2023 NAEd/SPENCER DISSERTATION FELLOWS
Bri Alexander, City University of New York Graduate Center
Bri Alexander (Shawnee Tribe, Cherokee Nation) is a Ph.D. candidate in Linguistic Anthropology at the City University of New York, Graduate Center. Her anthro-political linguistic research, developed and carried out in collaboration with her Native Nations, is personal, familial, and communal. Her dissertation research, funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, reimagines Shawnee land and language reclamation projects in Shawnee terms: as cycles of perpetual renewal and relationality instead of responses or reactions to political and social climates/events. Ultimately, her work challenges various normalized conventions in academia by engaging deeply with Indigenous Knowledge Systems and centering Indigenous concepts, perspectives, and histories across research design, practice, and write-up.
With an M.A. in Native American Linguistics from the University of Arizona, she is passionate about language learning, land-based pedagogy, the health benefits of language and culture, and cultural education for Native American/American Indian/Indigenous communities. She has shared her knowledge in various capacities, from lecturing and teaching university courses to building interactive games for children. Most recently, she has joined the Digital Archive of Indigenous Language Persistence team as a Research Associate and she continues as a Curriculum Developer for both her tribal Nations. Outside of language activism, she enjoys beadworking, communing with plant kin, trying new food, and visiting with community.
Kin-Centric Circles: Reimagining Native Land and Language Reclamation as Cycles of Renewal and Relationality
For various social and political reasons, Native American communities engage in land and language reclamation projects across space and time. Whereas much scholarship circulates narratives of reclamation as processes to reverse loss and theft, this project instead imagines reclamation as cycles of renewal and relationality occurring on Native timing and by Native volition regardless of colonial attempts to dispossess and disinherit Natives of land and language. Centering Shawnee knowledge and histories through knowledge-shares with Shawnee citizens across all federally- and tribally-recognized Shawnee bands, this multi-sited (Serpent Mound, Ohio; Johnson County, Kansas; northeastern Oklahoma, and online), mixed methods (online surveys, semi-structured interviews, autoethnography, participant observation, and archives) ethnography asks what Shawnee reclamation/renewal projects say about place, kinship, and relating. It is clear that Shawnees are increasingly investing in opportunities for language learning and land reclamation projects, but what do language learning contexts and land rights have in common? This research, set largely in language classes, ceremonies, community events, and tribal department meetings, argues that land and language are not just resources or tools but are impetuses for relationality between Shawnees and the world at large, able to transform social and political relations via rituals and ceremonies of kinship that are not necessarily based on nationality, race, or place of origin. These created circles of kinship, or what I call kin-centric circles, overlap across identity categories and ultimately exist outside of colonial bounds and logics. Land-as-relation and language-as-relation, then, offer an anti-colonial, Native perspective on social orderings through shared space and tongues.
Brenda Anderson Wadley, University of Arizona
Brenda Lee Anderson Wadley is a Ph.D. candidate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona. Drawing on critical qualitative methodologies, her research scrutinizes and interrogates structural oppression in higher education that impedes the success of minoritized communities. Informed by her prior experience supporting survivors of campus sexual violence as a campus advocate, Brenda’s dissertation examines how institutional conceptions of safety do or do not meet the needs of students with multiple marginalized identities.
Brenda is a research specialist for a National Science Foundation S-STEM grant, investigating structural realities for low-income, Pell-eligible transfer students pursuing STEM degrees using culturally responsive frameworks. Additionally, she is a doctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan Campus Abolition Research Lab, where she assists in investigating the consequences of policing inequities and the unintended consequences of diversity regimes on college campuses. She holds a Master of Education from the University of Georgia and a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Outside of research, Brenda enjoys running, reading, and organizing for and dreaming of abolitionist futures.
The Campus Safety Apparatus from the Standpoint of Survivors of Campus Sexual Violence
Campus sexual violence (CSV) is engrained in higher education institutions. Although students with marginalized identities experience CSV at high rates, this disparity is rarely addressed by colleges and universities in identity-conscious ways. By creating the concept of the ‘the campus safety apparatus,” my dissertation identifies and describes the policies, procedures, and practices that higher education institutions use to respond to instances of CSV. Using institutional ethnography, I examine how these responses are mediated through ruling relations within the campus safety apparatus.
To effectively execute this study, I examine power dynamics experienced by CSV survivors with multiple marginalized identities, utilizing the concepts of standpoint theory and commitment as a non-performative. This study design includes two stages: the entry-level stage of collecting and analyzing Instagram data and institutional documents and the second-level stage of conducting in-depth interviewing with student survivors, faculty, and staff. Preliminary findings illuminate: 1) how survivors seek institutional responses in the aftermath of experiencing CSV; 2) how these institutional responses further exacerbate harm experienced by survivors; 3) how student survivors create counter spaces online; and 4) how higher education institutions resist survivor activists demands by enacting institutional foils to promote the appearance safety and appear accountable without creating real strategies to address the root causes of CSV, which are power and oppression.
By examining the campus safety apparatus, I will reveal how notions of safety are mediated through identity and power. Study findings will provide a theoretical lens to examine how policy and discourse inform who deserves safety and protections within colleges and universities. Given current trends in CSV research, understanding how policy implementation and notions of safety map onto survivors’ experiences as a racialized, gendered, and sexualized phenomena is critical.
Arnav Bhattacharya, University of Pennsylvania
Arnav Bhattacharya (he/him) is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History and Sociology of Science in the University of Pennsylvania. His dissertation tentatively titled From the Kama Sutra to Scientia Sexualis: A History of Sex Education and Sexology in Twentieth Century India explores the emergence of a discourse of sex education resulting from the production, consolidation, and dissemination of medical and scientific knowledge on sex and sexuality in colonial and post-colonial India. His project interrogates how the history of Indian sexology through the course of the 20th century came to be increasingly intertwined with myriad issues such as sex education, medico-legal jurisprudence, social and sexual hygiene, and public health. He situates his scholarship among larger global histories of sexology and sex education. He argues that factors like racism, Orientalism and colonialism were instrumental in the history of sex education and sexological knowledge production in India. His research has been funded by various research bodies and institutions within the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the American Institute of India Studies (AIIS), Huntington Library, California, and the Science History Institute, Philadelphia. His writings have been published in journals such as Porn Studies and Journal of the History of Sexuality (forthcoming).
From the Kamasutra to Scientia Sexualis: A History of Sexology and Sex Education in Twentieth Century India
Arnav’s dissertation entitled From the Kama Sutra to Scientia Sexualis: A History of Sexology and Sex Education in Twentieth Century India explores the role of sexual science and medicine in initiating a public discourse of sex education across various cross-sections of society in twentieth-century India. He aims to understand the educational significance of sexology in India. His goal is to analyze how the intersection of science and medicine with sexuality prioritized and legitimated a prophylactic approach to sex education centered around disease prevention and population control. His dissertation reveals that the association of sex with science and medicine legitimized a public discourse on sex education and resulted in the refashioning of the Kama Sutra as the urtext of sex education. However, he argues that such an approach also obscured the space for a comprehensive sex education curriculum, the impact of which is visible in contemporary India. While revealing the existence of a rich and layered history of sex instruction, his project demonstrates that sex education in India was envisaged as a means to an end and often aligned with other issues such as eugenics, birth control, and family planning. His dissertation will show how most sex education in India has occurred beyond the precincts of the formal classroom.
Alyssa Bivins, George Washington University
Alyssa Bivins is a Ph.D. Candidate in the History Department at George Washington University. She focuses on the history of education in Palestinian East Jerusalem. Her dissertation, “Contested Classrooms: Education in East Jerusalem since 1967,” relies on oral histories and archival documentation to create a social history narrative that centers the diverse Palestinian classroom experiences within East Jerusalem. Her work integrates history, education, settler colonial studies, and indigenous studies to assess the impact of ongoing Israeli occupation on the East Jerusalem education sector. Her dissertation research was funded by the Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Fellowship and a yearlong Foreign Language and Area Studies grant. Prior to pursuing her PhD, Alyssa received a BA in History and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago and an MA in History from George Washington University. She has always strived to combine her interest in the Middle East with her passion for promoting education, so she has worked in many diverse areas of the education sector. This has included designing online lessons for an EdTech company, teaching English in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, tutoring refugees for the International Rescue Committee, and teaching classes on community-based philanthropy for Chicago Public High School students. When she isn’t writing her dissertation, she is serving as a staff editor for the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP).
Contested Classrooms: Education in East Jerusalem, 1967-1994
In the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, Israel took control of East Jerusalem, the Palestinian side of Jerusalem that had been occupied by Jordan since 1948. Despite Israel’s official control of East Jerusalem, including its education system, Palestinian organizations found ways to create and maintain their own educational institutions. Foreign aid programs also provided limited educational opportunities to Palestinian students in the city. These many education actors with varying educational missions created a fragmented, disputed education system in East Jerusalem that has shaped the lives of thousands of Palestinian students for over 55 years. My dissertation investigates the historical evolution of the ideologies, policies, and practices in the contentious education sphere of East Jerusalem since 1967. It relies on oral history interviews, school archives, newspaper articles, and NGO reports to center the lived experiences of former Palestinian school students and teachers who experienced firsthand the impact of the policy changes, political turmoil, and economic upheavals of the past five decades. Through my historical analysis, I argue that Palestinian students and teachers did not only adapt to shifting educational realities, but they also shaped their own education experiences to reach their own individual, community, and national goals. This research helps us understand how, in situations of prolonged inequality and occupation, education sectors can serve as an arena for the reification of colonial hierarchies, but also as a space of limited individual and collective empowerment. It further sheds light on the limitations of foreign education aid in situations of colonialism.
