The call went out in 2021. Across the country, scholars received the message in an email or noticed the news on Twitter.
Regardless of how the call arrived, recipients were excited to learn that the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education had announced groundbreaking hiring initiatives to search for new faculty. And, after reading the job descriptions, they were compelled to find out more.
“We are interested in scholar-activists across a range of disciplines committed to (re)shaping scholarship around race and ethnicity to improve access, opportunity and policy across society and within school systems.”
“We seek candidates whose research engages questions of practice that impact the ways educators educate for an anti-racist and participatory democratic society with school communities, as well as the ways in which historically underrepresented groups engage and transform P-12 education.”
“We believe improving vital social measures, such as race relations and social, emotional and economic opportunities and outcomes for underrepresented minoritized individuals and communities, requires a concentration of scholars who, from their varied disciplinary backgrounds, are committed to tackling these educational, economic and social disparities.”
“UB is committed to using its research, teaching and public outreach to better understand and ameliorate structural disparities. COVID-19 and a national reckoning with racism have laid bare the structural inequalities present in school and society. We believe the interdisciplinary field of learning sciences is key to understanding and supporting learners and the multiple contexts in which learning takes place.”
Katheryne Leigh-Osroosh, assistant professor of counseling, school and educational psychology, hadn’t seen a job advertisement like this before. “I was thrilled when I saw the call … A lot of universities will use terms in their proposals, like ‘multicultural counseling,’ ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion,’” she said. “Everybody has a diversity statement now, but it’s still the same traditional type of program and the expectation of faculty to be within these very rigid parameters of what scholarship looks like. The language in the call for the cluster hire made it obvious to me that UB is heading in another direction.”
Other new faculty reported experiencing similar reactions. Tim Monreal, assistant professor of learning and instruction, felt inspired by GSE’s clear convictions and vision, while Jasmine Alvarado, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy, was excited by the opportunity to engage in new research promoting heterogeneity, justice and equity.
Christina U. King, clinical assistant professor of literacy education, felt seen when the call came. “The work that I do with critical literacy and culturally responsive teaching pedagogy is not supported everywhere … The best line in the call for new professors was that UB was specifically looking for professors like myself and my husband who are interested in teaching about how all teachers can incorporate more diversity not only in the literature or materials that we teach but in the ways that we teach.”
These are the responses GSE Dean Suzanne Rosenblith hoped for when she first decided to initiate a new approach to search for faculty at GSE.
It’s not a well-kept secret: The long-standing and wide-ranging inclusivity issues embedded in higher education have resulted in a lack of diversity in race, research and thought in colleges and universities throughout the country.
When Rosenblith became dean in July 2017, she was keenly aware of this issue. She wanted to take steps to enact change within GSE, hoping to positively impact the university and educational spaces in Buffalo, across the state, nationally and around the world.
One of her first steps: identifying a chief diversity officer within GSE to better ensure that the school’s commitment to equity could become a reality. After Raechele Pope, senior associate dean of faculty and student affairs, assumed the chief diversity officer role, she and Rosenblith collaborated with faculty, staff and students to rewrite GSE’s mission and vision statements and create a Comprehensive Plan for Equity, Diversity, Justice and Inclusion (EDJI).
In May 2020, after the murder of George Floyd sparked America’s racial reckoning, GSE’s efforts intensified. Under Rosenblith’s leadership, the GSE community worked together to establish an EDJI committee and offered learning opportunities, such as the Teach-In for Racial Equity and the virtual panel, Critical Race Theory: Clarifying the Conversation.
Through these actions and others—like the development of the UB Teacher Residency Program and the UB Center for K-12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education—GSE had begun moving toward meeting the goal of creating a more equitable, diverse, just and inclusive scholarly community.
Still, there was more to be done.
Achieving real change in a school of education requires more than checking a box or reporting numbers and percentages; it necessitates innovation in pedagogy and research to aid in identifying new ways of achieving equity, diversity, justice and inclusion.
Rosenblith knew that cluster hiring, the practice of hiring several faculty members in one discipline, or a range of disciplines around common research topics, was the next step in realizing GSE’s goals.
While diversifying GSE’s faculty was important to Rosenblith, her primary goal for cluster hiring centered on bringing in faculty whose research focused on interrogating racial inequity in new and different ways.
