Category: ETRA

CoE, NIU make good showing at MWERA annual conference

mwera-logoThirty-two NIU faculty, students, staff and College of Education alumni presented at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Mid-Western Educational Research Association (MWERA), held from Oct. 18 to Oct. 20 in Evanston.

MWERA is a regional educational research association modeled after the structure of the preeminent American Educational Research Association.

The MWERA mission is threefold:

  • to disseminate educational research conducted in the central states and provinces of North America;
  • to promote a collegial research culture in the region; and
  • to provide a forum for mentoring the research skills of graduate students and junior faculty members.

While MWERA featured presentations by affiliates of NIU’s Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, Department of Counseling, Adult, and Higher Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Department of Psychology, faculty and graduate students from the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment were particularly involved in the conference.

Associate Dean David Walker and Associate Professor Cynthia Campbell, both of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, are past presidents of the organization.

David Walker and Cynthia Campbell

David Walker and Cynthia Campbell

Many NIU faculty and students also regularly serve as session chairs and session dscussants during the meeting, and in other leadership roles within the organization such as webmaster, Association Council members and board members.

This year, several faculty also were recognized for their service to the organization in relation to recruitment of graduate students.

Current and past NIU affiliates who presented at the 2017 conference include Abdullah Albalawi, Farraj Alshehri, Youself Alshrari, Patricia Barton, Cynthia Campbell, Raye Chiang, Brad Cramer, Dustin Derby*, Anne Edwards, Khalifa Elgosbi, Joseph Ehrmann, Daniel Feller, Tawanda Gibson, Christopher Gonzales, Karen Higgs, Mary Hoyt and Naif Jabli.

Others were Ryan Kopatich, Melanie Koss, Nicholas Leonard, Rakez Mahmoud AL-ararah, Cornelius McKenna*, Jaclyn Murawska*, Elyzia Powers, Todd Reeves, Thomas Smith, Amy Stich, Tracey Stuckey-Mickell*, Victoria Therriault, Stephen Tonks, David Walker and Scott Wickman.

* Alumnus of the NIU College of Education



ETRA professor receives Publons Top Reviewer Award

Todd Reeves

Todd Reeves

Todd Reeves, an assistant professor in the NIU Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, won a Top Reviewer Award for the Social Sciences from Publons for peer-reviewing 16 journal articles in the last year.

The Top Reviewer Award for the Social Sciences is awarded to the top 1 percent in a field for the number of pre-publication reviews completed.

In 2016, Reeves also won a Sentinels of Science Award for Social Sciences from Publons.



College of Ed boosts hurricane relief work in Texas, Puerto Rico

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Baked goods were sold in three CoE buildings.

Students, faculty and staff in the NIU College of Education recently raised $2,200 to send to the HISD Foundation in support of the Houston Independent School District.

Ravaged by Hurricane Harvey, the Houston schools were forced to delay their opening days by two weeks or more. Seven school building were so badly damaged that their students were reassigned to other locations.

Although Harvey roared ashore more than 1,000 miles away from DeKalb, its devastation hit close to home for the College of Education, which partners with HISD for the Educate U.S. program.

Educate U.S. enables select participants to work side-by-side with mentor teachers, observing in classrooms, preparing lessons and engaging in co-teaching strategies outside of Illinois.

NIU students chosen for the donor-funded, all-expenses paid journey further enrich their experience by joining with Houston students, host families and community members in a variety of extracurricular and community events.

Laurie Elish-Piper

Laurie Elish-Piper

Program administrators placed cash jars in three locations within the college and held bake sales to raise $1,100 in four days. Dean Laurie Elish-Piper matched that amount, resulting in the $2,200 donation.

“I’ve been keenly aware, for more than 20 years, of the big hearts and the kind souls passing through these hallways. We are a family that cares for others, whether in Illinois or Texas. This is the NIU College of Education I know and love,” Elish-Piper said.

“Believe me, our partners in the Houston Independent School District will appreciate and make good use of our contribution to their recovery – and they will continue to honor our friendship by hosting our students for the life-changing Educate U.S. program,” she added. “We are fortunate indeed.”

Meanwhile, faculty member Laura Ruth Johnson is gearing up to help Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico.

Johnson, a professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, lives and conducts research in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago. She also takes her graduate students there to practice community-based, collaborative research, an experience that many say transformed them as educators and scholars.

Laura Ruth Johnson

Laura Ruth Johnson

“Chicago’s Puerto Rican community has been a great partner to me, and to NIU students, in providing community immersion experiences for our graduate students, and helping to develop research partnerships,” Johnson said.

