Recent Dissertation Titles

Stephanie Hicks - "Dialogue in the University: A Case Study"

Dissertation Advisor: Pauline Lipman

This qualitative case study seeks to identify and contextualize the theoretical underpinnings of a dialogue-based diversity and social justice curriculum initiative based on Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) theory and pedagogy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Specifically, this study asks: What theories and values underlie the Dialogue Initiative (DI) process at UIC?

Research on Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) has typically focused on its effectiveness as an intervention in higher education classrooms designed to increase students’ awareness of social diversity and encourage their positive interaction with students from different social identity groups (race/ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, religion, gender, citizenship/national origin) (Gurin, 1999; Gurin, Dey & Hurtado, 2003; Zuniga, Nagda, Chesler & Cytron-Walker, 2007). IGD was first developed and implemented on the University of Michigan’s campus in the late 1980s. However, in the 25 years since IGDs inception, the demographic makeup of undergraduate student bodies has changed significantly, as have universities themselves. By focusing on the development and implementation of a dialogue-based diversity and social justice education program at a large, urban, public research university with a predominately working-class student body that has no racial/ethnic majority, this study will investigate whether IGD has been incorporated into the neoliberal university in a way that disciplines minority student difference (Melamed, 2011; Ferguson, 2012), or whether it challenges power. Through data gleaned from interviews, participant observation and policy analysis, this study uncovers the values embedded in the policy discourse (Ball, 1993), pedagogical practices and instructor/student interactions with the Dialogue Initiative. Finally, it will suggest what, if any, transformative possibilities there are for the Dialogue Initiative in the university.

Erin M. Hoffman - "Racial Climate and Belonging: Experiences of Black Students at Traditionally White Liberal Arts Colleges"

Dissertation Advisor: David Stovall

Troubling college graduation rates in the United States, and disparities in completion rates between students of color and white students, persist even after more than 40 years of exploring the college completion phenomenon. This study follows a line of critique of Tinto’s (1975; 1993) theory of student departure and posits that traditional discussions of student retention do not adequately center the experience of racism that students of color face in traditionally white institution (TWI) environments. The aim of this study, guided by critical race theory, is to understand the experience of black students at TWI in order to challenge current perspectives of student success and retention, and work towards creating more socially just and inclusive campuses.

This multiple case study uses qualitative methods to explore the voices of black college students at three traditionally white liberal arts colleges in the Midwest and considers how the campus racial climate (Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pederson, & Allen, 1998) impacts black students’ sense of belonging (Strayhorn, 2012) and persistence in college. Findings from this study reveal the racial climate challenges of black students specifically within the traditionally white liberal arts college environment, expose the nuance of these institutional contexts as well as facades of progress, and recommend key institutional investments in faculty hiring and development as well as in developing critical spaces of trust, empowerment, and healing for black students.

Mark Martell - "Invisible Me: A Narrative Study on the Racialized Experiences of Asian American Students"

Dissertation Advisor: Benjamin Superfine

This study examined the racialized experiences of nine Asian American students at the University of Illinois at Chicago and their perceptions of the campus climate. Using a critical race theory lens, one-on-one interviews were conducted to understand how racial microaggressions and stereotypes were imposed on and internalized by the student participants. Research findings provided a better explanation of the Asian American student experience and how race impacts various elements of student life and influences interaction within an education institution. Specifically, the nine Asian American students reported encountering the model minority stereotype, the perpetual foreigner stereotype, and cultural assumptions that threatened their sense of belonging on-campus and possibly affected their student success. Student suggestions on how to better serve Asian American students were shared for campus leaders, faculty, and staff, and researcher implications were shared for higher education practitioners, developers, and researchers. This study contributes to the existing literature in the disciplines of education and Asian American studies.

Endea N.K. Murry - "The Right to Return: Returning Public-Housing Families and Their Decision-Making Processes on Schooling"

The history of housing and school policy in Chicago helps to frame the argument that poor and minority populations have had the least access to decent affordable housing and education. The demarcations and stigmas of being poor, black and living in public housing in Chicago creates a unique opportunity to tell the story of the experiences of the families that were displaced and ultimately returned. The following chapters seek to tell the story of displacement policy and its aftermath, especially as it relates to how families made school-choice decisions upon returning. Of particular importance is understanding displacement policy from the perspective of those who were affected, whether such policies led to further isolation, and the types of decisions families were forced to make in order to negotiate the change in their lives. The story of public housing and schooling for Blacks in Chicago has a chartered history of isolation, segregation, disengagement, and indignation.

Laura Ramirez - "Centering Motherhood: Latina Women Engaging in Collective Acts of Resistance for Education Justice"

On September 15, 2010, approximately a dozen Latina immigrant mothers took over a fieldhouse adjacent to their children’s school in the heart of the Mexican community of a large Midwestern City. The immediate demands of the mothers revolved around the preservation of the fieldhouse they occupied-which was slated to be demolished-, the construction of a library, and the disbursement of Tax Increment Financing funds that they had advocated for and secured throughout a seven-year long battle. The mothers engaged in collective acts of resistance which resulted in a highly publicized sit-in that captured the hearts and minds of the local community as well as across the United States and even internationally. Although this highly visible battle did not result in the mothers acquiring their initial demands, it had an important impact at the grassroots level, where the mothers were able to not only define what they believed an education with dignity entails, but more importantly, through their actions, they were able to build a community of resistance that put forth a critical and practical concept of education and human rights.

Using testimonio as a methodology and framed using Critical Race Theory and Chicana/Latina Feminist Epistemology, this study complicates the general understanding surrounding Latina mothers’ engagement in their children’s educational rights. In this study, the mothers’ testimonios serve to document the ways in which their actions and beliefs help us to re-conceptualize and redefine what education justice looks like vis-à-vis neoliberal policies and practices. From the local to the global the mothers helped to reimagine a world in which education is a human right and in which the participation of those most affected by the effects of globalization and neoliberal policies can begin to reclaim their inalienable rights.