Faculty member heading to the West Bank on a Fulbright

PSU Associate Professor Anita Bright beams with her mentor, George Mason University Associate Professor Shelley Wong. Wong offered support and helped spark Bright’s idea for her Fulbright in the West Bank. Photo courtesy of Bright

By Jillian Daley

PSU Associate Professor Anita Bright might as well change her last name to Fulbright.

Bright, who teaches in the College of Education’s (COE) Curriculum and Instruction Department, recently learned that she has been selected for a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award for the 2020–2021 academic year. Each year, the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program awards just 470 of these teaching, research or research/teaching awards in 125 countries. Bright will be teaching and performing equity-focused research.

“My first Fulbright: I’m very honored and excited,” Bright says. “I’m surprised that I got it on my first try, as there are always so many strong and compelling applicants.”

COE Dean Marvin Lynn

COE Dean Marvin Lynn says that this is a proud moment for the College.

“We are extremely pleased to learn that Dr. Bright has received this prestigious award to continue her important work,” Lynn says. “The project’s focus on equity and pedagogy is reflective of the values of PSU and the College of Education.”

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Professor’s class to be included in new virtual international exchange program

Assistant Professor of Practice Yasin Tunç is piloting the Stevens Initiative Connected Classrooms program. Photo courtesy of Tunç

By Jillian Daley

A PSU professor is pioneering a cutting-edge program fostering international exchange online, which can address inequities.

Assistant Professor of Practice Yasin Tunç, who teaches in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, is one of 26 faculty scholars from 10 participating universities who is piloting an inaugural program that involves a virtual classroom with an international exchange element. During Fall Term 2021, Tunç’s Globalization and Education class will include students from not only PSU but also the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Morocco.

“It feels good to be a part of an international experience,” Tunç says. “I think there are many valuable components to this program. One is for PSU to further its own internationalization efforts and another is for all our efforts to help connect students around the world.”

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PSU College of Education shares memories of Assistant Professor Xander Davies

Assistant Professor Alexander “Xander” Davies died October 22. He was 35. Submitted photo

By Jillian Daley

Time is precious. Yet PSU College of Education (COE) Assistant Professor Alexander “Xander” Davies shared his hours unstintingly with students, faculty and staff.

Maybe that’s why Davies impacted so many people, even though he died so young. He passed away at age 35 on October 22 at his home. 

“Our thoughts and condolences are with his family as well as his friends, students and colleagues in our community,” COE Dean Marvin Lynn says.

Compassionate colleague

Soon after people learned of Davies’ passing, stirring comments from all of those whom he affected, especially his students, started flowing in to the university. Davies began teaching in the COE’s Curriculum and Instruction Department in fall,  2018.

Ross Faulkenberg, an Edison High School teacher and COE Master of Special Education student, was among those who offered a message about the impact Davies had on his life, speaking directly to the late faculty member.

“Your warmth and positive light will always stick with me,” says Faulkenberg, who took a class with Davies on strategies for working with diverse students this past spring. “You are such a breath of bright, fresh air that inspires and welcomes anyone who crosses your path.”

Davies earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Northern Iowa before obtaining his Ph.D. at the University of Central Florida in 2018. He joined PSU shortly afterward, specializing in English as a Second Language (ESOL) and elementary education. 

“He was a promising researcher, teacher and servant leader,” Lynn says. “He was a beloved professor and a well-respected colleague. Although he had been teaching at PSU for only a couple years, his passion for teaching future teachers came through in his work every day.”

Curriculum & Instruction Chair Will Parnell says that Davies would often swing by his office to chat or to confer about serious conversations he’d had in class, including one discussion about the institutional and structural racism some students had experienced in K–12 schools. 

“He was focused on family involvement and community engagement in K–12 schools right at the time we met,” Parnell says. “As well, he had a love for working with people who wished to be educators foregrounding equity, dual-language and social justice in classrooms, schools and communities.”

Parnell says Davies relished other languages and cultures, traveling recently to Egypt and Cambodia. Davies wrote his dissertation about an elementary school in its first year of transitioning to a dual language program. Davies used the paper as an opportunity to thank teachers who work in what he called “one of the most difficult professions.” 

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A well-timed project: PSU partners on anti-bias education film

John Nimmo is working on an anti-bias film with colleague Debbie LeeKeenan. Photo courtesy of Nimmo

By Jillian Daley

The early 2021 release date of Portland State Associate Professor John Nimmo and colleague Debbie LeeKeenan’s anti-bias education film seems so perfectly in line with the current cultural shift that they couldn’t have planned it better had they tried.