She is hoping to organize a December break service trip to Puerto Rico to assist with clean-up and rebuilding efforts, and would invite other members of the NIU community – faculty, staff and students – to join her, especially those with expertise in engineering, health care, agriculture and social entrepreneurship.

“The recovery in Puerto Rico will be long and arduous,” she added. “They are predicting that it could take up to six months to restore power to the entire island. More funds and support will be needed as the island tries to recover from this disaster, and the poorest residents will be the most affected.”

For more information, contact Johnson at lrjohnson@niu.edu.



College of Ed students honored

blue-ribbonTwo students in the Athletic Training program earned external scholarships for their academic performance.

* * *

Dennis Awen, a doctoral dissertation student in the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education, received an award for his paper presented at the 2017 International Symposium on Education and Psychology in Seoul, Korea. Awen initially started writing the paper last spring for an assignment in CAHA 733.

* * *

Three College of Education students are among the 2017 class of the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois program, a group of 234 dynamic young people who have chosen to dedicate themselves to future careers teaching students in Illinois schools-of-need. All are majoring in Elementary Education.

  • Lauren Anhalt of Plainfield is a sophomore.
  • Halley Fogerty of Wheaton is a freshman.
  • Hailey Pezdek of Worth is a freshman.

Launched in 1989, the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois program is uniquely designed to prepare future teachers to thrive in the most challenging high-needs school environments where more resilient teachers are desperately needed. The program provides tuition assistance to each future teacher while they pursue an undergraduate education.

* * *

Ben Mommer, an M.S.Ed.-IT student in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, worked an amazing summer internship at the Shedd Aquarium. Mommer created training videos and captivate modules for the marine mammal training department.



CoE welcomes new faculty, staff

gargoyle

Olive Goyle says, “Hello!”

Twelve new faculty members are joining the College of Education this fall, including a few familiar faces.

The roster includes Melanie Walski, who has been a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and Jenn Jacobs, who has taught and served as a Research Fellow in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education while earning her NIU doctorate in Educational Psychology.

Fatih Demir and Dongho Kim, new assistant professors in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, were on campus in May as keynote speakers for the LEARN-IT conference.

Dan Oest, who taught Ed.S. courses last year as an adjunct professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, now has joined the faculty.

“A college is defined by the strength of its faculty, so I am thrilled to welcome so many amazing new faculty to the College of Education this year,” Dean Laurie Elish-Piper said.

“We were able to hire a large group of incredibly accomplished, motivated and productive faculty who will help us enhance our programs, expand our research productivity, build engaged learning opportunities and teach and mentor our students.”

Other new employees this fall include Alicia Anderson, who is administrator of Finance and Operations Analysis; Tony Calderala, academic advisor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education; Claire Duvall, online program support specialist in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment; and Judy Schneider, director of Advancement.

Here is a closer look at this fall’s new members of the College of Education family.

Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education

Melissa Fickling

Melissa Fickling

Melissa Fickling comes to NIU by way of Memphis, Tenn. She completed her doctoral work in Counseling and Counselor Education in 2015 at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Her primary research interests are focused on the intersections of work, mental health and meaning.

She has practiced professional counseling in higher education, community and private practice settings, and is a licensed clinical professional counselor in Illinois. She is a member of the editorial review board for the Journal of College Counseling and active in leadership for the National Career Development Association.

“Melissa has a wealth of professional experience that she will bring to the classroom: seven years of work in the Chicagoland area before she became a professor. Her research interest in the intersection of work and mental health is really a great help to our university because the clients our graduates work with in this area often are dealing with issues of underemployment or employment.” — Suzanne Degges-White, chair

Dana Isawi

Dana Isawi

Dana Isawi holds a doctorate degree in counselor education and supervision from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a master’s degree in school counseling from Marymount University.

She has clinical experience in the school and community settings both in the United States and internationally. She has experience in intervention development, implementation and evaluation.

Her research and presentations focus on multicultural issues in counseling, play therapy and children, especially survivors of trauma and interventions to enhance career and college readiness of students. She has experience in teaching a variety of graduate courses in school counseling, mental health counseling and play therapy and filial therapy as well as supervising graduate students.

“Dana’s area of specialty is trauma, especially refugee traumatization. This is a growing area of interest and need because of what the current political climate is doing to people who are refugees or immigrants. She also has critical counseling experience mainly working with children as well as children from very diverse backgrounds, which is a very necessary piece for our students.” — Degges-White

Xiaodan Hu

Xiaodan Hu

Xiaodan Hu obtained her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Policy from the University of Florida in Gainesville, where she served as a research fellow at the Institute of Higher Education. She also holds a master’s degree in Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education from Texas A&M University.

She teaches courses related to community college leadership; finance and policy; and higher education administration.

