Thursday, September 28, 2017

What am I reading?

Lots of Research and lots of Stats! Stats is really kicking my butt this semester. This fall, I'm enrolled in Introduction to Research Literature and Statistical Methods I. The majority of my reading revolves around this. However, I am starting to read on topics related to my possible dissertation topic and other areas of interest:

  • Critical Mixed Race Studies in Education
  • Cultural Competence
  • Social Emotional Learning
Here are some things I'm reading related to Critical Mixed Race Studies in Education:
  • A qualitative analysis of multiracial students' experiences with prejudice and discrimination in college. Journal of College Student Development -Museus, et. al
  • Understanding the identities of mixed-race college students through a developmental ecology lens. Journal of College Student Development -Renn
  • Mixed-race youth and schooling: the fifth minority -Winn Tutwiler
  • Coping with the crickets: a fusion autoethnography of silence, schooling, and the continuum of biracial identity formation. International Journal of Qualititative Studies in Education -Mawhinney & Petchauer
  • Adolescent Racial Identity: SelfIdentification of Multiple and “Other” Race/ Ethnicities Urban Education -Harris, Ravert, &Sullivan

The following is an annotated bibliography of things I read over the summer or in the past couple of months:

Christensen, L. (2000). Reading, writing, and rising up: Teaching about social justice and the power of the written word. Milwaukee: Rethinking Schools.
This book is mostly pedagogy related to literacy and social justice. While Christensen did not conduct any formal research on her students, her students’ experiences and classwork are the inspiration for her curriculum. The research she includes coordinates with the lessons, and the student work brings the ideas to life.  This book was written seventeen years ago, and while it has been revised it would be nice to see more of a connection to current standards, as well as a connection to the standards that Teaching Tolerance has developed regarding teaching about social justice.
Hallman, H.L. (2007). Reassigning the identity of the pregnant and parenting student. American Secondary Education.  36 (1), 80-98.
Hallman sought to explore the role a school for pregnant and parenting teens plays in not only the academic aspects of their lives, but also the social aspects as well. Teachers at the school Hallman observed often used various aspects of literacy to build students’ academic, parenting and social skills. Though reading, writing, discussion, and experiential education, students developed their identity which Hallman posits is fluid and never fully finished (83). However, the students Hallman observe had differing responses when asked if they felt the parenting school should focus more on parenting skills or building community and support. While Hallman’s study explores the identity development of parenting students, more research needs to be done to dispel or confirm the assumption that separate schools for parenting teens are often remedial.
Jones Thomas, A., Hacker, J.D., Hoxha, D. (2011). Gendered identity of black young women. Sex Roles. 64 (7-8), 530-542.
Jones Thomas, Hacker & Hoxha seek to explore the experience and identity development of Black adolescent women. They cite previous research on the topic which focuses largely on Black identity development beginning with superficial ideals, negative feelings towards one race and finally resulting in positive self-esteem. They note the incorporation of Africentric values and how they positively affect one’s racial identity development. However, the researchers sought to look at gendered racial identity and how it is different and affects young black women. In a focus group of fifteen young women between the ages of 15-22, the researchers asked a series of questions concerning gendered racial identity such as, “what does it mean to be African-American (or of your ethnicity)?” This was followed by, “what does it mean to be a woman?” The follow up questions focused on how their identities formed and changed. Several themes emerged as a result of the study: gendered racial identity, early awareness of racism, beauty standards, and self-determination. While the open-ended questions may be beneficial for older participants, the younger high school students may struggle to identify and articulate their feelings regarding gendered racial identity. The study did highlight the need for “programs that promote resilience, self-determination and Africentric values for African-American girls and adolescents.”
Museus, S. D., SariƱana, S.,A.Lambe, Yee, A. L., & Robinson, T. E. (2016). A qualitative analysis of multiracial students' experiences with prejudice and discrimination in college. Journal of College Student Development, 57(6), 680-697.
In this study, Museus, SariƱana, Lambe, Yee and Robinson sought to understand the unique racial discrimination multiracial students experience in college. They hope to close the gap in research literature related to mixed-race college students’ experiences. The results of the study brought about major themes:
·       Racial essentialization
·       Invalidation of racial identities
·       External imposition of racial identities
·       Racial exclusion and marginalization
·       Challenges to racial authenticity
·       Exoticization
·       Pathologizing of multiracial individuals
While there were some limitations to the study including generalization particularly due to sample size, the results paved the way for new studies in the field of critical mixed race studies in higher education. The researchers also note that while this was a qualitative study, future studies may lend themselves better to a quantitative format.
Renn, K. A. (2003). Understanding the identities of mixed-race college students through a developmental ecology lens. Journal of College Student Development, 44(3), 383-403.
Renn uses an ecological theoretical framework to explore how environmental factors influence mixed-race identity and racial identification. More specifically, Renn also sought to answer the question: what individual traits and developmentally instigative characteristics lead some students to one pattern of identity and some to one or more others? Using Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Model (1995), the author explores how racial identity develops in college. Renn chose this model due to the fact that it could be used to examine the experiences of a variety of students, but also notes that it does not “capture the evolution of identities across time.” Nevertheless, the results of this study which was broken into two parts including a focus group and individual interview show how students self-identify and what processes and experiences in higher education led to this identity.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What is it that I'm going to study?

