Chancellor’s Graduate Intern, Arnold Sanchez, on UCSC’s Hispanic Serving Initiative

I was motivated to write this entry for the Plenary hoping that my experience with the Chancellors Graduate Internship (CGI) will motivate other education PhD students to apply for the upcoming cycle. Since my conversation with Ethan Chang there have been a number of developments on the UC Santa Cruz Hispanic Serving Institution front. In writing this piece I was hoping to reflect on my experiences while acknowledging the positive contributions that others have made towards my development as a graduate student.


The shifts in state demographics have resulted in a number of changes to the K-12 public schools as well as colleges and universities. Institutions of higher education are challenged by the opportunity of serving the needs of all students and to ensure that their students are prepared for life following their undergraduate studies. The federal government is addressing the impact of demographic shifts on higher education institutions through a federal grant program amended to the Higher Education Act of 1965. The U.S. Department of Education awards grants to universities that meet specific guidelines, including an enrollment of at least 25 percent Hispanic undergraduate students, as well as having at least 50 percent of those students coming from low-income backgrounds. UCSC is in the process of joining that list of federally designated Hispanic Serving Institutions.


As I reflect on my CGI experience, I can’t help but to think of the challenges, triumphs, and opportunities that I encountered with the project. In 2012, prior to my arrival at UCSC, a committee of faculty, staff and students was formed by UCSC administration to pursue the Hispanic Serving Institution designation. The designation was in part driven by the shifting demographics of the UCSC student body. At that time, the HSI committee did not have plans to apply for a Title V grant because the institutional research necessary to apply had not been conducted. My initial work helped provide the evidence to help substantiate the logic for why UCSC was prepared to apply for a Title V grant. This was the beginning of what would prove to be one of the most enriching experiences I have had as a graduate student. My work entailed a collaborative relationship between EOP, the institutional research assessment & policy team, the HSI committee, Dr. Mosqueda (my adviser), and UCSC’s data warehouse.


Serving as a data liaison to establish statistical evidence to substantiate the HSI Grant application through institutional trend analysis was easier said then done as a variety of circumstances delayed my contributions. Data accessibility proved to be a major hurdle. The nature of my work involved access to student data that is protected for the safety of our students. To gain access to the data I needed to get clearance (FERPA training) and a variety of logistics needed to be addressed before I could acquire access. Shortly after having data access I encountered the difficulty of retrieving data. Writing reports to extract data was so complex that my first attempt at retrieving data caused the data retrieval system to crash campus wide.


As I was simultaneously familiarizing myself with the data infrastructure, the HSI committee was counting on me to provide the data trends to support the grant application. It was a tall order, and my biggest concern was the danger of misrepresenting the trends or not meeting the needs of the committee to proceed with the project. Luckily this is when a close collaborative relationship between the principal data analysts at data warehouse and myself emerged. Without this guidance I would have had major difficulties understanding the landscape of our data storage and retrieval systems on campus. I learned a great deal about data codes, data controllability, data compatibility, etc. I often found myself in a situation where the need for information was pivotal for the committee to identify the intentions of the grant and the points of intervention. Without this information the team was unable to proceed.

The pressure was real. There were moments when I felt that the fate of the project was in part based on whether or not I would be able to pull through with my work. However, I was not ready to give up on the HSI committee or our collaborators. The systemic change that could potentially arise from receiving a Title V grant motivated me to push forward, to learn quickly, and to produce accurate data trends to help UCSC identify specific areas where the university was encountering difficulties supporting students in pursuing their educational goals.


Despite the challenges of my work, I feel that it is important to acknowledge the triumphs and opportunities that emerged from this internship. First, the data analytics of the project prompted the data warehouse personnel to construct new data-points that would assist with future institutional assessments. For example part of my work involved identifying the time to degree completion for students since their first point of entry to UCSC. A data point coding for time to degree completion did not exist prior to our work and this type of information needed to be derived through other methods and composite scores. Now data warehouse has started coding for time to degree completion and will make such data available, along with a variety of new variables accessible for future institutional assessments.

Second, I had the opportunity to work with a phenomenal group of individuals, including Pablo Reguerín who currently serves as the Executive Director for Retention Services and Director of Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP). Pablo served as the co-chair to the UCSC HSI Team, and I was humbled by his diligence and commitment to this work. He has been a true inspiration for me and provided guidance to help identify the types of issues I hope to research for my dissertation. Taken together, Pablo’s expertise as a practitioner exposed me to the nature of his work, which calls for immediate, and long-term substantive changes geared towards promoting and sustaining equity through comprehensive school reform and retention/student success.