Her research typically employs quantitative methods to examine the impact of state policies and institutional initiatives on colleges and universities, focusing on educational equity issues of historically underserved students and non-traditional students. She also recently has written on the impact of performance-based funding, the pathway of upward transfer, and gender differences in STEM degree attainment.

“Xiaodan brings a depth of experience in community college leadership. While she was at the University of Florida, she was the program director of the Community College Futures Assembly, an organization devoted to enhancing the professional skills of community college executives. Finding someone with community college experience, combined with her quantitative research expertise, is needle-in-a-haystack.” — Degges-White

Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Melanie Walski

Melanie Walski

Melanie Walski holds a Ph.D. Curriculum & Instruction: Language, Literacy & Culture from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an M.A.Ed. (Reading Specialist) from Dominican University.

She teaches courses in Elementary School Developmental Reading Programs, Emerging Literacy and Beginning Reading Instruction through Age 8 and Organizing for Effective Elementary Reading Instruction.

Her research interests focus on the intersection of literacy and policy at the elementary level. Her research centers on how literacy instructional practice is affected by policy, and what aspects of policy are most influential on teachers’ sense-making of literacy teaching and learning. She is also interested in emergent literacy curriculum development.

“The Department of Curriculum and Instruction is fortunate that Melanie Walski is joining us. As a former classroom teacher and certified reading specialist, Melanie brings both experience and valuable expertise to her role in many of our programs. Her research interests in policy and literacy will help to improve literacy education, policy and research at the local, state and national levels. Melanie also will help us offer our students superior content knowledge, methods development and theory-to-practice approach to prepare them to become outstanding educators.” — Donna Werderich, acting chair

Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment

Fatih Demir

Fatih Demir

Fatih Demir graduated in 2009 from the University of Baltimore, earning the degree of Doctor of Communications Design. In August 2015, he joined to the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri as postdoctoral fellow.

Demir teaches courses in Human-Computer Interaction and User Experience Research and Design.

He has spent years teaching and researching Human Computer Interaction; Usability; Interaction Design; Social Media Analysis; and E-government Design. He has conducted research at the Information Experience Lab using remote and mobile eye tracking systems. He also worked with Mizzou faculty, staff and graduate assistants on various projects in the realm of journalism, education, medicine and computer science.

“Fatih will enhance our curriculum and research in the area of user experience. Back in the old days, we talked about usability. Now we talk about user experience. For everything we design, we need to make sure that our users – our learners – accept it and are willing to enjoy it. It’s about understanding that designing is not just about designing something you like; it’s about designing something everyone likes while making sure that everyone can learn from it.” — Wei-Chen Hung, chair

Dongho Kim

Dongho Kim

Dongho Kim earned his Ph.D. in Learning, Design and Technology in May from the University of Georgia-Athens, where he worked with Robert Branch on research related to student engagement and online learning. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Education from Seoul National University.

Kim will continue to build his research at NIU while teaching courses in interaction design and “learning analytics.”

Published in a number of prestigious journals, he won first place for Outstanding Journal Article Award in the Distance Learning Division of the AECT 2016 conference for his most recent article in The Internet and Higher Education. He also received a two-year research fellowship grant (2016-18) from the Hewlett Foundation to continue his research.

“ ‘Learning analytics’ is one of the fields that is growing in instructional technology because it is important to make sense of data and to use that data to enhance learning and training. Technology and data are so widely available now that sometimes it is difficult to understand the data, and it is very challenging to interconnect all this data to find better solutions for learning and training. Dongho is the person who will help us address that need. He knows how to bring those different types of data together to design curriculum that improves learning.” —Hung

Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education

Clayton Camic

Clayton Camic

Clayton L. Camic earned a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2011. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Morehead State University (2001) and a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Wyoming (2003).

Camic will teach courses in Applied Physiology of Exercise (KNPE 452), Neuromuscular Aspects of Performance (KNPE 514) and Bioenergetics (KNPE 652).

His main research interests include the evaluation of neuromuscular function and fatigue using electromyography as well as nutritional supplements as ergogenic aids.

“Clay has established a record over the last several years of becoming a leading scholar in the Exercise Physiology area, including more than 50 refereed publications in the last five years. He truly enhances the scholarship for students in our Kinesiology program.” — Chad McEvoy, chair

Jenn Jacobs

Jenn Jacobs

Jenn Jacobs, who earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from NIU, also holds a master’s degree in Sport Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

She has taught courses in psychological aspects of sport and exercise, measurement for evaluation, psychology of sport and exercise, psychology of coaching and the culture and society of sports.