I think people are often confused as to what exactly I'm studying. Most people can wrap their heads around the popular fields of education. Special Education, Education Administration, and Curriculum & Instruction are all popular fields with which people not working in the field of education are familiar. When I tell them that I'm earning a doctorate in Educational Studies, I'm met with blank stares.

What is Educational Studies?
Educational Studies varies from school to school. In fact, in some schools of education, Educational Studies is the umbrella term for many different fields within education. However, at most institutions, Educational Studies is best defined as the social, cultural, philosophical and historical foundations of education. At many universities the field of Educational Studies is called "Social & Cultural Studies in Education," or "Social & Cultural Foundations of Education." The American Educational Studies Association defines its organization as being  "primarily comprised of college and university professors who teach and research in the field of education utilizing one or more of the liberal arts disciplines of philosophy, history, politics, sociology, anthropology, or economics as well as comparative/international and cultural studies. The purpose of social foundations study is to bring intellectual resources derived from these areas to bear in developing interpretive, normative, and critical perspectives on education, both inside of and outside of schools". I tend to think of it as applying a philosophical, political, sociological, historical and/or cultural lens to solving complex educational problems.

What will I study? 
The emphasis I chose for graduate study is Innovation & Education Reform. Some of the courses I'll take within that area are:  Literacy as Social Practice, History of Education Reform & Change, Social Justice in Educational Reform,  Social Theories of Learning & Organizational Change and Perspectives on Curriculum. My Educational Studies core includes courses like, Philosophical Foundations of Education and Implementation and Evaluation of Curriculum.

What will I do after graduation?

At this point, I just don't know. In fact, that is so far off my radar that I can't even bring myself to think about it. I want to be able to successfully complete my courses, publish in an educational journal, and write and defend my dissertation. I am most frightened by the dissertation, but I'm hoping my summer seminars will help me to feel more confident. My long term goals include research, teaching future teachers, and making systemic changes to education. However, right now, I'm comfortable in the work I'm doing, and see myself working directly with teachers and students for years to come because I learn the most from them.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Road Tripping!!

Part of my doctoral program includes traveling to Colorado each summer (not bad, right?) for doctoral seminars. I originally planned to travel alone and possibly have some friends meet me out there for an extended girls trip, but the costs started to add up: hotel, rental car, flight, class, etc. My husband thought of the idea for our family to make a road trip to Colorado! After my accident, we bought a brand new minivan (and for those of you who don't know, my near death experience was sort of a catalyst for my doctoral studies pursuit) and decided why not put it to good use!

This summer, we'll head to California (by plane) to go to Disneyland again, and then a few days after we come back, we'll head to Kansas to visit my parents for a night and then make our way to Loveland, Colorado. On the way back, we'll stop in Kansas again to see my parents.

