Current Students

Meet Some of Our Current Students


Yeonsoo Choi
Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Yeonsoo Choi is a Ph.D. student in Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She earned her B.A. and M.A. in Education from Yonsei University, South Korea. Her research interests include the sociology of elite education, globalization and education policy, school choice, and critical policy analysis. Yeonsoo is interested in better understanding how broader social discourses shape education policies and students’ educational experiences. Prior to coming to Teachers College, she worked as a research assistant for education policy research projects funded by the Ministry of Education, South Korea, and the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.

Previous Education:

B.A. in Education, Yonsei University and M.A. in Education with concentration in Curriculum and Instruction, Yonsei University

Diana Cordova-Cobo
Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology and Education program
Diana Cordova-Cobo is a doctoral candidate in the Sociology and Education program and a Research Associate at the Center for Understanding Race and Education (CURE). She previously worked as a Research Fellow at the City University of New York (CUNY) and as a Senior Research and Policy Analyst at the NYU Furman Center, where she led projects on New York City’s public housing and the racial and ethnic diversity of New York City’s neighborhoods and elementary schools. She has also served as a research consultant for the New York City Department of Education and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Diana's main areas of study include race and ethnicity, social policy, and inequality. Her current research focuses on the relationship between neighborhood gentrification and school demographic change with attention to how public schools respond to the racial and socioeconomic inequities brought on by these changes. Building off of this research, her dissertation explores the neighborhood and school preferences of Latinx families amid demographic change in the New York City Metropolitan Area post-2000. 

In addition to her research interests, Diana is passionate about making research accessible and practical for educators, parents, community members, and policymakers. Prior to starting in the Sociology and Education program, Diana was a middle school social studies teacher in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. The lessons she learned from her students and the experiences they shared with her continue to motivate and inspire the work she does today.

Diana holds an M.A. in Social Studies Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida.
Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology and Education program
Siettah Parks Grant is a Ph.D. student in Sociology and Education and Research Assistant at The Public Good at Teachers College, Columbia University. Previously, she has worked in schools in New Jersey and New York City, and served as a Program Manager at an education support nonprofit. 
 

Siettah's research interests are all deeply informed by her own perspective as a Black woman and scholar, and her experiences working with Black and brown students. These interests include teacher education and preparation, sociocultural contexts of schools, teachers’ relationships with students, the role of love and care in the classroom, and Black students' lived experience with schooling in the U.S. She plans to explore these interests using methodologies that are aligned with Critical Race Theory and Critical Feminist Methodologies. Her goal is to conduct research that will contribute to improved educational experiences for Black students, while also empowering and respecting the participants. 

Previous Education:

B.A. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison
M.A. in Sociology and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University
 
Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Anuraag Sensharma is a Ph.D. student in the Sociology and Education program.  He is interested in school and community structures that support student autonomy, and particularly interested in studying the prevalence and nature of those structures in high needs public schools.  The mission of empowering students from all backgrounds to direct and craft their own meaningful learning experiences while engaging with their communities is central to his work in education.

Anuraag taught high school physics for four years at the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program in Arlington, VA.  Teaching at this public democratic alternative school had a profound impact on clarifying his mission, both as a teacher and as a researcher.  Prior to teaching, he majored in physics and participated in two physics research groups as an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA.  He is excited to unite his research and teaching experiences during his time at Teachers College.

Previous Education: 

B.S. in Physics and M.A. in Education from the College of William and Mary

Cami Touloukian
Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Cami Touloukian’s dedication to the collective effort to create a socially just and humanizing system of schools is at the heart of her personal and professional life. Formerly an elementary and early childhood educator, Cami has taught in many public, private and charter schools across the country. After years of teaching and learning with young people, Cami moved to higher education to work as a teacher educator. Her work with both classroom students and future teachers has allowed her to observe the many ways in which schools contribute to the social reproduction of inequity and injustice. As such, Cami’s research interests focus on better understanding and illuminating some of the barriers to building a more just and loving world through education. She is particularly interested in researching white supremacy in education, the sociology of whiteness in schools, and the potential for social change that lies at the intersection of critical race theory and sociology. In her free time, Cami enjoys spending time with the people she loves, being in nature with her dog, experiencing the world around her, and getting lost in a good book.

