2024 Spring Retreat





March 6


InterContinental, The Willard 
The Nest

6:00 – 8:00 pm

March 7

Unless otherwise noted, all events take place in the Keck Center of the National Academies.


Registration and Breakfast

1st floor lobby

7:30 – 8:30 am

Welcome to the Spring Retreat

Keck 100

  • Lorrie Shepard, University of Colorado
  • Kara Finnigan, Senior Vice President of the Spencer Foundation

8:30 – 9:15 am

Check-in and Updates

I. Dissertation Fellows

Keck 100


  • Darris Means, University of Pittsburgh

II. Postdoctoral Fellows and RDAs

Keck 105


  • Claudia Cervantes-Soon, Arizona State University

  • Lorrie Shepard, University of Colorado Boulder

9:15 – 10:30 am


1st Floor Lobby

10:30 – 11:00 am

Meet the Funder

Keck 100


  • Elizabeth Albro, Institute of Education Sciences
  • Kenly Brown, Spencer Foundation
  • Jason Harshman, National Endowment for the Humanities

  • Jenny Irons, William T. Grant Foundation
  • Sarah-Kathryn McDonald, National Science Foundation


  • Lorrie Shepard, University of Colorado Boulder

11:00 am – 12:00 pm


Keck Atrium

12:00 – 1:00 pm

Fellows Forums I

1:00 – 2:15 pm

Panel A: Keck 103

Facilitator: Claudia Cervantes-Soon, Arizona State University

Disability in Higher Education: Using Applied Anthropology to Dismantle Academic Ableism

Kevin Darcy

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.

Assistive Technologies for Deaf People in Jordan: Entanglements of Language, Religion, and Disability

Yui Leh Timothy (Tim) Loh

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.”

Exploring the Role of Mindfulness in Reducing Discipline Disparities by Race and Disability Status

Lindsay Romano

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.

Panel B – Keck 105

Facilitator: Darris Means, University of Pittsburgh

"We, on the Other Side": Black Diaspora and Education in the Lusophone World, 1950s-1980s

C. Darius Gordon

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.

Understanding students? school experiences and identities in the sociopolitical context of racial hostility

Roberto (Josiah) Rosario

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.

Representation Matters: Minority Inclusion and American National Identity in K-12 U.S. State Social Studies Standards

Kimberly Hess

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.

Panel I – Keck 206

Facilitator: Lorrie Shepard, University of Colorado Boulder

De-marketization and Democratization of a Chilean School: When Hard Work and Best Intentions Aren't Enough

Maria Rojas

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.

Im/migrant educational strategies in Mexico city: A comparative case study

Claudia Triana

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.

Those Who Wear Black Dresses: Immigration and Assimilation at St. Francis Indian School

Zara Surratt

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.

Panel D – Keck 208

Facilitator: Okhee Lee, New York University

Teachers as Critical and Constrained Learners and Actors for Racial Justice in Schools

Joy Esboldt

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.

The Making of a Professional: Institutional Logics of Teacher Education and Pre-Service Teachers' Professional Identity Formation

Maya Kaul

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.

Service scholarships and the formation and sorting of talented teachers

Nicolás Rojas Souyet

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.


1st Floor Lobby

2:15 – 2:45 pm

Fellows Forums II

2:45 – 4:00 pm

Panel E – Keck 103

Facilitator: Claudia Cervantes-Soon, Arizona State University

Kin-Centric Circles: Reimagining Native Land and Language Reclamation as Cycles of Renewal and Relationality

Bri Alexander

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.

Home / Language / Loss: An Ethnography of Home Language Policy in Los Angeles High Schools for Recently Arrived Immigrant Students

Kyle Halle-Erby

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.

Global aspirations: K-12 Mandarin-English dual immersion schooling for diverse communities

Catherine Park

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.

Panel F – Keck 105

Facilitator: Darris Means, University of Pittsburgh

Gender Disparities in Early Childhood Learning Opportunities and Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Catalina Rey-Guerra

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.

Contexts of School Segregation and Child Development in Elementary School

Lorraine Blatt

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.

What We Teach About Race and Gender: Representation in Formal, Informal, and Non-Traditional Educational Content

Emileigh Harrison

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.

Panel G – Keck 206

Facilitator: Lorrie Shepard, University of Colorado Boulder

The Campus Safety Apparatus from the Standpoint of Survivors of Campus Sexual Violence

Brenda Anderson

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.

From the Kamasutra to Scientia Sexualis: A History of Sexology and Sex Education in Twentieth Century India

Arnav Bhattacharya

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.

Re-examining the Protestant Reading Ethic

Qiyi Zhao

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.

Panel H – Keck 208

Facilitator: Okhee Lee, New York University

The Effects of Transferring to a Four-Year College

Lois Miller

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.

Second Chances or Growing Gaps? Education in Adulthood and Inequality over the Life Course

Jane Furey

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.

Working Hard for the Money: Students Entry and Exit Experiences with Financial Aid

Avery Davis

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.


Transition Time

4:00 – 4:15 pm


4:15 – 5:30 pm


InterContinental, The Willard 
The Willard Room

7:00 – 9:00 pm

March 8

Unless otherwise noted, all events take place in the Keck Center of the National Academies.


