Presentations from throughout UCLA Ed and IS embodied the Graduate School's commitment to equity and access.
The inaugural Research and Inquiry Conference took place on June 4 at the UCLA Faculty Center. Sixty-three papers and poster presentations by students and faculty at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies represented the conference theme, “Visions of Social Justice: Bridging Research and Practice.”
The conference’s winning paper was titled, “Homelessness in the Elementary School Classroom: Social and Emotional Consequences,” by doctoral students Kirby A. Chow, and Vanessa L. Melchor, with Professor Rashmita S. Mistry.
Chow drew inspiration for “Homelessness in the Elementary School Classroom: Social and Emotional Consequences” from her experience of volunteer tutoring at family homeless shelters in Los Angeles. She says that while federal legislation through the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program addresses the needs of homeless students, there is little guidance for teachers in dealing with the challenges these students face.
“As a tutor, I witnessed how many of the children living at the shelters frequently changed schools and how some children tended to struggle academically,” she says. “A prominent theme from teachers’ accounts was that homelessness is linked to more than just loss of housing, but also breaks in relationships with family and friends. These various forms of instability appeared to influence students’ social and emotional adjustment in the classroom. Findings also demonstrated how frequent student mobility presented challenges for teachers, and about half of interviewed teachers reported having no explicit training about working with students experiencing family homelessness.”
In addition, six poster sessions yielded honors for students and faculty, including “Racial-ethnic and National Identification: Early Adolescents’ Beliefs about What it Means to be American” by Victoria C. Rodriguez, Cari Gillen-O’Neel, Professor Rashmita S. Mistry, Christia Spears Brown, Kirby A. Chow, and Elizabeth S. White; “Ethical Considerations for Engaging in Participatory Action Research Strategies with Undocumented Students” by Trisha Mazumeder and Dalal Katsiaficas; “Engaging the Community with the Community: Participatory Action Research Approach for the Study of UndocuScholars” by Pavitee Peumsang, Trisha Mazumder, and Cynthia Alcantar; “Immediate and Extended Family Networks: Tools for Latinas’ Educational Mobility” by Cindy Escobedo and Professor Patricia Gándara; “Reforming K-12 Teacher Tenure and Pay: Ending the Fight Against Teachers in the Battle for Students by Rebecca Sadwick; and “Defining and Documenting Cross-SES Friendships Among Kindergarten Students by Katherine M. Griffin and Professor Rashmita S. Mistry.
For some of the students, the social justice focus of the conference brought to the fore issues in education that affected them deeply and personally.
“My family inspired my research,” says Escobedo,” who is a peer learning facilitator and McNair Research Scholar in the UCLA Academic Advancement Program. “I come from a family that is very involved in and supportive of my educational endeavors. Every person has contributed to my academic success in a positive manner that is not often recognized, because the sort of support that they offer is not sanctioned as legitimate familial involvement. Many Latino families, like my own, have positively impacted the academic trajectories of many Latinas throughout California. I want to acknowledge them with my research.”
“Growing up as an undocumented student I faced many challenges while pursuing postsecondary education. After obtaining legal status and transferring to UCLA, I realized undocumented students continue to face challenges within postsecondary institutions,” says Peumsang, who is a McNair Scholar and Student Research Advisor for the UndocuScholars Project. “As a current undergraduate I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to engage in meaningful research that fights for undocumented student rights to higher education.”
Dr. Carola Suárez-Orozco, professor of education and co-director of UCLA’s Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education, organized the event with the assistance of the GSE&IS Research & Inquiry Program Committee, which was made of up faculty from throughout the Departments of Education and Information Studies. Tina Christie, division head, Social Research Methodology (SRM); Robert Cooper, associate and director of the Education Studies Minor Program; Tyrone Howard, director of the Black Male Institute and Center X faculty director; Leah Lievrouw, professor of information studies; Federica Raia in Urban Schooling; and Linda Rose, adjunct professor in the Educational Leadership Program, made up the committee, along with GSR Rachel Zwass and 20 doctoral students who were nominated by their divisions to serve.
“This initial Research and Inquiry Conference met and surpassed my every hope,” says Suárez-Orozco. “When Chair Louis Gomez asked us to organize this event he asked for the committee to organize a community building and professional development event. The goal of the conference was to learn from one another, deepen our intellectual conversations, and enhance our community.
“We achieved exactly that,” she says. “We had a wonderful turnout, professional presentations, and dynamic conversations across divisions. We rarely have the opportunity to do this kind of thing as a community and I think we have developed the infrastructure and begun a cultural tradition to enable us to continue to do so moving forward.”
Zwass, a graduate student researcher who is mentored by Professor Alison Bailey, is focusing her research on the literacy and language activities parents engage in with their school-aged children outside of school. She says that the diversity of studies submitted to the Conference from Ed and IS students represents the range of research at GSE&IS.
“We wanted all students to be able to find a place for their work and common ground across the divisions and departments,” says Zwass. “We had such a variety of studies even within the same session themes, with everyone giving their own interpretation of how their work fit in.”
Zwass says that the attendance for a new event passed all expectations and that, “Even better, people really seemed to understand what the event was about.”
“I heard people saying they were happy for the opportunity to see the work coming out of other divisions, which was the main focus of the event,” she notes. “But we also wanted this to be a professional development opportunity, and many students also mentioned to me that they were grateful for the chance to present a poster or paper in an environment where they had the scaffolding and support this event provided. If you look at the program for the day and just read the titles, you are reminded why UCLA is one of the leading educational research institutions. I am honored to have been a part of bringing people together to highlight our work.”
“I really enjoyed sharing my research, and getting feedback from students and faculty at the Research and Inquiry Conference,” says Rodriguez. “The supportive comments and constructive criticism I received helped me think about my research in ways that I hadn’t previously considered.”
Themes covered in the conference’s paper and poster sessions included Equity and Access; Learning and Knowledge Beyond the Classroom: Nontraditional and Informal; Learning Spaces and Practices; Pedagogies & Literacies; Working with Diverse Populations; and Innovative Methodological Strategies.
Paper submissions were evaluated by a faculty and student committee on topical importance, quality of research, and quality of writing, while poster presentations were voted upon by all of the participants at the poster sessions based on four criteria: most innovative topic, best display of content/layout, best overall aesthetic, and most engaging discussion of content. Three posters were chosen in two different sessions, each receiving a prize of $150 each; the prize for the winning paper was $500.
For a full list of papers and poster presentations, click here.
Above: Professor Rashmita Mistry (at far right) with graduate student advisees, many of whom took top honors at the inaugural Research and Inquiry Conference on June 4.
L-R, back row: Kirby Chow, Cristal Byrne, Lindsey Nenadal, Katherine Griffin, Catherine Coddington, and Mistry. L-R, front row: Victoria Rodriguez, Tomoko Nakajima, and Cari Gillen-O’Neel
Courtesy of Rashmita Mistry