“I wanted the women to tell their stories” – Tracy Threatt
Northeastern graduate making female veterans feel less ‘invisible’ with help from the George W. Bush Presidential Center
CPS Alumn, Tracy Threatt, helps female veterans feel less ‘invisible’. She was recently named as a scholar in the Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, and she embodies the college’s ethos of bringing opportunity to those she meets.
Northeastern at AACRAO
The AACRAO Annual Meeting is an opportunity to learn, network, and advance higher education. Professionals from a variety of higher education disciplines gather together at AACRAO’s Annual Meeting to engage and discuss the ever-changing landscape of higher-ed.
Collaborate with a worldwide, higher education network as it comes together to explore, engage, and learn. Each year higher education professionals face new and unique challenges in their work and AACRAO’s Annual Meeting is the place to find solutions to those challenges.
‘I Want To Be Able To Change Things at Scale’
In his work as an educator and an advocate for social justice, Dean’s Medal Award Winner Jae Williams harnesses the power of story
According to Jae Williams (EdD, ’22), it was music that taught him how to tell stories—and stories that taught him how to teach. From Marvin Gaye to Jay-Z, the educator, podcaster, and social justice advocate says, the narratives of suffering and hope that emerged in the music he loved got into his bones. Now, he says, the storytelling instincts he first encountered while listening to those songs form the foundation of his pedagogy and his activism.
“Stories are what make us human,” says Williams, who this year was awarded the prestigious Dean’s Medal for Outstanding Doctoral Work. “In my classes, I try to connect any complex concept to a practical story of how people engage. It’s very difficult for us to remember things that are not connected to story.”
Williams has taught digital storytelling at Berklee College of Music and at Emerson College (both in Boston), worked as a video production instructor at institutions including the Cambridge Center for the Arts, and served as a film and creative-writing mentor at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art.
Recently, he began two new projects that combine his passion for storytelling and teaching with his pursuit of equity and inclusion as an advocate for social justice.
In June, he launched a podcast, “Dr. Jae’s Office Hours,” in which he invites experts in diverse fields to discuss their work, an approach that has yielded an eclectic range of topics reflecting the unusual breadth of his own interests and experience. Recent episode titles include “Be UNAFRAID to Ruffle Feathers” with Dr. Sylvia Spears, vice president for administration and innovation and distinguished professor of educational equity and social justice at College Unbound; “How to Balance Professionalism and Authenticity,” featuring advice from author and educator Dr. Marcus Broadhead; and “The Process of a Creative Producer,” with Nerissa Williams Scott, creative producer and CEO of That Child Got Talent Entertainment.
“Dr. Jae’s Office Hours is a podcast highlighting the work and stories of this generation’s creative thinkers, leaders, and dreamers,” Williams says. “And it’s a personal and professional-development podcast for college students of color—because I felt like it’s almost impossible to be what you can’t see. And I’m a product of that. I’m a product of being able to see all the different things that I wanted to explore, but not seeing anybody that looked like me doing them.”
The Creative Café Collective
Williams is also the originator of the Creative Café Collective, a media production company that creates educational content for higher education and students of color. The goal of the Collective, Williams says, is to make higher education a more welcoming space for students of all backgrounds—but especially those who have been traditionally underrepresented.
“The Creative Café Collective is a student retention, belonging, and inclusion program for students of color,” Williams says. “It’s open to all students, but it centers students of color at these predominantly white institutions to give them an opportunity to feel special, and to feel like once they graduate, they have a network of people that actually care and actually want to help them succeed and thrive in their career paths.”
Williams’ own career has reflected the range of his talents, with an emphasis on finding frames and narratives to express individual, community, and institutional stories in compelling ways.
He served as senior communications coordinator at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass., as associate director of content strategy at Emerson College, and as director of special projects at Emerson’s Social Justice Center. He also serves on the boards of multiple nonprofits, and he has won awards that include Emerson’s Young Alumni Achievement Award and three Independent Music Video Director of the Month awards from MTV.
Williams traces his interest in education to a classroom at the Perkins School, where in the summer of 2013 he signed on to help blind students learn to create and direct films. When parents came to see the final presentations, Williams says, watching them and his students shed tears of pride and accomplishment was an indescribable feeling.