Currently, there is no UC campus on the list of over 240 colleges and universities across the country awarded the Title V Part A grant, a Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions Program. If UCSC is awarded the grant the points of intervention that were identified by my collaborative work with EOP, the institutional research assessment & policy team, the HSI committee, Dr. Mosqueda, and data warehouse could bring meaningful pedagogical reform to the Math and Writing gateway courses on our campus. Receiving a title V grant would mean the beginning of substantive educational reform at UCSC. Furthermore if UCSC receives the Title V grant the need to conduct formative evaluations will be necessary, and I hope to be involved in this process if and when the time comes. Above all this internship opened new opportunities. I have made career-changing decisions and am now convinced that my research as a graduate student will focus on the experiences of students at both the high school and University level. In the mean time, Pablo-Reguerín has generously offered to keep me on his team post-CGI to help him and his staff inform data driven and evidence based campus interventions as well as potential future grant applications. I am certain that this opportunity will present itself with a new set of problems that will challenge me to expand my methodological toolkit and problem solving skills.

I urge the graduate students in our department to apply for the CGI. If I can be of service to anyone interested in applying please do not hesitate to contact me.

Deadline to apply for 2015-16 Chancellor’s Graduate Internship (CGI) Program: June 1, 2015

This post was submitted by America Vega, an undergraduate student at UCSC minoring in Education. 

Warning: Words in this post may be offensive to some readers.

I recently had the opportunity to observe an English Learning Development class at a typical suburban high school. My experience there solidified my understanding of the systematic racial and class disparities in our education system. I use this space to discuss some of my observations and to share a poem I felt compelled to write.

Entering the classroom, I immediately noticed its playfulness. Students laughed and told jokes from across the room and much of the humor passed by the teacher unnoticed. “Vale Verga” is a common expression used. Translated directly it means “It’s worth nothing.” Similar translations include “it’s worthless,” or simply “it’s not worth it”. The students use this phrase often when talking about attendance to Saturday school, declaring it’s “worth-nothing.” Vale Verga.

One particular incident really stuck with me. There was a student who the ELD teacher had a hard time controlling.  The teacher offered me a large desk (larger than the seats most of the students sat in), out of courtesy, the same desk unfortunately where this student was seated. She refused to give her seat up. She sat at her desk, arms crossed, rolling her eyes. After a few warnings, the teacher asked her to leave the classroom because of her “lack of respect.” But the student refused to move. It went on like this for a few minutes, the teacher asking her to leave, the student firmly seated in the desk. Another student, a boy of about 17 years old, began repeating “vete…vale verga.” “Just leave” he said to her, “it’s not worth it”. After he repeated this phrase several times, she eventually listened to him and left the classroom.

So what exactly is “not worth it” in their eyes? Was it the desk she was so adamant about keeping? Was it being kicked out of the classroom for one day that wasn’t worth the fight over? Or, were the students noticing a deeper issue? Was he highlighting his attitude toward the program and the education he was receiving? Why is Saturday school, giving up a desk, and being in class vale verga. What makes these students proclaim that it’s all “worthless?”

Many of these students are often barred access to four year institutions because of the difficulty they experience in passing the High School Exit Exam. The California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) requirement at the state level acts as a systematic “gatekeeper” to college for English Learning youth. National policies such as “Race to the Top” and “No Child Left Behind” ultimately serve to stratify society by privileging standardized test results. Students who attend schools with little economic resources are more commonly students with low socioeconomic status, who also happen to be disproportionately students of minority ethnicities. Standardized testing brushes over these disadvantages by establishing a criteria for success that does not attend to the diverse assets and knowledges students from diverse backgrounds possess. With a college education being the rule of thumb indicator for future economic stability, “Race to the Top” bares more resemblances to a rigged, rather than equitable race.

Unfortunately, students in ELD classes experience this lack of access daily. There are many forms of “borders” and barriers immigrant students face in their daily lives, and throughout my time in the high school classroom, this became a harsh reality. Education reformer Mike Rose often writes about the psychological isolation felt by those who are in the lower strata of our society. Speaking of the the historically marginalized, Rose comments, they are “strangers in our midst.” They are present but are unseen. Kind of like being “worth nothing.” Vale Verga.