Her research interests include sport-based youth development, transfer of life skills, sport for social change and social and emotional learning. In 2012, she received a fellowship from NIU’s Collaborative on Early Adolescence to support youth learning and development by working with Paul Wright on the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility model.

“Jenn is someone who has been here at NIU for some time, working on her Ph.D. and collaborating on research with Paul Wright and other KNPE colleagues. She’s has begun to establish a record as a strong teacher and scholar with great potential in both of those areas.” — McEvoy

Claire Schaeperkoetter

Claire Schaeperkoetter

Claire Schaeperkoetter, who hails from Columbia, Mo., double-majored in Psychology and Spanish at Washington University in St. Louis. She received both her Master’s and PhD in Sport Management from the University of Kansas.

Schaeperkoetter has worked in the ticket office for the Miami Heat and the athletics compliance offices at the University of Miami and the University of Kansas. While pursuing her Ph.D., she served an instructor of record for several different Sport Management undergraduate courses at the University of Kansas.

Her research typically relies on the intersection of organizational behavior, organizational theory and sport finance to analyze decisions of sport leaders, sport employees and sport participants.

“Claire has already become nationally known for her scholarship during her doctoral studies at the University of Kansas, and she will really help to grow our Sport Management offerings. She is an excellent teacher with great research potential.” — McEvoy

Emerson Sebastião

Emerson Sebastião

Emerson Sebastião, a visiting assistant professor, earned a Ph.D. in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015. He then received a fellowship from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to complete a post-doctoral training in Rehabilitation Sciences in the same institution.

He joined the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health of the University of Illinois as a visiting assistant professor in 2016, serving as the director of the Exercise Neuroscience Research Laboratory and teaching courses related to exercise psychology and physical activity research methods.

Sebastião studies elderly and clinical populations by exploring factors that influence physical activity as well as creative ways to promote physical activity among older adults and persons with multiple sclerosis.

“Emerson has outstanding training from the University of Illinois. His research is a great fit with our Kinesiology faculty, and he brings with him a lot of potential in terms of publication and grant activity.” — McEvoy

Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations

Dan Oest

Dan Oest

Dan Oest, whose July 1 retirement closed the book on a 33-year career in K-12 education, comes to NIU from Richmond-Burton Community High School District 157 and Nippersink School District 2.

Oest spent 29 years in school administration, the last 21 of those as a superintendent. For 10 of his 12 years in Richmond-Burton, he also served as a shared superintendent with Nippersink.

He holds two degrees from NIU – an M.S.Ed. and Ed.D. – as well as a bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and an Ed.D. from National Louis University.

This fall, Oest will supervise the superintendent interns and teach LEAA 710: The Superintendency.

“Dan brings a wealth of experience, having been an educator for many years and superintendent in the region for the last 12 years. He is poised to provide excellent mentorship for our students, current knowledge of school policies to the classrooms and relationships with a variety of school districts in the area. He is the perfect fit for the position of coordinator of the Ed.S. program because of his background as a practitioner and his experience teaching in higher education. Most of our students intend to follow the same job trajectory that he did, making him an excellent role model.” — Teresa A. Wasonga, Presidential Engagement Professor and Fulbright Scholar, Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations

Department of Special and Early Education

Natalie Andzik

Natalie Andzik

Natalie Andzik is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University, where she earned her degree in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis. She also obtained Board Certification in Behavior Analysis in 2012.

Andzik’s passion for helping students with severe disabilities started as a special education teacher in California, where she taught for eight years.

Her current research is focused on supporting the communication independence of students with disabilities by ensuring practitioners use the most effective evidence-based practices. She has published articles related to special education and applied behavior analysis in a variety of journals, including Exceptional Children, Teaching Exceptional Children and TASH.

She will teach several sections of Collaboration for Inclusive Teaching and Learning this fall.

“Natalie brings with her experience teaching children with disabilities; experience teaching undergraduate and graduate teacher candidates in higher education; successful internal grants; and numerous publications. Teacher education candidates will appreciate her real-world experience, her positive energy and enthusiasm, her sense of humor and her collaborative nature.” — Greg Conderman, chair



LEARN-IT conference exposes educators to instructional tech

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LEARN-IT 2017

Advances in technology come so quickly and frequently that it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of the latest innovations and applications.

Yet for teachers, and for IT professionals who work in schools, the integration of technology to enhance learning carries a great responsibility and significance: Students deserve the best education possible, and outdated equipment and programs hinders that.

NIU’s annual LEARN-IT conference, always held on the first Saturday in May, invites educators and school-based tech specialists on a weekend day for keynote presentations, breakout sessions and research roundtables that allow them to improve their knowledge and to better accomplish their objectives.