Lorraine Blatt, University of Pittsburgh
Lorraine Blatt is a Ph.D. Candidate in Developmental Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. She is also affiliated with the Learning Research and Development Center. Her research broadly examines how structural influences on social policy and education shape children’s developmental trajectories and ultimately uphold structural inequities. She is particularly interested in how de facto school segregation relates to academic and social development in early and middle childhood. Lorraine has published in the American Educational Research Journal and Perspectives on Psychological Science. Prior to graduate school, Lorraine was a researcher at the Urban Institute where her work focused on child care, education, and anti-poverty policies. In graduate school, she has continued her commitment to research-informed policy through work with the Research-to-Policy Collaboration and teaching an undergraduate “Child Development and Social Policy” course. Lorraine has an M.S. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, a B.A. in Psychology from Grinnell College, and a K-12 education from Harford, CT Public Schools.
Contexts of School Segregation and Children’s Academic Skills and Social Development in Elementary School
De facto racial/ethnic and socioeconomic school segregation present pervasive threats to child development in the United States. Disrupting these threats requires a detailed understanding of associations between segregation and child development that unfold in elementary school, an understudied but critical period when children are most likely to experience segregation. My dissertation study uses multi-level growth curve and mixed effects modeling to examine links between school segregation and children’s academic skills and social development in a nationally representative sample of ≈16,000 children from kindergarten through fifth grade. This study will examine whether these links differ across children’s racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Data come from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 and Stanford Education Data Archive 4.1. Merging these sources provides a novel opportunity to explore how school segregation at the school, district, metro-area, and county levels relates to individual child-level differences. Investigating segregation at multiple levels will elucidate the varied structural forces shaping children’s educational contexts that are obscured by research examining school segregation at a single contiguous level. Additionally, my study will leverage longitudinal measures to expand our understanding of when during elementary school links between segregation and academic skills emerge. Finally, my study will explore social outcomes rarely considered in segregation research–including children’s prosocial behavior, school belonging, and stress about school. The more we learn about how school segregation shapes children’s development in elementary school, the better equipped we will be to design equitable strategies for integrating U.S. schools in ways that promote child development.
Kevin Darcy, University of Colorado Boulder
Kevin Darcy is a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado, Boulder in the department of Anthropology. He applies his research in two directions: 1) to disrupt ableist barriers that impede student success and to highlight the value of increasing disability representation in higher education, and 2) to educate businesses in inclusivity and diversity policies and trainings. Kevin’s doctoral research assesses the experiences of disabled students and instructors within the context of Digital Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). His research interests are rooted in his own experiences as a blind student and instructor navigating higher education. Kevin’s instructional philosophy demonstrates the creative potential of diverse representation in both course content and delivery. Outside of the classroom Kevin’s work has been used to inform digital accessibility training and to advocate for inclusivity and diversity at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Disability in Higher Education: Using Applied Anthropology to Dismantle Academic Ableism
Do the pedagogical principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) lead to full equity and more inclusive experiences for disabled people? UDL has been touted as a possible solution to dismantling academic ableism, a social system that places value on bodies and minds based around socially constructed ideas of normalcy and productivity. While proponents of UDL seek to facilitate inclusion for all students, UDL’s universalizing principles may not account for diverse, intersectional experiences of disabled people. Although UDL offers a foundation for inclusive learning, it may also be discursively constructed as a panacea that supposedly eliminates the need for academic accommodations. Consequently, people with disabilities are concerned that their unique individual needs could be overlooked and that UDL may perpetuate their marginalization. Kevin Darcy uses ethnographic research to assess the lived experiences of people with disabilities in education, employment, and social life. In order to offer insight into the ways concepts of inclusivity are operationalized and the way Digital Accessibility policy is put into practice, his research highlights experiences of faculty members, school staff, Vocational Rehabilitation staff, and other groups who work with disabled people. Ethnographic methodologies include semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and analyzing interlocutors’ free writing journal entries. Kevin incorporates an autoethnographic approach by including his own experiences as a blind PhD student and teacher, and he situates his experiences navigating the dissertation process within the broader educational context.
Avery Davis, Johns Hopkins University
Avery M. D. Davis is a Ph.D. candidate in Education at Johns Hopkins University. He uses quantitative methods and large-scale data to investigate how ethnic and economic minorities navigate higher education. Specifically, he examines the extent to which financial aid programs and policies are biased against marginalized groups. In addition to the National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, his research has been supported by the RAND Corporation (with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). Beyond his scholarly work, Avery has written several op-eds that have been featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Times Higher Education, Higher Ed Dive, The Hechinger Report, and EdSurge.
Prior to his doctoral studies, Avery served as the Director of the President’s Office & Board Management at Concordia College New York; he also worked in staff roles at Valparaiso University and Purdue University. Avery holds an M.A. in Liberal Studies from The Graduate Center, City University of New York and a B.A. in Music and Chinese/Japanese Studies from Valparaiso University (Phi Beta Kappa). Avery is also an alumnus of the Disney Dreamers Academy, where he has since served as a spokesperson and mentor for diverse high school students from across the United States.
Working Hard for the Money: Students’ Entry and Exit Experiences with Financial Aid
With the soaring costs of college, students (especially those from historically disadvantaged backgrounds) often enter higher education without adequate financial resources to support their experiences. To bridge this gap, students work through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, merit aid scholarship requirements, and work-study jobs to reach the postsecondary promises of social mobility. But what is the right choice? Which approach to financing college, if any, will pay off for students? My three-article dissertation quantitatively analyzes the extent to which students are securing (entry) enough financial resources to succeed (exit) in college. The project is timely, as research and reform efforts are mostly focused on student loans and are based on data from before the Great Recession. By testing causal inference models on the High School Longitudinal Study (N = 25,206), my dissertation will signal which types of work aspiring students should invest in to pay for college. In other words, what work pays off: filing financial aid forms, seeking need- and merit-based grants/scholarships, or setting up employment arrangements? While the answer to this question is vital for all, it is particularly important for ethnically and economically diverse students. The results of these analyses will form the basis of a policy brief that documents the tradeoffs for students with respect to each approach to financing their education. In addition to helping students navigate the financial aid process, I anticipate that this document will be useful in helping university, state, and federal policymakers evaluate their strategies for improving college affordability.
Joy Esboldt, University of California, Berkeley
Joy Esboldt is a doctoral candidate in Critical Studies of Race, Class, and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley School of Education (BSE). She is also a member of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Designated Emphasis.
Esboldt’s research focuses on teachers’ learning about race, equity, and power as it intersects with gender and cultural politics. Esboldt’s scholarship has engaged topics of organizational tensions that teachers navigate, teacher perception of principal leadership, and the racialized-gendered histories and socialization of the teaching profession using multilevel interdisciplinary analyses and by locating the work and learning of teachers within interactional, organizational, and sociopolitical constraints and possibilities. Her dissertation examines the co-construction of race and equity discourses across multiple sites of teacher learning through a Research-Practice-Partnership between a university and school district. Esboldt has taught the BSE’s Teacher Credential Program and the undergraduate Education Minor. She has also worked with the California School Leadership Academy.
In addition to being awarded an NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, Esboldt’s research has been supported by: a UC Regents Fellowship, a California Teacher Education Research and Improvement Network Doctoral Fellowship, a Marcus Foster Fellowship, a UC-Berkeley Center for Race and Gender Grant, and a P.E.O. Scholar Award. Esboldt earned a M.Ed. in Education Policy from the University of Illinois and a B.A. in Spanish Literature and Language from Carleton College. Prior to graduate studies, Esboldt was a public-school teacher and teacher coach in Minnesota.
Teachers as Critical and Constrained Learners and Actors for Racial Justice in Schools
Persistent racial injustice and a continued white demographic and epistemological dominance in teaching underscore the urgency of initiatives focused on teachers’ antiracist development across the country. However, scholars still know little about how teachers’ antiracist learning and enactment unfold in practice, as co-mediated by their organizational and sociopolitical environment. In response, this qualitative research study investigates the co-construction of antiracist discourses and how teachers interactionally learn, negotiate, and enact these discourses. Data include ethnographic observations of professional development (PD), focal teacher-mentor pairs’ meetings, teachers’ classrooms, and school board meetings, and interviews with PD facilitators, mentors, and teachers, through a partnership with a new teacher equity-oriented mentoring program. Bridging critical theories of race with the learning sciences, sociology of education, and education policy, I examine instantiations of whiteness, specifically as supremacist ideologies reproduced in institutions. This analysis attends to how power, ideas, and their dialectical relationship with enactment, perpetuate racial injustice, even when not in majority-white spaces. I find that teachers navigate a contested terrain as they learn, and that prevalent antiracist discourses converge with evolving neoliberal reforms, district and school structures, and the organization of learning environments. Moreover, my research captures moment-to-moment transformative opportunities that arise, which offer promising direction for future research and design as potential levers for change. This work expands current understanding of teacher learning, underscoring the critical and constrained role of teachers even within robust efforts aimed at social justice.
Jane Furey, University of Michigan
Jane Furey is a PhD candidate in Public Policy and Sociology at the University of Michigan, where she is also pursuing a master’s degree in Statistics. Her research is broadly focused on the relationship between education and socioeconomic inequality, and how variation in access to and returns to education is associated with socioeconomic inequality. Jane’s dissertation explores educational attainment over the life course and investigates the extent to which education attained later in adulthood benefits individuals and reduces inequality. She aims to produce research that contributes to our understanding of heterogeneity in educational experiences and outcomes among adults. Jane’s work has been published in the American Sociological Review, Research on Social Stratification and Mobility, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and the Journal for Research on Educational Effectiveness. Jane is a predoctoral trainee at the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center, a student fellow at the Stone Center for Inequality Dynamics and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Brown University and previously worked as an education policy evaluator.
Second Chances or Growing Gaps? Education in Adulthood and Inequality over the Life Course
Higher levels of education are positively associated with many social and economic benefits. But what happens when education is completed at older ages? Although individuals aged 25 and older make up a large share of postsecondary students and policies that support adults’ education are expanding, the extent to which adults benefit from additional education is unclear. In my dissertation, I adopt a life course perspective to emphasize that education earned at different life stages has different returns and consequences. I use several longitudinal datasets and quantitative methods to examine the economic (dis)advantages of different education pathways. In one paper, I investigate how adults’ education pathways have changed across multiple cohorts. In a second paper, I show how education trajectories shape earnings inequality in early adulthood. In a third paper, I use decomposition techniques to examine how racial inequality in education over the life course contributes to Black-White earnings inequality in mid-life. My dissertation contributes to education research in three ways. First, my findings will improve our understanding of patterns of adults’ education pathways. Second, my work contributes to a growing body of research on heterogeneity in returns to education. Third, my research highlights how adults’ education relates to inequality and stratification. Adults’ education may provide second chances, or cement inequalities established at younger ages. Taken together, my dissertation enhances our understanding of how adults’ education shapes inequality over the life course.