“They were literally crying, showing their parents,” Williams says. “And the parents were emotional. And we just had so much fun! That was the first time that I realized teaching is what I love to do. I’ve gone on to teach in a lot of different capacities, but it was in that classroom, teaching those students, with those abilities, the power of storytelling—but more importantly, the power to witness someone discovering themselves, or something new. To me, that is what drives my passion for education. Those students changed my life.”
Stirred by his new-found passion for education, Williams decided that if he wanted to have a significant impact, he would need to deepen his understanding both of his topic and of the world of academia.
“I want to be able to change things at scale,” Williams says. “Not just in a micro-moment in the conference room, or in the break room, or in the hallway, or in the elevator. And the only way I can do this at scale is if I have the language. And so if I can get the language of how [scholars] speak, and blend that with how I speak, then—then—I can make an impact in the way that I believe I was gifted to make.”
Opening doors to those kinds of breakthroughs for others has become an essential part of Williams’ work. His doctoral thesis, America’s Empathy Deficit: Our Bloody Heirloom and the Invisible Backpack, explores the college experience of Black male visual performing-arts students at a pseudonymous institution of higher education in the Northeast. Written as an open letter to his undergraduate alma mater, which he calls Storytelling University, Williams details the obstacles faced by students of color and offers proposals for how to mitigate those challenges.
‘We must face our truths’
In his speech at Northeastern’s 2022 commencement ceremony, Williams drew upon his thesis and his personal experience to instruct and inspire.
“We must face our truths—even our ugly truths—about ourselves and this country,” he told his fellow graduates, urging them to stand up for the disempowered in any way that they could. “If you cannot be the poet, be the poem. If you cannot be on the front lines, then speak up from behind the scenes. If you cannot offer the seat at the table, then ask who is not at the table and why.”
In the video of Williams delivering his speech, there is a moment near the beginning when his voice wavers, and he pauses to compose himself. He blows out a ragged breath, and then he smiles.
“I’m gonna get through this, y’all,” he says. “I’m gonna get through it.”
The palpable emotion of that moment, Williams says, arose from his awareness that the honor he had earned was in fact becoming a reality. Until that moment, he hadn’t really believed it.
“Entering the doctoral program at the College of Professional Studies,” Williams says, “I had a severe case of imposter syndrome. Being a man of color, being a Black man, with body art, hip-hop, all of these things, the world has told me that education is not for me.”
‘Be yourself, be yourself, be yourself’
Support from faculty helped.
“I had amazing professors like [Associate Teaching Professor] Wendy Crocker, and my dissertation supervisor, [Associate Teaching Professor] Lindsay Portnoy, and my third reader, [Associate Teaching Professor] Melissa Parenti,” Williams says. “They just encouraged me and said, you know, be yourself, continue to be yourself, don’t be afraid. Be yourself, be yourself, be yourself.”
But standing at the podium brought to mind some troubling things too, Williams says, about ways the academic establishment had made him feel he didn’t belong.
“When I got up on that stage, and I saw all these people,” Williams says, “it was so overwhelming, because I’m like, you guys don’t even know what it took for me to get to this point.”
Having completed his thesis—and earned the highest honor CPS confers upon a doctoral graduate—Williams is now focused on unifying two essential strands of the passions in his life.
“In terms of storytelling and my education journey, I’m really trying to make them into one cohesive thing,” he says. “When my students see me, and they see me with my shorts, or my Jordans, or my Chuck Taylors and my tattoos and my hat, they’re like, ‘Wow, now I’ve actually seen somebody that looks completely different but is operating at the same exact level.’ So now when they see a bald Black guy with a beard and tattoos, they’re not thinking he’s a threat. They’re not thinking he’s a basketball player only, or he’s some rapper. They’re thinking, ‘I met Dr. Jae, and he taught me something.’”
Northeastern Named Program of the Year
Excellence of Education Doctorate Recognized
The Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate, the national organization devoted to studying and strengthening the doctorate in Education (EdD), has selected Northeastern’s Doctor of Education degree as its “program of the year” for 2022-2023. The Graduate School of Education faculty, led by Assistant Dean Dr. Sara Ewell, innovatively redesigned the EdD using experiential learning to drive equity focused change work.