The goal is simple: to help educators transform the teaching-and-learning environment with “low- cost, high-impact” technologies that facilitate meaningful learning.

“Our overall theme for LEARN-IT has always been a focus on ‘low-cost, high-impact’ instructional technology,” said Wei-Chen Hung, chair of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA), which hosts the conference in the Learning Center of Gabel Hall.

“In many ways, our theme has been prophetic. Today we see more and more teachers using free or low-cost and highly accessible instructional technology tools,” Hung added. “And more than ever, we need to know how to use these tools effectively. I like to think of our LEARN-IT conference as a community of learners, where dedicated educators gather to share and learn from each other.”

Wei-Chen Hung

Wei-Chen Hung

More than 120 people attended the May 6 event, said Judy Puskar, who helped to organize the day with Gail Hayenga, conference and event coordinator in the College of Education’s Office of External and Global Programs.

Professional Development Hours or graduate credit (ETT 592: Special Topics in Instructional Technology) were available.

“LEARN-IT is a day when they’re given instruction instead of giving instruction,” said Puskar, academic program advisor in ETRA.

“With technology changing so fast, people in the classroom often don’t have the time to get exposed to new technologies. This is a chance to explore the tools, learn strategies and practice with new tools,” she added. “A lot of times, we’ll hear, ‘Oh, I haven’t heard of this before’ – and now they want to use them in their classrooms or look more into them.”

Keynote speakers included two new ETRA faculty, both of whom will join the department this fall.

Dongho Kim, who comes to NIU from the University of Georgia, Athens, presented “What Gets Measured, Gets Managed: Data Analytics and Technologies for Teachers.”

Growing use of digital devices in and out of the classroom produces large amounts of data regarding the learning processes of students, Kim said, which in turn creates great potential in K-12 classrooms from data-driven decision-making.

“Educators’ ability to utilize that kind of data enables them to assess various aspects of their students’ learning in a timely manner,” Kim said. “For example, students’ log data in the flipped classroom context reveals students’ engagement with learning content and allows teachers to provide ongoing supports.”

learn-it-logoFatih Demir, joining NIU from the University of Missouri, Columbia, spoke on “EnhancED Teaching and Learning: User eXperience (UX) Research and Design to Enhance Teaching and Learning.”

He challenged his audience of teachers: “Are your learning plans based on your research, insights, trends and innovative concepts or are they generic for all students? Do you fully understand the needs and expectations of each individual student?”

“Teachers as everyday designers are designing curriculum, course plans, in-class activities, presentations and many other forms of materials for a diverse population,” Demir said. “Knowing well about the target audience and understanding their needs and expectations are key in design.”

Both professors call LEARN-IT participants “engaged and interested,” a group that also includes NIU undergraduates, graduate students and members of the Technology Specialist cohorts.

“Many students found the topic very interesting,” Demir said, “and appreciated that User Experience and Human Computer Interaction courses will be offered at the ETRA Department. Some of them indicated that they would like to apply such methods to their dissertations.”

Other presenters were:

  • Andrew Tawfik, “Evaluating EdTech: Evaluating, Designing, and Prototyping”
  • Kristin Brynteson, “Telling Stories with Technology”
  • Jason Underwood, “Effective Use of Video Tools and Strategies in the Classroom”
  • Colleen Cannon-Ruffo, “LEGO Education: WeDoSTEM 2.0” and “LEGO Education: STEM Robotics with Mindstorms EV3.”

Former ETRA Chair Lara M. Luetkehans launched LEARN-IT several years ago through the sponsorship of Bob and Mary English, friends of the College of Education. The conference always welcomes recipients of the Mary F. English Technology Award as honored guests.

LEARN-IT 2017

LEARN-IT 2017

The English family believes in the importance of educators having the tools they need to help all learners achieve their potential – and, Puskar said, it’s a belief that the educators who attend LEARN-IT share with the conference’s benefactors.

“Many of our districts are finding that technology is helpful in delivering content to students,” she said, “and in helping students to become self-directed learners.”

It begins when LEARN-IT participants leave the conference with “new skills, ideas and plans for enhancing learning,” Hung agreed.

“The high-impact strategies and technologies that the ETRA faculty and alums provide,” Hung said, “can enhance your work in assessing learners, engaging learners, producing media and putting the technologies in the students’ hands.”

Next year’s conference takes place Saturday, May 5.



Pomp and circumstance: NIU hosts spring commencement

grad-commence-18Three NIU College of Education graduates stepped in the spotlight last month during the spring commencement ceremonies.

NIU President Doug Baker told the audience at the May 13 undergraduate ceremony about Tyler Hayes, who earned a bachelor’s in Kinesiology.