I'll be in classes all day the entire time we're in Loveland, but since it's only an hour outside of Denver, my husband and kids plan to visit that area. Luckily, we're members of the Perot Museum here in Dallas. Our membership gives us reciprocal membership and free entry into 360 museums worldwide. So, while I'm in class, they'll museum-hop!

I'm so thankful they're joining me on this first leg of my doctoral journey. When I initially applied to the doctoral program, I already considered the impact this all would have on my family. I know that I can't have it all and that part of completing this program will entail being away from them to study or write. However, I hope my journey will have a positive impact on them as well. I think of how important it is for my children to see their mother going after her dreams because often times mothers are seen as one-dimensional and solely existing for their children--a notion I challenge daily with both of my kids who don't seem to understand that their father is equally able to get them snacks. I also hope it encourages them to be strong people and do what they love. I understand that their hopes and dreams may not be related to academics. I also realize that they may not be able to actualize their hopes and dreams until they are much, much older. I just hope they know I'll support them as they make their way. They've supported me and inspired me in so many ways.

We've never taken a road trip this long as a family of four! We have a DVD player in our minivan as well as other PDAs. Any other suggestions for our first family road trip? Watch out, Colorado! Here come the crazy Campbells!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Letter to My Mama

This was written back in March, but I find it important to share on Mother's Day! A big thanks to my mama! Without her I would not be the woman I am today. A little background on my mama: She got into nursing because she wanted to help people. She got into the field of High Risk Obstetrics & Gynecology because she wanted to help women. For the past six years, she's worked in NICU, but prior to that she spent nearly 32 years helping women from all walks of life heal and recover. My mother not only worked full-time at night, but was the breadwinner in our family (which was rare among the families we encountered). She did this partly because she had to, but partly because it was a great fit for our family. My parents worked opposite shifts so that we spent minimal time in daycare and were rarely unsupervised after school. In addition to providing us (my younger brother and me) with any material possession we could ever desire, my mom found time to volunteer in our schools and at our church, sew the majority of our clothes and all our Halloween costumes, transport us to and from whatever activities in which we were involved, and when we got older she stalked us to make sure we didn't skip school. She taught me to stand up for myself even when I didn't think I could!  I love her more than the letter below illustrates, but to quote the late great Tupac Shakur, "You are appreciated."

I just wanted to write a little letter of appreciation to my mama. I've been participating as part of the cultural competence committee for our district for the last six months and yesterday we presented to the superintendent's council to propose implementing cultural competency trainings for our principals, counselors, teachers, etc. During this time, we've talked a lot about race and culture and what education systems are in place that act as barriers for student success. We've had to deep into our own story as well.

Often times people ask how I became the strong black woman I am and most of the time I give credit to Grandma Rawlins. She was the main woman of color figure in my life and her resume of activism for civil rights in Kansas speaks volumes, especially considering how little voice women had back then. However, when I think about who taught me to have pride in being a black woman, it was you who did that. I can remember you cutting out articles about the things Grandma Rawlins had done for me to take to school to share with my peers who were mostly white. Now that I have a daughter who has hair identical to mine, I realize what a struggle it must've been to not only learn about hair completely different from yours, but master styling it and then teaching me how to style it as well. 

So thank you for always making me feel beautiful, teaching me to be strong and to be proud of my heritage. Now that I have Lena, I realize that raising a black girl is not easy. I struggle with embracing her sassy, bold personality, but also keeping in mind that she's going to have people tell her she's too loud or too black. I just want to nurture her the best way possible. 

I love you and I love you too, Daddy! Obviously, you had an amazing impact on who I am today. I just think sometimes moms don't always realize it or get the praise they deserve, especially white moms of black children. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Journey to Online Doctoral Study

Recently, The University of Northern Colorado admitted me into their education doctoral (EdD) program in Educational Studies. While I'm thrilled to have been accepted into a premier program of study, the journey to doctoral study was not without its struggle. In addition to trying to determine what to study at the doctoral level,--one would think that after 12+ years in the field of education, I would have developed an expertise or an idea for research, but this year provided me the opportunity to hone my vision for academic pursuit--I also had to determine whether I would pursue an online degree or attempt to attend a local school in person. Because of the plethora of doctoral programs in education available to potential students, I had to weed through each program's goals thoroughly and determine if I would receive a reputable degree in which I would have the opportunity to publish and collaborate with faculty and other doctoral students, and lastly receive a rigorous, inspiring curriculum.