In naming the Northeastern EdD, the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate said: “The EdD in the Graduate School of Education at Northeastern University is driven by its mission to cultivate scholar-practitioners through lifelong experiential learning, contributing to the transformation of communities toward just and equitable societies. Following a year-long collaborative redesign process, in 2018 Northeastern welcomed its first group of students into the redesigned Dissertation in Practice Curriculum. Action Research was adopted as the sole methodology for the Dissertation in Practice for the program to integrate experiential learning – its signature pedagogy – more fully throughout the curriculum, engage scholar-practitioners in change leadership situated within their local contexts, and to emphasize social justice change work in ways that improve the human condition. Students in the Northeastern EdD are part of a large-scale networked community to create change across the globe.”
This year, the Carnegie Project selected two programs of the year, also recognizing Baylor University.
The Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate includes over 100 colleges and schools of education, which have committed resources to work together to undertake a critical examination of the doctorate in education (EdD) through dialog, experimentation, critical feedback and evaluation.
What Freedom of Religion Should Look Like in Public Schools After a Recent Supreme Court Decision?
As students are set to return to classrooms for a new school year, the Supreme Court’s recent 6-3 decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District is raising fears that the ruling undermines the traditional separation of church and state in public education.
Karen Reiss-Medwed and Noor Ali, professors in the Graduate School of Education at CPS, argue that K-12 schools need to do better in recognizing and honoring the identities of students who belong to religious minorities.
Four Students Were Named 2022 RISE Award Winners
Students, faculty, staff across Northeastern University, and industry leaders participated in the university’s annual RISE (Research, Innovation, Scholarship, Entrepreneurship) exhibition on April 14, 2022, a showcase for multidisciplinary student research and creative projects. Student competitors had the opportunity to virtually present their research to industry professionals and potential employers or investors.
This year, four College of Professional Studies graduate students were named RISE Award winners across three categories:
Category: Business and Entrepreneurship
Mary McNamara, Doctor of Education student ’22: Mentoring Others Elevates All: The Benefits of Diverse Mentor-Entrepreneur Dyads
- Mentor: Lindsay Portnoy, Associate Teaching Professor, Doctor of Education program
Corey Ortiz, MS Corporate and Organizational Communication student ’23: Feeling the Crunch: Expectations of Crunch Time in the Video Game Industry
- Mentor: Gladys McKie, Lecturer, MS Corporate and Organizational Communication program
Category: Interdisciplinary Topics, Centers, and Institutes
Asha Kiran Makwana, MPS Analytics student ‘22: KAPI (Keyboardless ASL-inspired Programming Interface)
- Mentor: Beverly Quon
Category: Social Sciences, Humanities, and Law
L’Bertrice Solomon, Doctor of Law and Policy student ‘22: Let Me Live: Corporate Environmental Exceptions, Failed Environmental Protections in Louisiana
- Mentor: J.D. LaRock, Professor of the Practice, Doctor of Law and Policy program
Congratulations to our awardees!
The Ongoing Journey of Rachel Deleveaux to her Doctor of Education Degree and Beyond
Going the Distance as an Outlier
Growing up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as Rachel Deleveaux did, it is a short distance to the Northeastern University Graduate School of Education, where Rachel is on track to defend her dissertation proposal in the beginning of the fall and with the intent to defend her dissertation at the end of winter and graduate with the class of 2022, completing her Doctor of Education degree (EdD). On Google Maps, the distance from her Cambridge elementary school to the Northeastern Boston campus is a little more than three miles. For Rachel, however, distances aren’t so much measured in miles; but distances are shaped, distorted and experienced very differently as a woman of color, as a first-generation college graduate and for a self-described “scholastically-invisible” girl.
“Starting in elementary school, I was never taught how to learn. I was recognized by my teachers for being bright, but I was never taught how to apply my inherent abilities or given the time and the attention needed to cultivate my potential, said Rachel. “At the same time, I was socialized at a very young age to think I wasn’t smart.”
