As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, it is more apparent to me now why Warner is an excellent fit for my growth and goals than at the time when I began the program. At the time when I entered the PhD program at Warner, I was looking for an institution that was fitting in terms of its mission and setting, and donor relationship.
Social justice was a key factor for me. While I can be viewed as a “model minority”,, because of my race, the academic achievement of individuals in my ethnic group is far from what characterizes a model minority. At Warner, there is an emphasis on diversity and contributing to the better of groups/populations who are marginalized. I had a perspective on how this mission was espoused through the research of faculty members. It was later that I learned that social justice at Warner was more than a mission statement and faculty’s topic of research interest. While I expected PhD students to be guided by faculty members who are the experts in their field of research, I was surprised that in much of the research work that takes place at Warner, faculty members are themselves apprentices of community, youth, and policy engagements. Drs. Joanne Larson and Joyce Duckles would often get their feet wet with the community engagement project in the Beechwood neighborhood. Dr. Luehmann works with youth on science related projects. Dr. Gatto is always around with children during the summer for the Horizon’s program, which is a summer literacy and numeracy program that keeps youth from summer learning loss. It is always a humbling experience to know that learning is limitless at Warner for students, faculty and staff.
In retrospect, another deciding factor was theory and practice. I was, initially, only interested in theoretical research – you know, hypothetical situations. Part of it was influenced by my background in social psychology. Shortly after joining my first research group (Science STARS), I learned that it was not possible to conduct research without considering practice. While part of the reason was because of the need to reform practice, most of the reason was due to the privilege and duty of educators to contribute to the betterment of all of those impacted by the field of research. The Freedom Market Community Engagement Project, directed by Dr. Larson, and the Horizons’ Program, directed by Dr. Gatto, are examples of projects/programs that are inspired by theory, but grown through practice. The faculty members and students at Warner practice what they theorize! There are so many different research projects going on at Warner that there is something for everyone. Recently, another PhD student and I are conducting our own research investigations on racialization, spirituality and achievement.
Finally, student-donor relationship is a part of Warner that I appreciate. As a student from a low-income background, I am truly fortunate to have been funded by the Michael E. Scandling fellowship. During my first year, I had the chance to meet Mr. Scandling and his family as they tour Warner and the university during a Spring event. It was a wonderful chance to greet and meet the individual whose kind contribution assisted students like myself.
Until next time!