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For Mary-Pat Hector, a 2019 graduate of Spelman College and national youth director for the National Action Network (NAN) since 13 years-old, tackling food insecurity on college campuses, growing youth entrepreneurship, sustaining communities, encouraging wellness and fighting for reproductive justice are some of the most salient issues she is addressing in this current moment.

Although her work today is not centered around just one cause or issue, Hector acknowledges that her spirit of activism has blossomed out of her early work in her Stone Mountain, Georgia community to end gun and youth violence nearly a decade ago.

“I realized that I was attending more funerals than graduations, and I realized that people who I went to school with were becoming pregnant and dying,” she recalls. “The only way to kind of resist that was to get involved or try to do something more positive.”

At 10, Hector founded the non-profit Youth in Action USA, with early organizing calling attention to the fact that her community established a new jail at the time, but no new teen centers or spaces for youth to stay involved in extracurricular activities.

After initial outreach failed to yield a response from some community megachurch pastors and political figures, Hector and her group began calling the radio stations. Rev. Al Sharpton, NAN’s founder, answered the phone on her line, Hector says.

“I was pretty much like, ‘You say you’re a community advocate, you say you’re for the uplift and the betterment of people of color, so what are you going to do about people in my community dying in Stone Mountain?’” she says. “Within two hours, his local Atlanta chapter of National Action Network came to Stone Mountain. Ever since then, I’ve been super involved in community activism and organizing with National Action Network, but then also within my everyday life.”

The Metro Atlanta native admits that engaging in community activism and organizing as a young person has its challenges.

“You’re still not taken as seriously. You’re still not heard and you still have to fight to have people listen to you,” Hector says. “That was when I was 13, 14 years old. Now even being 21, I feel like that still happens to me.”

Hector turned heads when she ran for a City Council seat in Stonecrest, Georgia at 19. One of her opponents, George Turner Jr., wrote a letter that questioned her eligibility to run because she was not 21. Members of the Dekalb County’s Board of Registration and Elections held a hearing and eventually agreed to allow Hector to continue her campaign.

Hector attributes her drive and activism as a young person to not being afraid to “put yourself out there,” adding that, she believes the opposite when people say, “your youthfulness is a liability instead of an asset.”

“Right now, your youthfulness is an asset instead of a liability. You have an opportunity to fail at things,” she counters. “You have an opportunity to resist things before you’re tied down to a corporation or a job that silences you. Right now, you have freedom and you need to use that freedom. You have a voice and you need to use that voice.”

As NAN’s national youth director, she is working to give youth an opportunity to work on issues that directly impact their communities and that they’re passionate about, she says.

Adding to Hector’s early activism and her ongoing NAN work is her undergraduate experience at Spelman College, a historically Black college in Atlanta. She came to the all-women’s college in 2015 with a voice in the community, but “Spelman matured that voice,” she says.

Hector stayed involved in organizing and activism while in school. Her first year, NAN’s Youth Division sent pallets of water to Flint, Michigan and distributed them to residents because they did not – and still do not – have access to clean water.

Later in her matriculation, the Comparative Women’s Studies major led a nearly 50-person hunger strike that resulted in Spelman and Morehouse College students being able to receive free meals if they are commuter students.

“These were students who had meal plans who were literally foregoing food to bring awareness to the fact that, ‘If my Morehouse brother or my Spelman sister is hungry, then I’ll be hungry too,’” Hector says. “In that particular environment, people are afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation or just the AUC [Atlanta University Center] culture, where if you speak up, then you’re shunned or you’re ‘doing too much.’”

With Hector leading the charge, NAN’s Youth Division will soon embark on an HBCU tour that raises awareness around the issue of food insecurity on college campuses and also food deserts in wider communities. Hector similarly hopes that a NAN program that started at Spelman and Morehouse, which provided $1,000 scholarships to students in need, will expand to other HBCUs across the U.S.

Beyond this initiative, Hector will be aiming to grow NAN’s youth membership, implementing initiatives that teach entrepreneurship and working to center Black women in the fight for abortion rights and reproductive justice.

“The fight against abortions seems so White-women centered right now,” she points out, citing racial disparities in the U.S. maternal mortality rate. “Black women deserve a choice.”

