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

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Illinois at Chicago

Primary Discipline

Curriculum and Instruction
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.
About Kristy Ulrich Papczun
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.

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