“We’re not alone in terms of universities and schools of education caring about better understanding race and inequality. But, through cluster hires, we tried to find scholars who are looking at these questions methodologically through different lenses, with the hope that perhaps these different lenses will yield different solutions or opportunities for moving our institution and schools forward—and, if we really care about equity—then bringing in scholars who see their work as fundamentally connected to communities was really important,” said Rosenblith.
She believed that executing GSE’s Cluster Hire in Race and (In)Equity in Schools and Society would give UB the capacity to address problems of social significance that demand multidisciplinary perspectives, while also creating a built-in community of scholars who have a shared connection.
Similarly, in collaboration with UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, and School of Architecture and Planning, Rosenblith developed UB’s Cluster Hire in the Learning Sciences, with the intention of assembling an interdisciplinary group of researchers whose knowledge and ideas will lead to improved and more equitable learning and learning environments in K-12 schools and higher education.
“ I wrote from my heart, head and soul for what I believed our students desperately sought from their programs and what our community partners were striving for in their work for Buffalo’s future.”
Sarah A. Robert, GSE associate professor, led the charge by drafting the language for a social studies education faculty search, which was ultimately repurposed and featured in the advertisement for the Cluster Hire in Race and (In)Equity in Schools and Society.
“I wrote from my heart, head and soul for what I believed our students desperately sought from their programs and what our network of alumni and community partners were striving for in their work for Buffalo’s future,” said Robert.
Rosenblith appreciated the authenticity of Robert’s words: “The language of that call reflects our values; it’s not like we haven’t had any conversations or initiatives, and we just came up with these words in this particular order,” said Rosenblith. “It was a natural progression from all the work and conversations we’ve been having as a school of education and is deeply tied to our focus on equity and inclusivity.”
“ Those types of experiences showed that Buffalo not only was providing them this professional opportunity, but Buffalo and Western New York had all of the foundations and roots for them to grow.”
With the unique language came a new method to meeting with candidates.
“As someone who has very deep roots in Buffalo, in the city proper, I have always woven field trips and experiential learning into my courses—and, as a search chair—I brought that to bear on the experiences that search candidates had when they came here. They didn’t just have your typical dinner or lunch with faculty members and maybe students,” explained Robert.
“We took LaGarrett [King] to the Michigan Street Baptist Church in the African American Heritage Corridor. We took candidates to the absolute end of the Underground Railroad and stood looking across to Canada. Those types of experiences showed social studies educators—and particularly educators concerned with racial justice and teaching anti-oppressive education—that Buffalo not only was providing them this professional opportunity, but Buffalo and Western New York had all of the foundations and roots for them to grow. What was it about those searches that made us so successful in bringing such significant scholars to Buffalo? It was Buffalo.”
Their approach worked.
Thirteen recently hired faculty researchers, who bring a wide range of educational and professional experience and expertise, have started a new chapter at UB this fall, where they complement an already robust faculty.
GSE’s new scholars arrived at the right time. Erin Kearney, chair and associate professor in the Department of Learning and Instruction, felt that the research interests of GSE’s new faculty align with the passions and goals of today’s students.
“Students increasingly express a desire to carry out research that can lead to real change in society, especially research that plays a role in disrupting and transforming racist policies, practices and systems ...The scholars joining GSE, alongside other LAI and GSE faculty committed to research that challenges racial inequities in education, will certainly meet the strong dedication of students who more and more want to also pursue scholar-activist paths,” she said.
“ The more perspectives, methodologies, approaches and lenses on matters of deep educational and social significance, the better chance we have to make a true difference.”
According to Amy VanScoy, associate professor of information science, students in the Department of Information Science have demonstrated similar interests and aspirations. VanScoy’s students are eager to enroll in librarianship courses focused on diversity, equity and inclusion and continue to express enthusiasm about participating in class projects designed to explore how to best serve marginalized communities.
“The students are saying, ‘this is important to us, and this is one of the reasons we went into this profession,’” she said. “Having researchers that can tap into that interest and are inspiring to them is important.”
GSE’s new faculty also help to better reflect the racial and cultural diversity at UB. There are now 11 more minoritized faculty compared to the last academic year.
This fall, minoritized faculty make up 22% of GSE’s full-time faculty, up from 10% one year ago. Improving representation allows GSE’s students and community members of color to see themselves reflected in their educators and mentors.
“I believe diversity is critical to intellectual exploration. The more perspectives, methodologies, approaches and lenses on matters of deep educational and social significance, the better chance we have to make a true difference,” Rosenblith said. “I am so happy to welcome all of our new colleagues to GSE and truly believe GSE and UB will be a place for them to flourish personally and professionally.”