Yet, Rachel drew upon her Christian faith, the experience of failing forward, and the fortitude to stay in college and eventually made it to a doctoral program. The hurdles were enormous: she was struggling academically while at University of Massachusetts Amherst, but she gained the help of a UMass dean and his wife who exposed Rachel to critical consciousness, taught her how to advocate for herself and have agency speaking up for her needs. Rachel was able to find her voice and complete her bachelor’s degree in Afro-American Studies from UMass Amherst and masters in Higher Education Administration from Suffolk University.
For Rachel, choosing Northeastern’s Doctor of Education program with a concentration in Curriculum, Teaching Learning and Leadership was partially based on some very practical decisions. The asynchronous schedule was one, as it helped her plan her classes around her busy schedule. She also liked that the classes were online and that there were students enrolled from around the world.
Getting into the program may not have been a hurdle but staying in the program raised issues for Rachel. “The likelihood that I would have persisted was slim to none without my dissertation adviser, Wendy Crocker, associate teaching professor. She respected me as a student practitioner and held the delicate balance of supporting my unique needs, while holding me accountable as a doctoral student.”
Rachel took classes in Educational Policies, Research, Situated Leadership and Educational Entrepreneurship, but her dissertation: ” The Effects of White School Culture and Black Mentoring on Black Academic Identity Development” raised the greatest hurdles. Rachel found it disparaging that Black children in 2021 were having similar experiences that she incurred as a child in the 80’s and 90’s. To some extent, Rachel felt that she was re-living her educational and emotional trauma from childhood, as she saw Black students — who also recognized that they were punished more harshly than white students with similar learning abilities and behaviors– denied the enormous social advantages and growth potential of being with their peers during recess.
Rachel highlights that “with only two percent of PhD holders are Black women, distances are abnormal, and you find yourself (as a Black woman) trying to go the distance, as an outlier. I understood that I was unique, but I had to battle my own perceptions of belonging.” Rachel finds it very comforting to have a strong support group of family members, friends and colleagues that she can share her experiences with throughout her doctoral journey.
She especially appreciates the role Wendy Crocker continues to play in her research process. “I didn’t initially view my research the way Dr. Crocker and my colleagues did. However, Dr. Crocker has a magnificent way of holding the ‘mirror’ up to my face so that I can see my own reflection. For this, I am forever grateful.” Rachel also attributes her persistence to her nine-year-old son Asher, who is her biggest cheerleader.
Rachel’s journey continues. She recently assumed her new role as Assistant Vice President, Organizational Culture, Inclusion, and Equity at Simmons University in Boston, where she leverages her research, and partners with staff, faculty and students to expand critical consciousness campus-wide.
Wide-Ranging Research Wins Recognition at RISE Awards
Six CPS students were honored at the 2021 RISE Awards, which recognize members of the Northeastern community universitywide for exceptional work in research, innovation, scholarship and entrepreneurship.
Victor Aimi (MS ’21, Corporate & Organizational Communication), Emily Bauer (EdD ’21, Higher Education Administration), Rhea (MPS ’21, Analytics), Joel Livingston (EdD ’21, Education), and Shreshthi Mehta (MS ’21, Leadership) won Focus Awards, while Kelsey Kaul (EdD ’22, Education) received a Category Award in Social Sciences, Business, and Law.
“The RISE Award means that others believe in the work I have done,” Livingston said. “I have always been someone who is self-motivated, but knowing that others see the significance of my research inspires me.”
Livingston was honored with the Graduate Innovator Award for “Restorative Justice Challenges and Culturally Responsive Classrooms to Improve Engagement.”
“Culturally responsive teachers create classroom environments that utilize symbolic curriculum to highlight beliefs and values related to cultural diversity and ensure that the images portrayed reflect positive aspects of multiculturalism,” Livingston said, describing his research. “Even more, culturally responsive classrooms can assist in keeping students of color engaged in class, which in return can influence positive behavior. In addition to culturally responsive classrooms, the implementation of restorative justice practices is recommended to maintain positive behavior. In many schools across the United States, restorative justice practices have been used as an alternative to suspensions, expulsions, and other exclusionary disciplinary practices. This inequality can prevent students of color from succeeding throughout their educational trajectory, leading them to misbehave more in school and the school-to-prison pipeline, which will ultimately prevent them from being successful and unlocking their full potential.”
