Category Archives: Equity

J.B. Mayo, Jr. Receives Research Award for “Uncovering Queer Spaces in the Harlem Renaissance”

Jazz singer, Ethel Waters
Jazz singer, Ethel Waters

Each year, the  Institute on Diversity, Equity and Advocacy grants Multicultural Research Awards that “transform the University by enhancing the visibility and advancing the productivity of an interdisciplinary group of faculty and community scholars whose expertise in equity, diversity, and underrepresented populations will lead to innovative scholarship and teaching that addresses urgent social issues.”  Associate Professor in Curriculum & Instruction, J.B. Mayo, Jr., received one of the prestigious grants for his proposal to integrate LGBTQ history into the social studies curriculum that covers the Harlem Renaissance.

The research project entitled “Uncovering Queer Spaces During the Harlem Renaissance” is aimed at breaking the silence within social studies education about LGBT people, themes, and histories. Mayo plans to engage intersectional realities that include race, gender, and sexual orientation while helping teachers to be more inclusive of LGBT people, themes, and histories within their social studies classes.

Another goal of Mayo’s research is to allow LGBT students, and particularly queer students of color, to see themselves positively represented. He plans to conduct intensive archival research this summer in Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Black Culture to find the stories of gay artists of color working during the Harlem Renaissance. He will then co-create an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum with local social studies teachers that center on the chosen artists’ work and identities. The finished curriculum will be field tested in area social studies classes. Mayo plans to observe the lessons as they are taught and follow-up with interviews with the participating teachers and selected students to discuss their impressions and to gather their perceptions of the impact of these lessons, which are aimed at not only changing young people’s views of history, but diminishing homophobia within communities of color and in society more generally.

Find out more about the Department of Curriculum & Instruction’s commitment to diversity and social justice and the research degree in social studies education.

 

 

 

 

Literacy Ph.D. Student Wins Women’s Philanthropic Leadership Circle award

annecrampton
Anne Crampton, Ph.D. candidate in Curriculum & Instruction wins WPLC award.

Anne Crampton, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Literacy Education received the Women’s Philanthropic Leadership Circle (WPLC) award for graduate students. The award is for women graduate students to recognize their achievements and successes in their field of interest. The criteria for the award includes academic achievements, community involvement, leadership, and passion for the academic and professional career of choice. 

Crampton’s research focus is in secondary critical literacy where she is currently looking at the student experience in both a large, urban high school and a small, urban charter school. “I think it is significant that we have such different experiences in schools, within and certainly across districts. I’m not comparing them, just trying to notice some of the plurality of schooling. Also, there can be negative stereotypes assigned to large, urban schools because people often don’t see the strengths of the students,” Crampton says.

After 15 years as a classroom teacher, Crampton pursued her Ph.D. in Literacy Education to have a better understanding of what shapes the education system and the root of inequity in the classroom. “Certain things kept me awake at night about what I didn’t think was fair or right. I wanted to understand it and be a part of the conversation in order to change it,” she noted.

Crampton’s Ph.D. studies have helped her make more sense of some of the arguments in public education and the urgency around them. She feels there are very positive and effective education techniques that offer the chance for a transformative learning experience. “I’d like other people to know that effective education does happen and it’s possible. People want to hear about successful education techniques in three words, but it’s complicated. Implementing new techniques takes support, an excellent teacher, flexibility, and the support of the school district.“

Crampton is particularly focused on the value of “aesthetic experiences” in the classroom, referring to big projects that students have a creative stake in that allow an aspect of performance, be it a podcast or a play. Citing the need for opportunities to engage emotionally and critically with ideas: “I think you can do all those things in many different disciplines,” Crampton believes these types of experiences in the classroom support the growth of the students as humans and honors their abilities.

Crampton plans to use her award to disseminate ideas and learn from her peers through conference travel and potentially support the purchase of additional Garage Band apps for classrooms in her research.

The Open Textbook Experience: A national presentation on open educational resources

DuranczykI-2012Irene Duranczyk, associate professor in PsTL, made an “ignite” presentation at the American Mathematical Association of Two Year Colleges (AMATYC) annual conference in New Orleans on Friday, Nov. 20 on the research and need for open educational resources and creative commons text. This is an equity issue. At the conference,  Duranczyk was also the State Delegate to the Annual Delegate Assembly of AMATYC held on Saturday. As the central region coordinator for the Research in Mathematics Education for Two Year Colleges (RMETYC), she attended the executive committee meeting and was present for the committee sponsored research presentations.

