People & Leadership
The IUME Team
at the Gordon Campus Library
Ernest MorrellERNEST MORRELL is the Director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) and Professor of English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He has also been elected as the incoming Vice-President of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and will assume the presidency of this 50,000-member organization in 2013. For nearly twenty years Dr. Morrell’s research has focused on drawing upon youth’s interest in popular culture and participatory media technologies to increase motivation and to promote academic literacy development, civic engagement and college access. He is also recognized nationally for developing powerful models of teaching and learning in classrooms and non-school environments and for engaging youth and communities in the project of educational reform. Professor Morrell has written more than 50 articles that have appeared in journals such as Teachers College Record, the Journal of Teacher Education, Reading Research Quarterly, English Education, the English Journal, the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Action in Teacher Education, and the Annual Yearbook of the National Reading Conference. He has written numerous book chapters and four books including The Art of Critical Pedagogy: Possibilities for Moving from Theory to Practice in Urban Schools (with Jeff Duncan-Andrade) and Critical Literacy and Urban Youth: Pedagogies of Access, Dissent, and Liberation. He is a sought after speaker by universities, school districts, professional organizations, and private foundations. Morrell has also received several commendations for his teaching including being recognized five times by Who’s Who Among America’s High School teachers and receiving UCLA’s Department of Education’s Distinguished Teaching Award. Morrell received his Ph.D. in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of California, Berkeley and was the recipient of the Outstanding Dissertation award.
VERONICA HOLLY, is the Assistant Director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME), Teachers College, Columbia University. She received her B.A. in Political Science from Syracuse University and her M.A. in Education Policy from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is currently a doctoral student in the Organization and Leadership Department at Teachers College. Her research interests include school/community partnerships, positive youth development, parent involvement, and school governance. Ms. Holly's professional background bridges New York City's politics, community and education. She was an Assistant to Governor Mario Cuomo's Advisory Committee for Black Affairs; and served as a Program Analyst for the New York State Division for Youth. Prior to joining IUME, Ms. Holly served as Research Coordinator for the National Center for Children and Families, at Teachers College, where she coordinated its national child and family policy summer fellowship program for graduate students, entitled "Putting Children First." She has directed and developed academic enrichment and out-of-school-time programs for youth; provided technical assistance and evaluation to community-based organizations; served as manager for a successful District Leader political campaign; and serves as a consultant and proposal writer for education initiatives. She has organized numerous community and charitable events and chaired the New Democratic Club's Education Committee in Harlem. Ms. Holly has presented at numerous conferences and events, most notably, Keynote Address for the Robert Bowne Foundation Fellows Annual Luncheon, of which she was a Fellow, and the CEJJESS Institute’s Annual Graduates Awards Ceremony in 2008, and an encore address in 2009. She’s currently on leave from Upper Manhattan Rotary, International. Ms. Holly is an avid tennis player, and a homeowner in Harlem.
Post Doctoral Fellows
ARSHAD I. ALI is a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Teachers College, Columbia University His research explores how youth identities are mediated by macro economic, political and social realities. He received his Ph.D. in Education from UCLA in September 2009. His dissertation is entitled, “Finding Home: Formulations of Race and Nationhood Among Muslim College Students in Southern California.” Through this study he explored how students who identify as Muslim understand their own racial and religious construction, as well as their own subjectivity within the American social, political, and cultural landscape. He specifically focused on the construction of the label Muslim as an emerging racial and political signifier. His current work examines the intersections of race and religion in the lives of U.S. Muslim youth. Specifically, his current research project further explores issues of participatory democracy, political engagement and cultural identity among Arab American youth in New York City. Arshad also has lectured extensively on various topics regarding critical race methodologies within multiple different ethnic complexes. Arshad also holds a B.A. degree from UCLA and an Ed.M. degree from Harvard University.