The experiences, expertise and perspectives of these 13 new faculty members have already amplified GSE’s impact.
And it’s being felt throughout the university—and even at institutions outside of Buffalo.
Sarah A. Robert’s colleagues from another SUNY school contacted her after observing GSE’s recent cluster hiring initiatives. They reported that GSE’s success in recruiting accomplished and innovative faculty has inspired reflection, questions and the motivation to alter their institutional hiring practices to mirror GSE’s.
“They’re asking for best practices related to how to do this because they watched from not too far as we did this so successfully,” said Robert. “This has influenced not only what’s happening at GSE, but we are already having an impact and getting people’s attention at UB and in the SUNY system.”
From Robert’s perspective, GSE has prepared a cluster hiring model that can be used or adapted at other colleges and universities.
While Dean Rosenblith acknowledges that GSE needs to continue evolving to achieve its goals and create more positive change, she is delighted by the outcomes from the cluster hiring initiatives and happy to share in this transformational moment alongside the UB community this fall.
“To be able to bring in a group of scholars who have shared commitments, although from different disciplines, is powerful,” said Rosenblith. “It creates an intellectual community with shared perspectives on the importance of public scholarship and the centrality of working alongside community members in an effort to attend to and attack these vexing issues around inequality with respect to race. It’s exciting.”
“ To be able to bring in a group of scholars who have shared commitments is powerful.”
As a young student in NYC Public Schools, Jasmine Alvarado constantly questioned the deficit labels and the rigid and under resourced nature of learning she experienced in her classrooms. Without clear reasoning, her school labeled her as potentially lacking English proficiency—until she excelled at the proficiency exam she was required to take. Suddenly she was recognized as gifted and moved from an overcrowded, underresourced classroom to a nicer space with more learning materials and opportunities.
When she became a teacher in the New York City schools, she observed the same issues she noticed as a student. “I tried to create culturally and linguistically expansive learning experiences for my students—as well as humanizing family-school relationships—but, I realized that no matter how hard I tried, these issues were systemic and interconnected to other histories and realities outside my classroom,” she said.
Alvarado’s experiences as a student and teacher motivated her to study educational policy, family-school-community engagement, bilingual education and K-8 school leadership. Her research agenda focuses on three interconnected domains: educational policies and practices of K-8 schools, multiliteracies of racially minoritized students and families, and the intersections between societal inequities, educational policies and the multiliteracies of racially minoritized families in K-8 schools.
She looks forward to this new chapter at UB and within the Buffalo community. “I hope that my work advances the flourishing and well-being of our society in some way by influencing the way people learn, study and reimagine a better world. Hopefully transformative learning and dialogue leads to action from people, as collectives, and it informs that work they’re doing to create and advance reforms and initiatives that are going on in their communities.”
MOST RECENT APPOINTMENTS: Instructor and lead research assistant, curriculum and instruction, Boston College; bilingual literacy support specialist, Waltham Public Schools
GRADUATE DEGREES: PhD, curriculum and instruction, Boston College; MA, educational leadership and policy, Boston College; MA, bilingual childhood education, CUNY-Hunter College
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: BA, Hispanic studies and government, Harvard University
After growing up in Jersey City with friends from around the globe, Tasha Austin developed a passion for learning about international languages and cultures. And then, one day, she had an epiphany: She realized she needed to look inward to explore her own cultural experiences as a Black American.
“It seems that my cultural understandings and ways of knowing and being were never tapped or explored within the educational setting. We had all of these wonderful tapestries of cultures and languages … And what I have as a Black American is kind of avoided, or framed as a deficit.”
Austin’s personal experiences, combined with her 15 years of teaching, led to her interest in researching the manifestations of anti-Blackness in language education. Through her work, she seeks to challenge the anti-Black logics that undergird language teacher preparation and world language education through genealogical methods and secondary analyses of policies and texts.
She is committed to continuing this research and embarking on new scholarly opportunities at UB, such as collaborating on an upcoming publication with Julie Gorlewski, GSE senior associate dean for academic affairs and teacher education.
Learning Buffalo’s history and getting to know the community are also important to Austin.
“I think there’s so much possibility for my research as a world language educator who believes that the strength of world languaging is incorporating the backgrounds and the expertise of the folks in front of you. I think that, from a local context, Buffalo is really a standout candidate to demonstrate what could be done if we—rather than looking all around—look right at home for the beauty the world offers us in terms of histories, perspectives, expertise and linguistic prowess.”