Jehangir, Stebleton and Deenanath publish monograph on the Impact of First-Generation, Socioeconomic, and Immigrant Status on Transition to College 

RR5_Cover896x1346Rashné Jehangir and Michael Stebleton, both associate professors in the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning, and Veronica Deenanath, doctoral student in Family Social Science have published a monograph on  research conducted with first-generation, low-income students at the University of Minnesota. The monograph is part of a research report series published with the  National Resource Center for the First Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina.

 

Excerpt: In January 2014, the White House urged that college be made more accessible for low-income Americans. Yet, moving beyond access to success requires knowing more about the experiences of these students. A new research report captures the challenges low-income, first-generation students—many of whom were also immigrants and students of color—faced in their collegiate journey and examines the strategies they employed to persist.

Organized thematically and using student narrative, the report explores the diversity of first-generation students, the intersections of their multiple identities, and their interactions with the institutional agents that affect college success. An Exploration of Intersecting Identities of First-Generation, Low-Income Students also offers practical suggestions for higher education professionals working with this diverse and growing population.

Poch presents paper at annual meeting of Organization of American Historians

PochRobert-2014Bob Poch, senior fellow and director of graduate studies in the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning, presented a paper at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians in St. Louis, Missouri. Poch’s paper, “Strangers in the Land — Again: The Historical Connection of Interposition and Race before and during Arizona’s Immigration Battle,” argued that Arizona’s contemporary immigration strategy has strong historical connectivity with U.S. Civil War era tensions between state and federal authority and also nativist movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

In addition, Poch’s article, “Howard University Students and Civil Rights Activism, 1934-1944,” has been accepted for publication in the American Educational History Journal. The article will appear in Summer 2015.

Jehangir receives Morse Award for undergraduate education, discusses work in NASPA interview

Rashne JehangirRashné Jehangir, associate professor in the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning, has been awarded the Horace T. Morse – University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education. Jehangir has dedicated her career to improving the academic programs and classroom experiences of undergraduates in the university and across the country through her educational leadership, exemplary teaching, and research. Her emphasis on first generation and bypassed student populations, the most difficult to retain, is exemplary work that has made a measurable difference in retention. She will be honored at the Distinguished Teaching Awards Ceremony on campus April 8.

In a recent interview by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), Jehangir’s work is highlighted as part of a series featuring the work on social class scholars. The Socioeconomic and Class Issues in Higher Education Knowledge Community within NAPSA is sponsoring this year long series to showcase scholars whose work informs how SES and issues of class impact and alter the college and university landscape. Access Jehangir’s interview here.

 

 

Jehangir presents session on social justice at AACU meeting

Rashne JehangirRashné Jehangir, associate professor in the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning presented at the centennial meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) with her colleagues David Schoem, University of Michigan and Nancy Thomas, Tufts University. The session was titled: “Is There a Place for Social Justice in Higher Education” and focused on community engagement, academic freedom and critical pedagogies that challenge the corporatization of higher education.

 

Stebleton invited to speak at Gilman Web Symposium

StebletonM-2011The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program invited Dr. Michael Stebleton, associate professor in the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning, to share insights during the third webinar of the 2014 – 2015 Gilman Web Symposium Series on Thursday, January 29, 2015.

Moderated by Gilman Program staff member Randi Butler, the webinar “Supporting Non-Traditional Students to Study & Intern Abroad” brought together Stebleton, a researcher on college student development and success, and David Taylor, Director of Global Abroad Programs at Wake Forest University, to discuss this unique and important student demographic. During the webinar, Stebleton and Taylor discussed the benefits studying and interning abroad can bring to non-traditional students and examined ways to include this population in study abroad outreach. Joining the discussion was a Gilman alumnus who is a first-generation college student and studied abroad in Russia while attending a community college.

The Gilman International Scholarship Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), and administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE).

Maruyama featured in article on importance of college, community collaboration for first-generation students

1MaruyamaGeoff-2013Geoffrey Maruyama, chair of the Department of Educational Psychology, describes how community and academic partnerships provide necessary support for first-generation students in an article published by Academic Impressions.

“It’s critical that first-generation students and their families see the connection between their learning and their community. Often, these students arrive at college with idealism: they are going to get an education and then solve the world’s problems. But they don’t see immediate connection between the classes they’re taking and world problems…or their community’s problems,” says Maruyama.

In the article Maruyama shares how, through a $2.8 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, the University of Minnesota is working with five other research universities to develop educational programming and curriculum to better serve under-represented students.

Read the full article on Academic Impressions’ website.