BENJI CHANG is Postdoctoral Fellow at Teachers College, Columbia University, with affiliations at IUME and the Department of Curriculum & Teaching. Dr. Chang earned his Ph.D., M.Ed., and Teaching Credential from the University of California, Los Angeles, and his B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego. For the past 11 years, Dr. Chang has been involved in social justice education work with youth and families from multiethnic inner-city neighborhoods like Los Angeles Chinatown. He is a former LAUSD teacher, union steward and community organizer. He is co-founder and co-director of the LA Mentee + Mentor Project (M+M), and was most recently Director of Youth & Parent Leadership at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), the nation’s largest Asian American civil rights organization. There he directed all education and leadership development programs serving over 800 youth, teachers, and parents annually, and he helped raise over $800,000 in grants to support these efforts in immigrant and multiracial communities. Dr. Chang has been a Visiting Scholar to research universities in China (Beijing, Hong Kong), Australia (Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney), and Singapore. His work has been published in several journals and books (e.g. Rethinking Schools, Asian American Movement, AAPI Nexus Journal), and he has been honored with awards and fellowships in Ethnic Studies and Education, including the Cultivating New Voices Fellowship through the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).
KATHARINE VINCENT was born and raised in the United Kingdom and earned a BA (Hons) in English from Cambridge University in 1999. Prior to completing a PGCE at London University’s Institute of Education (IOE), she then spent two years teaching English in rural Japan as a participant on the JET program. In 2004, she was awarded a Best Practice Research Scholarship for her study of students with literacy difficulties, and was a Lead Practitioner for the Specialist Schools Trust between 2004 and 2006. Currently, Katharine is Assistant Head teacher at an east London secondary school where, as well as teaching English, she is responsible for curriculum development and for the school’s Sixth Form. Having completed a Master of Teaching with Distinction at IOE in 2006, she now also works as an Associate Tutor on the course, which provides theoretical and practical research training to teachers working in London schools. Katharine is now studying for a Doctor in Education at IOE, and was recently awarded a Research Fellowship by the London Education Research Unit (LERU). She is currently working on a narrative research project, exploring the construction of educational success by Bangladeshi girls living in a socio-economically deprived area of east London. As a Fulbright Scholar with Special Student Researcher status at Teachers College, Columbia University, Katharine plans to carry out fieldwork for her doctoral thesis in New York City schools and will work closely with the Institute for Urban and Minority Education.
Graduate Assistant FellowsAmanda Robinson
AMANDA ROBINSON is currently pursuing a MA in Curriculum & Teaching and a Credential in Elementary Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She graduated with a BA in psychology (highest honors) from the University of California, Berkeley. While at Berkeley she studied the ways in which self-perception affects interpersonal adaptability and perceived social skills. Her interest in perception and social adaptation led her to an internship with the Children's Hospital of Oakland, Autism Intervention Clinic (CHAI) where she discovered her passion for teaching. She has worked as a Special Education Teacher in Richmond, CA at a nonpublic school for students on the autism spectrum, and as an Autism Support Specialist, collaborating with IEP support-team members in the San Francisco Unified School District. Her current research interests include community-school collaboration and the implementation of participatory action research within the elementary classroom. She creates art in her spare time and enjoys volunteering with arts organizations that provide community programming for families. She is also an avid SCUBA diver, previously working as a Divemaster and as a marine guide on her home island of Maui, Hawaii.
Cati V. de los Ríos
CATI DE LOS RIOS is a first year Doctoral Student in the Department of Curriculum & Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research interests include Culturally Relevant Curriculum, Culturally Empowering and Critical Pedagogies, High School Ethnic Studies, Critical Race Theory in Education, Participatory Action Research, and Empowered Youth Identity Development. She received her B.A. in Chicana/o Studies and Spanish Literature from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA; a Joint M.A. in Theological Studies and Secondary Education, and a Secondary Teaching Credential from Harvard University. Cati’s roots in education arise from four-generations of women critical educators in the highlands of Chihuahua, México. A previous Spanish, A.V.I.D. and Ethnic Studies Teacher in Pomona, CA, and Boston, MA, she created and implemented the first College Preparatory “Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies” high school course in Southern California which she taught for four years. Cati’s work included the bridging of her classroom with local Day Laborer Centers and University Level Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies courses at the Claremont Colleges to produce community action research projects, Social Justice Posadas, K-12 Raza Studies "Encuentros," and spaces for empowered youth identity development and social transformation. She previously served as an integral member of the Association of Raza Educators (A.R.E.) in Los Angeles and currently organizes around issues of educational justice with the New York Coalition of Radical Educators (NYCoRE).