Alexis Gable, Harvard University
Alexis Gable is a Ph.D. candidate in Education Policy and Program Evaluation at Harvard University. Her research focuses on the intersections between school and work. She aims to produce rigorous quantitative research with policy relevance and has worked closely with the Office of Graduate Success at the Ohio Department of Education for the past 3 years. Alexis is also a Partnering in Education Research Fellow at the Center for Education Policy Research and a data lead at Harvard Kennedy School’s Project on Workforce. In her dissertation, she explores how career-technical training in the US prepares students for work.
Prior to her doctoral studies, Alexis worked as a researcher at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. She received a bachelor’s degree in Social Policy and Economics from Northwestern University. Alexis was born and raised in Akron, Ohio.
Career and Technical Education Access, Course-Taking, and Outcomes: Evidence from Ohio
While traditional vocational education focused on imparting technical skills to prepare students for post-high-school employment, 77 percent of high school students, both college- and career-bound, participate in today’s career and technical education (CTE). Recent federal legislation and the increased importance of preparing students to be college- and work-ready have led to a new statewide prioritization of CTE that is both academic and technical in nature. As CTE course-taking becomes more common, it is increasingly important that we understand how it is offered, who it is offered to, and the effects of encouraging students to pursue it. Using statewide administrative data from Ohio that follows students from high school to work, my dissertation explores differences in district-level CTE delivery, selection into CTE participation within districts, and the impact of CTE participation on high school and post-high-school outcomes. I explore these topics using a mixed-methods research design employing quantitative descriptive analysis (district- and student-level regression), qualitative analysis (interviews with school counselors), and a causal instrumental variables strategy. I focus on equity in CTE offerings and course-taking with the understanding that access, participation, and outcomes might differ for historically-marginalized students. This work contributes to existing literature by comparing in- and out-of-high-school models of CTE delivery, utilizing longitudinal data that captures college and labor market outcomes, and posing a plausibly-causal identification strategy using random assignment of students to counselors. Though this work is situated in Ohio, I argue that these results are generalizable to other states and can inform CTE policy-making across the country.
C. Darius Gordon, University of California, Berkeley
C. Darius Gordon (they/them) is an interdisciplinary scholar and educator. They are currently a PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley in the Critical Studies of Race, Class, & Gender program housed in the Graduate School of Education. Broadly, they study the social and intellectual histories of 20th-century Black liberation movements throughout the Atlantic world. Additionally, Darius has written on Black educational thought, Afropessimism, and Black educational activism. Their writing has been published in the Berkeley Review of Education, Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies, Race Ethnicity and Education, and Comparative Education Review. Their research has been supported by several University of California departments and centers including the Global, International, and Area Studies research hub; the Black Studies Collaboratory of the Department of African American Studies; the Center for Race and Gender; and the Center for Latin American Studies.
‘We, on the other side’: Black Internationalism against the Lusophone World, 1950s-1980s
In the decades following the second world war, Black Brazilians were entering into a racialized political consciousness at unprecedented levels at the same time that Africans in the Portuguese colonies were at war for national independence. Against the backdrop of these liberation struggles, several transnational education programs were constructed that, often unintentionally, facilitated relationships between these movements. As a result, ideas about sovereignty, self-determination, blackness, and liberation reverberated across the South Atlantic as activist-intellectuals traveled toward, read about, and fought alongside each other. This dissertation examines how these black internationalist networks forged between militants in Brazil and anti-colonial revolutionaries of Portuguese-speaking Africa (primarily Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau) shaped the intellectual currents of their respective movements. Drawing on archived exchanges, Black and mainstream press publications, organizational documents, and Portuguese and Brazilian surveillance documents, I ask questions not only of the ideas that migrated but of the routes that made them possible. It is my hope that this work will further our understanding of the histories of Black internationalism, the conditions of possibility for transnational solidarity, and the intellectual legacy of global struggles against racism and colonialism.
Saloni Gupta, Teachers College, Columbia University
Saloni Gupta is a Ph.D. candidate in Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a field experimentalist focusing on the development of higher-order skills in adolescents and technology reforms in school education. Her current research is focused on public schools in the two Indian states of Telangana and Uttar Pradesh.
In her past experiences, she has implemented various evidence-based education policy solutions in India. Additionally, she has been a program leader for a government-funded nationwide teachers’ education program, a teacher of at-risk youth during her fellowship at Teach For India, and a software engineer at Fidelity Investments.
She earned her master’s in international education policy analysis at Stanford University and a bachelor’s in electrical engineering at Thapar University, India.
Can Innovation Be Taught in Schools? Experimental Evidence from India
Higher-order skills like innovation and teamwork have gained importance in the education policies of many countries today. While innovation is considered a central driver of a country’s economic growth, team skills are critical for today’s workforce. However, evidence of how schools can teach these skills is scarce.
I am conducting a randomized evaluation of a program called “Think and Make” (TM) in India, which works with eighth-grade students from marginalized communities in eighty schools to develop innovation and collaboration skills. Students participating in the TM program work in teams to identify local community problems in the health, agriculture, environment, and education sectors, develop prototypes of their ideas and build potential solutions.
I use four methods to measure innovation skills in these children, including a novel measure of innovation developed with the help of real-world innovators. The other three methods involve – investors’ grants, user feedback, and a laboratory game for individual innovation skills.
Participating students belong to marginalized indigenous communities in highly remote areas that are less socially and economically integrated with the rest of India. The outside world has a limited understanding of the problems of these communities, and the Think and Make program enables the children to solve these problems by using a pedagogy that promotes a deeper understanding of the needs of their communities. By making this program a part of their formal education in school, state policymakers are making their education system more inclusive and equitable, and this dissertation research can contribute to informing those decisions.
Kyle Halle-Erby, University of California, Los Angeles
Kyle Halle-Erby is a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles in the School of Education and Information Studies. He is interested in schools as contested sites where people work together to build irresistible futures and where public and private blocs form to produce the status quo. His dissertation is an ethnographic study of the official and practiced policy governing students’ home languages in new high schools exclusively serving recently arrived immigrant young people in Los Angeles. His research engages raciolinguistic ideologies, Indigenous studies, and the Black Radical Tradition to qualitatively study the relationships among race, colonization, and immigration in educational language policy. His writing has been published in The International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, The Routledge Handbook of Language Policy and Planning, and Weaving an Otherwise: In-Relations Methodological Practice. Kyle has an M.A. in Education from Stanford University and a B.A. in American Studies from Tufts University. Before graduate school, Kyle was a high school teacher in San Francisco.
Home / Language / Loss: An Ethnography of Home Language Policy in Los Angeles High Schools for Recently Arrived Immigrant Students
The Los Angeles Unified School District has undertaken an experiment in the education of recently-arrived immigrant students learning English. Over the 2021-2023 school years, the district opened three new high school Academies explicitly tasked with centering students’ home languages to support their success in school. The students and educators in these Academies are predominately Latinx and 25% of students reported a Mayan language as their home language. Recognizing that Indigenous languages and the home languages of people from racialized communities represent knowledge- and value-systems historically excluded from and suppressed by schools, this dissertation asks what language policy in newcomer schools teaches about the futures we build with and for marginalized young people. Based on two years of ethnographic research across the three new Academies, this study examines the official and practiced policies governing students home languages and the possibilities for college, career, and community participation those policies facilitate or constrain. By analyzing classroom observations, student work, more than 75 interviews with students, educators, and district leaders; and participant- observation in a youth-organizing group, this study argues that embracing newcomer’s home languages is not a best practice to be applied to otherwise unchanged educational programs. Given, the Department of Education’s requested 35% funding increase for its English Language Acquisition program, bringing the total budget over $1 billion, to support English learners through “a greater emphasis on multilingualism that embraces students’ native and home languages,” this study offers practice-based policy lessons about what it means to “embrace” newcomer’s home languages.
Emileigh Harrison, University of Chicago
Emileigh Harrison is a PhD student studying Public Policy at the University of Chicago. Her research is focused on understanding barriers to education and the role that education policy can play in eliminating them. Emileigh’s recent work focuses on applying natural language processing and computer vision tools to measure changes in gender and racial representation in educational content over time. She also examines the impact of higher education policies on promoting social mobility for students from low-income and historically marginalized backgrounds. Her work evaluates a range of policies, such as financial aid program design, articulation agreements, and remedial coursework placement policies.
What We Teach About Race and Gender: Representation in Formal, Informal, and Non-Traditional Educational Content
Curricular materials used to teach children not only impart academic knowledge but also prepare children for citizenship by teaching them about societal values. As a result, it is vital that we understand the messages that are conveyed in the educational content we present to our children. This dissertation focuses on both applying and improving methods of computer-driven content analysis to measure how different topics such as climate change or slavery and different groups such as women or Asian Americans are portrayed in education materials. I will document temporal changes in curriculum content and compare differences across multiple sets of influential curricula including state-adopted textbooks from Texas and California as well as curricula used in non-traditional educational settings such as religious private schools and homeschooling families. I will also examine informal educational curriculum including children’s books commonly found in school libraries and within households across the United States. Using face detection, skin segmentation, and other computer vision tools, I will measure the representation of different genders, races, and skin colors in images. By applying natural language processing tools like named entity recognition and word embeddings I will measure not only which groups and topics are represented in text, but the context in which they are discussed. This work will contribute to our knowledge of what messages are conveyed in the content we use to teach our children and expand the set of tools available for social scientists to measure representation in a variety of contexts.