Read “$2.8 million grant supports research to bridge cultural divides for underrepresented college students.”

Educators examine policy to support literacy

Alfred Tatum
Alfred Tatum

Literacy is a powerful “tool of protection,” especially for underprivileged or at-risk students, Chicago educator and researcher Alfred Tatum said at the CEHD Policy Breakfast at the University of Minnesota. More than 100 educators, researchers, and local professionals gathered January 20 to discuss literacy development and educational policy with their metro area colleagues.

Tatum, dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois–Chicago, has spent the last 18 years researching the literacy development of African-American male students in Chicago public schools. In his presentation, he gave moving examples of student responses to rigorous classroom assignments and methods.

Tatum applied his findings to the policy environment and literacy improvement efforts in Minnesota. He quoted the recent State of the State address and, as an example, cited Minneapolis Public Schools’ current goal to increase reading proficiency annually by five percent overall and eight percent for students of color.

Tatum questioned the effectiveness of gradual-growth plans, calling attention to the number of students that a slower rate of improvement leaves behind each year.

“Is it a literacy plan,” he asked, “or a poverty-illiteracy-dropout-unemployment plan?”

He urged educators to take a more dramatic approach to literacy development in their classrooms. He explored why many students hold severed relationships with reading and writing, both academically and creatively. He also spoke about “textual lineages,” illustrated with photos of male writers of Africa descent that he uses in his classrooms, reminding the audience that literacy in Africa dates to ancient times.

Building literacy skills builds long-term confidence and capacity, Tatum explained. “It’s not just about students’ literacies. It’s about their lives.”

Tatum’s keynote was followed by remarks from four panelists. Gevonee Ford, founder and director of the Network for the Development of Children of African Descent, a family education center in St. Paul, asked the audience to consider ways to expand ownership of policy. “The question is ‘Who gets to be the educational authority for my children?’” he said. “Literacy has always been a political act for African people.” Ford asked the audience to look for places where African Americans are educating themselves and learn from them.

Literacy panel at Policy Breakfast January 2015
Left to right: Jonathan Hamilton, Tina Willette, Michael Rodriguez, Alfred Tatum, Lori Helman, Gevonee Ford

Jonathan Hamilton, research director for the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership (MMEP), stressed the importance of school leadership and agreement on common language, such as the concept of equity. Hamilton joined the panel when Rep. Carlos Mariani, MMEP’s director, was not able to attend due to responsibilities at the Legislature.

Tina Willette, principal at Salem Hills Elementary School and Athanaeum in Inver Grove Heights, described her school’s efforts to help all—instead of most—students meet literacy goals. “That word ‘all’ makes all the difference,” she said, and it requires adaptive rather than technical changes.

Lori Helman, professor and director of the Minnesota Center for Reading Research in CEHD, cautioned against the “magic bullet” approach and urged educators and U researchers to push each other. “The ‘solution’ involves all of us,” she said.

Educators in the audience sought advice from the speaker and panelists on ways to bring Tatum’s research into their own classrooms and their students’ daily routines. Campbell Leadership Chair Michael Rodriguez, professor of educational psychology, facilitated the conversation.

Tuesday’s Policy Breakfast was the fourth installment in an ongoing series sponsored by CEHD, which is dedicated to discussion and analysis of research and policy regarding Minnesota’s achievement gap and efforts to close it. This semester’s topic, framing responsive literacy instruction in the national policy context, was planned in partnership with the Minnesota Center for Reading Research.

Materials from the presentation will be available on the Policy Breakfast website.

– Ellen Fee and Gayla Marty; photos by Seth Dahlsheid

CEHD Reads: Henrietta Lacks’ Legacy Panel

 

Susan M. Wolf, Shirley Lacks, Victoria Baptiste and Dr. Ruth Faden
Susan M. Wolf, Shirley Lacks, Victoria Baptiste and Dr. Ruth Faden

How can one person make a difference? That’s the question first-year CEHD students and the college community considered while reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skoot, this year’s CEHD Reads Common Book.

Every year the First Year Experience Program in the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning partners with CEHD Reads to enhance the FYE Common Book assignment with an on-campus event that transforms the personal experience of reading into a collaborative and rich conversation.

In light of the medical and ethical questions raised in this year’s book, Kris Cory, director of the First Year Experience, invited the University’s Center for Bioethics to co-sponsor this year’s Henrietta Lacks’ Legacy Panel.