Though the task of changing whole systems of inequality rooted in history and consciousness may seem daunting, on the teacher-student level, where the environment is safe, it is my conviction that things can change. “Good” teachers, writes education reformer Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot, have a “currency” of ideas. These are “conveyed through relationships,” a “dialogue” she later writes, “between the audience and the teacher” Where we find hope is with this space the classroom offers. Critical writers and champions of educational reform seem to have in common a desire to lessen this widening gap between us and them. To bring the humanity back to education.  Future educators should understand that learning, real life-changing learning, reality-redefining learning, learning as path to healing, can happen in the classroom. It can be achieved when we focus on relationships and understanding of the other. “When it suddenly seems possible to extend your reach” writes Rose, “that’s the fundamental experience of opportunity, and it can be liberating”.

The mother tongue touches the tender spots

Of her child as she sends her to school.

To learn English

A Romance Language

For dreamers in love with a dream

La lengua de las fronteras

She speaks with body more than lips.

Arms crossed sitting still

To act out is an invitation to look in

She remembers the words of her mother

Te extrano

And hears the words of the others

Que extrano.

How strange, is this estranged stranger

Alien to some

Beloved by few

This isolation that is nothing new

The mother tongue sits head down and voiceless

tries to speak

washed out by the noises

“no entendemos”

The students protesting

“I don’t understand”

The teacher confessing.

It’s not worth it

That’s what they say

As the sun burns shallow into the day

She’ll learn the roads

The maps of this nation

The phrases copied

The scripted formation.

And she’ll recite them again and again

The words on the page written in pen

Thrust in this race race

Quite late in the game

this race race to the top so much in vain

But will she get there?

when will it stop

can she ever really be on top?

As the push to memorize mesmerizes.

And should she grow in grammar

Grow in speech

What is it really that we teach?

To keep her mother tongue at bay?

That merit is measured in only one way?

As she works to find some form clarity

Feels despair

The Symptom of disparity

But let us come, come to the realization

that memorization is not memory

Let us connect our head and our heart

Rip the borders apart

And mend this gap between us and them

Isn’t that where all problems stem?

We paint with color

Red brown black and blue

Collaborating colors, making one with the two

Journey to Publication

picture of Erik Robert Green

In February 2015, a new anthology, Expanding the Circle: Creating an Inclusive Environment in Higher Education for LGBTQ Students and Studies, was published by SUNY Press. Chapter 12, “LGBT Bullying in Schools: Can School Policies Affect Climate?” was authored by Erik Green, 5th year PhD Student. While Erik believes the content of the chapter is fairly interesting, the process by which it came to be published seemed even more interesting to share with the Department.

By Erik Green

My journey to publication actually started my very first quarter, back in Fall 2010, with a final paper for Rod Ogawa’s EDUC 235 (Intro Methods). Around the same time, a former acquaintance of mine was launching the LGBTQ Policy Journal at Harvard. He solicited me for an article, and I figured this would be a great opportunity. Rod agreed, and allowed me to tweak the final assignment slightly so that I could create a submission for the journal.

The paper itself was constructed within the context of a series of recent, high-profile LGBT teenage suicides (such as Tyler Clementi). (For reasons I assume to be privilege-based, the cases tended to focus primarily on gay men). The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has been tracking anti-LGBT violence in schools via their annual National School Climate Survey. In Rod’s class, I was considering the methods utilized by GLSEN, so it made sense to expand outward from there for my final project.

One aspect that intrigued me was that information was included regarding whether schools had comprehensive anti-bullying policies (that is, ones that explicitly include gender identity and sexuality as protected categories) or just a generic statement. There was a strong correlation between schools with comprehensive policies and aspects of a positive school environment, with relatively little improvement in school environment for schools with generic policies over those with no policy at all. However, there was no indication that any sort of research had been done to see if these relationships were causal. Which came first – did the positive environment tend to lead to comprehensive policies, or did implementing a policy have any direct affect on environment?

For my paper I created a framework to outline the question, then created a case for future research to address this hypothesis directly. For class, I included an addendum that explained how I, personally, would carry out that kind of research project, if I were to pursue it further.

It took ten months and some badgering for me to receive a reply about the submission. (It wasn’t picked up, but I take this as a sign that this wasn’t the right publication to be involved with anyway). In the intervening time, I decided against traveling to AERA, and instead went to a conference in March in San Francisco called “Expanding the Circle: Creating an Inclusive Environment in Higher Education for LGBTQ Students and Studies”. My work really sits outside the traditional fields of Education, and so I’ve always personally found it more useful to attend other conferences. The conference was interesting, if a little Student Affairs focused, and I was glad I attended – and it turns out there were some future opportunities to be presented as well.