Kimberly Hess, University of Michigan
Kimberly Hess is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan. Her research interests center broadly around the culture and politics of inclusion and exclusion within states and nations. In previous research, she has written about the political inclusion of the indigenous Māori in 19th century New Zealand and how that inclusion relates to New Zealand’s national identity historically and in the present. Kim’s current research considers how social, historical, and regional contexts affect who and what is included in contemporary U.S. social studies education and how differences in these inclusions relate to different narratives of American history and national identity. She is interested in the ways that nationalism affects and is affected by the content of U.S. history and civics education in particular.
Kim holds an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Michigan and a B.A. in History from the University of Maryland. While at Michigan, she has taught many courses in the sociology department, as well as a first-year writing course of her own design on nations and nationalism. Kim also served as an online teaching course consultant for her department in 2020 and published a co-authored article in Teaching Sociology based on this work supporting instructors during the pandemic. When she’s not teaching or working on research, Kim enjoys gardening, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Representation Matters: Minority Inclusion and American National Identity in K-12 U.S. State Social Studies Standards
Research shows that minorities are underrepresented in U.S. social studies education and that nationalist ideas influence education, but how are these two trends connected? How does the process of creating social studies standards in the United States affect their content in terms of minority representation and national identity? How does representation within these standards compare across particular groups, in different states, and over time? Drawing on insights from education research on inclusion in social studies education and sociological research on nationalism and policymaking, my dissertation uses a quantitative and qualitative analysis of all 50 states’ K-12 social studies curriculum standards to identify national-, regional-, and state-level patterns in minority representation and portrayals of American identity within social studies education. I utilize in-depth case studies of the creation and revision of standards in six states to explain how this process works and affects the standards’ content. So far, I have found that some marginalized groups are more often included than others within these standards overall. At the same time, there are differences among states and over time in terms of how standards include minorities and discuss American national identity. This project contributes to a growing body of education scholarship on inclusion within social studies, as well as the sociological literatures on nationalism and policymaking. This research also has important implications for education policy and state standards themselves and will therefore be of interest to not only academics but also teachers, students, community members, school boards, and government officials.
Orelia Jonathan, Harvard University
Orelia Jonathan is a doctoral candidate concentrating in Culture, Institutions, and Society at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her dissertation project explores how teachers navigate teaching history in South Sudan with a specific focus on teacher’s lived experiences and how they draw on their personal experiences of the conflict to enact the history curriculum in their classrooms. In this work, she examines the new South Sudanese history curriculum and whether the teaching of this curriculum contributes to peacebuilding in South Sudan. She is currently conducting a comparative case study across schools in South Sudan.
She has taught a wide range of courses at Harvard, from Education in Armed Conflict to Introduction to Qualitative Methods and the History of Higher Education. In addition, she served on the Editorial Board for the Harvard Educational Review for two years as the Content and Manuscripts Editor. She has also worked with the Harvard Legacy of Slavery initiative for the subcommittee on curriculum writing normative case studies for the project and is a Graduate Student Associate and an affiliate of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.
Prior to her doctoral work, Orelia taught history at The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. She holds a MS in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in History and African-American Studies from Wesleyan University. Beyond school, Orelia is an identical twin who enjoys running, teaching yoga, and creating community around fitness.
Teachers in Limbo: History Teachers Pedagogical Decision Making Following Violent Conflict in South Sudan
How teachers enact history curriculum is central to helping students develop a sense of national identity and civic responsibility, and yet teachers within conflict settings often occupy a difficult position. On the one hand, they are representatives of the state and the institution they serve. On the other hand, they are members of various religious, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural communities in which they may have personal loyalties contradicting the content in which they must teach (Lopes Cardozo & Shah, 2016, p. 331). Within societies seized by political, cultural, and social turmoil, teaching the complex or violent past can be a critical step towards peacebuilding and teaching young minds about human rights and civic skills (Bellino, 2016). Although research highlights the importance of teaching history, there is a lack of research on the role of teachers and how they enact the curriculum through classroom practices in conflict settings. Orelia Jonathan’s dissertation examines how history teachers enact and implement the curriculum within their classrooms and explores the variation between the intended and enacted curriculum. Jonathan also examines how teachers’ lives and situational factors influence their teaching practice through the following research questions: How do teachers make decisions about how they will teach history within secondary school classrooms? What values do they prioritize in their history classrooms? How do situational factors and teachers’ school environment influence their teaching decisions? To answer these questions, Jonathan draws on qualitative data from two schools in South Sudan, 67 classroom observations, and 101 qualitative interviews.
Maya Kaul, University of Pennsylvania
Maya Kaul is a Ph.D. candidate in Education Policy at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Committed to making teacher education and K-12 teaching more racially equitable and socially just fields, she investigates how researchers, policymakers, and practitioners can uplift the status of the K-12 teaching profession through policy and practice. More specifically, her research draws on organizational theory, sociological theories of race, and research on teaching and teacher education to examine: (1) how various stakeholders conceptualize the nature and purpose(s) of teaching, and (2) the ways in which those conceptualizations come to shape the policy environment, K-12 policy implementation, and teacher education.
Maya’s scholarship has been published in AERA Open, Journal of Professional Capacity and Community, Education Sciences, as well as a range of public outlets for education policymakers and practitioners. In addition to the NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, Maya’s doctoral work has been supported by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the Collaboratory of Teacher Education at the University of Pennsylvania, and the GAPSA-Provost Fellowship for Interdisciplinary Innovation. Prior to her doctoral studies, Maya worked as a Research and Policy Assistant at the Learning Policy Institute. She started her career as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Helsinki, where she studied Finnish approaches to teacher education and professional development. Maya holds a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics, & Economics
(PPE) from Pomona College.
The Making of a Professional: Institutional Logics of Teacher Education and Pre-Service Teachers’ Professional Identity Formation
Over the last several decades, teacher education reform has been positioned as a key policy lever for driving greater racial equity in the education system. Although scholars and reformers have debated for decades on how to transform teacher education toward this end, these debates have historically operated on the shared assumption that structural transformations to teacher education will lead to greater racial equity. However, the field has yet to systematically explore whether these structural transformations reach teacher identity and practice in the ways policymakers expect them to.
In this mixed-methods study of three teacher education programs across the US, I investigate the extent to which teacher candidates’ professional identities are shaped by competing efforts to professionalize, deregulate, and democratize teacher education. Drawing on organizational and critical race theories, I first qualitatively examine the extent to which shared calls for racial equity materially shape the structures, routines, and culture of the three studied programs. Then, I consider the extent to which these organizational conditions shape and/or constrain teacher candidates’ professional identity development. Finally, building on these qualitative findings, I conduct confirmatory and exploratory factor analyses of survey data to develop a measure of teacher professional identity. Together, this work will provide the field with a conceptual framework and the empirical tools to better understand the role of teachers in mediating broader reforms to teacher education. Further, this work will highlight the possibilities of teacher education programs as a lever for redressing systemic racial inequities in our education system more broadly.
Heather Killen, University of Maryland, College Park
Heather Killen is a Ph.D. Candidate in Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership with a specialization in Technology, Learning, and Leadership within the College of Education at the University of Maryland. Heather’s scholarship is grounded in her experience growing up and living within rural communities and her work as an ecologist, where she witnessed how academic ways of knowing could overlook community-held scientific knowledge. Through her research, Heather hopes to generate principles, especially around personally-held data, that expand ideas of what data is valuable, who holds, uses, and produces valuable data, and how to best teach people to critically engage with data to make informed decisions. Her dissertation explores how technology can make expanded notions of local data more visible for rural communities and the ways these communities might be supported to use local data to make equitable, just decisions when meeting the challenges of climate change.
Heather has a Master’s Degree in Biology from Boston University and Bachelors of Arts in Biology, Chemistry and Asian studies from Linfield College in Oregon. She has worked as an ecologist for federal, state and tribal governments, served as a faculty member in the Biology Department at Mohave Community College in Arizona, and led the citizen science and curriculum development portions of the Fossil Atmospheres Project, housed within the Paleobiology Department of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. She has also lived and taught abroad, primarily in Japan, and spent time living and working at the U.S. research station McMurdo in
Supporting Equitable Climate Change Decisions in Rural Contexts: Engaging with local data through data science practices and critical data literacies to co-design an online educational resource
I work to support rural communities to make equitable and just decisions about climate change challenges. My dissertation explores how learning might be supported by first expanding the notions of what local climate data can be, and second by using technology to make this kind of data more visible. Applying the practices and perspectives of critical data science, I partnered with community members to challenge assumptions about what valuable data is and who gets to hold, use, and produce valuable data. Through asset-based design thinking and co-design we produced an online, map-based educational resource that placed locally-focused scientific climate data alongside locally-held climate knowledge in a way that reflected community values and interests. My dissertation investigates how building this kind of resource might support climate learning and how highlighting local voices telling local data stories might contribute to a more robust community evidence base that can be used in civic decision making. In an increasingly datafied world it is essential that all people have a voice in the data-heavy, technical decisions that face their communities. It is also important that non-dominant ways of knowing, rich with community knowledge and data that is personally held, used and produced, are valued alongside dominant knowledge and institutionally-held data. My work is relevant to researchers working in climate change and data science education and also practitioners supporting rural communities as they face the societal and cultural challenges of a changing world.
Timothy Y. Loh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Timothy Y. Loh is an anthropologist of science and technology and a PhD candidate in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA. Drawing upon theories and methods from medical anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and the social study of science, his ethnographic research examines sociality, language, and religion in deaf and signing worlds spanning Jordan, Singapore, and the United States. His dissertation elucidates the impact of various “assistive” technologies—medical-rehabilitative and non-medical alike—targeted at deaf people in Jordan, and is supported by fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the Royal Anthropological Institute, the American Center of Research (ACOR) Jordan, and the MIT Center for International Studies. In other research, he has looked at sign language in Singapore, and in particular deaf Singaporeans’ relationships to the official “Mother Tongues” under the government’s bilingual education policy. His research and writing have appeared in Medical Anthropology, SAPIENS, and Somatosphere, among other outlets. Born and raised in Singapore, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (Culture and Politics) and a Master of Arts in Arab Studies, earned in an accelerated degree program at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, as well as a Master of Science in HASTS from MIT. Before returning to academia, he worked at a grassroots non-profit organization focused on refugee assistance and taught history and Chinese at a boarding school, both in Jordan, and coordinated a summer English remedial program for Palestinian refugee youth in Lebanon.