Previous Education:

Indiana University, B.A. in General Studies with a focus on Sociology, History and Education

Indiana University, M.S.Ed. in Elementary Education

Lewis and Clark, Certification in Teacher Leadership for Equity and Social Justice

Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Jose Luis Vilson is a doctoral student in Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to starting his doctoral program, he was a math teacher in New York City public schools for 15 years. He is the author of the best-selling This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, and executive director of EduColor, an organization dedicated to race and social justice issues in education. He is primarily interested in how the nexus of policy, practice, and research proliferate or inhibit the recruitment and retention of educators of color. He earned a BS in Computer Science from Syracuse University and a MA in Mathematics Education from City College of New York. 

Previous Education:

Syracuse University, B.S. in Computer Science

City College of New York, M.A. in Mathematics Education

Ed.M. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Elijah Gardner is a Masters of Education Candidate in the Sociology and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. He earned his B.A. in Abstract Mathematics at Rutgers University Newark. Elijah has 5 years of experience as a mathematics tutor and mentor to middle school, high school, and undergraduate students in Newark, New Jersey. His interest includes developing anti-racist pedagogy and policy and expanding social safety nets for African American, Latinx, and other marginalized American students and communities. Future plans include Urban education research and education policy development, with a critical focus on Newark, NJ, and NYC public schools.

Previous Education:

B.A. in Abstract Mathematics at Rutgers University Newark

Ed.M. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Lila Stenson is an Ed.M. candidate in the Sociology and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. The past three years she taught Middle and High School Spanish in Memphis, Tennessee, starting out as a Teach for America Corps Member (‘17). Through her teaching experience, Lila saw the disturbing inequities present in our public schools and the overwhelming burden placed on teachers especially in under resourced schools, with low-income students. She felt that Teachers College was her place to address these systemic issues and continue to fight for quality schools for all students. 

In addition to her being a TC student, Lila currently works as a Zankel Fellow at the Teachers College Community School teaching 8th Grade Spanish, and as an Administrative Fellow for the Columbia Office of Work/Life. Both of these opportunities allow her to understand the New York educational landscape and to understand how schools affect families, students and communities. 

Lila originally hails from Denver, Colorado and used the pandemic as an opportunity to move back with family, and enjoy all the outdoor offerings in Colorado. She is also looking forward to moving to New York City soon. 

Previous Education: 

B.A. in Sociology, B.A. in Spanish from Goucher College, Baltimore, MD

M.A. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Deborah Palileo Bitanga is a 1.5 generation immigrant from the Philippines, who moved to Kodiak Island, Alaska at age 12. She is the eldest of three children raised by Filipina/o immigrant parents who were long-time seafood processing workers.

Her life, schooling, and educational experiences both in the Philippines and Alaska propels her to learn more about the impacts of colonialism in the schooling, education, and identity development of young people. As a 1.5 generation Filipina immigrant and a student, she hopes to bring light to the often-forgotten Filipina/o American community, which is the second highest Asian American population in the U.S. with over 3.8 million.

In addition to being the first in her family to graduate college in 2019, she is currently pursuing an MA in Sociology and Education Policy program. Deborah is also a visual artist, a proud Gates Millennium Scholar and a Zankel Fellow with Dr. Lalitha Vasudevan’s Youth Media and Wellbeing Project through the Educational Video Center. In the future, she plans to attain a PhD in education.

 

Previous Education: 

B.A. in Political Economy and Sociology from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA

M.A. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

I am pursuing my M.A. degree in Sociology and Education in the Department of Ed. Policy and Social Analysis.  As an educator and immigrant; I have come to realize that passion and perseverance is my driving force in pursuing this degree.  Both my sister and I were merely toddlers when my mother made the decision to leave the Dominican Republic and come to the States for a better life and opportunities.  That propelled my love to keep on learning and not take the life that I was offered here for granted. 

