Alumna doing her part to promote equality, diversity in society

by Eli Saleh  /   Dec 8, 2013

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We live in a country that has made great strides in embracing its differences. Whether it be Martin Luther King, Jr.’s persistent role in the Civil Rights Movement or talk show host Ellen DeGeneres publically supporting Prop 8, many Americans continue the work to achieve equity for all. Yet, there is still work to do.

Lisa Patrick, recent graduate from the College of Education's Diversity and Equity online master's program, can proudly count herself among the list of accomplished individuals who tirelessly support equality and diversity. She currently serves as the operations manager for Adult Education and Community Services for Boston Public Schools (BPS).

Adult Education and Community Services offers educational services to Boston parents, children, and employees to improve not only their educational, political, and economic status, but also their overall well-being. In her role, Patrick also hopes to impact the Boston schools by encouraging conversations that advocate equality instead of setting them aside. Her alternative high school is made up of a wide variety of individuals: single parents, homeless students, 59-year-old grandparents, high school dropouts, formerly incarcerated men, a 20-year-old male struggling with his sexual identity, the list goes on. Regardless, Patrick sees them as survivors.

“Once we learn to embrace or acknowledge differences, whether race, ethnicity, gender, religion (dis)ability and sexual orientation, I am confident that changes in equity will facilitate a reduction in the achievement gaps based on those differences,” says Patrick.

In May 2013, Patrick was also awarded the Outstanding Student Medal at the master's level during the College of Education's convocation ceremonies. Winning the award further emphasized Patrick’s desire to create a fair area for learning.

“To be nominated and then win among so many talented, passionate and committed students was very humbling,” said Patrick.

During her convocation speech, Patrick attributed much of her success to the members of her student cohort in the online Diversity and Equity program. She believes that the program equips educators to create and challenge deficit thinking.

“As we move into the next phases of our lives and venture into our careers as educators,” Patrick stated in her speech, “we are charged with the undying need to share our vision, our passion and commitment to creating safe and affirming learning environments that will support those whose voices are often ignored or even silenced.”

Patrick hopes to make a difference at Boston Public Schools by listening to her students’ beliefs and encouraging them to ask the difficult questions, and to examine the policies that led them awry.

Regardless of the many top-notch colleges and universities from which she could have selected, Patrick truly felt that the online platform at Illinois provided a valuable opportunity to have a blended learning experience via the Web. She appreciated the fact that the university placed a great emphasis on recognizing diversity and equity in education.

“While investigating colleges and universities I loved that fact that the University of Illinois didn’t simply offer one course on diversity, they offered an entire degree. Once I came to the campus and saw the great facilities, I knew that I had made the right choice – I am now a proud Illini,” says Patrick.