Filling Northrop Auditorium on a frigid November morning, all first-year CEHD students, along with members of the college community and the general public gathered to hear
Dr. Ruth Faden, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, lead a thoughtful exploration of how ethical and privacy issues intersect with questions of social justice, sparked by the events chronicled in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
As a cancer patient being treated at John Hopkins, Henrietta Lacks, an impoverished, 31-year-old, African-American, had cells extracted and used in research without her consent. Her cells demonstrated the unique ability to be kept alive and grow in a laboratory, resulting in the first human immortal cell line for medical research, identified globally as the HeLa cell line.

Providing details of the Lacks’ family past and present, Victoria Baptiste, Henrietta Lacks’ great-granddaughter, and Shirley Lacks, Henrietta Lacks’ daughter-in-law, shared stories of Henrietta as a generous woman who packed lunches for her husband’s co-workers at Bethlehem Steel. They referenced her firm approach to parenting and described her impeccable style that included red painted toes and well-ironed dresses. They also spoke of the family’s inability to afford health insurance in earlier days, despite the HeLa cell’s contribution to significant medical advances including the polio vaccine.

For decades, the family was kept from knowing the medical importance of the HeLa cell line. In the 1970s, researchers requested blood samples from family members without explanation or follow-up, leaving family members questioning their health and the purpose of the request. In the 1980s family medical records were published without consent, and in 2013, the genome of a strain of HeLa cells was published without permission from the Lacks family. Numerous accounts reveal that the medical community ignored the family’s right to be informed and communicated with and demonstrated disregard for the family’s medical privacy. Despite this negligence, members of the Lacks family moved beyond the disrespect to reach a place of poise and equanimity, reflected in Baptiste’s and Lacks’ presentation and interactions in the discussion.

It is undeniable that Henrietta Lacks, through the HeLa cells, made a difference to millions of people around the world. But, would things be different if permission had been sought? During the panel discussion, moderated by Susan M. Wolf, J.D., McKnight Presidential Professor of Law, Medicine, and Public Policy, Baptiste and Lacks were questioned: “If doctors had asked Henrietta for consent, would she have said yes?”

“Yes, I believe she would have,” said Baptiste. “What better way to provide for and help others.” Lacks agreed, “She was always willing to help.”

PsTL’s commitment to College in the Schools: Putting pedagogy into practice

Eagan High School CIS students
Eagan High School CIS students

Using research-based, innovative teaching practices, CIS faculty coordinators from PsTL are making a positive and powerful impact in the lives of high school students and their teachers.

Structured for student and community success
Margaret Kelly, senior teaching specialist in PsTL and CIS faculty coordinator for Sociological Perspectives: A Multicultural America (PSTL 1211), sees the benefits of the Entry Point Project (EPP) from collective viewpoint. “The more people who have a positive postsecondary experience early on, the better off we are as a state. This is a no-lose effort.” Kelly explains. Her challenging course encourages high-level thinking and uses scaffolding to help students build on knowledge. The framework is designed to alert teachers to any gaps in comprehension so they can intervene early, if required. The universality of the subject matter also reinforces learning and development for the students. “This course works especially well for EPP as it integrates the students’ assets of lived experiences with race and class in the assignments and discussions,” says Kelly.

A key aspect of Kelly’s faculty coordinator role is supporting the course’s high school teachers with professional development throughout the year and during summer workshops. She also visits each classroom. Although it adds to her regular teaching responsibilities, she highly values both. “Seeing these high school students is an important reminder of where my students were just a year before,” says Kelly. “It’s incredibly rewarding to work with an amazing group of teachers. Learning from one another and problem solving together enhances the course’s impact in ways I couldn’t do alone.”

Modeling to support engagement and equity
Since 2009, Sue Staats, associate professor in PsTL and faculty coordinator for College Algebra through Modeling (PSTL 1006), watched her math course grow from serving 30 high school students in two inner city schools to reaching 600 high school students in 29 schools across the state. This growth reinforces her academic passion. “The desire to support equity in education brought me to Minnesota,” Staats says. “College in the Schools offers the widest expression of my equity work possible. It’s a joy seeing creative, dedicated high school teachers put an accessible structure around solid mathematics education to help students in the academic middle re-envision themselves as college students.”

Staats developed the course to prompt mathematical competency that’s conceptual and creative, as well as procedural. Through the use of modeling, an approach promoted by CEHD’s STEM Education Center, the course engages students with open-ended problems that require inquiry and integration of mathematical concepts. Class projects, such as designing a bike-share program for a suburban city or exploring the growth rate of British soccer star salaries in relation to the rest of Britain’s work force, allow students to apply mathematics to questions and issues that interest them. “For some students, College Algebra can be challenging, holding them back from what they want to achieve,” reflects Staats. “But thanks to our extremely committed CIS teachers, our mathematics program is serving the academic needs of a very diverse group of students and helping them earn college credit at the same time.”