In May, one of the organizers of the conference, John Hawley, solicited submissions for a new book he wanted to be put together. While I didn’t present at the conference, my article seemed to fit the theme perfectly, so I shook the dust off of it, did some editing, and sent it along in December 2011, not expecting much. To my surprise, John liked the article and wanted to include it.

John then started shopping around for a publisher. As is wont to happen in these situations, there’s a lot of down time where you don’t hear anything. In November of 2012, the manuscript was submitted to Johns Hopkins. Another year passed without any word – I figured the project was dead – until suddenly, in October of 2013, I got an email saying that State University of New York had picked up the manuscript and was publishing it. Contributor Release forms were sent and signed, bios were updated. A year later, the book was being printed, my advance copy arrived, and it’s now fully available electronically and in print. The book has also been getting some press, including a review in Inside Higher Ed.

So it is that four years later, a term paper metamorphosed into a sole authorship chapter in an anthology. What do I see as the morals from this story? First of all, never be afraid to work with a professor and create a final project that best fits your needs. In my experience, the professors are more than flexible when it comes to doing the writing that will be the most advantageous to you and your research. Next, always be on the lookout for publishing opportunities – you never know when they will present themselves. And on a related note, don’t be afraid to put your writing out there. A term paper from my first year may not exemplify the most brilliant writing I’ve ever done in my life, but I’m proud that it was published, and there’s something insanely gratifying about holding a book and getting to leaf to the Chapter with your name on it. And finally, never underestimate the “pipeline” effect. It may very well take 4-5 years before your writing finally finds a publication home, and it’s never too soon to start that process!


Reflections on the Process of Qualifying


We recently interviewed doctoral candidate, Rebecca Buchanan, on the process of qualifying. While her work focuses on teacher education programs and linguistic analysis, her reflections offer general guidance for students in the beginning stages of their doctoral studies in the Education Department at UCSC. These reflections are offered with the intention of contributing to one’s overall understanding and approach to preparing for qualifying exams (QEs) understanding that the specific topic of inquiry and advisor-advisee relationship will inform how the process unfolds for different students.

Understanding the purpose of QEs

The way I understand the qualifying examination is that it is a time in your graduate career where a committee of experts evaluates your work as a graduate student and deems you capable of conducting an independent research project. The QEs are a major milestone because they serve as an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise in a set of particular theoretical and methodological fields of study. For our program in particular, QEs take the form of two papers and an oral exam.

For my QEs, the focus of one of my papers was teacher residency programs as a form of teacher education. My second was a methodological paper on linguistic analysis. I analyzed several teacher performance assessments and explicated the different linguistic methods by demonstrating how one could apply them to these particular performance assessments.

General Advice for Students in the Early Stages of Identifying a Topic

Given that the process will look different for each individual there are some broad lessons and approaches that I think might be useful for students approaching the QE process. To begin, my advice is simply to find what it is that really interests you–what seems like the issues, practices, concepts, etc. that are most fascinating to you right now? I ended up at this particular dissertation study because residency programs seemed like an interesting new reform, but it was actually helpful during the qualifying process to reflect on how I arrived at my topic.

My work sits at the cross-section of multiple interests: different models of teacher and teacher education reform writ large, language analysis and the ways in which we use language to both construct and to make sense of the world, and what it means to prepare teachers to teach for equity and social justice within historically marginalized communities. The QE process is about figuring out where your interests intersect and designing a line of inquiry that fits into those various fields.

Creating Structures to Support Concept Development and Writing

The hard part is knowing what you want to begin investigating. What I would have done differently is enroll in at least one independent study each quarter of my third year. I would structure these independent studies by assembling a reading list in the first week and asking my independent study sponsor to provide feedback and additions to the list. At the end of the independent study, I would produce an annotated bibliography. By structuring an independent study in this way for both the fall and winter, one can produce an annotated bibliography for each QE paper. I think the drawback to this idea is that it is a little rigid, but that structure would have really helped me. When you’re also working (as a TA or Graduate Student Researcher), it is easy for other things to fill your independent study space.

Another way to build in supportive structures is to engage in weekly check-ins with colleagues who are also in the midst of the writing process. I’ve tried the “I’ll make myself write however many words a day” approach, but what I found most helpful was having regular Skype meetings every week or two weeks with a couple of other students. It was a form of accountability that worked for me as well as a forum for hearing strategies that others were using to support their own writing.