Registration and Breakfast

1st floor lobby

7:30 – 8:30 am

Fellows Forums III

8:30 – 9:45 am

Panel J – Keck 103

Facilitator: Darris Means, University of Pittsburgh

Stealth Inequities in K-12 Public Schools: Revealing How Fundraising PTAs Entrench Hierarchies and Exploring Pathways Toward Equity

Claire Mackevicius

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.

Giving Attention to Hauntings and Engaging with Ghosts: Portraits of Closed Schools in Chicago

Kristy Ulrich Papczun

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.

Policies, Procedures, and Performance: A Critical Examination of K-12 School Boards and the Enactment of Racial Crisis Leadership

James Bridgeforth

Recent recordings of contentious school board meetings demonstrate the growing frequency with which K-12 school board members publicly navigate racial crises. Examples of such crises shown in the media include teachers being photographed in blackface, racist social media posts, and intense debates regarding race and racism in curricula. Yet how many board members have been formally trained to lead a district through a racial crisis? This organizational disconnect is a critical area for research as board members are directly responsible for developing district policies in response to incidents of racism in schools. Guided by insights from the theory of the political spectacle along with critical theories of race and racism, my dissertation study employs elicitation interviews with school board members, focus groups with racially minoritized community members, and school board meeting records to better understand how school board members conceptualize and enact effective racial crisis leadership. This work also interrogates how board members’ conceptions of solutions compare with those of communities of color in order to identify potential inconsistencies between what educational leaders believe is effective racial crisis leadership and what the communities most at risk of being harmed by racial crises would identify as effective racial crisis leadership. By better understanding how both K-12 school board members and racially minoritized communities conceptualize effective solutions to racial crises, I hope to develop inclusive approaches for racial crisis leadership that can ensure that the needs of the communities most often harmed by racial crises are centered in the policy development process.

Panel K – Keck 105

Facilitator: Lorrie Shepard, University of Colorado Boulder

Is this even worth it?: Examining Mental Health Among Undocumented College Students in California

Martha Morales Hernandez

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.

Can Innovation Be Taught in Schools? Experimental Evidence from India

Saloni Gupta

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.

From Every Shade of Brown and Back; That Includes Black”: A Critical Ethnographic Study of Racial-Spatial Politics and Pedagogies at an Urban School

Julio Alicea

In a matter of decades, South Central Los Angeles has transitioned from 80% Black to nearly 70% Latinx. This development is linked to many sociospatial factors, including shifting immigration patterns, political economic restructuring, and Black displacement. My research examines the relationship between such sociospatial forces and the organizational dynamics of one high school in the heart of the community. As a longitudinal ethnography, the project includes participant observation, in-depth interviews, historical analysis, and qualitative spatial methods. The study utilizes data from four consecutive school years to show how one school’s politics and pedagogies evolved over time as racial landscapes changed and new crises emerged to shift organizational priorities. It argues that self-described social justice schools serving exclusively students of color can and still do perpetuate racial stratification; this is most evident in the real tensions that exist between antiracism and the work needed to undo anti-Blackness.

Upon its completion, this dissertation will offer myriad contributions to the sociology of education, racial and ethnic studies, and urban studies. In the sociology of education, it offers insights into school-based mechanisms of stratification between racially minoritized groups, including via relational processes of opportunity hoarding and the decoupling of organizational values and practices. In racial and ethnic studies, it reveals the limits of coalitional racial politics before and after George Floyd and the ways in which those limitations shape diversity, equity, and inclusion work at the K-12 level. Lastly, in urban studies, it provides an expanded analysis of racial formation as a regionalized phenomenon.

Panel L – Keck 206

Facilitator: Claudia Cervantes-Soon, Arizona State University

Contested Classrooms: Education in East Jerusalem, 1967-1994

Alyssa Bivins

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.

Teachers in Limbo: History Teachers Pedagogical Decision Making Following Violent Conflict in South Sudan

Orelia Jonathan

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.

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

Heather Killen

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.

Panel M – Keck 208

Facilitator: Okhee Lee, New York University

Virtual Charter Students Have Worse Labor Market Outcomes as Young Adults

Paul Yoo

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.

Career and Technical Education Access, Course-Taking, and Outcomes: Evidence from Ohio

Alexis Gable

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.


1st Floor Lobby

9:45 – 10:15 am

Fellows Forum Feedback

  • Panels A and B: Keck 103
  • Panels D and E: Keck 100
  • Panels F and G: Keck 106
  • Panels H and I: Keck 201
  • Panels J and K: Keck 206
  • Panels L and M: Keck 208

10:15 – 11:15 am


Keck Atrium

11:15 am – 12:15 pm

Break-Out Sessions

I. Publishing Your Research in a Book

Keck 103


  • Emily Spangler, Teachers College Press
  • Pieter Martin, University of Minnesota Press


  • Lorrie Shepard, University of Colorado Boulder

II. Building On and Pivoting Your Research Agenda

Keck 105


    • Gabrielle Oliveira, Harvard University
    • Casandra Harper, University of Missouri


    • Darris Means, University Pittsburgh

    12:30 – 1:45 pm


    Transition Time

    1:45 – 2:00 pm

    Recap and Closing

    Keck 100

    Facilitator: Lorrie Shepard, University of Colorado Boulder


    2:00 – 2:30 pm

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