SHU Doctoral Students Tackling Education and Race Relation

Three of Sacred Heart University’s doctoral students participated in an annual conference of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). They presented their researched topics about racial issues within the United States education system at a conference held from Feb. 24 to Feb. 26 in Indianapolis, which encourages and invites scholarly educators around the nation.

    David Title, the educational and literacy leadership department chair and clinical associate professor is the Holmes Scholars Program coordinator which runs in conjunction with the AACTE.

    “You have to be a member of the AACTE in order to participate at Holmes and right now, we have a doctoral program in educational leadership that’s been around since 2019 that the program director and I started,” said Title. “We put in for it and got accepted, then did an application process for any students of color in the doctoral program and these three students were selected.”

    According to a SHU press release, Chanel Rice presented her ongoing research, “Educator Perceptions on the Disproportionality of Discipline for Students of Color,” Bianca Shinn presented “Can You Hear Me? A Mixed Methods Study Exploring the Experiences of Black Caregivers Whose Child Experienced School Suspension,” and Demetria Walters presented “Creating and Sustaining Affirming and More Inclusive Learning Environments for Black Girls through Professional Learning.”

    Shinn works for a nonprofit organization called “Domus Kids” that has transpired conversation of the engagement of parents and students of color who’ve experienced difficulty navigating the public school system. Her own observations influenced her to choose her respective topic.

    “We work with kids, especially students of color who are often suspended, expelled and experience chronic absenteeism and we examine why it’s happening and what are the root causes,” said Shinn. “For example, in Stamford, although our black student population is small at the public school, they’re disproportionately suspended compared to other student groups.”

    She combined what she learned from her professional work with her personal experience in the U.S. public school system to research how to take measures to engage students and parents of color. Shinn also encouraged everyone, not just educators, to define family engagement in an educational setting.

    “We shouldn’t be engaging parents when kids are doing poorly, we should be engaging them in moments of celebration and joy early on by sharing positive feedback,” said Shinn. “By building that bridge you are able to create an authentic relationship with Black parents.”

    Rice is a lead school counselor for New Haven public schools, a girls varsity assistant basketball coach at Hillhouse High School and owns a private practice as a licensed professional counselor. Her professional work experience inspired the topic for her potential dissertation.

    “I chose my topic at the AACTE’s Holmes Scholars’ Pre-Conference through my intensive work with inner-city students and my general concern for racial disparities that typically occur through disciplinary practices,” said Rice. “Although there continues to be a great deal of research and potential educational solutions, these disparities continue to prove to be extremely glaring and cause extreme academic and social-emotional consequences for these targeted students.”

    Rice expressed gratitude for being one out of the three selected members of the Holmes Scholars Program to present research and findings of racial issues within the education system at the conference.

    “The most valuable part was networking with other students, some who’ve already completed their dissertation process,” said Rice. “I’ve built relationships with students across the country who’ve provided great insight and will continue to be valuable resources as I continue this journey.”

    Title continuously ensures that the doctoral program meets the needs of students of color and provides opportunities like the AACTE conference.

    “One of our goals in the program is to increase the number of doctorates who are of color. It’s a real need, it will help their careers and they will be a role model for others to say, ‘Hey look, Chanel, Bianca and Demetria did it, I can do it too,’” said Title.

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