SRD: 2004-2005 Awards

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The Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Community Affairs

The Vice President's Grant for Student Research In Diversity (SRD)

SRD: 2004-2005 Awards

The Committee for Community and Diversity is pleased to announce the 2004-2005 recipients of the President's Grant for Student Research in Diversity.

The awards provide support for outstanding student research projects related to diversity in research, teaching, learning, or community building. Diversity in the context of this award program is broadly defined and includes the exploration of multiple perspectives involving, for example, culture(s), language(s), gender, sexual orientation, race-ethnicity, disabilities.

The process was extremely competitive, as there were 15 proposals. The Grant Review Committee was uniformly impressed with the high-quality, innovativeness, important questions and relevant topics of the proposals submitted. Spanning a broad spectrum of diversity, the proposals truly attest to the varied and meaningful scholarship on the part of TC students.

Ultimately, two applicants were selected as grant recipients with a $3,000 award: Janet Shriberg, doctoral student and Isabel Martinez, doctoral student. One student was selected for an honorable mention award of $1,000: Marie Keem, doctoral student.


Name: Janet Shriberg

Title: Emergency Education as Diversity Education: Social Justice and Teacher Education in Post-War Liberia

Faculty Sponsor: Frances Vavrus, Associate Professor of Education, Department of International and Transcultural Studies, Associate Director, Center for African Education

This study examines teacher well-being among Liberian "emergency educators" drawn from diverse demographic backgrounds and teacher experience in post-war Liberia. The study seeks to uncover local experiences, attitudes, and coping strategies of Liberian teachers from diverse regions, backgrounds, and experiences in Liberia thereby enhancing policy making in the area of emergency education. In so doing, this study contributes to research on diversity in three principle ways: 1) it introduces emergency education as a distinct field of study; 2) it recognizes the unique contribution teachers make as first responders in conflict-affected areas and grants due attention to their psychosocial welfare; and 3) it reaches out to teachers working in remote regions whose needs and input are often overlooked.

Teachers can play a leading role in efforts to help children associated with fighting forces, our most vulnerable citizens. With the protection and psychosocial needs of children in mind, teachers in emergency education programs are often front line responders-'"they are trained to communicate critical lifesaving messages to children that can protect them from threats of recruitment into armed forces, sexual or economic exploitation, and increased risks of contracting HIV/AIDS or other life threatening diseases. As such, teachers in war-torn regions comprise a unique and often overlooked group of providers who offer care, mentorship and psychosocial attention to their students, often with little or no institutional support. Liberia has only recently emerged from a brutal fifteen year civil war. Years of heavy fighting disrupted all aspects of political and social systems and the education sector was virtually decimated. With the end the of war in 2003, international funding has poured into Liberia for "emergency education" programs designed to rebuild and restore education programs, both in camps for internally displaced persons and elsewhere in the country. As part of these efforts, teacher training is being implemented rapidly and widely in all fifteen Liberian counties. Adult survivors of war from diverse regional, ethnic, linguistic, gender, age and teaching backgrounds are being trained quickly to fill urgently needed teaching positions. Using the everyday experiences of war-affected Liberian teachers as a site for examining the often insidious effects of conflict and violence, Janet plans to study teacher well-being in the (post) - conflict context, particularly in relation to coping and resiliency to various forms of social suffering. The research pays close attention to experiences in how policies and procedures developed by local and global social institutions affects (in)justices in teachers' daily lives.

Name: Isabel Martinez

Title: Transnational Dropouts: The Paradox of Mexican Teen Immigrants and School Enrollment

Faculty Sponsor: Aaron Pallas, Professor of Sociology and Education, Department of Human Development

This study will examine decision-making processes surrounding the "dropping-in" of school-age Mexican teen immigrants to United States schools while others opt to remain outside of formal school settings. While traditional explanations have focused solely on their material conditions or economic needs, this study proposes that other forces interact with their decision-making processes, including different contextual norms located in Mexico and the United States, including those concerning the life course, family, school policies and practices, etc. Anticipated results include the illumination of these forces, as well as the role of social capital in decision making processes.

Name: Marie Keem

Title: Identification and Adaption At and Through College

Faculty Sponsor: Hope Jensen Leichter, Elbenwood Professor of Education, Department of International and Transcultural Studies

This research will examine two American narratives regarding college attendance. It will examine 10 students who are the first in their families to attend college and 10 students whose parents did attend college. All of the participants in both groups will be of varying racial and ethnic heritages. One narrative considers college as an accepted stage of life or a rite of passage and says the student will have the "time of his life" at college. This includes learning about him- or herself, trying new things, discovering new interests and opinions, learning to be independent, and generally taking wing as an adult. Another narrative in relation to college attendance concerns upward social mobility through education. This narrative is about hard work and persistence leading to success. For those students who are living according to the first narrative their pursuits after college will represent continuity with the lives that other members of their families have lived, while for the students living the second narrative their paths will represent a break from the working lives of their parents and perhaps of their siblings as well.

The two higher education narratives both put pressure on the students who live them, and this pressure is intensified by attendance at an elite, selective college where the academic demands are challenging and where students' family backgrounds literally span the entire range of possible backgrounds in the United States. The research participants will be Columbia University undergraduate students currently enrolled in college, the focus will not be on if students can succeed, but on the ways that students do succeed.

Grant Review Committee

Janice S. Robinson, Chair-CCD, Madhabi Chatterji, Kevin Dougherty, Barbara Purnell, Stephania Vu