Learning through hands-on inquiry
When Leon Hsu, associate professor in PsTL and CIS faculty coordinator, was developing the curriculum forPhysics by Inquiry (PSTL 1163), he asked himself, “If students take only one physics course, what do I want them to get out of it?” This reflection led him to create a lab-based class that foregoes traditional lectures for guided inquiry. “It’s too easy to sit through a traditional lecture without being mentally engaged, which can make learning physics difficult,” says Hsu. Instead, the completely hands-on and minds-on course fosters conceptual reasoning through scripted discovery, helping students understand the process of how science works by performing experiments, making explanatory models and testing those models as part of a small group. Students also keep a journal to help them think about their learning. “The course structure requires students to work with and think about the material in the learning process,” he says.

As one of College in Schools’ Entry Point Project courses, Physics by Inquiry gives high school students a view of physics that complements that of most other physics courses by focusing on the scientific process. It also helps high school teachers present physics in a more appealing manner to a broader range of students. “The course gives teachers a way to challenge students beyond the formulas, problems and tests of traditional physics courses,” says Hsu. “It provides an alternative view of physics while preparing high school students for college.”

Rigor that benefits students and teachers
Human Anatomy and Physiology (PSTL 1135) allows CIS high school teachers to bring the rigor of a college science course to their students. “The pace and depth of the material is challenging and demands that students step up and take initiative for their learning,” says Nancy Cripe of Minnehaha Academy. She sees the impact: “Students develop ‘tools for their college toolbox’ – honing study skills, prioritizing study time, working effectively with lab partners, and learning to deal with occasional failure without quitting.”

The course curriculum, developed by Murray Jensen, associate professor in PsTL and CIS faculty coordinator, emphasizes critical and creative thinking in the classroom by engaging students in a wide range of learning tasks, such as Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL), cooperative quizzes and group discussions. Students are expected to “fill the bucket at home” meaning the memorization typically associated with anatomy and physiology classes is done on the students’ own time. “Many of my students have not had a class this intense or difficult,” says Ann Marie Froehle of Cretin Derham Hall. “The real satisfaction comes when college students return, and say how ‘easy’ their anatomy class was due to the notes/labs we did while they were in high school.”

Ryan Lester of Hmong College Prep Academy agrees the course prepares students for life at the university level. He also sees the value it brings to his teaching practice. Lester explains, “I continue to teach the class because of the way it has pushed me to be a better teacher. Murray has done a great job challenging us as teachers. He holds us and our students to an extremely high standard, but provides a lot of support and trainings to help us.”

Scholarship recipients prepare to positively influence higher education

Amy Barton, recipient of the Carol Macpherson Memorial Scholarship and Nue Lor recipient of the Dr. Nancy “Rusty” Barceló Scholarship at the 2014 Celebrating University Women Awards Program
Amy Barton, recipient of the Carol Macpherson Memorial Scholarship and Nue Lor recipient of the Dr. Nancy “Rusty” Barceló Scholarship at the 2014 Celebrating University Women Awards Program

Recent scholarship recipients, Amy Barton and Nue Lor share the journeys that led them to pursue master’s degrees in Multicultural College Teaching and Learning within the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning.

Using values to define identity and purpose.
As an undergraduate in Family Social Science, Amy Barton knew she wanted a career that involved helping others. After graduating in 2007, she worked in a couple of direct-service positions. These positions were rewarding but Barton thought something was missing. Therefore, she shifted focus and accepted a position with an advertising agency. “I viewed this as a good opportunity to gain some new skills, especially in regard to strategic thinking,” says Barton. “But, my heart wasn’t in it. I really missed being in a helping role.”

While serving on the CEHD Alumni Society Board, Barton started to see higher education as an environment that matched closely with her values and strengths. She connected with a faculty member in the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning: associate professor Dr. Tabitha Grier-Reed. Through interactions with Grier-Reed, Barton realized how much their interests aligned and was introduced to the Multicultural College Teaching and Learning graduate program.

For Barton, values play a significant role in her life choices and the approach she uses to support students as a career counselor graduate intern in CEHD Career Services. Her work and research focus on how values shape identity and how understanding one’s values can assist students in career planning. This values-based approach will be central to Barton’s Capstone final project: a professional development workshop for advisors.