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The State Council of Higher Education of Virginia has announced approved plans to provide community college students a smoother transition into a four year institution.

Dr. Sharon Morrissey

The Passport Program requires community college students to take general education classes that would be accepted at almost every public four-year university.

In addition to the Passport Program, Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, and Del. Chris Jones, introduced the Uniform Certificate of General Studies. This program requires double the course load as the Passport option as a way to reduce time to degree by one year.

Both programs were introduced in 2018 and should be ready by the 2020 school-year.

“This is a very significant step forward for transfer students in Virginia,” said Dr. Sharon Morrissey, the chief academic officer for the Virginia Community College System, in an interview with Virginia Mercury, “The overall intention is that we’re trying to make transfer more affordable, more efficient and more equitable particularly for those first-generation college students who don’t have parents or people who are helping them navigate the very complex transfer process.”

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California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a law that will eliminate the three-year cap on the transfer of sick leave between districts at all education levels.

The Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC), a professional membership association that advocates for California Community College faculty, sponsored the legislation. FACCC has more than 9,000 members within 72 districts and 114 colleges across the state.

“It’s a bill that came out of conversations we’ve had with our membership as well as other stakeholders,” said Stephanie Goldman, the external affairs director at FACCC.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

The current law, according to Goldman, allowed faculty members three years to transfer their sick leave from one district to another. Originally, around five years ago, the sick leave cap was only one year.

As part of the transfer process, forms are supplied to faculty members and they submit them to the district from where they want to transfer the sick leave away. The district’s human resource office fills out the forms and note the number of sick days. Then the district reports the information to the California State Teacher’s Retirement System (CalSTRS) at the time of retirement.

CalSTRS provides retirement benefits for California’s public school educators from prekindergarten through community college.

Richard Hansen, an FACCC member and retired faculty member from the Foothill-DeAnza Community College District, believes that the transfer process makes sense for a part-time K-12 instructor but not for part-time community college faculty.

“Part-time community college faculty never know for sure when they’ve left one district and won’t be going back,” said Hansen. “So it’s awkward for them to be transferring sick leave around when it may be a number of years before they get another assignment. But then a call will come, they take a new assignment and right away they are back working with a district that they thought maybe they were going to leave and didn’t.”

FACCC found that many part-time faculty workers did not understand when to transfer their sick leave and, as a result, were losing out on the earned benefit.

Additionally, many faculty members remained unaware that in some cases, unused sick leave can be reported to CalSTRS and be converted into service credit. During the course of an individual’s career, the unused sick leave may equal a year or more of sick leave credit, according to FACCC.

“So our potential solution was to eliminate that with this bill, and we were really pleased that we got a lot of great support,” said Goldman.

Stephanie Goldman

The author of the bill, Assembly member Evan Low (D-Campbell), introduced the bill Feb. 19, 2019. Low has experience in the community college field, as he taught American government and political science at Foothill-De Anza Community College.

The California Teachers Association, California Retired Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, California School Employees Association, California Faculty Association and the Foothill-De Anza Faculty Association also supported the bill.

The new law will go into effect for faculty Jan. 1, 2020.

“We are hoping that it makes life easier for our members,” said Goldman. “Even as recently as last week, I actually had a FACCC member who had unused sick leave for when she worked in the K-12 world and was trying to transfer it to her community college that she had been working at for over the last decade. And the community college wasn’t accepting it because of what the statute currently says. We are hoping that we don’t have issues like that come up and that people can actually transfer their sick leave as needed when they actually go to retire.”

Hansen believes the approval of the bill is one step forward to professionalize and improve the work lives of community college part-time faculty. To fully support part-time employees, there needs to be a focus on pay equity as well as a development of a clear path to full-time employment.

Hansen added that creating a more professional work environment would increase the diversity among faculty members.

“A talented person of a diverse background, they’ve got options,” he said. “And community college maybe isn’t as attractive as the other options. How can we incentivize talented people from a wide variety of social backgrounds to get involved and teach in the system? It has to be a professional job. People of the diverse nature have families and life needs that need to be met.”

Sarah Wood can be reached at swood@diverseeducation.com.

