Student News

Graduate Student Association hosts regional conference on educational studies

The School of Education’s Graduate Student Association hosted the 14th annual conference of the Southeastern Association of Educational Studies (SEAES) Feb. 20-21, 2009. “Critical Educational Research in Extraordinary Times” was the theme of the conference. Participants examined the study of educational research in a time of extreme social, political and economic circumstances.

A committee of doctoral students in the School of Education organized the conference. Led by James B. Cooper, a third-year Ph.D. student in Culture, Curriculum and Change, the committee included Lara Costa, a first-year Ph.D. student in Educational Psychology, Measurement and Evaluation; Tangie Gray Fleming, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in Educational Psychology, Measurement and Evaluation; and Julie Keane, a third-year Ph.D. student in Culture, Curriculum and Change.

The conference attracted graduate students in education from across the Southeast. The presentations examined a broad range of educational topics including cultural studies, multiculturalism, bilingual education, early childhood education, special education, research models, mentoring, policy studies, distance education, use of technology, ethics and antiracist education.  Presentation types ranged from research-based to theoretical.

“The SEAES conference provided an intimate space in which predominantly graduate studentsthough some faculty attended and presented as wellcould share their work with their peers and with faculty,” said Cooper.

“Also, because the conference included a substantial number of UNC School of Education alumni, our current graduate students had an opportunity both to see what is possible for their own work after leaving UNC and to see that graduate students in the School of Education forge deep roots while they’re here,” noted Cooper. 

The keynote speaker was George Noblit, Joseph Neikirk Distinguished Professor of Sociology of Education at the School of Education.  In his address, Noblit used French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu's final project, an edited book called The Weight of the World, as an analogy for educational scholarship in extraordinary times. He asked participants to rethink how scholars research commonplace notions, recognizing that the world is made possible by people who suffer. Noblit suggested that educational scholars might somehow help those people become what he termed "subjects of their own subjectivities" rather than pawns of the powerful.

The conference, composed of four sessions, gave program participants the option of attending the presentations they were most interested in. 

Session One offered presentations ranging from “Math talk: The acquisition of mathematical knowledge for teaching in the student teaching practicum,” to “Friendship development in children with autism spectrum disorders,” to “Assistive technology: Helping all students reach their potential.”

The second session featured a facilitated discussion on drafting an open letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Session Two also included presentations on cultural studies, globalization, the 21st Century Skills framework, ethics and humor.

A presenter in Session Three delivered a presentation titled "Recognizing the sugarcoat: Developing critical literacy to engage and empower urban youth." The paper focused on how a first-year English teacher at low-performing urban school used critical literacy to give students a sense of classroom community and to encourage student empowerment.

Five School of Education graduate students presented a paper in Session Four, “Narratives for remembering, narratives for survival.” This collection of narratives featured a range of stories from teaching in a post-Katrina New Orleans to an oral history of a Black woman educator teaching in Mississippi’s Freedom Schools in 1964.

The SEAES conference began in 1995 when two doctoral students at the School of EducationAmee Adkins (Ph.D. ’97) and Kathy Hytten (Ph.D. ’96)had a vision of a regional research forum focusing on the disciplines of anthropology, history, sociology and philosophy of education. Their vision has flourished over the past 14 years, with meetings held in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. Both Adkins and Hytten are now faculty members, Adkins at Illinois State University and Hytten at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.