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Education at Illinois represented well at justice-focused AERA Meeting

by Sal Nudo / Apr 29, 2015

College faculty and students share their commitment to social justice through scholarship, research, and practice

Education at Illinois faculty members and students were again prominently in attendance at the AERA Annual Meeting, which was held this year April 16-20 in Chicago. The 2015 theme—“Toward Justice: Culture, Language, and Heritage in Education Research and Praxis”—focused on social justice.

In all, 51 faculty members and 58 graduate students from the College either presented or participated in sessions. Twenty-seven members of the College participated in invited roundtables or speaker sessions.

Professor Rebecca Ginsburg, director of the Education Justice Project, was an invited speaker of the session called College in Prison: A Necessity in Moving “Toward Justice.” She said part of the discussion focused on moving beyond the justification of college courses in prison in terms of its recidivism benefits only. Other topics honed in on why society should support such efforts and why historical inequalities along race and class lines should be of concern.

“All of these questions are fundamental not just to serious consideration of and advocacy for college in prison, but of all higher education, especially now,” she said.

Other topics covered by Education professors during the four-day event included critical race theory in education, LGBTQ education research, barriers and supports to degree attainment, professional development related to African-American education, and the state’s role in higher education effectiveness and finance.

Dean Mary Kalantzis said it was no surprise that so many scholars from the College were invited to participate at the meeting in diverse ways, given their commitment to and engagement with a wide variety of social justice causes.

“Key sessions focused on the ways in which educators can harness the social, linguistic, and cultural attributes of all learners as sources for strong identity and high-performance learning across the curriculum,” she said.

Dean Kalantzis added that it was a thrill to welcome nationwide scholars in education to the College’s home state and the “beautiful city of Chicago.”   

The College was also honored to have three faculty members recognized at this year’s meeting, including Debra D. Bragg, one of 23 scholars to be named an AERA Fellow. As described on the AERA website, the fellowships showcase to budding scholars the importance of sustained, quality research by those with the highest professional standards.

Faculty members Michelle Perry and Patriann Smith were also honored during the meeting. Perry received the Outstanding Review for 2014 for the AERJ – Teaching, Learning, and Human Development award, and Smith received the Language and Social Processes SIG Emerging Scholar Award.

Graduate student Ifeyinwa U. Onyenekwu was the recipient of the 2015 CASE Outstanding Graduate Student Research Proposal. Her dissertation focused on an analysis of literature encompassing black immigrant students in higher education. As a first-time AERA participant, Onyenekwu said the awards ceremony was the highlight of the event.

Onyenekwu added that she was inspired and motivated by the many educators and graduate students who attended, networked, and presented on a variety of topics.

“My participation in workshops, panels, roundtables, poster sessions, and lectures were beneficial to my overall professional development and scholarly pursuits,” she said. “I look forward to being an ongoing member of AERA.”

Midway through the event the College hosted a Saturday evening AERA reception at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, where approximately 400 people with Education at Illinois ties—alumni, faculty, graduate students, and University administrators—attended. Those present said it was a fun, topnotch event, according to Lisa Denson-Rives, associate director for alumni relations and stewardship.

“The people I talked to afterward were raving about it,” Denson-Rives said. “Everyone had a great time reengaging and networking.”   

Next year’s AERA Annual Meeting will take place April 8-12 in Washington, D.C. The titled theme of the event is “Public Scholarship to Educate Diverse Democracies.” 

View the full Education at Illinois itinerary at the 2015 AERA Annual Meeting.