(Ph.D., Sociology & Education)

Growing up in Southern California, Jacquelyn Durán was used to driving everywhere. Then she visited Spain and Bolivia (her father’s homeland) and discovered cities that value walking and public transportation.

Durán has since gone onto pursue new paths in other ways as well.

In 2004, frustrated by teaching to the test, cookie-cutter lesson plans and a California ballot initiative that curtailed her efforts as an elementary bilingual education teacher, she enrolled as a Ph.D. student in TC’s Sociology and Education program.

“I thought I could do this for a few years,” she says. “Fourteen years later, here I am.”

That may sound like a long time, but Durán has been juggling a particularly heavy load. A first generation-college student, she wrote her dissertation on the scholastic fortunes of immigrant Dominican high school students. The research found that young people in families that moved directly from the Dominican Republic to the suburbs prospered academically and move on to college at a higher rate than their counterparts educated in New York City schools.

Meanwhile, she has also served as Director of Enrichment Services for TC’s Hollingworth Center. That work has included leadership of the Center’s acclaimed summer Maker Camp, which annually provides 200 New York City elementary school students with hands-on experience of aerodynamics, anatomy, botany, structural design, simple machines, geology, life cycles and energy.  In fact, Durán is such a familiar sight in July, leading squads of children through TC’s hallways and creating themed exhibitions of student work for the camp’s annual science fair, that many people in the TC community haven’t known she was also completing a doctorate.

On the face of things, not much will change for Durán now that she’s got her Ph.D. “I look at it each morning when I come to work, just to remind myself that it’s real,” she says, smiling. She plans to continue working at Hollingworth for the foreseeable future, calling her work with youngsters who represent virtually every ethnic group in New York City “the bridge” between her dissertation work and her prior as the science curriculum coordinator at the Los Angeles Title I elementary school where she taught English to Spanish-speaking students. 

“I love what we do here,” she says. “This kind of teaching, which gives children the freedom to experiment and explore, is so precious.”      

Though, actually, there is one other big change. Prior to heading back to California for her high school reunion, Durán, who hasn’t sat behind the wheel of an automobile for years, decided not to rent a car, opting for a ride-sharing service instead.  

“That’s when I knew I was a New Yorker.” – Steve Giegerich

Read about TC's 2018 Convocation ceremonies.