Education became the love that I was hungry to pursue and during my undergraduate time at Saint Peter’s University I came to a decision that teaching was where I needed to be.  Teaching offered me a place where I can gradually see the seeds that I plant at the beginning of the school year grow and thrive towards the end. That has been my most  rewarding experience. I currently teach 6th grade Humanities in an independent school in Jersey City. Though this role has given me an opportunity to learn and grow as an educator I have also seen the inequities that are built around a system that is supposed to motivate and love.  I began questioning my role not only as a teacher, but someone who needed to speak up and challenge this system that places BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ people as an afterthought.  I found myself researching and T.C. was the first place that answered my questions and allowed me to feel connected.

With this degree, I want to work outside of the classroom and be part of a system that includes opportunities for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students within schools where their values and lives are appreciated and loved. My goal once I receive this degree is to work in an educational non profit organization or education reform to further understand why these things are happening. That will provide me with the tools and knowledge to help and guide schools, educators, principals, and everyone involved in that community to provide students with the necessary opportunities that rightfully fits their needs.

Previous Education:
 
B.A. in English & minor in Secondary Education from Saint Peter’s University
The Certificate of Eligibility with Advanced Standing (CEAS) in NJ: 6th-12th Grade in LAL
M.A. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Katie Hetlage is an M.A. student in the Sociology of Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Katie has spent the last 5 years as a Social Studies teacher at a public high school in Indiana, where she developed elective courses such as Sociology and Ethnic Studies. In teaching these classes, she began to see the role of education as an institution that has simultaneously created and perpetuated social inequalities. What drew her to this program at TC is its focus on using the public education system as a tool for positive social change in marginalized communities. Katie is specifically interested in the relationship between school discipline and mass incarceration, as well as the intersectionality of race and gender and their impact on educational access and achievement.  

Previous Education:
 
B.A. in Secondary Social Studies Education with a minor in Spanish from Butler University
M.A. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Clinton Ikioda is a M.A. student in Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He earned his B.S. in Biology and Society with a minor in Education from Cornell University. Following his graduation from Cornell, Clinton spent a year teaching Pre-AP Biology at a Charter high school in New Haven, Connecticut. 

Originally from Queens, NY, Clinton observed how the effects of systemic racism and systemic oppression played a role in the educational attainment of Black and Brown students. While in the classroom, he saw Black students’ ability to achieve greatness was consistently hindered by the inequalities that are perpetuated within the education system. This sparked his intellectual curiosity to come to T.C. to ground himself in the historical, pedagogical, political, & sociological context needed for education reform in dismantling the structures that systematically oppress Black and Brown students. He is determined to continue advocating for equal access to educational opportunities, especially in communities with individuals who look like him. 

With his degree, Clinton plans on not only creating tangible steps for education reform for Black and Brown students, but also looking for/creating pipelines to increase the percentage of Black men in the education sector (including teachers, principals, assistant principals, and even superintendents). He is very determined to be a part of a newly reformed education system that includes, upholds and values Black and Brown students, including their lived experiences, history, and socio-emotional well-being. 

In addition to pursuing a graduate degree at Teachers College, Clinton is also a Middle School Math & Science teacher here in NYC. He is excited to continue to see the intersections of his studies, and his work in the classroom. He is also a proud brother of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc- a historically Black Greek-lettered organization dedicated to uplifting Black communities. In his free time, he loves to travel, watch Netflix, read, reflect, and look for great places to eat. 

 

Previous Education:

B.S. in Biology and Society with a minor in Education from Cornell University

M.A. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Olivia Keane is an M.A. candidate in the Sociology and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her interest in education was sparked by her work as a volunteer with the Association to Benefit Children in New York City, where she assisted in Head Start and Preschool Special Education classrooms. Inspired by the importance of educational justice, and providing quality early educational experiences to all children, she earned her NYS Teaching Certificate in Childhood Education while attending Vassar College. She connected her study of education and sociology directly to her work with students from the Poughkeepsie community, in both preschool and elementary settings.

Olivia currently works as an Associate Teacher at the Cathedral School of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights. She seeks to foster culturally responsive classrooms that act as spaces for reflection, where students feel safe and supported to process their particular social, political, and historical contexts. As a graduate of New York City public schools, Olivia looks forward to reconnecting with the public school system while at Teachers College, and examining the relationship between school organization and racial and socioeconomic inequality. 

