“I wanted the women to tell their stories” – Tracy Threatt

Tracy-Threatt
Tracy Threatt’s research found that female veterans were often “sitting on the sidelines and silenced.” She’s looking to change that. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

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 Reception at NASPA

Join Northeastern faculty, alumni, and current students on Tuesday, April 4, from 5:30–7 p.m. at The Omni-Impressionism Room, The Omni Hotel, 450 Summer Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02210.

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.

Curriculum Plus Experiential Learning Equal an Innovative Education

Northeastern University Toronto’s experiential learning model has greatly impressed Ontario’s minister of colleges and universities on her first visit to the campus.

Several faculty, administrators, alumni and students, including CPS master’s student Emmanuel Nsamu, met with the minister to discuss how experiential learning helps students gain necessary skills to succeed and often leads to opportunities for full time jobs, all while contributing to the economy throughout the province.

‘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

Jae M. Williams, the Dean's Medal Speaker at the podium at the May 2022 CPS Doctoral Hooding Ceremony. Photo by Heratch Ekmekijan
Jae Williams, EdD, the Dean’s Medal Speaker at the May 2022 CPS Doctoral Hooding and Graduation Ceremony. Photo by Heratch Ekmekijan

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.

Jae Williams speaks with guests at an EdD networking event. Photo by Heratch Ekmekijan
Jae Williams, EdD speaks with guests at an EdD networking event. Photo by Heratch Ekmekijan

Educational Inspiration

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

CPED Program of the Year Award 2022 graphic

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.”

GSE faculty members accept the CPED Program of the Year award. From L to R: Joan Giblin, Joe McNabb, Cherese Childers-McKee, Sara Ewell, Kim Nolan
GSE faculty members accept the CPED Program of the Year award (From L to R: Joan Giblin, Joe McNabb, Cherese Childers-McKee, Sara Ewell, Kim Nolan)

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.

GSE faculty montage with Sara Ewell, Cherese Childrers-Mckee, William Ewell, Joan Giblin, Joe McNabb, Kim Nolan, and Melissa Parenti
Graduate School of Education faculty (Top: Sara Ewell, Cherese Childers-McKee, William Ewell, Joan Giblin. Bottom: Joe McNabb, Kim Nolan, Melissa Parenti)

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.

Instilling a Passion for Data Analytics in Boston High School Students

In June 2021, Alice Mello, Ph.D., was granted an award to develop and run a novel program, ‘Data Analytics Workshop: Empowering Minority High School Students with In-Demand Career Skills’ – from the Northeastern Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She also has leveraged support from the College of Professional Studies to support this high-impact initiative.

Alice Mello headshot
Alice Mello, Ph.D., assistant teaching professor in analytics

Mello’s interest was to ignite a passion for data analytics among the participating students through this preparatory course led by four graduate student mentors selected from the Master of Professional Studies in Analytics program, where Mello serves as an assistant teaching professor.

Called “Storytelling with Data,” the program was launched in three local schools: Edward M Kennedy Academy for Health Careers, where an in-person calculus class of 12 students studied data sets on Boston hospitals and COVID; Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, where two computer science classes attended virtual classes to study data sets on the chosen topics of games, movies, and Halloween; and Boston Day and Evening Academy, an alternative school for high school students, which attracted 13 math students for in-person learning. Students at the Academy first asked to study the war in Ukraine, but since data sets for this were hard to come by, they opted for public transportation instead.

Mentors began classes by explaining how data can be used to tell stories, by providing the context for any number of situations to show what is happening behind the scenes – and then how facts can create a visualization of patterns using the data visualization tool, Tableau. The climax of the story comes when the data reveals conflicts – which the data can also help resolve, using dashboards within Tableau.

The main goal of the program is to empower students to enter the field of data analytics, with a view to addressing the lack of diversity in the analytics field by inspiring students to continue their education at Bunker Hill Community College, the largest and most diverse community college in Massachusetts. This past year, CPS formed an agreement with BHCC that allows an easy transfer pathway for interested students, while offering Lowell Institute School scholarship support, depending on their financial needs.