MOST RECENT APPOINTMENT: Lecturer, language education and urban education, Rutgers University
GRADUATE DEGREES: PhD, education, Rutgers University; MA, education, Rutgers; EdM, language education, Rutgers
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: BA, Spanish language and culture, Douglass College
After earning a master’s degree in mental health counseling, Isaac Burt worked in the field as a counselor for 18 years. Many of his clients were historically marginalized immigrants of color. He noticed that the individuals with whom he worked, particularly young boys from war-stricken countries, were often labeled by their teachers as having anger issues.
“I wondered if they were truly angry or if there is a systemic issue and a lack of knowledge about the culture,” he said. Burt decided to pursue doctoral studies to explore this question and determine the right ways to create meaningful change in school systems serving immigrants and students of color.
He continued this research throughout his career while also working to create societal change by serving as the associate director for the Office to Advance Women, Equity and Diversity and the director of the Black Faculty Association at Florida International University.
Now at UB, he strives to implement an integration of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and multicultural counseling (STEMMC) through his scholarship. His research interests also focus on racism and discrimination’s impact on feelings, behaviors and the brain, and how the concept of flow state can lead to improved wellness.
“My hope is to create programs based on my research that can be implemented in schools for people to take and optimize their lives. I have already published articles on this, and I think it is already impacting my field, but I want to go larger. I really like implementing research in a school and seeing that systemic change.”
MOST RECENT APPOINTMENT: Associate professor, counseling, recreation and school psychology, Florida International University
GRADUATE DEGREES: PhD, counselor education, University of Central Florida; EdM, mental health counseling, University of Louisville; MPA, labor-management relations, University of Louisville
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: BA, psychology, University of Louisville
How can libraries demystify the admission and college-going experience for undergraduate and graduate students? After a career in admissions, academic advising and library science, that’s the question that Africa Hands seeks to answer.
Through her research, she aims to improve access to and awareness of information, resources and services that move people toward their personal, professional and community goals. Her scholarship focuses on the doctoral student experience, the cultural and social capital of first-generation students, and public library support for college-bound patrons. Last year, she received an early career grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to support her research efforts focused on how public libraries are serving college-bound patrons in their communities in Central Appalachia.
“I see the public library as an information institution, an educational institution, that can be in that space of informing people about their options—being sites for college classes, being sites for college fairs and programming related to financial aid,” she said.
“I see a lot of gatekeeping in terms of who was invited to the doctoral student table and encouraged to pursue doctoral degrees, and I want to make things better for folks … not just high school students who are going to college, but working adults, folks coming from the military and disabled folks.”
Hands poured her expertise and commitment to creating change into her book, “Successfully Serving the College Bound,” which offers public libraries practical guidance on how to help college-bound students navigate the admissions and financial aid process.
“I want to tear down gates. I don’t want any part of that elitism that takes place in academia. I want to work against that and to open up the spaces for more people,” she said. “Libraries are institutions where people need to see themselves. It’s not just about having books on the shelf, but helping people to navigate some aspects of their lives.”
MOST RECENT APPOINTMENT: Assistant professor, library science, East Carolina University
GRADUATE DEGREES: PhD, information systems, Queensland University of Technology; MLIS, San José State University; MA, applied counseling psychology, Golden Gate University
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: BA, psychology, University of California, Davis
Christopher Hoadley’s connection to Western New York spans generations. His father was born in Buffalo, and his family often visited the city when Hoadley was a child. Now, after living around the country and the world, Hoadley has come full circle and is ready to put down roots in the City of Good Neighbors.
Throughout his career, Hoadley has focused on exploring the ways that technology can help improve people’s lives. He has over 45 years of experience designing and building educational technology, and over 30 years of experience researching the connections between technology, learning and collaboration. His work focuses on collaborative technologies, computer support for cooperative learning, and design-based research methods—a term he coined in the late 1990s.
“Learning, collaboration and experience are places where technology can make a big difference, and putting the puzzle pieces together in those three areas is what I’m most passionate about,” he said. “How do we find and make and use technology that makes us more human?”