Olivia’s previous research focused on the treatment of teachers as a social group and how the sociology of the teaching profession intersects with issues of educational inequity, particularly in urban public schools. Her other areas of interest include developing LGBTQIA2S+ affirming curriculum and school settings, and community-based schools. Outside of teaching and pursuing her graduate degree, Olivia enjoys reading poetry, writing music with friends, and exploring parks around New York City. 

 

Previous Education: 

B.A. In Sociology with a minor in Education from Vassar College 

M.A. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Ava is a Sociology and Education Masters Candidate at Columbia University, Teachers College. Driven by the pressing need for educational justice, her work is focused on the inequities of the American Public School System, from Funding Disparities to High Stakes Testing to the School to Prison Pipeline. She is an advocate for socially conscious, active, and engaged public education. Throughout her undergraduate education, Ava paired academic research with work in the nonprofit sector. Invested in the power of education in tackling racial and socioeconomic inequalities, she interned for Friends of WHEELS, an organization that provides college access and success support to predominantly First Generation students in Washington Heights, NY. Utilizing an interest for public policy, she worked as a Education Policy Intern at the Yeardley Love Foundation which promotes Healthy Relationship Education in schools across the United States. Ava currently works at the Catholic Charities of New York as a Board Relations Intern supporting the widespread social programming and services of the organization administratively. Ava is a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Class of 2020.  

 

Previous Education:

Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College

M.A. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Maja Pehrson is an M.A. student in the Sociology and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has worked as an elementary school teacher in the School District of Philadelphia as well as in the South Bronx. Throughout her work in schools, Maja has continuously questioned the ways in which inequality manifests in the classroom and the potential for teachers to perpetuate or disrupt the status quo. Maja is particularly interested in racial dynamics in schools, the role of teachers, and community support for public education. Maja is excited to be in a program gaining research skills to analyze power dynamics and uplift stories that have too often been disregarded.

 

Previous Education: 

B.A in Sociology with a minor in Urban Education from the University of Pennsylvania

M.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Pennsylvania

M.A. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Sarah is a recent graduate of the School of General Studies at Columbia University, completing her BA in Sociology in Spring 2021. She has a background working with student writers with various skill sets, both at the community colleges she attended in San Antonio and Fort Worth, Texas, and most recently as an Undergraduate Peer Writing Fellow and Library Liaison at the Columbia University Writing Center. During her time in community colleges, Sarah developed an interest in helping students cultivate a sense of autonomy and empowerment through writing, often framing writing as a life skill that can be an effective tool in combating systemic inequalities in and out of the classroom. As a Supplemental Instruction Leader at Tarrant County College, Sarah developed invaluable relationships with her peers and mentors, and began to link sociological concepts with the lived experiences that shape the way students see themselves in educational settings and beyond. Rooted in her own experience as a non-traditional student who identifies as Tejana, Sarah hopes to establish a career in education policy with a goal of reconciling the profound and deeply personal social inequalities persistent in Texas public schools and nationwide. As a future policy maker, Sarah hopes to use social science as context to create policy grounded in a mission of equity and ethics. She is also a proud community college graduate, and member of several Greek letter organizations including Phi Beta Kappa.

 

Previous Education: 

B.A in Sociology from the School of General Studies at Columbia University

M.A. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Paige Talley is an M.A. student in the Sociology and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Raised in a military family, Paige noticed differences in her education based on where she lived as a child as well as the unequal opportunities in education for students in urban, rural, and suburban communities in the U.S. Paige is passionate about the educational experiences of Black and Brown students. Additionally, Paige enjoys considering the perspectives of Black girls and Black students of predominantly white institutions. Her interests are in education access and school segregation. Her undergraduate experience related to experiential learning, career advising, and college recruitment sparked her thinking beyond the K-12 classroom and toward policy as an avenue for engaging with expansive inequities in education. With her degree, Paige plans to continue thinking intersectionally in work supporting education reform and will establish programming that seeks to fill gaps in opportunities for historically marginalized groups. Outside of pursuing a graduate degree at Teachers College, Paige teaches private piano and community music lessons.

 

Previous Education:

B.A. in Music Education Virginia Polytechnic Institute

B.S. in Sociology from State University (Virginia Tech).

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