Entanglements of Language, Religion, and Disability: The Politics of Assistive Technologies for Deaf People in Jordan
What is the relationship between assistive technologies, disability, and education? This dissertation project draws upon 15 months of anthropological research in Jordan to argue for the importance of situating scientific and technological advancements in their sociocultural contexts. In particular, I examine how deaf Jordanians are engaging with new assistive technologies that have emerged in Amman in the last few decades, including cochlear implants (medical devices that provide their users with some electronic access to sound), provided through a state-affiliated initiative, and a sign language-centered mobile application, produced by a Jordanian-Syrian educational technology start-up. While previous studies have examined these kinds of technologies and their effects on education for disabled students separately (e.g. Valente 2011, Alper 2017), few have done so ethnographically, with an eye to examining their everyday impacts on a granular level, and even fewer have thought about these technologies for deaf people in the same frame, which on the surface seem diametrically opposed. Focusing on three central nodes of biomedical imaginaries, language ideologies, and religious commitments, I use participant observation and qualitative interviews across several sites—the aforementioned start-up, an audiology department and cochlear implantation unit, a deaf cultural center, and a government advocacy body for disabled Jordanians—to examine the cultural politics that undergird the use and production of these different assistive technologies for deaf people in Jordan today. Ultimately, my dissertation aims to shed light on how to meaningfully integrate assistive technologies into education for deaf people, resisting simplistic binaries about whether such technologies are “good” or “bad.”
Claire Mackevicius, Northwestern University
Claire Mackevicius is a Ph.D. candidate in Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy. She broadly considers: what are the promises of public education, and what are the realities? She focuses on how organizations and individuals use their power to make consequential resource distribution decisions that often reify–and in some cases combat–deeply entrenched racial and economic inequities. She uncovers how unofficial and often unseen resources can reinforce particular agendas and deepen social stratification, while also taking seriously the need to surface possibilities and develop pathways toward equitable futures. In her dissertation projects, she studies private money at public K-12 schools from fundraising PTAs (including Parent Teacher Associations, Organizations, and “Friends Of” groups). Her ongoing collaborations include projects ranging from how school boards allocate public resources to where large foundations grant private dollars to how Evanston, Illinois’s Guaranteed Income pilot program may develop into a permanently resourced policy. She recently co-authored a meta-analysis synthesizing the evidence on the effects of school funding, moving beyond conversations of whether money matters at schools. In our research worlds and broader communities, Claire is committed to cultivating critical and productive coalitions, reorienting norms, and pushing toward transformation. She is proud to be one of the six-person organizing team of the Quant for What? collective planting and nourishing seeds to dream and build quantitative paradigms for antiracist transformation, bringing power awareness and a humanizing approach to the burgeoning critical quantitative education subfield.
Stealth Inequities in K-12 Public Schools: Revealing How Fundraising PTAs Entrench Hierarchies and Exploring Pathways Toward Equity
My dissertation focuses on fundraising PTAs (Parent Teacher Associations, Organizations, and “Friends Of” groups), which provide private, supplemental resources to some public K-12 schools. In my first chapter, I test the dominant presumption in the growing literature on fundraising PTAs that these organizations are responsive to government resources at schools. I use quasi-experimental methods to generate the first causal evidence of whether fundraising PTA spending changes when government spending at schools changes. In my second chapter, I use descriptive statistics to chart patterns in where fundraising PTAs are distributed. I find that above and beyond the economic capacity to raise funds, there’s a racialized dimension of PTA resource distribution. In particular, relatively whiter schools tend to have higher-spending fundraising PTAs even if they serve similarly-wealthy student populations. While it is unlikely that PTA organizations, or those involved, aim to actively perpetuate hierarchies, I uncover patterns that make clear these groups can serve as subtle hierarchy-entrenching mechanisms. In my third chapter, I study a unique setting where parents and caregivers are pooling and redistributing PTA resources across the schools in their district. I conducted semi-structured interviews to uncover ways that sensemaking processes can contribute to reoriented roles related to resources at schools. My dissertation surfaces conditions and contexts that support pathways to lessen PTA inequities, informs school funding research and policies that do not systematically account for private resources at public schools, and helps to enrich theorizing on racialized organizations exacerbating social stratification but also potentially engaged in substantive change work.
Lois Miller, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Lois Miller is a PhD candidate in Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is also affiliated with the Institute for Research on Poverty as a Graduate Research Fellow. She is broadly interested in the interaction between higher education and inequality, with a focus on understanding what types of policies can promote social mobility for disadvantaged students. Her research applies causal inference methods to large-scale administrative data. Her dissertation focuses on how transferring between colleges affects students’ educational and labor market outcomes. Other work includes a policy evaluation of tuition freezes and caps, an analysis of how the effects of graduating from college during a recession vary by college selectivity, and a study of how the distance from a student’s home to the nearest community college affects their enrollment and educational attainment. Her research has been published in The Economics of Education Review. Prior to pursuing her PhD at UW-Madison, she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from DePauw University. Outside of research, she enjoys long distance running and taking her greyhound to the dog park.
Switching Schools: Effects of College Transfers
Over one-third of students who begin at a postsecondary institution in the United States transfer to another college at least once within 6 years. Yet, little is known about how transferring affects students’ educational and labor market outcomes. In this paper, I use Texas administrative data to study the impacts of transferring to a 4-year college (from either a 2-year or 4-year college). First, I use applications and admissions data and an algorithm based on Porter and Yu (2015) to identify GPA cutoffs that each 4-year institution uses in its transfer student admissions, such that students just above the cutoff are significantly more likely to be accepted than those just below. Then, I use these cutoffs in a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effects of transferring to these institutions on degree completion, time to degree, employment, and earnings (relative to being denied transfer admission). I also explore how the effects of transferring vary with college selectivity. Previous work has shown positive effects of attending more selective colleges but has only considered students who begin their education at selective institutions as opposed to students who transfer in. I add to this literature by evaluating whether these positive effects extend to transfer students. My research also has equity implications: disadvantaged students are disproportionately likely to begin their education at 2-year or less selective 4-year institutions, so transferring may be their most accessible pathway to selective colleges. My results can inform both individual students and policymakers.
Martha Morales Hernandez, University of California, Irvine
Martha Morales Hernandez’ is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at UC Irvine. She received her BA and MA in Sociology from UCI. Her research agenda aims to identify ways to better support and promote the educational success and wellbeing of undocumented college students. Her dissertation project explores emotional distress and psychological wellbeing among undocumented college students in California and examines the actions students take to resist structural marginalization. She is also a founding member of the Undocumented Student Equity Project (USEP) which is dedicated to conducting research to inform institutional policies and practices that will advance equity and inclusion for undocumented college students. As part of this team, she has co-authored seven peer-reviewed journal articles, all of which make critical theoretical contributions about the specific ways that immigration status functions as a source of social inequality. The project is also dedicated to identifying ways to better support and promote the educational success and wellbeing of undocumented college students. Additionally, she has worked closely with the UCI Dream Center to use research findings to inform program development, including the creation of a Scholar-in-Residence program and the Dream Project Fellowship, both of which support the professional development of undocumented students on campus. Currently, she is Co-PI on a project that will translate her dissertation research into a toolkit that campuses can use to promote wellbeing among undocumented students.
“Is this even worth it?”: Examining Mental Health Among Undocumented College Students in California
Previous research establishes that undocumented college students experience emotional distress related to their immigration status. While this work establishes a link between immigration status and mental health, we have little knowledge on how undocumented students promote their psychological wellbeing. My dissertation project extends prior research on the mental health of undocumented students by employing an asset-based approach. I focus on acts of resistance to capture the actions taken to resist structural marginalization. My dissertation addresses the following research questions: 1) How does legal vulnerability affect undocumented students’ mental health, defined as both emotional distress and psychological wellbeing? 2a) How does legal vulnerability shape students’ ability to engage in resistance? 2b) How does engaging in resistance inform students’ mental health? 3) To what extent can engaging in different acts of resistance buffer the relationship between legal vulnerability and mental health? 4) How do institutional contexts inform the relationships between legal vulnerability, mental health, and resistance? I draw on 66 in-depth interviews and 1,277 survey responses collected with undocumented college students across three of California’s public higher education systems to examine the relationship between mental health, resistance, and institutional context. I find that institutional context influences the acts of resistance that students employ. However, the usage of acts of resistance have diverging effects on overall mental health outcomes. Examining this complex process between legal vulnerability and mental health will help identify potential mechanisms through which wellbeing and academic outcomes can be mutually improved.
Catherine Park, University of California, Berkeley
Catherine Park is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Berkeley School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests lie in the intersections of political economy, urban sociology, and multilingual schooling. Her dissertation illuminates how trans/national and district-level political and economic conditions constitute values around schooling that impact everyday schooling processes and language learning in dual language immersion, with Mandarin immersion as a case in point. Through multi-scalar, ethnographic approaches, Catherine seeks to uplift stories of racially, socioeconomically, and linguistically diverse communities who aspire for and experience schools that shape and are shaped by global dynamics. Her previous research project traced how ideas of globally competitive schooling interact with parental desires for novel educational programs and real estate developments in coastal Chinese cities.
In addition to the NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, Catherine’s research throughout her graduate career has been supported by Berkeley’s Regents’ Fellowship, the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues – Asian American Research Center, the Center for Chinese Studies, and Global Metropolitan Studies. Catherine holds a B.A. in English Literature and Psychology from Swarthmore College, an M.S.T. from Fordham University, and an M.A. in China Studies from Zhejiang University.