During the May 12 Graduate School ceremony, Baker spoke about Kai Rush, who earned a doctorate in Instructional Technology, and Natalie Tarter, who earned a master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Here are President Baker’s comments.

Tyler Hayes

Tyler Hayes

Tyler Hayes

Every graduate is filled with a well-earned sense of accomplishment. That is particularly true for Tyler Hayes because of what it took to get here.

She arrived at NIU from Peoria filled with a desire to improve her life, but without a lot of money in the bank.

Every semester, she says, was a “guessing game” of whether or not she would be able to keep chasing her degree. She is grateful to those in the financial aid department who repeatedly helped her find financial assistance.

She can also thank her powerful work ethic. While at NIU, Tyler worked as a community advisor to cover room and board costs, spent time as a student orientation leader and earned money working in the sports information department.

It wasn’t always easy, but somewhere in her journey she recognized the power of her own positivity as a stabilizing force. She became a go-getter unwilling to wait around for things to happen.

That’s not to say she did it alone. She praises the “great motivators” she found among her classmates, for keeping up her spirits. She credits professors for their accommodating support. And she gives props to her teammates on the women’s rugby team for keeping her grades on track with study table sessions.

Tyler graduates today with a degree in Kinesiology. After a final summer working on campus, she will head off to Georgetown University this fall to pursue a master’s in Sports Industry Management.

Tyler says she will miss the caring, amazing people she met during a great NIU experience. Given her spirit, I have no doubt she has many memorable moments to look forward to in her future.

Kai Rush

Kai Rush

Kai Rush

Based on his SAT scores, Kai Rush had a 10 percent chance of earning a bachelor’s degree.

Today he graduates with his Ph.D. in Instructional Technology.

This is his second NIU degree. His master’s in Instructional Technology allowed him to climb the ladder from teacher to instructional coach to director of technology for West Chicago schools. Then he realized he was born to be a teacher not an administrator.

As Kai wrestled with that dilemma, Dr. Wei Chen Hung suggested he consider teaching classes here at NIU. He embraced the challenge and discovered that, after 15 years as an award-winning teacher at the K-12 level, he also loved teaching college students. Much to his surprise, he also discovered a passion for research.

Dr. Hung’s intervention, he says, was just one of many examples of how NIU faculty helped him find his current path.

Dr. Rebecca Hunt devoted hours last summer lending advice on his dissertation; Dr. Pi-Sui Hsu challenged him to explain his research in greater detail; Dr. Thomas Smith turned his dislike into enjoyment for math and statistics; and Dr. Nick Omale taught him how to plan and deliver a university-level lesson.

Thanks to the nurturing and cajoling of those professors, and to the help of many others here at NIU, the high-schooler who wasn’t supposed to go to college is now an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater. There he helps prepare others for careers as teachers and does research on using technology to motivate minority and English language learners.

In a note he sent to me this spring, Kai said of his journey, “Test scores mean nothing if you have great teachers, professors and staff to support, assist and motivate students! That is NIU!”

It is my sincere hope that all of you in this room had an experience here at NIU to rival his.

Natalie Tarter

Natalie Tarter

Natalie Tarter

Natalie Tarter’s star rose as a track athlete at Batavia High School.

  • A state champion in the 300-meter hurdles;
  • Illinois record-holder in the 100-meter hurdles;
  • Twice the state runner-up in the 100-meter hurdles.

She went off to a Big 10 university on a full ride – and with legitimate Olympic hopes.

Then came the injuries – and three hip surgeries.

No longer able to compete at that high level, Natalie felt lost and lonely. It was a challenging period in her life, one that changed her outlook on sports.

Natalie fashioned quite a comeback, however.

She transferred to NIU, focused on academics and walked on the track team, finding success in a new event, the heptathlon.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in general studies, she stayed here. Today Natalie earns her master’s in clinical mental health counseling, with a graduate certificate in sports and exercise psychology.

The last two years, she worked with – and learned from – our Office of Student Academic Success, where Natalie provided academic coaching and leadership training to our students.

But sports remains a central theme in her work.

Natalie once presented a professional development session for her officemates, setting up hurdles outside their building and teaching them jumping techniques. When co-workers expressed embarrassment and doubt in their abilities, Natalie likened it to the frustration and uncertainty that students can feel as they navigate college.

It’s a lesson they won’t forget.

While interning at a private practice, Natalie created counseling groups for athletes at West Aurora High School and facilitated high school workshops on mental health and sports.

Athletes are often neglected in the mental health realm, Natalie says, and she wants to change that.

Additionally, the depth of her experiences has included working with young people who are non-verbal and autistic, as well as young women who have attempted to take their own lives.