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The U.S. Department of Education rejected grants from one of the TRIO programs, Upward Bound, a few years ago because of clerical errors such as incorrect fonts and margins.

U.S. Representative Gwen Moore

A new bill – the Educational Opportunities and Success Act – was introduced to prevent those type of slips from getting in the way of federal funds for low-income students preparing for college.

“The Educational Opportunities and Success Act is a solution to a problem that should never have happened in the first place,” said Rep. Warren Davidson, one of the authors of the bill. “Rejecting Upward Bound applications for formatting errors is unreasonable. Our bill eliminates bureaucracy and makes common-sense improvements to ensure low-income students have access to the resources they need to succeed.”

The bill would simplify the application process, provide an appeal process for applicants, and create a secondary review panel to reconsider rejected applications.

It would also require a virtual training program to reach rural applicants, fund the TRIO Programs through 2025 and ensure TRIO programs’ eligibility criteria are up-to-date with students’ FAFSA filings.

“This legislation will ensure TRIO programs reach more underprivileged students by making the application process more transparent and reducing administrative barriers,” said co-author Rep. Gwen Moore. “TRIO serves some of America’s most disadvantaged students, like low-income and first-generation students. Investing in TRIO levels the playing field for students whose ethnicity, income and background stack obstacles against them.”

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Beekeepers, aided by maintenance workers, have removed roughly 30,000 bees that built a huge hive inside an Idaho State University campus landmark.

The bees were safely transported from the stone-and-wood Swanson Arch to a hive box at a nearby farm on Friday, according to an Associated Press report in the Idaho State Journal.

Beekeeper Sarah Hofeldt said the bees were surprisingly docile, and no one was stung during the extraction.

She was safely able to remove the queen bee from the hive by hand without the use of smoke. Smokers can calm the bees but also can make it more difficult to move them into a transport container, which can increase bee fatalities, she said.

The hive was discovered earlier this month, said ISU facilities manager Dee Rasmussen. The bees likely entered the walls of the arch through knotholes, building the hive behind the wood ceiling.

ISU students traditionally walk through the arch upon entering and graduating from the university.

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None of the Chicago-area four-year public universities, as of 2016, has been able to graduate more than half of their Black and Latinx students.

Kyle Westbrook

The Partnership for College Completion shared this and other findings in a report released Thursday based on a regional study of college enrollment and graduation rates for slow-income and minority students in and around Chicago.

The seven-county Chicago area is home to 54 schools – including public, private, non-profit two- and four- year institutions – which enroll 319,000 undergraduates.

“One of our goals as an organization and in our work is, number one, lifting up data, research and information to really highlight the college completion crisis in the state of Illinois, and that reflects a broader college-completion crisis across the country,” said Lisa Castillo Richmond, the managing director of the Partnership for College Completion. “We want to drive action.”

While many reports explore national trends in college enrollment and completion, this report is unique in its local focus, analyzing data county by county.

“We’re really interested in hyper-localizing issues of reform,” said Kyle Westbrook, the executive director of Partnership for College Completion. “We do feel really strongly that most of the changes that we need to see happen will happen at the state and local level, where folks are closer to the issues, closer to the solutions and closer to our students.”

Based on data from financial-aid applicants in the region, among other sources, the study found that a large number of students from the Chicago area are leaving the state for college, or debating whether to attend college at all because of affordability concerns.

Out of 70,000 local applicants who apply each year, only 2,600 students of color graduated in the Chicago area in 2017. While White applicants complete college within six years at a rate of 68 percent, low-income Black and FAFSA filers have six-year completion rates at 30 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

Westbrook said state legislators are concerned about enrollment. Applications at public universities in the Chicago area increased by only half the rate of the national average between 2011 and 2016.

But they’ve been so focused on addressing out-migration – students leaving the Chicago area for college – that they’ve ignored local students struggling to afford Chicago schools. FAFSA filers with the least financial need were three times more likely to leave the state for college. White students were the most likely to leave the state for college, while Latinx students were least likely.

Lisa Castillo Richmond

“There’s a pool of students and a pool of talent in this state that aren’t just going out of state for college,” Westbrook said. “They’re not going to attend at all. We’re leaving a lot of talent on the table because of the state’s slow and steady disinvestment in higher education.”