I would also encourage students to write several drafts of each of their papers and to meet regularly with their advisors and/or committee members. I would send my advisor a draft of my work, and we would set up a meeting to discuss the drafts. During the meeting, I would take notes, and then I would leave with a long list of items to address. I would begin addressing these items the day after our in-person meeting. This system helped to ensure that I was constantly working toward refining my ideas and thinking around my two topics.

Bridging QEs and Dissertation Research

I’m currently collecting data for my dissertation project. The work of reading and thinking about teacher education has informed my focus on what kind of data I want to collect. And I am constantly making connections between the work for the qualifying process and what I am seeing now in the field.

Kip’s Sabbatical: A Preliminary Report

By Kip Téllez

When The Plenary editors invited me to submit a post on what I’ve been doing on my sabbatical, I immediately said yes. Of course I wanted to contribute to this exciting new space for sharing our thoughts on “Pedagogy, Practice, and Policy” but self-doubt soon overcame me. I feared that my report would hold no one’s attention. Maybe I should write about something else, something more exciting. I thought about asking the editors if I could switch my topic, but I eventually decided that the exercise might help me to reflect, and that at least one of my activities would be interesting.

I have three primary tasks for my sabbatical, which roughly form my weekly schedule. The first is the writing of a book, the title of which is “The Teaching Instinct: Explorations Into What Makes Us Human.” The manuscript is about 80% finished, but I fear the last 20% will be the toughest, and I wish I could snap my fingers and have it done. Make no mistake, I like to write, but it’s intellectually challenging, difficult work. It’s also lonely, but there is no other way to write than to keep distractions (i.e., other people) at bay and live inside your mind, considering and reconsidering that idea, this phrase, that paragraph. Of course, I can share drafts and get feedback from colleagues, but in the end I have to put the words on the page. My sabbatical has given me the time to write, a time to be lonely and convince myself that the world needs another book. I still don’t know that it does, but it will get one nonetheless.

Task 2: I was selected to edit the journal Teacher Education Quarterly about a year ago. I’ve enjoyed it for the most part, and thanks to a new manuscript submission system, I can handle the work with about 8-14 hours per week. But I also find it emotionally challenging, primarily because I have to tell authors that their work will not be published. Only about 15-20% of all the manuscripts submitted make it into the journal, so the vast majority are rejected. A cadre of 412 reviewers rate the papers (2-3 reviewers per manuscript), but I am the one who has to make the final decision.

On the other hand, I also work  with the authors of the papers found worthy of publication. This part is pure joy, because, for academics, receiving news that your paper will be published can be quite emotional, a validation of one’s ideas and hard work. In addition, I get to help put the final touches on the paper, refining the writing and argumentation.

The third task for my sabbatical is substitute teaching, and I wish I had more time for it, but…see above. Why have I taken on this work? I’m not entirely sure myself, but I began my career as an elementary school teacher in a 5th grade class. I remember feeling so alive, and it was the students who inspired me. The majority of the students were native Spanish speakers, about five were recent immigrants from Vietnam; others represented various language backgrounds (e.g, Samoan, Egyptian Arabic). I recall my early teaching years each day I work in education. I have worked in hundreds of classrooms and with thousands of K12 students since, but those first years were the catalyzing and animating force behind all I do, and I developed a passion for education that remains with me still. But I’ve been a professor in higher education for many years, and although I’ve worked to develop many new programs and curricula for schools, I wondered to myself, “Could I still get the kids to line up for lunch?” “Did I still have the ‘eyes in the back of my head’ required to keep an elementary classroom humming?”

I am happy to report that the answer is yes, but teaching is never easy. In one classroom, a particular third grader named Jason, smelling of tobacco smoke, who kept his oversized jacket on all day and just could not stay focused on his assignment, gave me fits. And I freely admit to bribing each class with my guitar: if they stayed on task and were kind to each other, we would sing songs at the end of the day. I don’t know if substitute teaching has been a more valuable sabbatical exercise than writing a book, but it certainly isn’t as lonely.

Q & A with Chancellor’s Graduate Intern, Arnold Sanchez


Arnold Sanchez is a second-year doctoral student in the Education Department at UC Santa Cruz. His research focuses on immigrant students in education with a particular interest in quantitative constructs of belongingness. In the summer of 2014, Arnold was selected as one of six doctoral students to participate in the Chancellor’s Graduate Internship (CGI) Program for the 2014-2015 school year. The CGI Program is a prestigious internship granted to doctoral students whose research seeks to advance the University’s efforts to provide a supportive and transformative learning experience for students. We recently interviewed Arnold to learn more about his research and efforts to support the University in fulfilling their commitments as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). 