She finds working with students rewarding. “I appreciate getting to know who they are, and helping students discover their identities,” says Barton. “It’s also validating to have them come in multiple times and seeing the changes they’ve made between visits,” she says. “I know how much it takes to show up for the first appointment, and when students come back, it shows they feel supported.” Amy Barton plans to graduate with a Master’s in Multicultural College Teaching and Learning in May 2015.

Reframing frustration for positive change.
Nue Lor describes her academic path as long and difficult, beginning with high ambitions but hindered by roadblocks surrounding a misdiagnosis of her bipolar disorder. Prior to graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s in Family Social Science from the University of Minnesota, Lor struggled at three different universities. “I felt like a failure,” she recalls. “One advisor even told me, ‘Maybe education isn’t for you. Maybe you should just go get a job.’ I realize it was the institutions that failed me.”

“Now that I have the right treatment, I view having bipolar as a companion I’ve learned to walk with,” says Lor who believes being open about her diagnosis is the best way to help others in need of resources and support.

Although Lor is a first-generation college student, education is highly valued by her parents, Hmong refugees who came to the U.S. before she was born. In Laos, her father endured extreme conditions, walking nearly thirty miles and living in a makeshift home during the week, to pursue a high school education. Of her six siblings, four have bachelor’s degrees and two are currently enrolled in college.

As a first-year Multicultural College Teaching and Learning master’s candidate, Lor’s early frustrations and her father’s influence drive her desire for a career within higher education administration. “I feel it’s important to have the administration accurately reflect the student population,” says Lor. “Currently only 13% of college presidents are people of color.”

“When I saw the phrase ‘You belong here’ on the PsTL website, it strongly resonated with me,” says Lor. “I could tell it was a program that valued multicultural perspectives, access and equity.” Lor plans to use her experience and education to shape the future of higher education. Her big dream is to be the president of a college or university some day. “I want to contribute my knowledge to society,” she says. “I hope to positively impact families, communities and the larger world.”

Talking Pictures: First-Generation College Students Speak from Behind the Lens

Talking Pictures Contributing Artist, Demetria Poe
Talking Pictures Contributing Artist, Demetria Poe

“We often think of photographs as truth, because they provide visual evidence of something or someone, but they can also be stereotypical,” says Rashné Jehangir, associate professor in the department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning. “They can afford a very narrow frame by which we view things.” In an effort to break this frame, Jehangir embarked on a photo narrative research project set within the curricular structure of the TRiO course: Introduction to TRiO: Identity, Culture, and College Success.

Drawing on photo narrative methodology, the project invited students who are first in their family to attend college to share their lived experiences through their own frames and through their own locations. In addition to the photos, students were asked to compose narrative reflections with the intentional purpose of putting students both in the front of and behind the lens. By creating a medium for students to share their stories in their own words, I expect their voices and images can inform and stimulate campus conversations about institutional policy and practice,” says Jehangir.

A culmination of this project resulted in the photography exhibit, Talking Pictures: First-Generation College Students Speak from Behind the Lens, on display now through November in the AHA! Gallery in Appleby Hall.

Aha! Gallery visitors experiencing the exhibit
Aha! Gallery visitors experiencing the exhibit

This exhibit showcases the work of ten of the thirty-one students who participated in the photo narrative research project and demonstrates how the multiple identities of first-generation students are not static, but rather rich and dynamic. Student contributors include: Dominique Anderson; Andrea Castillo; Fatima Garcia; Cheniqua Johnson; Mai Chia Lee; Jacqueline Penaloza; Shanel Perez; Demetria Poe; Neng Vue; and, Sim (Net) Youk. “The multiple identities that make up each student’s wholeness is what this project is trying to communicate,” states Jehangir.

“The things that make the photos so powerful are the stories behind them,” says contributing student, Cheniqua Johnson, who encourages gallery visitors to take the extra minute to read through the artists’ statements as a means to move beyond stereotypes and prejudgments. “The power is behind the words of the students not necessarily just the photos.”

Cheniqua Johnson, Rashné Jehangir, Dominque Anderson
Cheniqua Johnson, Rashné Jehangir, Dominque Anderson

For Jehangir, the project is an extension of a twenty-year collaboration that began when she accepted a position with the TRiO program. “The decade I worked with TRiO has influenced my entire career. It changed the trajectory of my life. It impacted my decision to go to graduate school and to study issues of educational equity.” During that time her work was informed by staff and students. Their resiliency and the strengths and skills they brought on their journeys to college, are what motivates her work today. “My experience at TRiO showed me that access to college should not be a privilege for a few, but we need to work to collectively to make it a right for many.”