Global aspirations: K-12 Mandarin-English dual immersion schooling for diverse communities
My dissertation examines 1) the trans/national and district-level political and economic conditions shaping the growth of Mandarin-English dual immersion (MEDI) schooling in the US, and 2) how differently positioned educational actors like district and school leaders, parents, teachers, and students come to experience and negotiate globally circulating values and practices around MEDI in urban contexts. In order to weave mutually imbricated macro, meso, and micro levels of analysis, I employ qualitative, discursive, and spatial methods to analyze digital media content, geospatial data, interviews, as well as ethnographic field notes and documents.
Dual language immersion programs have proliferated across the US in recent years but there is a dearth of research on MEDI programs. My dissertation first traces power-making projects of the US and China that constitute the market and values around Mandarin-English immersion schooling. Then, through a case of a diverse MEDI school in an urban school district in Northern California, my study illuminates locally contingent MEDI schools as sites where geopolitical, racial, socioeconomic, and linguistic power is (re)produced through interrelated, iterative interactions between differently positioned educational actors. By privileging the variegated experiences of racially, socioeconomically, and linguistically diverse actors, however, this study also extends existing literatures to redraw new lines of stratification vis-à-vis actors’ relationship to each other and to resources like Mandarin learning both in and out of classrooms. In so doing, my study highlights complex and nuanced everyday experiences of MEDI at the intersections of political economy, urban sociology, and bilingual schooling.
Catalina Rey-Guerra, Boston College
Catalina Rey-Guerra is a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology at Boston College. Catalina received a M.S. in Public Policy and Economics at Universidad de los Andes in Colombia and a M.S. in Human Development at Boston College. Her research examines gender disparities in early learning opportunities and pre-academic skills of young children living in low- and- middle-income countries (LMICs). Using multiple frameworks and analytical methods from education, developmental psychology, and gender studies, she seeks to explore mechanisms that underlie gender disparities in early learning experiences and conduct community-based participatory research to design and implement evidence-based and culturally situated innovations to reduce gender-related disparities in education.
Prior to pursuing a doctoral degree, Catalina was the national project manager and data analysis coordinator for the National Quality Measurement of Early Childhood Education in Colombia. She worked as researcher for the Colombian Institute for the Assessment of Education (ICFES) and the School of Education and the School of Government at Universidad de los Andes. Catalina’s recent work has been published in Child Development, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, and Feminism & Psychology. She is currently fellow of the Institute of Early Childhood Policy at Boston College and co-director of Fundación Apapacho in Colombia.
Gender Disparities in Early Childhood Learning Opportunities and Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
Theoretical rationale and empirical evidence suggests that gender differences in learning and academic outcomes might emerge early in life, even before children start formal schooling. From very early on, children are often exposed to gender-differentiated treatment and opportunities due to caregiver’s gendered expectations and cultural norms. As children’s brains have evolved to detect the subtlest nuances in their environments, even small gender differences in learning experiences could have lasting consequences in their developmental trajectories. Given these lasting consequences for individuals and societies, understanding gender disparities in early learning opportunities is critical to catalyzing young children’s positive academic and learning trajectories from early on. However, most existing evidence comes from high-income countries, and it is unclear to what extent these findings can be generalized to low- and- middle-income countries (LMICs), where about 90% of the world’s children live.
To address these limitations, I am conducting three integrated studies to (1) examine global patterns of gender similarities and differences in early learning and development across 71 geographically-, economically-, and culturally diverse LMICs, (2) explore the role of parenting and early learning activities at home in explaining gender disparities in early learning and development outcomes using longitudinal studies from LMICs, and (3) co-design with families, participatory workshops to document their experiences of and making meaning about gender-related variations in parenting practices and young children’s early learning opportunities in Colombia. Collectively, these studies will inform global policy and practice to reduce gender disparities in early learning opportunities and promote young girls’ and boys’ learning and development worldwide.
Maria Rojas, University of California, Berkeley
María Rojas is a Ph.D. candidate at the UC Berkeley School of Education. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social communications from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and worked as a journalist for international affairs at CNN Chile. María immersed herself in the realm of education when she served as a Spanish Language Arts teacher in a public high school in Santiago. Subsequently, María ventured to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship to pursue a Master’s in Education Policy at the University of Washington, Seattle. María’s research interests lie at the intersection of school de-marketization, de-privatization, democratization, and diversification. Specifically, her dissertation examines equity-oriented education policy reforms, how school communities mediate such transformations, and their impact on emergent multilingual immigrant students of African Descent in Chile. María’s research has been supported by the National Research and Development Agency of Chile (ANID), the Center for Latin American Studies, and the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley. María’s international experiences inform her intellectual curiosity. She completed her junior year of high school in South Africa, attended college in Germany, and worked in New Zealand before coming to the United States. Currently residing in California with her husband and two children, Juan Cristobal (5) and Micaela Leonor (2), María is not only focused on completing her Ph.D., but also aspires to camp with her family in as many U.S. National Parks as possible. To date, they have visited 27 parks, including four in Alaska.
De-privatization and Democratization of a Chilean School: When Hard Work and Good Intentions Are not Enough
This ethnographic case study is grounded in 600 hours of participant observation and more than 100 interviews. It critically analyses the ongoing journey of a school community toward becoming a democratic and welcoming space for its new population of emergent multilingual immigrant students of African Descent. Beginning in 2012 and motivated in part by its social justice principles, the San Francisco Voucher School (SFVS) made strides to break away from the Chilean market-oriented model.
The SFVS community goes above and beyond to support the integration of its newcomers. In an education context historically designed to encourage actors to compete for a scarce resource (quality education), where market-based ideals of individual success and high-stakes testing mechanisms are at its core and where education is conceived as a private good, welcoming students that need extra resources to achieve academic success appears, in the language of this system, an “unprofitable business strategy.” Nonetheless, and against all odds, a group of social justice-oriented educators is defying structural barriers and forming a system of protection against many challenges that obstruct immigrant students’ integration into Chilean society. They work hard and, in some cases, risk their jobs to redistribute resources, provide extra academic support, and offer affection and care through trauma-informed practices. Despite their concerted efforts and good intentions, there remains a significant hurdle, deeply detrimental to students’ well-being, that educators have yet to dismantle: ethno-racial discrimination and disparities.
Nicolás Rojas Souyet, Teachers College, Columbia University
Nicolás Rojas Souyet is a Ph.D. candidate in the Economics and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Nicolás is an applied microeconomist that studies policies related to the quality and equity of education. His research focuses on school accountability, teacher hiring, and causal inference methods to understand and improve the effectiveness of these policies. In his dissertation, Nicolás uses more than ten years of data, a national-scale program, and a quasi-experimental research design to study how service scholarships impact the formation and allocation of talented teachers in Chile.
Before pursuing his doctorate at Teachers College, Nicolás worked for several years at the Ministry of Education and the Quality of Education Agency of Chile on the design, proposal, and implementation of school accountability. At the Quality of Education Agency, he also developed a library collecting previously unavailable 80’s and 90’s datasets, surveys, and documents related to educational measurement in Chile. He also worked as an adjunct professor of Introduction to Economics and the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
Service scholarships and the formation and sorting of talented teachers
Hiring qualified teachers and successfully placing teachers in low-income schools are two common challenges in serval countries. The shortage of qualified teachers is a pressing issue given the substantial short and long-run effects of more effective teachers on student education and long-run life outcomes, a problem exacerbated in low-income schools.
Service scholarships are one financial incentive strategy used to attract prospective teachers and address these problems in several places like Chile and the US. Existing studies on the causal effects of this policy concentrate on the increase in the number of teachers. However, recipients may expand the teacher workforce but choose less-challenging schools during the scholarship or over time, potentially reducing the policy’s ability to close the opportunity gap between higher and lower-income students. Thus, there is still a need for further research to help answer: Do service scholarships help to staff the schools in need and close the opportunity gap? In this project, I use 12 years of national observations and a regression discontinuity design to study the effects of a scholarship covering all the tuition costs of high-scoring prospective teachers in Chile on many aspects of the formation and allocation of teachers.
Lindsay Romano, New York University
Lindsay Romano is a PhD candidate in special education in the department of Teaching and Learning at New York University. Her research examines how systemic oppressions, such as racism, ableism, and linguicism, impact the educational trajectories and outcomes of secondary students experiencing multiple marginalizations. She is particularly interested in how teachers play a role in perpetuating/disrupting inequities in their instruction and how mindfulness- and compassion-based practices may be used as tools for social justice in the classroom.
Throughout her doctoral studies, Lindsay has worked on two IES-funded mixed methods projects, including a study investigating the postsecondary transition experiences of multilingual learners with disabilities and their teachers with Dr. Audrey Trainor and a study exploring how educator attitudes and mindsets are associated with school tracking practices for secondary multilingual learners with Dr. Michael Kieffer. On a third project, she examined the impacts of a mindfulness-based intervention on educators’ critical consciousness with Dr. Doris Chang. Her work has been published in Career Development & Transition for Exceptional Individuals,
Journal of Special Education, Education Sciences, Professional Development in Education, and Multiple Voices.
Prior to pursuing a doctoral degree, Lindsay was a high school special education teacher and instructional coach in urban school contexts, supporting teachers and school leaders in adopting more equitable instructional practices. In addition to the NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, her work has been supported by the Mind and Life Institute, the Institute of Education Sciences-funded Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training (IES-PIRT) program, and the Urban Doctoral Fellowship program through NYU.
Exploring the Role of Mindfulness in Reducing Discipline Disparities by Race and Disability Status
Teachers are the most important factor in determining student achievement compared to any other aspect of schooling. They operate on the front lines of society’s efforts to promote equity and play a pivotal role as gatekeepers of academic opportunities. Despite good intentions, most teachers, like the rest of society, harbor implicit biases, and studies indicate that teachers often elect harsher punishment for Black compared to White students. Labeling bias also contributes to discipline disparities, as Black students with disabilities experience the highest rates of exclusionary punishment compared to other student groups. The disparities in punitive discipline have notably detrimental effects on student outcomes and school climate, contributing to the racial opportunity gap and the school to prison pipeline. This mixed methods project aims to evaluate the effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on educators’ discipline decisions. Specifically, I will test the hypothesis that mindfulness training may reduce the impacts of implicit bias, leading participants to recommend less severe punishments for Black students with disabilities when exposed to vignettes through a randomized controlled experiment. The intervention is theoretically precise, grounded in social psychological research on implicit bias and mindfulness, enabling the causal test of mindfulness training on discipline decisions. Following the intervention, I will conduct interviews with educators to explore how the training
translates into classroom instruction. Should this intervention prove effective, it can become a scalable way to embed insights from social psychology into teacher education to reduce the impacts of bias and improve student outcomes.