Ethan: Could you start by discussing your current research as an intern with the Chancellor’s Graduate program?

Arnold: As an intern, I am responsible for creating a quantitative benchmark that determines where we are as an institution in terms of fulfilling the needs of students that are “non-traditional college students.” The scope of my work looks at institutional data and tries to determine patterns within student groups that can help the University make informed decisions. A specific subset of the “non-traditional college student” population includes Hispanic students. Recently, UCSC was designated as an Hispanic Serving Eligible Institution by meeting a twenty-five percent Hispanic undergraduate population benchmark. However, UCSC has not received an official Title V grant, which will provide the University the financial resources to support the educational needs and aspirations of these students. My current work focuses on creating the equivalent of a report card for the university by examining how the University has done in the past few years in terms of serving Hispanic students.

E: What preliminary findings have emerged for you and your research team?

A: One of the first things I started looking at was retention data. We wanted to see if there were patterns in the data and asked questions like: Who is leaving? Who is not coming back? And why? We began focusing on “near finisher stop-out” cases, students who were close to graduating but either left the university unexpectedly, or whose degrees were not confirmed. We wanted to know what factors discouraged these student from returning to school. One of the things that accounted for a large part of “stop-out” cases was a basic lack of  valuable information. Additionally, we found that stop-out cases disproportionately included first-generation college students, students of color, and students who reported experiencing micro-aggressions. We also found that many students did not know how to navigate the institutional bureaucracy, for example, how to locate resources and how to navigate university systems. In contrast, transfers did well. We suspect that transfer students had learned to navigate institutional resources at their community college and this allowed them to succeed at UCSC.

E: What are some of the unexpected challenges that you have encountered in your work?

A: One lesson I have learned is how difficult it is to acquire data. It is a process within itself–a lot of paperwork and training. I have to be really patient. I thought the data was going to be somewhere in an external hard drive, and I was going to go at it and produce report after report, but it didn’t work that way. The first couple weeks of the internship was focused on trying to acquire institutional data and to begin mapping the data universe on campus. Where is it coming from? Where is it stored? Who’s storing the data? How can it be retrieved? UCSC has a data system that I had to understand from scratch. Currently, I’m waiting for a clearance on another data set that will allow us to flesh out a report on Hispanic student performance.

E: I’m wondering if you could comment on how your applied work compares or contrasts with what we are learning in our graduate courses.

A: Graduate school prepares you broadly in theory. When I am doing this work, I have to be very practical and think about the immediate implications of the students we are studying. A lot of this work is not what I would submit to a journal for publication. It is work that is very specific, that has to have immediate implications, that has to inform practice. But quantitative analysis is an art form as well. We need to understand where the data is coming from, how to clean the data, how to determine what is relevant. My work is more practical, but I believe that it should still be embedded within a theoretical framework, of which my graduate coursework has proved an invaluable role.

E: What do the next six-months of your program look like?

A: I have to produce segments of reports that will come together in a final report. Along the way I’m having check-ins with my supervisor, Pablo G. Reguerin, who is at the forefront of giving me the support and services I require and linking me to the people who can provide access to the data. We work closely together because he is the gateway to other institutional services and resources that allow for this work to take place. Looking ahead, I’m excited to continue my collaborative work with the Academic Resource Center and the UCSC’s data warehouse personnel.

Mid-year Reflections

We recently sat down with three doctoral students who are midway through their first-year of graduate studies at UC Santa Cruz. As they embark on careers dedicated to improving the quality and accessibility of schooling, we wanted to provoke their ongoing efforts toward self-discovery by asking: what is the single-most revelatory discovery or new understanding that you’ve encountered thus far at UCSC? Here are their responses:

Salvador Huitzilopochtli: The first paper of the first quarter of my first year in this program was unnecessarily difficult to write.  I was nervous and full of insecurity.  My mind was working much harder than necessary under the self-imposed pressure to produce a ‘brilliant’ work.  However, my disposition toward the work has since changed.  I have embraced the work of reading, digesting, and writing (not necessarily in that order) and find myself freer to be productive.  I realize that I am prepared, I want to be here, and that I really enjoy intellectual endeavor.  I look at my professors, peers, and advisor and realize that I am exactly where I belong.

S.N.:  During the first half of my quarter, I ignored the world outside of my readings. Then one day, I subscribed to a news blog and education-related current events started to flood my inbox. As I began to catch up on the current state of affairs, I was reminded of my conviction for social change and why I chose a doctoral program in Education as opposed to any other field or discipline. Like Freire says, “we cannot be pedagogues with these traits (hope, love, conscientizacao, and freedom) if we are not indignant about the existence of conditions of oppression” (Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008). Often we ignore news stories to prevent becoming angry or depressed. We forget that the “future is not predetermined [and] anger should be partnered with critical hope that we have the capacity (and responsibility) to act to change oppressive conditions” (Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008).