The report describes a lack of funding for Monetary Award Program grants, the state’s financial aid system for low-income students. The study found that nearly 60,000 eligible students apply for these awards and don’t receive them because there isn’t enough aid to go around. Grants also cover fewer costs.

The program used to fully cover a student’s attendance costs. Now, it covers only two-thirds of the cost of attendance at community colleges and one-third of the cost at public universities.

The report recommends a series of policy changes at the college and state level based on the study’s findings. It encourages institutions to weigh GPAs more heavily than standardized test scores in admissions, since prioritizing scores puts low-income students and students of color with less test preparation resources at a disadvantage.

The study found that 58 percent of African-American financial aid applicants and 41 percent of Latino students scored in the lowest ACT category. The report calls on the state to fully fund all eligible MAP applicants and direct funds away from for-profits, which account for 34 percent of student loan debt while serving only 8 percent of Illinois’ college students.

To push some of its policy goals forward, the Partnership for College Completion started the Illinois Equity in Attainment initiative, a coalition of 27 Chicago-area higher learning institutions that have committed to create equity plans with the organization’s help. The group meets twice a year to discuss shared problems and work on setting benchmarks.

Richmond finds the initiative a reason for hope.

“They’re taking a deep look internally at how they’re organized and who they’re supporting and how,” she said.

At the state level, there have been promising changes, as well. This year, the state allocated another $50 million to MAP grants, praised in the report as a step in the right direction.

“We are optimistic but we also don’t think it’s time to take the goal posts down and pat ourselves on the back,” Westbrook said. “We’re at the very beginning of what we hope will be a long-term investment in resources and attention to the equity issues that our state faces.”

Sara Weissman can be reached at sweissman@diverseeducation.com.

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To assist with the other costs of college besides tuition, the Los Rios Community College District has announced a new $750,000 scholarship for first-year students.

Funded by Wells Fargo, SAFE Credit Union, Sutter Health and VSP Global, the scholarship was created as an incentive for students to enroll in college.

“We just recognize that for our students, there so many other barriers in addition to tuition and so we wanted to raise private philanthropic support to help remove those barriers for our neediest students,” said Paula Allison, the associate vice chancellor of resource development at Los Rios Community College District.

For this upcoming fall semester, there were 120 scholarships awarded and each student received $500.

Within the Los Rios district, there are 13 campus locations and around $75,000 students enrolled annually.

The average cost of community colleges within the district is $46 per unit or credit. However, nearly one-third of Los Rios students live below the poverty line and another quarter are low-income, according to district statistics.

“For our students, $500 is a lot of money,” said Allison. “We just see the difference that scholarships make for students, especially a scholarship like this that is really open-ended. We tell the students to use it where your needs are greatest.”

Due to the high number of low-income students, the Los Rios Community College District has launched various financial assistance initiatives.

Last year, the district created the Los Rios Promise Program. The program provides new incoming first-time college students a year of tuition-free education.

To qualify for the program, students must be a California resident, a first-time college student and enroll in a minimum of 12 units or credits and a maximum of 18 units per semester.

Comparably, the new scholarship is awarded to first-year students who go above and beyond and have the greatest financial need. Students are required to enroll in a minimum of 15 units. To also be eligible, students must apply for the Promise Program.

“The need is so great so we have to have a way to winnow down that pool in a way to make it more manageable to achieve our fundraising goals so we can actually make the greatest impact,” said Allison.

The district will now look towards developing the second phase of this scholarship, which will be public fundraising.

As an extension to the Promise Program, the state of California recently passed a budget that would make two years of community college free for first-time students.

The Los Rios District also set up an emergency fund, which allows students to apply for up to $2,000, one time, to help overcome a crisis situation and stay in school. Students must be in good standing and have an education plan in place.

“The unfortunate thing we are seeing in California is that the top two reasons why students come to us is because of homelessness or housing insecurity or food insecurity,” said Allison.

Those insecurity rates are higher for minority students.

According to a report by the Hope Center, rates of food insecurity among students identifying as African-American or Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native exceed 60 percent. This is approximately 10 percent higher than rates for Hispanic or Latinx students and almost 20 percent higher than rates for White students.