It’s not surprising that Natalie has been asked to join the private counseling practice where she interned, and she has plans to continue her important work there with athletes and others.

We think Natalie Tarter never really needed an oval track to shine.

Please enjoy these photographs from the May 12 and 13 ceremonies.

 



And the hits keep on coming …

Eui-Kyung Shin and Thomas Smith

Eui-Kyung Shin and Thomas Smith

The spring awards season goes on for the NIU College of Education.

Eui-Kyung Shin, professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and Tom Smith, Presidential Teaching Professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, join former colleague Andrew Milson of the University of Texas at Arlington, in an award from the National Council for Geographic Education.

For more than 100 years, the NCGE has worked to enhance the status and quality of geography teaching and learning at all levels of instruction. Through its awards program, NCGE recognizes excellence in geography teaching, mentoring, research, instructional design and service.

ncge“Each year, we are impressed by the level of innovation, quality and creativity of all our award nominees,” said Zachary R. Dulli, chief executive officer. “Understanding our world is critical to a high-quality education, and these award winners represent the best of the best in providing that to our students.”

Shin, Smith and Milson were honored “Future Teachers’ Spatial Thinking Skills and Attitudes,” which earned top honors as Best College/University Article in the Journal of Geography Awards category. Milson taught in the NIU College of Education from 1999 to 2001.

Recipients of NCGE recognition will receive their awards at a special ceremony held during the 2017 National Conference on Geography Education, scheduled from July 27 to July 30 in Albuquerque, N.M.



Laura Ruth Johnson to study civic engagement, advocacy of young parents in Humboldt Park

Laura Ruth Johnson

Laura Ruth Johnson

Laura Ruth Johnson has spent two decades observing the lives, struggles and triumphs of young parents in Chicago.

Throughout those years, the associate professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment has seen many young parents thrive in spite of a lack of programs that could help them.

“Some of them are missing school to work, but not because they don’t value education,” Johnson says. “It’s because they’re extremely responsible. Some are working an extra job to provide for their children or help their parents pay the rent.”

Johnson will turn her attention this summer to how young parents in Humboldt Park engage with their community – and if that civic engagement can inform and enhance their advocacy skills, for themselves and their children, as well as for other young parents.

Findings from a Youth Participatory Action Research study, funded by a summer Research and Artistry grant, hope to “inform services, programs and policy aimed at young parents, and challenge pejorative stereotypes of young parents as having ‘ruined’ their lives with little hope of academic or professional success because of their ‘bad’ choices.”

Instead, Johnson strives to show that young parents can be deeply involved in their communities and academically successful, if provided with the appropriate supports and resources.

Humboldt Park

Humboldt Park

Data will come from interviews, focus groups, observations and written assignments completed by young parents. Over the summer, a small group of young parents will work with Johnson to collect and analyze data, in the process gaining valuable research skills.

Research will take place at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, an alternative high school that currently serves about 190 students pushed out of the public school system, through its embedded program the Lolita Lebron Family Learning Center, which serves the needs of young parents attending Albizu Campos, which make up about 20 percent of the student body.

Many students there are familiar with Johnson’s topic: Parents attend a class, co-taught by Johnson, called “Social History of Parenting,” which helps them develop advocacy skills and involves them in creating campaigns that confront pejorative stereotypes about young parents.

But the need lies beyond Albizu Campos High School and the Family Learning Center.

“Having young parents involved in community and civic engagement is important, but their voices are largely absent,” she says. “So much policy is made for them, but they’re not included as a part of the conversation – and they need to be. They’re the ones these programs are aimed at.”

Quality mentorship offers a start, says Johnson, who has implemented such programs in Chicago for the last four years.

campos-2One goal of her upcoming project is to gather solid data on the impact of efforts like hers.

Whereas much of the civic engagement literature has focused on more traditional sorts of activities, such as voting, this study aspires to document how students’ involvement in community-based projects and grassroots activism that address issues that are meaningful to them can help them to develop leadership skills.

Among her questions: How do young parents view their communities? What issues are important to them? In what ways are local projects involving and engaging young parents? What skills do they gain from participating? How does their involvement shape their identities as active citizens? What role will it play in their postsecondary pursuits?

“Very few programs are aimed at young parents,” Johnson says, “and it’s harder for them to become involved. Most work. They have to take care of their own expenses. They have a child. And, as a result, they’re rendered invisible.”

Compounding the problem, she says, is that many programs focused on young parents are designed merely to prevent teens from becoming parents in the first place. Only a few mentor teens who already are young parents, she says.

Unfortunately, she adds, not many high schools offer child care.

Nonetheless, young parents can and do defy the odds. Four recent valedictorians at Campos High School have been teen parents, she says.