The study for which he was recognized, he said, was designed “to ensure that restorative justice is more than just a buzzword in education.”
Diversity in Tech
In her project, “Reforming the Referral Process: Increasing Diversity for Tech Startups,” Kaul sought to address equity in the workplace.
“My research is rooted in understanding how to improve the diversity of technology teams at startups,” Kaul said. “This work is important because the technology sector impacts each of us, every day. Although the tech sector creates products for everyone, the teams that do this work are often not representative of the users they serve. The tech sector needs to increase its diversity to create better products.”
Kaul examined ways in which such companies can improve their diversity, focusing on how to ensure that referrals can diversify the pool of job candidates.
“This work is especially important to me because of my focus on ensuring the success of women and minorities in STEM,” she said. “At Northeastern I work with master’s in engineering students who are the future of the technology sector. My program is over 50% female, which is unique in this sector. In my role, I help these students prepare for their future careers in tech, but I often ask myself, where are they headed? Is the industry ready to support them? That is what led me towards this research.”
Supporting the success of women is at the heart of the work of Shreshthi Mehta. In “Exploring the Challenges of Employing Women as Porters in Cusco, Peru,”Mehta studied the cultural and demographic barriers preventing women from working as porters on the popular tourist trek to the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu. Her research revealed how measures to ease women’s access to such coveted jobs have proved profitable.
“Women of many cultures face several stereotypes, where they are prohibited from pursuing certain jobs or careers,” Mehta said. “The story of women porters in Cusco and their pursuit to work in a severely male dominated profession is revolutionary. It showcases the DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] initiatives of the owners of Evolution Treks in how diversity has proven to be beneficial to the tour company, in spite of the higher operational costs of employing women porters.”
Victor Aimi’s identity as an immigrant, he said, informed “Cultural Challenges of International Websites,” in which the native Argentine “set out to study why websites sometimes seem to have a mind of their own when accessed overseas.” In the course of his work, Aimi found that web technology is just one dimension in the more complex problem of making the web work well across borders.
“This is fascinating to me,” Aimi said, “because websites are a central part of any communications effort with international audiences, yet I did not often think of the cultural dimensions enabled by the web before this project. My habit was to just to rely on the technology.”
Receiving a RISE Award, Aimi said, illuminated his own identity in a way he hadn’t expected.
“As an immigrant I often experience cultural differences as a burden,” he said. “The award made me realize that cultural awareness can also be an advantage. I’m truly grateful to Professor Patty Goodman for helping me figure that out.”
Rhea — who, like Aimi, is an international student—rooted her research in resource optimization, using her project, “Predicting Memory Utilization on High Performance Computing Cluster,” as an opportunity to help hone the efficiency of Northeastern’s research computer network.
“Northeastern made it easy for me to settle down in the culture,” the Analytics graduate said of emigrating to Boston from her native India. “At the very beginning of my experience, I was offered a part-time job at Northeastern, in Research Computing. I felt ecstatic and I couldn’t wait to apply all the knowledge into practice as I learned. I had a chance to learn from the best professors at CPS. This project was my chance to use my knowledge to create something for my university.”
By analyzing the way Northeastern’s high-performance computing cluster utilized memory, she developed a data analytics framework and a machine learning model that makes the cluster more efficient—and more easily accessible to researchers.
“I was lucky to have had this opportunity to learn from the best of my team here in the Research Computing department at Northeastern, and I can’t thank them enough for their constant support and motivation,” she said. “This experience has created a platform for me to move forward, and it has set a path for me to reach my career goals.”
Mental Health Literacy
Emily Bauer’s dissertation, “Mental Health Literacy in Student Affairs Graduate Preparation Programs,” focused on training non-clinical college and university student-affairs staff in identifying and intervening in emerging mental health issues for students. Citing increasing student mental-health concerns—and observing that they are now coupled with the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic—Bauer described her study as a pilot education program aimed at graduate students in student affairs master’s programs “to enhance skills and confidence in the area of mental health literacy.”
Like many of her colleagues, Bauer’s research was inspired by direct experience in which she discerned a broader challenge.