Hoadley, a co-founder of the International Society of the Learning Sciences, is eager to continue his work at UB. He will lead GSE’s recently launched learning sciences initiative, which will leverage a group of prominent faculty in the disciplines of learning sciences, human-computer partnerships, cognitive science and psychology, design, and learning environments. Focused on integrative learning sciences scholarship, the interdisciplinary group of researchers will strive to build a community whose knowledge and ideas will lead to improvements in learning and learning environments in K-12 and higher education through the application and development of cutting-edge technologies and pedagogies across the educational lifespan, while also considering the vital need to eliminate persistent inequities.
“Here at UB, I think there’s a tremendous opportunity to bring together different disciplines around pressing real-world problems,” said Hoadley. “The only way you’re going to do it is by being in partnership with communities, and—for me—that’s what I hope is the hallmark of our learning sciences program.”
MOST RECENT APPOINTMENT: Associate professor, educational communications and technology, New York University
GRADUATE DEGREES: PhD, science and math education, University of California, Berkeley; MS, computer science, University of California, Berkeley
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: BS, brain and cognitive science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
With a background in education, engineering, administration and poetry, David W. Jackson pursues educational goals that are uniquely diverse—and his current research interests are no different. With every stage of his academic and professional career, a new passion emerged.
As a middle school teacher, seeing students deeply engaged in classroom learning felt magical. While enrolled in his doctoral program, Jackson became fascinated with computing and its ability to both lift and empower, or marginalize and oppress students. Later in his PhD program, he developed an appreciation for peer mentorship while working on a research project.
Now a scholar of student engagement, computation in STEM classes and near-peer models of instruction and mentoring, Jackson has found a way to study all of his interests. He knew that GSE was the right place to continue this work because of the university’s enthusiasm for and commitment to the learning sciences and interdisciplinary research.
“My big picture idea is using education to form—and I credit my wife for this term—’dynamic solidarities’ between minoritized and majoritized communities. For me, that happens to be science, engineering, computing, mentoring and engagement. We’re using all of that to bridge the gaps we see in our country—politics, regionality, race, everything. It’s all of these identities that have been leveraged to divide us,” he said.
“I think one way to build more equitable and just communities and societies is to engage with those differences—to have these be solidarities that are not solid. They’re fluid. They’re dynamic. And we can all learn from each other and benefit psychologically, socially and spiritually.”
MOST RECENT APPOINTMENTS: After-school STEM coordinator, Kennedy and McDevitt middle schools; field instructor, secondary education (chemistry and biology), Brandeis University
GRADUATE DEGREES: PhD, curriculum and instruction, Boston College; MEd, education administration, Endicott College; MAT in science education (grades 5-8), Boston University
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: BS, chemical engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Beginning in Georgia and continuing in Texas and South Carolina, Christina U. King has had the opportunity to teach and learn from several first-generation and second-generation immigrant and refugee students. Many of these students were non-native English speakers of varying immigration documentation statuses. King, a naturalized U.S. citizen and documented Afro-Caribbean immigrant from the English-speaking countries of Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, connected with immigrant and refugee students—and their families—of multiple ethnic, racial, cultural, language and immigration backgrounds around their shared invisibility as immigrant persons of color (POC) and acculturation experiences in American schools.
These shared teaching and learning experiences and interactions led King to pursue a PhD in literacy education for social transformation. She was hopeful of moving POC immigrants’ and refugees’ stories and lived experiences from the margins and making them more prominent in school curriculum and instruction.
Through her dissertation research with preservice teachers, she was excited to discover meaningful ways teachers can teach diverse children’s literature. “Using literature is a way to provide students with a window to the world,” she said.
King is committed to continued research and exploration of ways to transform literacy curriculum and instruction, and researching and teaching diverse children’s literature—those written by and featuring various historically marginalized and underrepresented Black, Indigenous and people of color’s storied experiences.
More than anything, King looks forward to continuing those discoveries and having the chance to “do the work of critically teaching diverse children’s literature” with teachers, librarians and future teacher educators at UB.
“I’d like there to be a time when having more diverse literature is not such a big deal—where it’s as commonplace as some of the other traditional texts that we see on classroom and school library shelves. And, it’s not just sitting on the shelves, but actually being taught.”
MOST RECENT APPOINTMENT: Doctoral candidate and graduate instructor, learning, teaching and curriculum, with an emphasis in language and literacies for social transformation, University of Missouri
GRADUATE DEGREES: PhD, learning, teaching and curriculum, University of Missouri-Columbia; MEd, Cambridge College
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: BA, African American studies, Georgia State University
LaGarrett King has been hard at work since he arrived at GSE at the beginning of 2022. Within less than a year, King established UB’s Center for K-12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education and a year’s worth of in-person and virtual events, including the Black History Nerds Saturday School Series, Researching Race Series and Teaching Black History Conference.