R. Josiah Rosario, Northwestern University
R. Josiah Rosario is a Ph.D. Candidate in Social Psychology at Northwestern University. Josiah primarily focuses on understanding how people’s social psychological environments shape their academic and psychological outcomes. Drawing on critical educational and developmental-social psychological frameworks, Josiah’s dissertation aims to uncover the ways in which young people are affected by and resist racist sociopolitical forces in their environments, and how educators and caregivers can support young people’s development in these contexts. Leveraging critical participatory design frameworks, Josiah continues to co-design and collaborate with local elementary schools in Chicago, where he was born, to tackle the challenges they face in creating racially equitable school environments. Josiah’s work has been published in Nature Human Behaviour, Development Psychology, and Personality and Social Psychology Review among others.
Prior to pursuing graduate education, Josiah was recognized as a Student Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois, for his excellence in scholarly and community-based work. Josiah has also been inducted into the Edward Bouchet Honor Society for his dedication in scholarship and service to minoritized students in graduate education. His research has been supported by the Institute for Policy Research, the Dispute Resolution Research Center at Kellogg School of Business, and by The Character Lab Research Network. Josiah also dedicated years as a Fellow for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in The Graduate School at Northwestern University, where he helped to organize and lead the Diversity Peer Mentoring program, the Summer Research Opportunity Program, and other retention and recruitment initiatives.
Understanding students’ school experiences and identities in the sociopolitical context of racial hostility
Black Lives Matter (BLM) as a sociohistorical and sociopolitical moment spurred national and international conversations about the nature of systemic racism. The most recent set of protests in 2020 and the ensuing conversations they sparked intensified an ongoing debate about what young people know and understand about race, racism, and systemic injustice, and the psychological implications of such a context. Drawing from critical theories of human development and education, this dissertation investigates the psychological experience of these hostile contexts for a sample of racially diverse youth. Specifically, I employ a multi-method approach to examine both the top-down influence of this context on students’ experiences and the bottom-up influence of students on their learning environments–how and in what ways are students engaging in acts of liberation in the midst of this context? Across 3 experiments (N= 657), I find (a) students think about sociopolitical contexts that are identity-relevant (Study 1), and when exposed to a threatening sociopolitical context (b) question their belonging in school (Studies 2 and 3) and (c) interpret academic difficulty as less important (Study 3). Second, using critical qualitative methods, I conducted 9 same-race semi-structured focus groups (N = 32) with Black, (non-White) Latinx, White, and Multiracial youth and find that there are unique topics young people discuss based on their identities as well as some conceptual overlapping meanings young people associate with the sociopolitical context across racial groups. This dissertation provides theoretical, empirical, and practical insights into the psychological processes associated with hostile sociopolitical contexts.
Ruchi Saini, University of Maryland, College Park
Ruchi Saini is a doctoral candidate in International Education Policy at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research investigates the structural and cultural determinants of gender-based violence in formal education spaces, especially within the post-colonial contexts of India and Africa. Ruchi comes from the north Indian state of Haryana, and her scholarship is deeply rooted in her lived experience as an educator and administrator across India’s K-12 schools. In the US, she has worked as a research analyst with the Brookings Institution and as an academic counselor with the University of Maryland’s Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program
At the University of Maryland, Ruchi was a recipient of the 2019-20 Dean’s fellowship and the 2022-23 Ann Wylie Dissertation Fellowship. Her dissertation field work was supported by ICRW’s Mariam Chamberlain Dissertation Award 2023. Ruchi’s scholarship has been published in peer reviewed journals such as Current Issues in Comparative Education and the Journal of Comparative and International Education.
Before pursuing her doctorate, Ruchi earned an MA in English literature from the University of Delhi (India), where she was a gold medalist, and a master’s in Education from the University of Glasgow (Scotland), where she was a Chevening fellow. In addition to her dissertation, Ruchi is currently working on two collaborative projects: on school teachers’ perceptions of gender-based violence in Burkina Faso, and on the structural violence of racism and white supremacy within global education circles.
How Universities Shape Students’ Experiences with Gender-Based Violence in India: An Intersectional Feminist Narrative Inquiry
Gender-based violence (GBV) in universities is a widely recognized detriment to students’ physical and mental well-being. However, contemporary research on the topic overwhelmingly conflates GBV with sexual violence, and centers the voices of students from universities in the global north. The lived experiences of female students from countries such as India are often relegated to the margins of international educational policy discourse, forestalling the promise of global gender equity and sustainable development.
My dissertation is a narrative inquiry that employs an intersectional feminist framework to address this research gap. Using a broad definition of violence that includes physical, sexual, psychological, and economic manifestations, I investigate how female students’ experiences with GBV at a large public university in India are shaped by the structural and cultural characteristics of the institution. The notions of “structure” and “culture” are used as heuristic tools to separate the formal limitations (=structure) on institutional stakeholders from the largely unspoken collective assumptions and values (=culture) that guide their actions.
The research design involves three interdependent levels of investigation undertaken over fifteen months: 1) focus group discussions with bystanders (n=60) of GBV, 2) art-based narrative interviews with self-identified victim-survivors (n=20) of GBV, and 3) key informant interviews with student leaders (n=10) of college societies advocating for victim-survivors. By providing female students with a platform to own and control their narratives,
the study has the potential to disrupt the essentializing image of Indian women as passive victims and will be helpful in building more inclusive universities.
Ionah Scully, Syracuse University
Ionah M. Elaine Scully is a Ph.D. Candidate in Cultural Foundations of Education at Syracuse University. With a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, Scully also holds Certificates of Advanced Studies in Conflict Resolution from the Maxwell School and Women’s and Gender Studies from the School of Arts and Sciences, both at Syracuse University. Scully’s work focuses on Indigenous epistemologies for regenerating educational models that are community-based, non-punitive, relational, and multimodal. In particular, Scully examines Two Spirit/Indigenous 2SLGBTQIA+ histories and stories to demonstrate a distinctly queer Indigenous epistemology that values the body—of humans and of lands/waters—as a site of knowledge and learning.
A publicly engaged, activist-scholar, Scully’s work is dialogic, collaborative, and community-based. A facilitator of Intergroup Dialogue (IGD), a theory and practice-based initiative of social justice education, Scully created an Indigenized IGD course that centers relationship-building with other-than-humans to foster generative dialogue and collaborations across differences. Offered in community, school, and higher-education settings, Scully was awarded the University of California Davis’ Publicly Active Graduate Education fellowship (2019) and the New York Public Humanities Grant (2021) as well as invited to publish in an academic press. Scully has also taught foundations of education, gender studies, and lectured in Native studies courses. Awarded for excellence in teaching (2021), Scully has received numerous awards for activism, writing, scholarship, and land-based education initiatives. Scully is Cree-Métis and Irish (Michel First Nation), active in their community, and committed to Indigenous and Two Spirit education and futures.
Nehiyaw Two Spirit Creation Stories: Remapping Home, Desire and Indigenous Education Through the Body
Scully’s dissertation, Nehiyaw Two Spirit Creation Stories: Re-mapping Home, Desire, and Indigenous Education through the Body, brings together Two Spirit (Native 2SLGBTQIA+) people of Michel First Nation (MFN) to dialogue about Nehiyaw (Cree) creation stories and subsequently recreate—or re-map—their own creation stories as Two Spirit (2S) people to understand how these stories can support Indigenous and decolonizing educational practices.
2S scholars argue that anti-colonial projects must center 2S futurity because 2S people experience the highest rates of gender violence of any demographic—violence endemic to the ongoing colonial project. This scholarship is immersed in an Indigenous epistemology of contextuality, temporality, and relational accountability that undergirds the entire project design. Told as teaching stories, creation stories must necessarily change as they pass through different time periods and bodies of human storytellers/audiences (and different bodies of lands/waters) to impart teachings pertinent to context and attentive to relations.
Across six Talking Circles (dialogue sessions), participant-collaborators are given critical prompts rooted in miskâsowin (internal reflection). A Nehiyaw practice, miskâsowin invites participant-collaborators to integrate mind and body-knowing as a mechanism for coming home (to bodies, desires, Nehiyaw ontologies, and perhaps homelands) to counteract the colonial project’s attempts to dispossess 2S people of life and home. A project of homecoming that centers 2S desires, the resulting stories are shared in an anthology for use by educators and MFN as well as 2S communities broadly to consider their responsibility to the stories, what these stories teach, and prompts to craft their own stories.
Zara Surratt, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Zara Surratt is a Ph. D. candidate in Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her specialty is Religion in the Americas, and her research interests include history of the American West; religion and the state; Catholic Missions; Native American Religious Traditions; race, gender, and disability; and women and children’s cultures. She is especially interested in the ways that religion has historically affected education in policy and praxis. Her project centers on a residential school in 20th century South Dakota and the experiences of the Catholic staff and Indigenous students who lived there. It examines how religious power and conflict propelled a version of educational evangelization that was as much about the educator as the educated, affecting the experiences and outcomes for staff and students alike in a contact zone flush with racial and national dynamics.
As an educator, Zara teaches students how to read and analyze sources that reflect perspectives across the history of the Americas. Her students learn to critique the powerful narratives of race, gender, sexuality, and disability that frame their worlds, and how people historically and contemporarily live these paradigms. While her work currently focuses on boarding schools, future work will explore how hospital schools, TB sanitoriums, industrial training camps, prisons, and asylums worked in tandem with boarding schools to shape an approach to the national education of minorities that complicates current historical understanding of 20th century liberalism and the promise of inclusivity.
