They celebrate each girl as an individual. It’s wonderful to have that focus on community.

What do you value in education for your daughter?
Michael: Right now, she’s at the cusp of learning that she can do things that take a little thinking. I’m personally really excited about that as a parent. I think she’d be fine and happy at a large school, but chances are no one would notice that she was ready to engage at a deeper level. At home, she has good ideas and good analysis of situations, so being at a small school where that’s recognized and seen is valuable. Also, I value that the faculty and staff truly seem like they want to be here and that makes a huge difference. There’s a lot of pride in the School, and people are always saying, “How can we make the School even better?”

Elaine: I want her to be a good citizen. Part of this holistic education experience is learning and promoting how to be kind, and while that may sound simplistic, I want her to be encouraged to grow in all of the right ways. The community emphasis on responsibility and independence from a young age is really important to me. I feel like, at Ellis, the School itself, the teachers, and the administration all try to do the right thing and that really helps me feel confident that the kids are going to learn that too.

Why has your family prioritized and invested in an all-girls school?
Michael: We were beginning to see the indirect effect of how girls and boys were treated differently at school. All-girls wasn’t a huge priority for us, but we were seeing those differences implicitly.

Elaine: We had one moment at home when Ella was playing with cars and she said, “Oh no, girls can’t drive!” And we made sure to tell her that of course girls can drive. It really blew my mind and reminded me of how early gender bias starts. It takes a very conscious effort to work against that kind of thinking. I want her to accept the fact that she can like pink and be really excited about science!

What do you hope your daughter will get out of an Ellis education?
Michael: I hope she’ll have the attitude and confidence to use her abilities and skills to do what she wants in the world.

Elaine: The persistence to do something that she loves and cares about. I want her to know that if she works at something, she can get better at it.

What in particular do you think she learns because she goes to an all-girls school?
Elaine: The very existence of an all-girls school is a statement on the importance of education for girls. In our society, it can be conveyed rather quickly that girls are not always the first priority. When you attend an all-girls school, you get the message every day that your education is important.

Michael: Because of the all-girls environment and the size of the School, I feel that Ella thinks of all the students as individuals. She doesn’t make categorical statements. She’s learning that she has a place in class and to be respected.

What’s the biggest difference or change you’ve seen in your daughter since she started at Ellis?
Elaine: She loves being at Ellis, and what’s exciting to me is just how much she’s learned since she’s started. Her learning really took off when she started. That explosion in what she was able to do really became obvious soon after she started here.  

If you had to describe your daughter in three words, what would they be?
Elaine and Michael: Curious, thoughtful, resilient.