CRYSTAL BELLE is an educator, freelance writer and poet. She has done extensive research on hip-hop as a Watson fellow, in which she traveled around the world exploring the significance of hip-hop in urban communities. Her travels took her throughout West Africa, South America, Europe and the Caribbean. She performs at performance poetry events in New York City and beyond on a regular basis. Belle is the author of Woman on Fire, a collection of poetry, which explores issues of body image, self-love, urban education, feminism and Africa/Diaspora relations. She is currently working on her second collection of poetry and a novel. Her poetry is featured on her blog at http://crystalbellepoet.blogspot.com Belle is currently working on a multimedia project called Testing the Waters with the Hip Hop Theater Festival which documents the lives of high school students and their experiences with testing. Crystal is a Doctoral student in the Department of Arts and Humanities and is very excited about starting her PhD in English Education at Teachers College.
Basil Smikle Jr.
BASIL SMIKLE JR. is a political consultant and policy analyst whose commentary is featured in local and national media outlets. In addition to running his consulting firm, Basil is a PhD candidate at Columbia University and Teacher’s College concentrating in Education and Politics. He holds appointments as an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and City University of New York’s Murphy Institute for Professional Studies. In 2010, Basil was featured in the L.A. Times as “Harlem’s New Political Elite.” City Hall Magazine named him one of 50 rising stars in New York Politics. Before starting his own company, Basil was a top aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton during her first campaign for the Senate later becoming her Deputy State Director on the Senate staff. Mrs. Clinton called Basil a “key advisor and tremendous public servant…who makes sure all voices are heard.” Basil graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University in Industrial and Labor Relations. In 1996, he received a Masters Degree in Public Policy from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. While there, he was awarded the Columbia University Departmental Fellowship and the Public Affairs Fellowship.
JEN JOHNSON is an educator, community organizer, and social entrepreneur. She is a doctoral student in English Education at Teachers College and she currently holds two fellowships, one with IUME and one with the Hip Hop Education Center at New York University where she received her Masters of Arts in Media, Culture and Communication. Her work is dedicated to the economic, political, cultural, and social empowerment of young leaders through debate education and Hip-Hop culture. She is a former high school and college debater who has coached debate for thirteen years. Since 2001, she has directed two non-profits and Urban Debate Leagues in seven school districts. She has taught debate institutes at numerous colleges and universities, and has partnered with dozens of public schools, social justice organizations, Hip-Hop artists, and community leaders from around the country. She was formally the executive director of the Seattle Debate Foundation, a 501(c)(3) social justice organization committed to the critical literacy and empowerment of urban youth through debate education. Her groundbreaking work in Hip Hop debate education received national and international acclaim including recognition in Newsweek Magazine and Zip Radio in Japan, and her work has been modeled cities around the United States. In 2008 she was named a finalist for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King County Executive Awards for Excellence in Hip Hop and in 2009 she was a finalist for the NYU Fellowship in Social Entrepreneurship. Her forthcoming curriculum will be published in the Hip-Hop Education Guidebook Volume II. Jen received her BA in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley where she found her passion for urban debate education, critical and culturally relevant pedagogy, and critical literacy. She currently brings her passion and commitment to the education and empowerment of young leaders by coaching Hip-Hop debate in Brooklyn. Her ultimate goal is to expand these opportunities to young people and educators around the globe. She believes that through the power of debate and Hip-Hop we can connect, build, create, and envision a world with endless possibilities.