With support from an Institutional Change Grant from the Women’s Center, Jehangir, and Veronica Deenanath, a graduate student in Family Social Science, developed this cross-university collaboration between the TRIO Student Support Services Program, their students and the College of Education & Human Development’s iPad initiative.

As Jehangir reflects on the exhibit she shares this thought: “I hope visitors will see the candor and the grace and the vulnerability that the students have put forward. I have certainly been very humbled by that.”

Promoting access and engagement is Bob Poch’s dream job

Poch-Bob-2014-07-23-FeatureGrowing up in a suburb of Washington, D.C., Bob Poch was surrounded by monuments, museums and sites of historical significance. Each Saturday his father eagerly guided Poch and his older brother on tours of these nearby treasures. Poch remembers being enthralled at Ford’s Theater when he was eight years old. “I was looking at Lincoln’s clothing and hearing my father’s emphatic affirmations, ‘This is real. This is where it happened. This isn’t fake,'” Poch recalls. While that moment triggered his passion for history, it would be years before Poch, a Senior Fellow and Director of Graduate Studies in the department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning, considered history as a career path.

From aspiring drummer to award-winning teacher

“I wanted to be a professional drummer,” Poch admits from his tidy office tastefully decorated in early American Beatlemania and scholarly tomes. “I was a good student and even geeked-out reading history books in the library during lunch, but my plan didn’t include college,” says the 2014 Morse Award recipient. Fortunately for past, current and future students, his father persuaded him to try college for two years.

At the end of Poch’s first semester, his history professor, Charles Poland, pulled him aside with a prophecy. “I think you can do what I do,” Poland predicted. Encouragement from this well-regarded civil war historian and educator radically altered Poch’s plans. His two-year trial turned into nine straight years of study.

Following his M.A., Poch was intent on earning a Ph.D. in History at the University of Virginia but a lack of job prospects forced him to improvise. He shifted focus slightly to pursue a doctorate in Higher Ed. at UVA. During an internship in the provost’s office, Poch grew passionate about educational access and realized he could apply his understanding of history, specifically issues of privilege, to educational policy issues.

An outsider seeking access for others

Poch’s desire to shape educational policy and reverse historical trends regarding educational access landed him a position with the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education right out of graduate school. “I was an outsider: a young, white guy looking for ways to reverse the effects of Jim Crow and increase the college-going rate of South Carolinians,” he says. “Luckily, I had great mentors who taught me how to understand diverse perspectives and contexts, and effectively engage people. It was a crash course in multiculturalism and respect.” With these interpersonal lessons and Poch’s natural warmth and exuberance, his outsider status was a non-issue from the start. “They embraced me,” says Poch, “and many are now lifelong friends.” After eight years of policy development and advocacy, his Commissioner approached him with familiar advice: “I think you can do what I do.”

Running a state agency was not part of Poch’s plan, but when Minnesota’s Higher Education Services Office (now the Office of Higher Education) offered him the directorship, Poch accepted, making him the youngest state higher ed. executive officer in the United States. He candidly recounts his thoughts at the time, “I was scared to death. I had 50 people reporting to me, an agency budget of $250 million, and again, I was an outsider.” However, the agency’s mission to remove barriers to postsecondary attendance aligned completely with his previous experience and professional values, and he quickly integrated into the new environment. “I had an amazing set of colleagues and we were able to work with the legislature to do great things,” Poch reflects. “Watching thousands of students going into colleges and universities who, without the commitment of the state behind them, would not have gone, was absolutely thrilling.”

Rekindling a dormant passion

While still working for the state, Poch began guest lecturing at the University of Minnesota where his love of teaching was reignited. He eventually joined the University as Assistant Dean of General College. At the University, Poch is able to harmonize pedagogy, history and access. “Here I can take my research directly into the classroom,” he explains. His investigation of Howard University School of Law’s consistent development of pioneering civil rights attorneys is his foundation for scenario-based history problems shown to increase subject knowledge and cognition of undergraduates.

Respecting the different ways people learn is a cornerstone of the nascent Master of Arts in Multicultural College Teaching and Learning. As the new Director of Graduate Studies, Poch is energized to collaborate with colleagues and students to expand the program’s influence. “Our program prepares future and current professionals to skillfully and productively engage diverse audiences within colleges and universities,” says Poch. “We believe you can harness all forms of diversity to maximize educational experiences and outcomes.”