“Those Who Wear Black Dresses”: A History of Catholicism at St. Francis Mission School
This dissertation uses St. Francis Mission Boarding School to examine Catholic participation in Federal Indian Policy during the late 19th and early 20th century and the concurrent experiences of Native American youth. St. Francis was an on-reservation Catholic boarding school for the Sicangu Lakota children of South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation. It was established during a widespread attempt to block Catholic participation in assimilative education, which emphasized the destruction of Native American cultures and communities as a prelude to total socio-cultural absorption into the U.S. mainstream.
At St. Francis, first-generation Catholic immigrants, especially women refugees of Prussia’s Kulturkampf, understood themselves to be assimilating students into an American mainstream and a Catholic universe. I argue they were simultaneously Americanizing themselves through this education. Religious violence via a nationalized rhetoric of exclusion propelled a Catholic reform movement that ironically targeted a Native ‘other’ to fashion itself and the ‘other’ as American. This orientation departs from earlier Catholic missionary campaigns, which emphasized religious education of others and were not oriented towards transformation of the missionary themself. In this setting, Anglo-European and Indigenous religious subjects drew upon their own knowledge and practice to respond to the demands of assimilatory education.
Careful study of professional and personal sources from the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, material cultural sources, and student authored sources such as articles in The Indian Sentinel, the official publication of the Society for the Preservation of the Faith Among Indian Children, reveals a site where assimilation produced a myriad of unexpected identities.
Claudia Triana, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Claudia Triana Ipinza is a doctoral candidate in the department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A scholar of comparative and international education, her research focuses on the inequities at the intersection of im/migration and education policies, displacement, and resistance. For over a decade, Claudia has served as a youth worker with refugee and im/migrant students and communities across the United States and abroad. Furthermore, she has led culturally-responsive research and evaluation projects with public schools aimed at supporting the needs of multilingual students. Claudia’s dissertation, funded by Fulbright-Hays, examines how im/migrant categorization (refugee, deportee, returnee) produces educational inequality in Mexico. As an educational ethnographer, her scholarship is grounded on the need for border justice, and a recognition of the impact of U.S. empire on immigrant experiences.
Prior to pursuing her doctoral studies, Claudia worked at the New York City Department of Education. She is a proud alumna of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and holds a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, as well as an M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University.
“It’s all we can take with us”: A comparative case study of im/migrant educational strategies in Mexico
Mexico’s educational policy promotes inclusivity for marginalized groups, including migrants. However, despite their increasing numbers, few initiatives support these groups. Mexico has become the third country with the highest number of refugee applications while receiving the most deportees from the United States, including U.S. citizens. This increase is due to U.S. immigration policies that externalize the border through third country agreements, deterring migrants from entering the U.S., and domestic policies that expand the deportation regime within the U.S. Asylees, refugees, deportees, and returnees have distinct positions vis-a-vis the legal and sociopolitical categories in Mexico. Nonetheless, they have settled in the country due to obstacles encountered on their journeys to or from the United States and have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to access schooling to facilitate their integration in a new setting. This comparative case study examines the educational strategies pursued by asylum seekers, undocumented immigrants, “de-facto” deportees (U.S.-born children whose Mexican parents are deported or repatriated), and Mexico-born (voluntary and involuntary) “returnees” who have spent time in the U.S. and returned to Mexico. In particular, this study examines how im/migrant youth and their families remake their lives in Mexico with the help of or in relation to educational resources, and how those educational experiences influence their migration aspirations. As the phenomenon of educating children in multiple countries increases, this study contributes to the theoretical and empirical understanding of the changing educational needs of im/migrant children and how im/migrant categorization generates educational inequality in Mexico and other destinations.
Kristy Ulrich Papczun, University of Illinois-Chicago
Kristy Ulrich Papczun is a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) in the College of Education. As a doctoral student, she has worked for five years as a graduate research assistant with the teacher education programs, which has included teaching a social foundations of education course and supervising student teachers in the field. Prior to this, she obtained her master’s degree in Educational Policy Studies at UIC after having taught middle grades language arts in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for ten years with a secondary English teaching license. Kristy’s place-based research examines school closures, and how race and class intersect with school policies. Before becoming a teacher, Kristy worked in the design world. She maintains the deep belief in the power of aesthetics and storytelling, especially in disrupting the dominant narratives and deficit-based stories we tell about urban schools. As a CPS parent, educator, and advocate, her work rests at the nexus of her experiences and identities. She uses arts-based methods, such as portraiture, photography, and collaging, to engage in conversations about schools. Her research historicizes school sites as a way to reconsider how the past is always present and draws from disciplines such as urban planning and critical geography. She champions work that reaches beyond the academy, taking inspiration from community members, educators, and artists who invite us to pause and reflect on histories that are too often masked over or forgotten.
Giving Attention to Hauntings and Engaging with Ghosts: Portraits of Closed Schools in Chicago
Building on Eve Ewing’s work, my dissertation re-examines the stories of two public schools that were closed in Chicago using Fine’s critical bifocality theoretical lens partnered with Yosso’s concept of community cultural wealth. I engage with the histories of closed schools, contextualizing the stories to analyze the racialized hierarchies that are maintained through our educational system in the U.S. Using portraiture as a methodology, I have developed five phases for the project: Phase One is a longitudinal demographic analysis at the macro level of the schools, district, and city to contextualize the study. Phase Two shifts into the archives at the micro level to find palimpsests—or traces of the stories left behind— of the schools. In Phase Three, I restory the data collected into visual art pieces called Palimpsest Portraits. Through my art in Phase Four, I engage with community members using collective remembering techniques that honor community knowledges through conversations. In Phase Five, I produce the final product through a synthesis of the previous phases—aesthetically rich, written narrative portraits of each school. The re-presentation using storytelling and visualization invites people to pause and reflect on school closings.
This project works against the deficit-based dominant narrative that underpins school closings, troubling the “commonsenseness” that districts engage in when facing challenges, while also calling into question how we, as researchers, further the deficit-based discourse with the stories we tell. Using an artistic approach provides broader engagement and unique insight, with promising conceptual and methodological application beyond the current study.
Paul Yoo, University of California, Irvine
Paul Youngmin Yoo is a PhD candidate in Education at the University of California, Irvine.
He studies how schools shape opportunities and what can be done about childhood poverty. He is interested in interventions and policies that support children in their homes, schools, and neighborhood. Partnering with a state department of education and large school districts, he is investigating the long-term prospects of students attending virtual charter schools which are fast expanding; effects of a district enrollment policy designed to reduce segregation and neighborhood disparities in school access; consequences of sorting of students into different academic tracks and categories on their perception and performance; and within-schools dynamics between creating and distributing academic opportunity, broadly measured. He is a significant contributor to an innovative childhood poverty reduction experiment in the U.S. and is leading his study on how cash-assistance for new mothers under the poverty line intersect with the geography of opportunities for upward mobility.
Prior to his doctoral program, Paul began his research training at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (Ed.M.) then worked at the RAND Corporation as a policy analyst evaluating education policies and programs. Before pursing research, he taught in classrooms and designed curriculum in Korea; and he developed and implemented a small reading program for under-resourced schools and youth workers. Paul’s perspectives on education policy research are shaped by his experience, as well as the many researchers, practitioners, families, and students that have inspired him.
Virtual Charter Students Have Worse Labor Market Outcomes as Young Adults
This featured study in his dissertation examines the long-term outcomes of virtual charter school students using novel administrative data that combines statewide education records in Oregon to IRS records on young adult earnings. Despite increasing virtual charter school enrollments, stakeholders have raised serious concerns about their quality as researchers have documented their much larger teacher-student ratios, heavier reliance on parental participation, and significant challenges of student engagement. Indeed, a small but growing literature suggests that virtual charter school students have substantially worse short-term academic achievement. Using first-differencing strategies and a machine-learning based doubly robust propensity score approach, his dissertation adds to this literature by examining virtual charter school students’ educational attainment and labor market outcomes in young adulthood. Preliminary findings show that virtual charter students have substantially worse high school graduation rates, college enrollment rates, bachelor’s degree attainment, employment rates, and earnings than students in traditional public schools. Although there is growing demand for virtual charter schools, these results suggest that students who enroll in virtual charters may face negative consequences in the long term.
Qiyi Zhao, Stanford University
Qiyi Zhao is a Ph.D. candidate in Economics at Stanford University, studying early modern economic history. Combining historical knowledge, economic theory, and statistical analysis to interpret archival primary sources, her research seeks to understand the economic development of early modern Europe: how the early modern economy functioned and how it contributed to economic growth in the long run. Her dissertation examines to what extent and how the institutional changes brought forth by the Reformation and printing technology impacted the economic lives, literacy, and education of ordinary individuals and urban communities in the Holy Roman Empire. Qiyi holds a B.A. in Mathematics with a minor in History from the University of California at Berkeley.
Re-examining the Protestant Reading Ethic
The Reformation and in particular Protestantism’s impact on economic development represents a classical question in the social sciences. In recent years, an influential body of economic and sociology research has formulated a “Protestant Reading Ethnic” thesis, that Protestantism benefitted economic development through promoting literacy and education. This prevailing scholarly view, however, draws largely upon 19th- and 20th-century evidence. My research examines assumptions and gaps in this literature using archival and published primary sources from the Holy Roman Empire in the centuries immediately after the Reformation, combined with careful econometric analysis. I show that the core methodology underlying this conclusion, using “distance from Wittenberg” as a source of random variation in the adoption of Protestantism, relies on invalid assumptions about the spread of the Reformation and the statistical properties of “distance from” variables. Removing these assumptions nullifies the main conclusion of the “Protestant Reading Ethic.” In addition, I examine the enduring assumption that Protestantism promoted mass literacy through its teaching to read the Bible in the vernacular. Using Protestant and Catholic school ordinances, pedagogical materials, and quantitative measures of literacy, I study the expectations and realities of Bible reading in Protestant education and its relationship with literacy. Further research will quantitatively examine whether Protestantism expanded primary schooling opportunities that cultivated economically relevant human capital.