In a way, it’s no coincidence. Advancing equity and eliminating discrimination are Nimmo and LeeKeenan’s longtime passions, so it’s no surprise that their voices should be among those crying out for change. It just happens that more people may be paying attention right now. By the end of this year, filming should be a wrap on Reflecting on Anti-Bias Education in Practice, which will feature an analysis of anti-bias strategies in early childhood classrooms. What’s different about this film is its direct focus on teachers’ own reflections, rather than solely relying upon experts and research. This offers crucial insight into the complexities of practicing anti-bias teaching in real-life settings.

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PSU College of Education acquires $1.22M grant to support students

Associate Professor Holly Lawson’s sons Ari Gabriel (left), 8, and Kamilo, 12, learned so much about the natural world in the family’s garden that Lawson wanted to tap these outdoor opportunities for teaching. Her children’s enthusiasm for learning in the garden even sparked an idea for a $1.22 million federal grant. Photo courtesy of Lawson
Associate Professor Holly Lawson co-led an effort to land a major grant. PSU file photo

By Jillian Daley

Associate Professor Holly Lawson and Assistant  Professor Amy Parker led the charge to land a $1.22 million federal grant that will help Portland State University College of Education (COE) students pay their tuition and will create a new COE class.

“I feel good that we can provide this funding and these opportunities to students,” says Lawson, principal investigator on the grant.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs is funding the five-year grant for the Interdisciplinary Distance Educators Advancing Low-Incidence Students (IDEALS) project, which officially launched this week.

IDEALS will support COE graduate students’ tuition and teach them how to best provide distance learning in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to students with visual loss, including those with additional disabilities.

Assistant  Professor Amy Parker is proud of Lawson’s leadership. PSU file photo

For IDEALS, Lawson, coordinator of the COE Visually Impaired Learner program (VIL), teamed up with Parker, coordinator of the COE Orientation and Mobility program (O&M).

The VIL and O&M programs train teachers of students with vision impairments (TSVIs) and O&M teachers; a key aspect of the IDEALS project entails addressing a shortage of educators who specialize in these areas. Parker says Lawson offered an incredible service at a time of need in the special education field.

“She displayed brilliant leadership in crafting this grant,” says Parker, co-principal investigator of the grant.

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Shanté Stuart McQueen: New professor, new mom

Incoming College of Education (COE) tenure-track Assistant Professor Shanté Stuart McQueen is currently working at the University of Pittsburgh as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center on Race and Social Problems. McQueen holds a teaching credential, a master’s in education and a Ph.D. in education from the University of California, Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of McQueen

By Jillian Daley

Brand-new College of Education (COE) tenure-track Assistant Professor Shanté Stuart McQueen likes to joke that, other than her academic abilities, she has no secret talent.

But since she gave birth to 4-month-old Memphis, she’s discovered that’s not true. McQueen’s gifted with an innate nurturing quality, a secret parenting power. However, she is quick to note that she has had a great deal of support, both as an academic and a mother.

Shanté Stuart McQueen, who will start as an assistant professor in the College of Education in Fall Term 2020, says she discovered a hidden talent, a gift for parenting. Photo courtesy of McQueen

“I’m really appreciative for my friends and family, all the people who supported us,” she said in an interview last week with Memphis in her arms. “I couldn’t have gotten where I’m at without my friends and family, the people in L.A. and out here in Pittsburgh, who just kept me going.”

While her loved ones may have kept her going, McQueen, who grew up in Oregon, is an undeniably astonishing professional, a coup for the COE’s Curriculum & Instruction Department. She starts at the COE in September and is currently working at the University of Pittsburgh as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center on Race and Social Problems. In addition to her experience, McQueen holds a teaching credential, a master’s in education and a Ph.D. in education from the University of California, Los Angeles. 

McQueen boasts experience at and degrees from highly regarded universities, and she also possesses a prowess for research — and acquiring the grants to bring her ideas from conception to information collection.

Among her proudest accomplishments is a grant that will “be shaping a lot of my work at PSU,” she explained. She is the co-principal investigator for The Just Discipline Project: Implementing Restorative and Relational Approaches to School Discipline in Urban Schools. The funder is the Heinz Foundation, which awarded $250,000 for the project.

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