CYNDI BENDEZU is a first year Masters student in the Department of Organization & Leadership in Higher and Postsecondary Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Cyndi’s research interests include undocumented youths’ access to higher education, community organizing and empowerment through critical pedagogy and critical race theory. She was born in Lima, Peru and came to the U.S. undocumented when she was four years old. She attended public school in South Gate where she has resided for the past 22 years. As an undocumented AB 540 student at UCLA, she was a member of IDEAS (Improving Dreams Equality Access and Success) and began to advocate for herself and other undocumented students by lobbying for the federal and state DREAM Act. Cyndi raised awareness of the issues of undocumented students at UCLA and in the Southern California community through rallies, workshops, and conferences. She graduated from UCLA in 2007 with a B.A. in Political Science. Cyndi was an Ameri Corps Public Ally and Project Coordinator at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center working with undocumented students on issues affecting low-income undocumented students’ college access. She has been actively organizing in Los Angeles and nationally for the passage of the federal DREAM Act with Dream Team Los Angeles. She was one of the key organizers for the “DREAM Freedom Ride” which was a journey from Los Angeles to D.C. to lobby and engage in civil disobedience for the passage of the DREAM Act. Cyndi has actively been involved in campaigns to stop the deportation of DREAM Act eligible youth and ending Secure Communities and 287(g) agreements in Los Angeles. She has two dogs and loves to dance Afro-Peruvian music, read, and sing karaoke.
Barry GoldenbergBARRY GOLDENBERG is currently a student at Teachers College, Columbia University, pursuing a Master of Arts in History and Education who is excited and humbled to be a part of IUME. Barry’s research interests include analyzing critical race theory within an educational context as well as examining how society—broadly speaking—impact underrepresented youth and school reform efforts. Prior to coming to New York City, Barry spent 7 weeks in Cape Town, South Africa, exploring his interests in race studies while volunteering at Christel House Academy. He has also been a lead research assistant for the UCLA Middle School Diversity Project as well as an Intern for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Besides immersing himself in issues related to social justice, Barry enjoys playing tennis, boxing, weight training, holistic nutrition, and was an NCEP Certified Personal Trainer. In addition, Barry loves to write (find his blog at www.barrygoldenberg.com) and his first book book entitled "The Unknown Architects of Civil Rights" is currently available on Amazon.com. Barry holds a B.A. in History (highest departmental honors), magna cum laude, from the University of California, Los Angeles.
JAMILA LYISCOTT describes herself as an academic activist, spoken word artist, and educator and is currently a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University where her work focuses on the education of the African Diaspora. She also serves as the Program Associate at Urban Word NYC, a community based after school organization that works to champion youth literacy, development, and voice through hip-hop, spoken word, literature, and social justice pedagogy. Jamila works as a mentor, educator, and workshop facilitator in spaces throughout the five boroughs, including Urban Word NYC, BrotherHood/SisterSol, and the Kings Church of Christ where her practice seeks to encourage student centered learning and validate the voices of marginalized youth. Through her community, scholastic, and artistic efforts, Jamila hopes to play a key role in forging better connections between the world of academia and disenfranchised communities outside. All facets of Jamila’s endeavors are rooted in her Christian values, which are at the center of her work and purpose.
Sandra Overo is a M.Div. candidate in Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. Before entering seminary, She worked as a school-based project coordinator for INSIGHTS, a temperament-based intervention research at NYU Steinhardt that examined the effectiveness of a parent/teacher collaborative model at reducing child behavior problems and improving competency. While at INSIGHTS, she completed her final coursework for a M.Ed. from the University of Texas- Pan American, where she explored the intersection of creativity, giftedness, and resiliency. Sandra holds a BA in Sociocultural Anthropology and Psychology from Austin College, a place she credits for integrating her interest in theology and education particularly a deeper meaning of servitude etched in the call for fellowship and community mobilization. In 2007 Sandra joined the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and has worked on various projects in the area of university and school-based partnerships including the Harlem AIDS Blanket project and the Children's Aid Society African-American Male Initiative. She was also a graduate assistant on the patterns of child-care subsidy use among low-income families research project at the National Center for Children and Families at Teachers College. Aside from her work at IUME, she is an avid runner, swimmer and truly enjoyed her summer as the Assistant Director for Cubs (sport) Camp at Columbia University. Fall of 2012, she will pursue an Ed.D. at Teachers College in Interdisciplinary Studies concentrating on Family and Community Education and Program Evaluation Methods.