After graduating from college and completing two different master's degrees in Education (one in C&I and one in Educational Leadership), I knew I would eventually pursue a doctoral degree. However, I earned my master's degrees early on in my teaching career, so I felt I needed more experience which would eventually be the catalyst for my doctoral research. I began my career  teaching 7th grade Language Arts in a large suburban school district. About five years into my career, I began teaching Developmental Reading and Writing courses at a local community college. I was heavily immersed in the field of English Education, which was the emphasis for my first master's degree. English Education seemed like a natural fit for a doctoral program, and so I started my research by reading (multiple times) The Doctoral Degree in English Education by Allen Webb. A doctoral degree in English Education (or Language, Literacy & Culture--often the umbrella term for programs in Literacy/Reading, English Ed, Bilingual/ESL programs) appealed to me because the methods, curriculum, and literature used in my classroom would serve as the basis for my research.

I found a local university that offered a doctoral program (PhD) in Curriculum & Instruction with a concentration in Language, Literacy & Culture. The program seemed like a perfect fit for me, but the timing was bad: I learned about the program, attended an informational meeting, and a week later I went into labor with my first child. So, I considered an online degree program. I completed my second master's degree online, and while I didn't enjoy the program, I attributed it to the subject matter rather than the online nature of the degree program. I later realized that third-party academic services might have contributed to my distaste for the program--more on that later. I steered clear of for-profit universities (University of Phoenix, Capella, etc.) mostly because the tuition was often times $100-$200 per credit hour more expensive than traditional brick & mortar universities that provide online degrees. I found a reputable  university in a state in which I had family members living. It was an online doctoral degree (EdD) in Language & Literacy Studies. The entire degree program could be completed online, but in order to meet the residency requirement one would have to travel to the university to attend a conference at least once. While the university website provided the course sequence, I had trouble locating the faculty research interests or a way to contact the school for more information. In addition, I left the K-12 classroom at the time and began my current career as a program specialist in the department of at-risk and prevention services. Now I create and evaluate programs designed to address non-academic barriers to student success. Much of what I do now relates to social-emotional learning, mental health, social justice, conflict resolution and restorative justice. My interests had broadened instead of narrowing.

I considered other doctoral programs in Educational Leadership, Curriculum Studies, and Developmental Education (yes! There are three programs in the nation--two in Texas-- that focus on remedial/developmental education), but none of them addressed the areas I had grown to love. Also, most of the programs were geared at those wanting a career change. Eventually, I want to teach pre-service teachers at a university, but for now I want to continue my current career path and expand on my current work. I am pursuing a doctoral degree for the pursuit of knowledge. I decided to pick the brain of those I know currently pursuing doctoral degrees in education. They provided me with much needed guidance in selecting a program, taking the GRE, and preparing for the dissertation. One friend shared a link to the 30 best online doctoral degrees in education. This link opened my eyes to the universities out there offering online doctoral degree programs and it was through this link that I discovered Northern Colorado. I instantly knew that it was a perfect match. The core course requirements include a strong base in social-cultural foundations of education (another branch of interest for me, but there is one doctoral program in this area of study in the entire state of Texas--UT) and the emphasis in Innovation & Educational Reform provides a nice mix of Educational Leadership and Curriculum Studies courses. With titles like Social Justice in Educational Reform and Literacy as Social Practice, I knew I found the right program. The icing on the cake, so to speak, was when I discovered that in order to meet the residency requirement, I would  travel to Northern Colorado for a week each summer to collaborate with faculty and other members of the cohort, and I would defend my dissertation in Colorado as well. This provided the legitimacy I desired in an online program. I quickly requested information and received an email from the director of the program urging me to apply even though I missed the priority deadline.