And he’s only just getting started. Through his research and the center’s programming, King seeks to investigate and define Black history education to provide solutions for more effective education about Black history and race in K-12 schools, teacher education programs and other educative spaces.
“As a society, we have been dealing with Black history education since the late 19th century—and we still can’t get it right,” he said.
An internationally recognized and award-winning scholar of Black history education, King is eager to continue creating learning and professional development opportunities for students, educators, researchers and Black history lovers from around the world. “As an associate professor and a director, I want to be someone who is a mentor to junior faculty and graduate students and help usher them into the profession the right way,” he said.
“I want to help correct the miseducation we receive in our schools. And, in Buffalo, I hope to add to the work the people in this community have been doing for so long—and, hopefully, I can highlight and elevate them. I see the work that I do as standing on the shoulders of many people before me, trying to chip away at the ignorance we have toward history, to hopefully make our society a better place.”
MOST RECENT APPOINTMENT: Associate professor, social studies education, University of Missouri-Columbia
GRADUATE DEGREES: PhD, curriculum and instruction, University of Texas at Austin
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: BS, secondary education, Louisiana State University
As an undergraduate student, Katheryne Leigh-Osroosh studied animal sciences with the hope of fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian. While she acknowledges that it was a good learning experience, she also admits that she faced ups and downs while enrolled in the program. “As a biracial individual, this was my first time being in a space where I was one of only a few minoritized students,” she said. “That was an eye-opening experience.”
During her last two years as an undergraduate, she decided to pursue a minor in psychology. Her first class focused on multicultural counseling and development. The conversations were engaging, and the literature was inclusive—she instantly fell in love with the field.
Leigh-Osroosh, a Gates Millennium Scholar, completed GSE’s school counseling master’s program, and went on to work as an elementary school counselor for the St. Louis Public School District. Now a phenomenological researcher and existential practitioner, she critically examines experiences of education, decolonizing practices and social justice counselor education practices.
“Coming back to interview for a faculty position at GSE was a full circle experience. I felt pride in the opportunity to engage with my former instructors as colleagues and share my journey and hopes for using my work to contribute to the school counseling program and Western New York communities,” she said.
“My ancestors and those who have mentored me have prepared me to help educate those who are going to be in the schools and—at a higher level—to address some of the systemic and structural issues.”
MOST RECENT APPOINTMENT: Assistant professor, counseling and school psychology, San Diego State University
GRADUATE DEGREES: PhD, counselor education and supervision, University of Missouri-St. Louis; EdM, school counseling, University at Buffalo
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: BS, livestock management, Delaware Valley College
What’s the greatest tool in Erika McDowell’s toolkit? She is proud to tell you it’s herself.
McDowell attributes her passion and power to her experiences growing up: When she felt like she didn’t fit in at school, her teachers created supportive environments to help her feel a sense of belonging. She knew she wanted to do the same thing for other students.
She achieved that goal while working as a teacher and district-level leader in Philadelphia, where she developed research interests in positive behavior support, culturally responsive leadership and equitable practices in schools.
Now, as a trainer, educator, consultant and advocate, McDowell uses her knowledge and resources to disrupt the educational system to create equitable and inclusive learning spaces where all children feel valued. “We can’t keep blaming other people for our educational system,” she said. “What is my role? What can I do?”
McDowell will further explore these questions, within herself and with others, at GSE. She plans to work with leaders and learners in the Leadership Initiative for Tomorrow’s Schools (LIFTS) administration certification program to impact systemic and interpersonal change through teaching and service.
“We’ve got to dismantle the system so we’re all valued in the system … I’m thinking about what the whole child needs,” she said. “What does the whole leader or teacher need? We’ve been focusing on our students, which we should, but we are the teachers and leaders in the room. How can we be more culturally responsive and equitable in our work and to ourselves to give our students what they need to be successful?”
MOST RECENT APPOINTMENTS: Partner, Wildflower Schools; executive director of professional development and director of PBIS/Youth Court, The School District of Philadelphia
GRADUATE DEGREES: EdD, educational leadership and management, Drexel University; MA, educational theater, New York University
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: BFA, theatre education, Howard University
Identifying as Chicano but educated in predominantly white spaces, Tim Monreal did not formally learn about his culture until college. When he enrolled in ethnic and Chicano studies courses, he gained a new perspective on education—and the goal of someday becoming the teacher he never had as a child. Monreal then worked as a social studies teacher for 11 years before his career in academia.