“It’s a pervasive problem throughout California because it is so expensive to live here,” said Allison.

Food banks are set up on campus as an additional way to help students. Additionally, every November, the district board and student organizations participate in a food drive with the focus on insecurity. The board does a matching gift.

“We’re using ‘Giving Tuesday’ as a way to leverage this matching fund and encourage our community to give to students who are experiencing insecurity, whether it be the food bank or to the student emergency fund,” said Allison.

For students such as Abraham Iniguez, who attends Folsom Lake College (FLC), the two-year tuition-free increase, as well as the Los Rios school-area scholarship programs, have reduced financial stress.

This year, Iniguez earned the FLC Rachel Rosenthal scholarship for his interest in STEM. The scholarship will help pay for his next semester of college.

“Community colleges are one of the best well kept secrets,” said Iniguez. “A lot of students come out of high school thinking they automatically need to go to a university. And that’s not the case. With community colleges, you’re basically taking the same classes as you would at a four-year school. I think it something that students should be encouraged to do more because it has so many benefits.”

Sarah Wood can be reached at swood@diversseeducation.com.

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PITTSBURGH – Using education and activism to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline is an ongoing battle that is as fierce as ever, according to speakers on the opening day of the 2019 Summer Educator Forum presented by the Center for Education at the University of Pittsburgh.

In panel discussions and breakout sessions Thursday, scholars and other experts in education, criminal justice and restorative justice talked about strategies in line with this year’s theme, “Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Re-Imagining Policies, Practices, and Politics in Education Systems.”

Although the phrase school-to-prison pipeline is now a common term in government and education circles after initially being coined at a local level, many academics have come to understand the phenomenon as more like an intricate web or network of factors that work together as a system to sideline Black and Brown youth – and increasingly, girls – at early ages.

Speakers challenged attendees of the three-day event to be leaders in collaborating on ways to imagine and create healthy alternatives to suspending, expelling and incarcerating young people – and to be champions of restorative justice approaches that honor the worth, dignity and potential of all.

In the nine years since Michelle Alexander released The New Jim Crow, her seminal best-selling book about race and mass incarceration, “everything has changed and everything has remained the same” in terms of criminal justice, she said during a lunchtime panel.

“I’ve seen extraordinary activism and movement-building, and yet in so many ways, things have remained the same,” said Alexander, a visiting professor of social justice at Union Theological Seminary.

The system “has been able to co-opt many reform efforts” in new ways, she said, including immigrants being detained, mass deportation and “expansion of digital imprisonment” with increased electronic monitoring of offenders across the nation.

“What I worry about are those advocacy efforts that are trying to fix a system that is actually not designed to serve us,” Alexander said. “If we think that we can just tinker with this machine and somehow get it right and not wrestle with the way these systems are built –they are not designed for people to flourish but to contain and control them – then it will result in their continuation.”

A critical strategy is to engage teachers and help them create and appreciate more just approaches, said Judith Browne-Dianis, a civil rights advocate who combats structural racism and the school-to-prison pipeline in her national leadership role at the Advancement Project.

“As much as our movements have done incredible work to change – we have had some wins – the system morphs, the system adapts, the system adjusts to do the same thing it was doing under a different name,” she said.

Teachers play a critical role in confronting and solving the problem because they are on the front line in schools – and they need to get comfortable with truth-telling about the connection between what happens in their classrooms and mass incarceration, said Browne-Dianis.

“We have to give people tools to do something different, to think about and work toward restorative justice,” she said. “It’s about the culture of a school. It’s not about a program.”

Mariame Kaba, a New York-based educator, researcher, author and activist involved in numerous efforts to address youth incarceration and other justice issues, agreed.

“Often these days, a lot of people treat restorative justice as a program and wonder why stuff hasn’t magically disappeared, or behavior hasn’t transformed overnight,” said Kaba. “Then they get discouraged and want to move on to another silver bullet. I think about it as a community-based practiced to heal and to repair harm. It’s not a program.”

Speaking at the opening panel, which focused on restorative justice and revolutionary practice in schools and society, Kaba said values for restorative-justice practitioners should be informed by the answers to central questions about the origin of the nation’s system of “mass punishment” – what happened, who has been harmed, what needs emerged as a result, related obligations and who is obligated to meet the identified needs.

