Student News

Graduate students pursue global summer opportunities

Graduate students from the School of Education worked with children in South Africa and studied mathematics education in Iceland this past summer.

Beth Dawkins, a third-year Ph.D. student in Education; Early Childhood, Families and Literacy, served as a UNICEF intern in Pretoria, South Africa. Crystal Hill, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Education; Culture, Curriculum and Change, studied at the Nordic Graduate School in Mathematics Education in Iceland.

Read on to learn more about what they learned from these experiences.

Beth Dawkins

Photo of Beth Dawkins

Beth Dawkins

Year/Program: Third-year Ph.D., Education; Early Childhood, Families and Literacy

Summer Activity: Intern

Org(s). Involved: UNICEF

Location: Pretoria, South Africa

Dates: May-Aug. 2007

Brief description of summer activity: During the three-month internship, I performed both office and field work. I analyzed South Africa’s early childhood curriculum and policies and made recommendations for improvement.  In addition, I wrote research papers for UNICEF professionals, informing them of various educational concepts such as cost-benefit analysis and psychosocial care of young children. I also attended and made a presentation at a week-long, regional UNICEF conference on early childhood development. 

What you learned/gained from this experience: I’m glad I had the opportunity to see a bit of Africa for myself.  What I experienced was different than the Africa I’ve seen portrayed in the media. South Africa has buildings, restaurants, malls, highways, airports, schools and universities. But like many nations, South Africa suffers from poor areas. One of the most important lessons I learned this summer was the truth about Africa—that it should be viewed like any other country, with both positives and negatives.

What was unique about this experience: Through UNICEF, I worked in several impoverished areas, such as Soweto, where I visited schools and consulted with teachers on improving curricula. The children I interacted with were happy to see someone from the outside world who cared about them and wanted to help. Working with underprivileged students and witnessing their gratitude was a rewarding experience.

Crystal Hill

Photo of Crystal Hill

Crystal Hill

Year/Program: Fourth-year Ph.D., Education; Culture, Curriculum and Change

Summer Activity: Summer school participant

Org(s) Involved: Nordic Graduate School in Mathematics Education

Location: Iceland

Dates: June 1-10, 2007

Brief description of summer activity: This past summer, I attended the Nordic Graduate School in Mathematics Education (NoGSME) in Iceland. The aim of NoGSME, a collaboration between the Nordic and Baltic countries, is to support and develop researchers in mathematics education in order to improve the scientific quality of research in the field. I worked with international graduate students in mathematics education and world-renowned scholars.  In addition to completing our academic work, we enjoyed touring the country and networking with other program participants. 

What you learned/gained from this experience: The program provided me with new perspectives and lenses for thinking about my dissertation work and examining my data. Other students and scholars read a summary of my proposal and provided suggestions and critiques, and I was able to do the same for other students. In addition to the dissertation focus, I exchanged ideas more broadly with other international students and scholars at NoGSME.

What was unique about this experience: As my first trip abroad, this experience gave me an opportunity to visit the beautiful and historic sites of Iceland. Also, this year marked the first time non-Nordic students participated in the graduate school. For me, it was interesting to be known as Crystal, “the girl from the States.” Because many of us had never visited other students’ countries of origin, we engaged in enriching conversations about the places we call home.

Kristal Moore

Year/Program: Third-year Ph.D. in Education; Culture, Curriculum and Change

Summer Activity: Durham Freedom School

Org(s) Involved: North Carolina Central University (NCCU) Hip Hop Initiative, Children’s Defense Fund

Location: NCCU School of Education; Durham

Dates: June 18-July 22, 2007

Brief description of summer activity: This past summer, the NCCU Hip Hop Initiative, a program that aims to transform NCCU into an academic stronghold for the study of the culture and history of hip-hop music, sponsored the Durham Freedom School. The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), which develops freedom school programs nationwide to provide critical summer and after-school enrichment, provided an opportunity for 60 young people in grades three through nine to experience culturally relevant reading, community action and learning in a supportive and academically stimulating environment. Our five-week summer program assisted the local schools by giving the students a thirst for learning that would continue throughout the following academic year. 

What you learned/gained from this experience:  Working with Durham Freedom School taught me the importance of bridging the gap between theory and practice. Freedom Schools are inherently transformative and culturally responsive, and I believe this particular summer program positively impacted students’ lives. I also learned that service should not be synonymous with subservience. We have to view ourselves as servant leaders in order to determine how best to listen and assess the needs of underrepresented and marginalized students.

What was unique about this experience: The Durham Freedom School at NCCU functions differently from other programs in the area.  With the onset of the Hip Hop Initiative (founded by Kawachi Clemons, a fellow Cultural, Curriculum and Change Ph.D. student), we were able to explore the development of leadership skills, critical thinking and literacy by engaging students in writing, performing, organizing performance venues and analyzing hip-hop history, music and culture. We also collaborated with students in the School’s Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program. M.A.T. students and instructors worked with Durham Freedom School during D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) time and helped coordinate the program’s finale.

Graduate Student Summer Experiences