Poch still plays the drums, but the decades-old advice he received from Poland fuels his contagious enthusiasm. “I love what I do,” he says unapologetically. “This is a joyful thing for me.”

Rising alum, Anise McDowell continues to be adaptive and relevant

McDowellAnise McDowell, M.A. Graduate, Multicultural College Teaching and Learning,  co-advised the Coffman Memorial Union second floor advisory committee that consisted of leaders representing cultural centers and other student organizations as they worked together planning the redesign of student space. The redesign process and outcomes are an exciting new model for other institutions across the U.S. facing similar challenges. This work won the Office for Equity & Diversity 2013 Outstanding Unit Award. She serves on the board for Parents in Community Action Head Start and the African-American Leadership Forum -Education Work Group. Anise is a recipient of the University’s Women of Color Tapestry Award.

What gets you excited about work?

I get excited watching students grow and celebrating their successes. I have also had an amazing experience working in Student Unions & Activities co-advising the second floor advisory team. They are a collective of outstanding undergraduate student leaders!

What professors were most influential during your time in CEHD?

I enjoyed working closely with my adviser, Jeanne Higbee, who challenged and supported me in many different ways. She understood me, and what I was trying to accomplish.

What skills are important to succeed as a young professional today?

You must be adaptive! I also think that you have to let theory inform your practice but you must also continue to seek new ways in doing things by creating a continuous improvement process. Stay relevant and network with others so that you can share best practices.

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

W.E.B. Du Bois. He was profoundly gifted and I love his adventurous spirit. There is so much to say about him.

What was the impact and benefit of your experience in CEHD?

I would say the biggest impact was that I felt a sense of belonging and the main benefit is that I expanded my knowledge of social justice and multicultural education. It has enabled me to be proactive in moving beyond the challenges of students of color studying at a predominately White institution. My benefits come when students benefit through leadership development, study abroad, research, service learning, and graduation.

Ellison shares inspiration and insights with TRIO Upward Bound students

Ellison-ClassroomU.S. Congressman Keith Ellison visited PSTL 1366: Stories of Self and Community, Multicultural Perspectives on July 7, 2014, where TRIO Upward Bound students, student athletes, and other University students had the opportunity to hear the Congressman speak. This summer, under the instruction of Ezra Hyland, the class is reading the Congressman’s book, My Country Tis of Thee, where he recounts his background, his professional career, the social injustices we see in our country, and how that can change. In his discussion with students, Congressman Ellison covered a number of topics including identifying the traits of a good leader, student athletes unionizing, and most notably the impact TRiO has had on improving college attendance and graduation rates for low-income communities. Ellison succinctly reinforced the discussion with a quote he wrote on the white board: “If you want to change something, you need to do something.” Congressmen Ellison urged the students to become involved and vocal in their communities.

CEHD Reads and author Wes Moore

Wes-Moore-002Each year the First Year Experience Program in the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning partners with CEHD Reads to bring the author of the annual FYE Common Book to campus to talk to first-year students and the College community. This year students were excited to welcome Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore, to campus. Wes Moore is a Rhodes Scholar and a veteran of combat in Afghanistan. He first entered the military after graduating from Valley Forge Military College in 1998 as a commissioned officer. Moore received an undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University and went on to get his Masters degree at Oxford University.

These accomplishments, however, are not at the center of the story he tells in his book, which instead focuses on his childhood growing up in Baltimore and the Bronx. The Other Wes Moore examines the barriers and challenges adolescents growing up in impoverished and violent neighborhoods face. Moore explained that his book uses his own story and the story of another young man also named Wes Moore, who winds up serving a life sentence in prison, as a way of building awareness about all of the “others” who are part of our society. By highlighting the importance of context, as well as the role of mentors, community and service, Moore spoke to many of the issues students have been exploring as they study his book in their First Year Inquiry course. The author used his time with the college community to inspire students to “make a difference.” Moore — a charismatic and engaging speaker — emphasized that “everybody has a shot at something bigger than where they started from”, and that it is our duty to take responsibility for others as well as ourselves if we want to build strong communities.

Students and audience members asked Moore questions about the role of parents, faith, institutions, race and class in determining the different paths of the two Wes Moores. Educators at the event asked Moore how they could better serve their students. He answered, “Consistency is key”. Many adolescents in impoverished neighborhoods and communities face inconsistency on a daily basis, and youth are more likely to reach their potential if they have at least one adult in their life who consistently supports them. While Moore recognized that “potential is universal, opportunity is not”, he encouraged everyone to help make a difference in the lives of adolescents who are faced with fewer opportunities.