“The state has stolen our ability to actually resolve our conflicts ourselves,” said Kaba, describing an unhealthy overreliance on police powers in schools and neighborhoods. “We outsource to others our ability to resolve conflicts. Reclaiming that is the basis of restorative justice work, if you really take it seriously.”

Members of communities need to come together to repair the harm with a systemwide response rather than internalizing a punishment mindset, adding trauma and fueling a cycle that disproportionately discards Black and Brown youth, Kaba said.

“We have to think these things through. Uproot your own punishment mindset and help your students do the same,” she urged educators

Dr. Carla Shedd, an associate professor of sociology and urban education at The Graduate Center of City University of New York, said “a sociological imagination has to be ignited in everyone” to envision healthy and affirming ways of helping youth navigate challenges and troubles.

It’s time, she said, to “move the locus from individuals” to all levels of the wider society and remove the “universal carceral apparatus” that has a ripple effect beyond individuals on families and communities.

“Turn the lens on the system instead of individuals living in an unfair and unjust system,” she said. “We have to change the system.”

That likely means changing the concept of what school is and transforming the idea of how education is delivered, Shedd suggested.

Dr. David Stovall went a step farther.

“In restorative justice, the question is, ‘What are we restoring people to?’” asked the professor of African-American studies, criminology and law and justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

A persistent obstacle to resolving the mass incarceration and long-term marginalization of youth of color and economically disadvantaged youngsters is a pervasive failure to understand the historical underpinnings that perpetuate the problem, especially for Black people, Stovall said.

“Black people were excluded from public education from the beginning, and every effort of Black people and others toward self-determination of their own education has always been fought vehemently by the White supremacist system,” he said. “So what is happening is not new.”

He challenged the assumption that schools are “naturally good” in terms of their structure and processes, a misconception based on “ahistoricism deeply rooted in fear.”

They are about order and compliance that teach minoritized students “how to hate themselves,” he said, and the result of such a dysfunctional system is subpar outcomes for disadvantaged groups already disadvantaged.

“Systems were never created to destroy themselves,” he said. “Systems were created to perpetuate power.”

LaMont Jones can be reached at ljones@diverseeducation.com. You can follow him on Twitter @DrLaMontJones

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Hampshire College has appointed its eighth president, Dr. Edward Wingenbach. .

“We welcome Ed to Hampshire — he embodies the many ideals that our students, staff, faculty, and alumni bring to our community,” Board Chairman Luis Hernandez said. “We are ready to support him in our important next steps forward and to work together with a sense of renewal and hope.”

Wingenbach spent the last six months as acting president of Ripon College in Wisconsin, where he was formerly a professor of politics and government and served as vice president and dean of faculty. He previously worked at the University of Redlands in California, where he was as a professor of political science and took on other administrative roles.

He comes on the heels of hardship for the school. Former President Dr. Miriam Nelson announced that the college would need a partner institution to remain financially viable. She resigned in the spring. Earlier this year, the Hampshire College board voted not to admit a full class this upcoming year because of funding considerations.

The board recently changed its decision, however, and voted to enroll a full class this fall, signaling new hope in Wingenbach’s tenure.

“For 50 years, Hampshire College has represented all that is best in higher education,” Wingenbach said. “I see my charge as helping to reinvigorate its proud legacy of innovation, because its example is too important, and there are too many students who need and want its high-impact, individualized, student-driven education. I believe in Hampshire and I’m excited to help lead it into its second half-century.”

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Dr. James L. Moore, III, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer at Ohio State University was honored with the ICIE – MACH III Award for Leadership in Gifted Education and Creativity at the 17th Annual International Conference on: Excellence, Innovation, & Creativity in Basic-Higher Education & Psychology,

Dr. James L. Moore III

Presented by the Minority Achievement, Creativity, and High Ability Center (MACH III) and the International Centre for Innovation in Education (ICIE), Moore, who is also the Education and Human Ecology Distinguished Professor of Urban Education at OSU was recognized for  his dedication, commitment, leadership, and outstanding contributions to excellence, gifted education, creativity, innovation, and leadership.

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