“I chose the framework of mental health literacy based on my perspective as a mental health first aid instructor,” she said, “which has shown me that anyone can support and help others experiencing mental health concerns. I would like to empower those in my field to do this and take action to support students on college campuses.”
Livingston noted that his work, too, was rooted in personal experience.
“Restorative justice in schools is important to me because as a student in New York City public schools, I had several teachers who misinterpreted my lack of focus as defiance,” he said. “As a teacher/school administrator, I see many students experiencing the same issues I had. I am now in a position where I can change this narrative, and that is what I intend to do.”
Huntington 100 Winners Reflect on Their Achievement
Four CPS students were honored this year as members of the Huntington 100, a group of Northeastern students recognized for their contributions to research, global engagement, athletics, entrepreneurship, community service, leadership and other areas that impact the campus or other communities and demonstrate a commitment to the values of Northeastern University.
Honorees Antonio Boyd (EdD ’21), Hien Linh Dang (BS ’21, Finance and Accounting Management), Sandrine Mallet (MS ’22, Commerce and Economic Development), and Kevin Stensberg (EdD ’21) were among a record 16 CPS students put forward for the award this year. Across the university, there were 819 nominations—the highest number in the 15-year history of the Huntington 100.
Boyd, whose work and research focus on experiential learning, afterschool programming, equity and access, diversity and inclusion, social justice education, and college and career pathways, serves as executive vice president at Future of School, a leading non-partisan education intermediary focused on access to quality education.
“I am most passionate about experiential learning,” he said. “Not only is Northeastern a leader in experiential learning, but our program is so focused on experiential learning that I have been able to work with several professors in the field, which has been an excellent experience. I am also passionate about equity and access and diversity, and inclusion. My research and work have fueled my passion for creating college and career pathways for students of color. I believe this is the civil rights issue of this generation.”
Mallet, a research assistant at Northeastern’s Center for Emerging Markets, investigates questions of equity through the lens of economics.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the question of why some nations are poor and others rich,” she said. “My studies in economic development at CPS has given me the opportunity to learn how to combine theoretical modeling and empirical studies to better understand such questions, allowing me to think critically about solutions to the challenges that face global economic and human development.”
Of her inclusion in the Huntington 100, Mallet said, “Receiving this honor means so much to me. My goal is to always be a positive impact on my surroundings and this recognition makes me feel that in some small way, I am succeeding in that goal—and this brings me a lot of joy.”
For Stensberg, who earned his doctorate in organizational leadership studies and has served as a site director for Northeastern in London and Thessaloniki, Greece, membership in the prestigious group represents a kind of personal and professional culmination.
“I’ve worked in student affairs and international education over the last 20 years in North America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East,” he said. “So to have a highly ranked university’s student affairs division where I obtain my terminal degree recognize my contributions and value alignment as being exceptional—well, that is to me a great point of professional and academic pride. I think moving forward I also have great hope about what being a Huntington 100 alum may mean. As you might guess based on my profession, community and belonging are important values for me, and as I did my Northeastern degree from eight time zones ahead of Boston, this award affords me a new group of peers to call my second Northeastern cohort. I’ve already connected with everyone on LinkedIn and have joined the social media groups, and I do look forward to the ways in which we might support each other in the future.”
As an international student, Linh Dang says, she feels “blessed to always feel welcomed and supported by the faculty, mentors, and friends at Northeastern.” She has also treasured the range of opportunities available, noting that “Northeastern allows me to explore my diverse set of interests from impact investing, healthcare, consulting, entrepreneurship, and anything in between through our renowned co-op programs and student organization participation.” Being honored as a member of the Huntington 100, she says, has been a humbling experience. The only Vietnamese and undergraduate honoree, she said she hopes to preserve and instill a mentality of excellence in herself and those around her.
“Northeastern’s commitment to interdisciplinary learning, particularly at the intersection of strategy, healthcare, and entrepreneurship is what allows me to reach my full potential,” she said. “The College of Professional Studies is always known for its diversity and globality, which fosters an open and growth mindset for me and other international students to thrive in an increasingly global environment.”
“I Want to Change the World”
Chris Garniewicz, Master’s in Education and Doctor of Education student, explains how he uses the academics of education to improve his vocation as a firefighter.