After I completed the application, I waited and waited and wondered: "what if I don't get into the program?" I had put all my eggs in one basket by applying to this program and if I didn't get in, I would have to wait two more years before applying again. I referred back to the "30 best" link. I requested information from two or three other universities. I was immediately turned off from two of the programs after they hounded me by calling  2-3 times per day. I learned that I wasn't actually receiving phone calls from the universities, but from Academic Partnerships, a private, third party recruitment company that administers much of the  recruitment and academic services for online programs at state universities. I was even more turned off when one "enrollment specialist" employed by Academic Partnerships pre-interviewed me (I guess this was done to determine if I should even apply) and asked questions like, "do you think you'll take out loans or will you pay for the program one course at a time?" and "do you have any friends who would want to complete a doctoral program with you?" When I told the enrollment specialist that I was very interested in collaborating with peers and professors and that I would like to come on campus throughout my study, she made a point to tell me that I wouldn't have to step foot on campus and that I could collaborate via telephone conference, email or BlackBoard. I resigned to the fact that Northern Colorado was for me. I could not attend a university that partnered with Academic Partnerships or similar academic recruitment businesses. If I didn't get in this round, I would wait the two years and try again. Fortunately, I didn't have to wait.

I hope my research helps someone who can't complete a traditional doctoral program, but seeks a challenging online curriculum. I often felt alone in my pursuit because my interests weren't the same as many of my peers in education. As mentioned earlier, an advanced
degree in Educational Leadership and becoming a principal or superintendent aren't part of my plans. Creating & evaluating programs, writing curriculum, and eventually teaching pre-service teachers are my passions and completing a doctoral degree that would allow me to build on those passions is what I want. I know the journey to doctor won't be easy, but I'm glad I don't have to second guess my choice for the institution where I'll receive my degree. The choice I made was the right choice.

Speedy Doctoral Application

I started researching doctoral programs in the spring 2016. I stumbled upon my program at the end of February of 2017. I knew I missed the priority deadline for summer 2017, so I inquired about a summer 2019 start date (the program admits every two years). The program director responded letting me know that I could still apply for summer 2017. As I look back at it, I still can't believe that I was able to complete the application in the time that I did while working full-time, teaching part-time, traveling for work, managing my son's basketball team, dealing with a child in the terrible twos, and helping my husband prepare for the LCSW exam. Whew! I did it!

  • Letters of Reference - I contacted three people familiar with my work to write letters of reference on my behalf. One person was my instructor for a couple of my undergrad courses in English Ed. At the time, she was a graduate teaching assistant (GTA), but now she is professor of English. My current supervisor wrote a letter for me. My previous supervisor for my adjunct teaching job wrote the third letter.

  • Statement of Goals - I revised my statement of goals. I wrote a few last year for other schools I considered, so I tweaked this one to reflect my current research goals.

  • Writing Sample - Thanks to Google (gmail) I was able to retrieve my master's degree project from almost 12 years ago. I had a blast reading my research interests from back in the day. Fortunately, it's relevant to research I plan to do now. In 2005, I graduated from the University of Kansas with a master's degree in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in English Education. My master's project was on Writing Across the Curriculum. I examined Writing to Learn and Writing to Display Learning approaches to WAC. 

  • GRE Prep - I studied for the GRE. I bought a prep book and reviewed every night. I watch YouTube videos and put a daily vocabulary app on my laptop.

  • GRE- On April 1st, 2017, I took the GRE! I'm thankful I won't have to do that again!

  • Completed Application - My complete application was sent to the Graduate School Admissions department.

  • Interview - I received an email on May 1st asking me to participate in an admissions interview. Unfortunately, technology was not my friend that day (May 3rd). I was supposed to participate in an interview with two faculty members via Google Hangouts. Well, my laptop would not connect to the internet and our new computer didn't have Hangouts installed on it. However, we were able to have a phone conversation. Fortunately, it went well.

  • 2nd Writing Sample - One day after my interview, I completed the writing portion of my application. I had 45 minutes to write on a prompt provided by the program committee. Even though, I excel in writing, the experience was still nerve-wrecking. 
    Preparing for my grad school interview! Revisited my statement of goals!

    My computer would not connect to the internet and I couldn't download Google Hangouts on my husband's computer. Nevertheless, I was able to conduct a phone interview.

    May 8th, 2017 - I got into grad school!