Sarah Rapp: Our schools and educational system are not neutral or objective: what is taught, how, and to whom always springs from a particular ideology.  More often than not, stakeholders in schools are so immersed in the normed policies and practices that the meanings behind them are not questioned or explored.  Educational research can help to illuminate the backstory, and then (hopefully) guide us all to more nuanced and helpful conversations about schooling.

Getting to Know Diana Duan, Visiting Scholar

at a Tibetan village near my hometown ChengduDiana Duan is a visiting scholar who comes to us from Suzhou University of Science and Technology in Jiangsu Province, China, where she is Professor of Interpretation and English. Her past research has focused on the teaching of interpreters, with an emphasis on pedagogy and short-term memory. She also works as a freelance interpreter. Diana’s stay here at UCSC is made possible through the Jiangsu Government Overseas Study Foundation, which has a competitive selection process, and is sponsored by the Chinese government.

Originally, Diana had intended to use her fellowship to study at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in order to continue her studies on interpretation research within the context of international relations. However, after meeting UCSC Professor June Gordon in July 2013 – during Dr. Gordon’s visit to various cities in China – Diana decided to take a broader look at the issue of education. She applied to be a visiting scholar at UCSC and arrived at our campus in September 2014.

Since arriving at UCSC, Diana has been busy finding opportunities for both intellectual and personal development. Her research interests have also branched out into several new areas: worldwide alternative education, international student presence, and Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Diana came to UCSC intending to develop a better understanding of the quintessential American curriculum, and feels that what she has actually discovered is that no such curriculum has existed. She sees CCSS as breaking away from the American tradition of curricular diversity, and understanding the outcomes of this transformation is an important part of her research. Diana notes that within the Education Department, she has especially enjoyed discussing the pros, cons, and context of Common Core State Standards with first year student, Heather Schlaman. (Heather is a first year PhD student who comes to us from Roseville Joint Union High School District, where she served as Assistant Principal.)

Not only has Diana networked with the UCSC community by attending a variety of seminars and lectures, she has also found social opportunities to interact with the UCSC community of scholars and friends by participating in activities sponsored by International Students, Inc. Through this program, she came into contact with a local artist who is currently giving Diana watercolor lessons, which has been a special highlight of her UCSC experience.

If you haven’t had the chance to meet Diana, do so soon! She will be heading back to Suzhou University at the end of winter quarter. You can contact Diana through her personal email address: dianaduan1@hotmail (dot) com.

Fun Facts about Diana

Favorite local food: Avocados (Avocados are available in Suzhou, but they’re expensive!)

Last movie watched: Interstellar

Something special about her city: Suzhou has a 2500-year-old history, and is called “Venice of the East” for its extensive canals.

Experimenting with watercolors in Santa Cruz:

my first serious watercolor painted under the guidance of my friendship partner 90-year-old Ms. Dorothy

Visiting the Badlands in Wyoming:

a snapshot at the Big Badlands in Wyming

Contributor: Mecaila Smith, Second Year PhD Student

Reconsidering Fordham’s ‘Racelessness’


By Salvador Huitzilopochtli

In this post, Education doctoral student in Math Education, Salvador Huitzilopochtli, thinks through Fordham’s (1988) concept of “racelessness.” Concerned by Fordham’s interpretation of “racelessness” as merely dis-affiliation with one’s ethnic community, Sal offers an alternate interpretation of “racelessness” as an eschewing of racialized hierarchies. He believes this post is important for teachers of all content areas so that we are equipped to walk students through the process of understanding their identity in relation to a raced, classed, and gendered society. The following is an excerpt from Sal’s essay titled, “Tracking down the ‘elusive prey’: thoughts on a grand theory of disengagement.” We welcome public comments, but if you would like to message Sal privately, he can be reached at:

It is possible that the concept of racelessness can be a strategy to distance one’s self from their ethnic identity (while accepting White cultural supremacy by making it invisible), as presented by Fordham. However, it is also possible that it is a rejection of hegemonic practices and the model of a racialized society where White cultural norms are dominant. If it was the latter, then the strategy of ‘racelessness’ can preserve the basic humanity of the person by not accepting their social station as an ‘other’ that is inferior. Moreover, eschewing all notions of racialization, they are free to embrace all cultural norms as equally valuable. To illustrate the possibility of this interpretation, I will reexamine key quotations that Fordham cites. The first person Fordham cites is Bradley (1982), whom I will cite at length:

I am a Black. . . . I suppose I still believe that there is a place in space or time where the pigmentation of my skin might be of only incidental relevance — where it could be possible to give a socially meaningful description of who I am and what I’ve done without using the word black at all. I have abandoned the belief that somewhere or someone will turn out to be here and now. So, for all practical purposes, I accept a belief that I have taken to calling “achromism” (from the Greek a-, meaning “not” and chroma, meaning “color”), which is that within the context of the society to which I belong by right — or misfortune — of birth, nothing I shall accomplish or discover or earn or inherit or buy or sell or give away — nothing I shall ever do — will outweigh the fact of my race in determining my destiny. (Fordham, 1988, p. 58, citing Bradley, 1982)

In reviewing this excerpt, there are two interesting points that appear to support the claim of racelessness as a rejection of White cultural dominance, not necessarily a disaffiliation with Black culture. First, Bradley begins his statement with the assertion, “I am a Black.” Clearly, he is not becoming “un-Black” or disaffiliating with Black people. Secondly, his acceptance of “achromism” is couched in a recognition that he was born into a society where nothing he does will outweigh the fact of his race in “determining [his] destiny.” So, his response to stratified racialization is to return a racial value of null; refusal to participate. A similar argument is made by Rita, a student interviewed in Fordham’s 1988 study:

Some — a lot of times I have people ask me that — “Do you think you are a white person?” But I don’t know, maybe it’s me. Maybe I don’t carry myself like a ‘Black’ person [quotes added]. I don’t know. But I’m Black. And I can’t go painting myself white or some other color, it’s something that I have to live with. So it’s the way it is, and it’s not like having herpes or something — it’s not bad. It’s — I think it’s just the same as being white, as far as I’m concerned — everybody’s equal. (Fordham citing Formal Interview, p.67, emphasis added)

Rita clearly asserts, as does Bradley, that she is Black. Speaking directly to the subordinated status of Blacks in America, she states that being Black is ‘not bad’ and that ‘everybody’s equal’. It is possible that Bradley and Rita are speaking of Blackness as the arbitrary birth color that is written in the genes and not the cultural practices of Black America. However, both of them explicitly rejected notions of racial superiority. Fordham could have interpreted the data correctly to the extent that Bradley, Rita, and others interviewed have disaffiliated with those people who accept notions of racial superiority, including Black people that are complicit with hegemonic practices and accommodating to a subordinated role in society.

Welcome to the Plenary – The University of California Santa Cruz’s Education Department Blog

During the 2013-2014 school year, our department explored ways to deepen our commitment to one another, to the program beyond our individual research, and to the field of education scholarship. To aid in the process of realizing this vision, we proposed an online space to stimulate dialogue and scholarly debate on relevant education topics.

One of the biggest hurdles we faced in developing the blog was devising a title that embodied this new department vision and adequately included the array of interests and topics in our department and in the broader realm of education. The term, “plenary” describes sessions attended by all meeting participants, often used in conference or assembly settings. We draw on the term for our blog title to signal the inclusive online space we hope to cultivate–one that invites participants from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. The subtitle: Inquiry into Pedagogy, Practice, and Policy also establishes inquiry as the foundational practice we hope each post evokes.

Ultimately, we see this space as a way to mitigate the ethic of individualism common in competitive academic spaces. We foresee The Plenary as a forum for the publication of preliminary empirical or theoretical work, book reviews, commentary on pressing issues in education reform, updates from affiliated education research centers, and much more. By instituting a low-risk environment for scholarly development, we hope The Plenary will serve as a generative space for new ideas and for collaboration across faculty and students – undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students – and throughout the Social Sciences and Humanities divisions.

Our hope is that The Plenary becomes an integral part of our departmental community and a means of linking the reform and research occurring at UC Santa Cruz to the education community writ large. The Plenary’s success, however, depends on your participation, and we encourage you to visit our submission page for information on submitting. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog (see right column) so you won’t miss out on new posts, which will be released on a semi-monthly basis (if not more frequently).

Again, welcome to The Plenary. We look forward to what this space will generate.


This blog is made possible in part by UC Santa Cruz’s Education Department funds received through the Blue and Gold Research Group Seed Grant Application and in response to the initial grant application: “Envisioning a Culture of Scholarly Debate: A Proposal to Institute an Education Department Blog.”