Laura Ruth Johnson

Laura Ruth Johnson

“Young parents right now see education as more important than ever,” Johnson says, “but for teen parents, it’s a challenge. They have to take care of a child and go to school. It’s a challenge of having support, of having child care or of having transportation. I know some young parents who walk, with their children, to school in the cold because they have no money for the bus.”

In the Puerto Rican community where Johnson conducts her advocacy and research, she witnesses some attitudes of fatalism among youth.

What difference can we possibly make outside of our neighborhood? How can these projects really change the way things are? Why don’t politicians actually care about us? They say what they think we want to hear, but they don’t know what we go through or actually listen when we tell them.

Even external forces are contributing, she says, pointing to a recent teen pregnancy advertisement that featured pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen and the message, “You’re supposed to be changing the world … not changing diapers.”

“As if mothers can’t be activists and be involved!” Johnson says. “We’re really trying to change that narrative and paradigm.”

She finds signs of optimism in Humboldt Park, where teen parents are thinking about greater social issues and historical events in relationships to their neighborhood – where they can act locally.

veggies-2Others are connecting the dots, she says.

“They’re invested even more when they have a child because they want to have a better future for their child, and they see that they can link all of the issues,” Johnson says. “Now they have a child to think of. Having safe parks. Having access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Healthy food, for example, offers lessons of urban agriculture, such as community gardens and greenhouses. It reinforces the importance of healthy food for growing children. Politically, it illustrates the social problem of “food deserts” or the public health crisis of diabetes.

Projects that Johnson has worked on with students include public service announcements filmed and posted on YouTube, social media postings and participation in hashtag campaigns such as #noteenshame and #teenparentpride.

Other young parents are podcasting.

“They’re interviewing one another and creating podcasts on their lives, collecting and editing their own stories,” she says. “I see that as a method of civic engagement because it’s having them participate in larger conversations, something that will help other young parents find resources that are of assistance to them.”

Johnson (right) with young parents, mentors and teachers in San Antonio.

Johnson (right) took young parents, mentors and teachers to the annual meeting
of the American Educational Research Association in San Antonio, Texas

She also hopes to host community events where she – and the teens – present their findings.

A few of those involved in an intergenerational mentorship project for current and former young mothers recently took a national stage, presenting their work and research at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in San Antonio, Texas. Johnson received funds from the NIU College of Education and the Youth Connection Charter School to bring young parents, mentors and teachers to the event.

“I know some who really found that through their participation in a project, it expanded their view of their ability to make a change in the world, and they’ve taken that to their families,” she says. “Most of the students are really excited to become involved, and they have a lot of great ideas.”



Iowa State honors David Walker

David Walker

David Walker

David Walker’s fervent curiosity about the world beyond the United States has shaped his life.

As an undergraduate at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history, political science and Russian studies. He also studied abroad in the former Soviet Union in 1987.

“I got a taste of being overseas,” Walker says, “and I enjoyed it immensely.”

Following graduation, Walker and his wife joined the Peace Corps, serving together from 1989 to 1991 in Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo) and from 1992 to 1994 in Mauritania.

Those years in Francophone Africa sparked his interest in the history of that region, and upon his return home, he enrolled at Iowa State University to earn a master’s degree in history. He later completed a Ph.D. there in education.

Since then, as an academic with a dynamic research agenda of qualitative methodology, significant grant funding, a strong record of mentoring graduate students and a platform of promoting international collaboration as president of the Mid-Western Educational Research Association, Walker has undeniably forged an impressive career.

Now the associate dean of the NIU College of Education has external confirmation of that fact.

globeWalker is the 2017 recipient of Iowa State’s Virgil Lagomarcino Laureate Award, which honors graduates of the College of Human Sciences who are nationally and internationally recognized for their meritorious service or distinguished achievement in the field of education.

He will travel to Ames in October for the ceremony, which takes place during Homecoming.

“I feel very honored and humbled that my peers support me. Iowa State is kind of where it all started for me,” says Walker, who came to NIU in 2003 as an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment.

The former Cyclone has dedicated himself to modeling his professors there.

“At Iowa State, I mentored under some of the best in the business,” he says, “and after I graduated, it became apparent to me how privileged I was to study under these great names in our field. I consider it my due diligence to give back to the field, and I strive to do that in my teaching and research.”

Fellow Iowa State alumna Christine Sorensen Irvine, a former dean of the NIU College of Education, nominated Walker for the award. The two also have published together.

Walker is looking forward to his trip back to Ames to collect his Lagomarcino.

“I’ll see a lot of good friends and mentors,” he says. “It’s going to be a great evening.”