As a faculty member at CSU-Bakersfield, a Spencer dissertation awardee, and a research fellow with the Latinx Research Center at Santa Clara University, Monreal pursued research interests that stemmed from his own experiences: “A major question I ask: How is knowledge of Latina/o/x people and communities (re)produced and resisted in school spaces?” He is particularly interested in the influence of space and place in this process.
Continuing to execute this research in Buffalo feels natural for Monreal. Because his wife grew up in Western New York, their family has already spent a lot of time in Buffalo.
His familiarity with the Buffalo community gives him confidence about the possibilities for the future at GSE: “One of the things that’s super important to me as I’m teaching and researching is the intersection of local place, space and community. I’m really excited about focusing on that and what social studies education is going to look like moving forward,” he said.
“We have tremendous grad students that we brought in—like Dawnavyn [James] and Greg [Simmons]—and I think Sarah [A. Robert] and LaGarrett [King] are putting us in the position to do big things. I’m excited to see, hopefully, UB become a national leader in social studies education.”
MOST RECENT APPOINTMENT: Assistant professor, teacher education, California State University, Bakersfield
GRADUATE DEGREES: PhD, social foundations of education, University of South Carolina; MA, secondary education, Loyola Marymount University
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: BA, political science with a minor in history, UC Santa Barbara
As a child, Naomi Thompson often felt unwelcomed and unsupported in STEM classrooms. Her experiences inspired a goal of making these environments more supportive and accessible for learners historically excluded from STEM and STEAM.
Now, Thompson’s research focuses on answering the question: How are art and knowledge—including STEM—related? She investigates how crafting, art-making and other design activities intersect with and enhance equitable learning in formal and informal environments. In particular, she seeks to design educational experiences in ways that highlight and honor voices and practices that are traditionally minoritized and undervalued in educational settings.
With involvement in research projects like “Weaving Together: Exploring How Pluralistic Mathematical Practices Emerge Through Weaving,” she is discovering answers to her question, as she leads efforts to uplift voices and perspectives that are too often ignored.
“I am interested in continuing to work with communities. One thing I’m interested in doing here in Buffalo is meeting with the embedded communities who are doing things like crafting and making and helping to give voice to the work those folks are doing and the ways that we can—in education and more formal education—learn from what they know and what they do,” she said.
“I hope to help highlight and honor the type of knowledge and rigor that goes into that type of practice—just to remind more broadly how important it is not to belittle or downplay those ways of knowing and ways of being in the world.”
MOST RECENT APPOINTMENT: Postdoctoral scholar, Northwestern University
GRADUATE DEGREES: PhD, learning sciences, minor in literacy, culture and language education, Indiana University; MS Ed, learning sciences, Indiana University
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: BA, psychology and educational studies, University of Alabama
Courtney Ward-Sutton is a self-described believer in “Team Science.” Her beliefs and expertise drive her to examine the digital divide, or—in other words—the lack of access to meaningful technologies that can potentially improve the lives of individuals with disabilities.
“It’s the 21st century, where everyone seems to be connected, and there are individuals with disabilities who may not have the same opportunities or access to information,” she said.
“Technology is taking over our world—we have smart cars and phones—and we have to make sure it’s purposeful and everyone who may or may not have a disability can be included with the same opportunities for access and usage.”
Ward-Sutton’s research focuses specifically on assistive technology that can help a wide range of individuals with disabilities. Examples include universal design technology in the classroom, eyeglasses, hearing aids, voice-to-text and screen readers. Additionally, her research focuses on the access to and usage of these technologies among underrepresented populations, as well as disparity gaps and public policy within communities where assistive technology awareness may or may not be readily available.
“It seems like there’s a movement going on with all the new GSE faculty. I’m excited to join GSE and to be part of that force coming in. I want to hit the ground running and look at the resources that are available to get things going in the community that may not have been previously connected.”
MOST RECENT APPOINTMENTS: Assistant professor of rehabilitation, University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Advanced Rehabilitation Research and Training Program, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Research and Capacity Building for Minority Entities, Langston University
GRADUATE DEGREES: PhD, rehabilitation counseling and counselor education, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; MA, psychology, North Carolina Central University
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: BA, psychology, Bennett College for Women