2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College Columbia University

TC Media Center from the Office of External Affairs

Section Navigation

Committee for Community and Diversity Awards Diversity Grants to Five Students

Recently, the Committee for Community and Diversity (CCD) announced the 2003 recipients of The President's Grant for Student Research in Diversity. The Grant provides support for outstanding student research projects related to diversity including culture, language, gender, sexual orientation, race-ethnicity, and disabilities.

The process was extremely competitive because there were twice as many proposals submitted this year. Ultimately, two were selected as grant recipients with a $3,000 award: Hui Soo Chae and John David Connor. Kryssi Staikidis, Sarah A. Strauss and Terri S. Wilson were selected for honorable mention awards of $1,000 and will be highlighted in the next issue of Inside TC.

Hui Soo Chae is working with faculty sponsor Michelle G. Knight on Using Critical Asian Theory to Deconstruct Master Narratives of Korean American Students in Secondary School and Empower Korean American Youth toward Social Action/Justice.

Chae is examining the social and educational experiences of five Korean-American secondary school students who are working class or poor. These youth perspectives will provide new ways of interpreting and understanding the relationships between Korean-American students' multiple identities, their various social worlds, and their educational experiences. At the same time, these narratives will enable educators to rethink dominant assumptions about Asian-American youth and start addressing the educational needs of working class and poor Korean American students. Finally, in-depth understandings of how students at the "margins" resist the debilitating effects of schooling on their identities and school achievement.

"This project is very relevant to how I grew up and how I interpreted schooling," said Chae, who grew up and went to school in New York City. "Most research on Asian-American students presents them as the model minority, but in my own experience this is limiting and does not show the real complexity behind these students."

In his pilot study with Professor Knight, he interviewed Korean-American youth and provided them with disposable cameras so that the students could share their multiple worlds and how they influenced their educational experiences. He would like to be able to give them video cameras in future projects, so that they can produce video-autobiographies.

"I'm hoping that this project disrupts the popular stereotypes out there about Asian-American youth, starting with Korean-American youth and working toward the discourse on youth in general," said Chae. "It will get their voices out there and inject them into the education system."

Being labeled "learning disabled," can also restrict a student's education. John David Connor with faculty sponsor Kim Reid are working on Labeled "Learning Disabled": Life In and Out of School for Black and/or Latino(a) Working Class Urban Youth.

"This work is the first of its kind in the sense that it examines the experiential impact of the intersectionality of race/ethnicity, social class, and learning disability in a field where such factors are typically randomized away rather than studied or even highlighted," said Reid.

He began thinking about this 16 years ago while he was teaching. He noticed that in urban special education being called learning disabled (LD) often means that children are segregated-many racially-from the other students. This passed as normal, he said, so he decided to find out what was wrong.

Looking at research, he found that most studies do not address this issue. It mainly reflects the middle-class and suburban experiences of being learning disabled. For the middle class students, he found that being labeled is useful and they are more likely to be integrated with other classes.

However, in urban situations, the opposite is true. These children are placed in schools where special education is entirely separate-a school within a school with two sets of everything-including teachers and administrators. Therefore, they may not get all the benefits that their non-disabled peers may get.

In his study, Connor is learning how working class Black and Latino and Latina urban youth labeled as having learning dis/Abilities describe the ways they come to understand themselves as LD through their lived experience. He is looking at the differences of the experiences of these urban working-class students, compared to, for example, white, middle-class suburban students. By unearthing the voices that are absent in professional literature, his study will contribute to a greater understanding of living with the label LD, particularly for working class youth of color.

"I see the word ‘disabilities' as a red flag that justifies segregation. Generally educators say that they aren't qualified to teach disabled children, but parents aren't trained either," said Connor. "There is a fear of disabilities that is pervasive. Schools are the worst place for it because it upholds segregation models that are used to justify exclusion without batting an eyelash."

The CCD Grant Review Committee included Christy Bagwell, Professor John Broughton, Katherine Cuevas, Yvonne Destin, Professor Celia Genishi, Richard Keller, Mark Noizumi, Sophia Pertuz, Barbara Purnell, Janice S. Robinson, Michael T. Spratt and Marianne Tramelli.

previous page