“I am delighted at the success of this experience so far, both for the high school students and our MPSA graduate students (Teach to Learn and Learn to Teach!),” says Mello. “I’m committed to finding grant opportunities to offer this program on a yearly basis and I’m hopeful that we’ll see some of these students in our Bachelor of Science in Analytics or Bachelor of Science in Information Technology programs in a few years’ time!”

Northeastern’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society Teams Up with AG and School Leaders to Address Hate and Bias in School Athletics

In response to the recent rise in hate-based incidents in Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey announced a new partnership with state and school leaders that aims to create positive change and a safe and healthy environment for young people in school sports throughout the Commonwealth.

The collaborative initiative, whose members first convened in April 2022, will expand programming and provide additional resources for school and athletic leaders at an in-person conference in late August / early September 2022 to help prevent hate and bias on the field and in locker rooms. During Fall 2022, Northeastern’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society will deliver 12 regional trainings across Massachusetts as part of the project. The interactive two-day sessions, with at least one held in each of the nine sports districts organized by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, will aim to empower attendees to bring what they learnt back to their schools and communities and train others.

“Sport is an impact engine of inclusion. It has the power to elevate conversation, inspire individual and collective change agency, and create true, sustainable change. AG Healey, her office, and all the committed stakeholders in this initiative, see and embrace sport as a pathway to positive youth engagement, social-emotional development, and the collective community inherent in teamwork. Hate and hurt have no place in sport, and we remain grateful to AG Healey for her responsive proactivity in creating such an intentional program of hope and healing. We are honored to contribute and be part of the team,” said Dan Lebowitz, Executive Director of The Center for the Study of Sport in Society.

Founded in 1984, and based at the College of Professional Studies, The Center for the Study of Sport in Society specializes in non-degree education and training that “connects the world of sport with social-justice-driven research, education, and advocacy through programming and global community engagement”. The Center developed curriculum and delivered training to hundreds of high schools, police departments, Major League Baseball, the NFL, and at the South African World Cup, among many others.

CPS Students Win University Awards with Record Seven Named to Northeastern’s Huntington 100

College of Professional Studies students at every academic degree level – bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral – were recognized this year with prestigious university awards for their extraordinary achievements and commitment to the values of Northeastern University.

The Huntington 100 banner hanging in front of a large Northeastern banner. Photo by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University
Photo by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

A record seven CPS students were named to the Huntington 100 this year, a group of students recognized for their service, leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship, global engagement, and impact on the campus community. These students are:

Distinguished juniors and seniors are selected by nomination into the Huntington 100 from all Northeastern campuses for achievements that embody “the university’s mission, ideals, and values”.

Lauren Herfindahl, CPS’22 was also the recipient of a Compass Award from Northeastern University Alumni Association. The award recognizes students from the senior class for “true dedication to a core set of values: leadership, volunteerism, academic integrity, and commitment to Northeastern.” Lauren, who’s looking to transition to the healthcare field, achieved academic success while working full-time as a professional dancer with the Boston Ballet and volunteering to mentor younger dancers. Each year, only nine awards are presented. David Fields, Interim Dean at the College of Professional Studies, described Lauren as “a disciplined, dedicated worker inside and outside of the classroom…precisely what it means to be a Northeastern University Husky.”

Out of more than 100 nominations received across award categories and Northeastern’s academic colleges, Digital Media student Raissa Talehata was honored with an Outstanding Graduate Student Award in Experiential Learning. This award is presented to graduate students “who have shown an extraordinary capacity to integrate academics and professional work and establish themselves as emerging leaders in their field.” As stated by her recommender, Raissa has “taken advantage of every opportunity for experiential learning, both curricular and co-curricular, during [her] course of study.”

Congratulations to all our awardees on their accomplishments!