Major Annual Meeting Lecture Speakers Examine Significant Topics in Educational Equity
Major Annual Meeting Lecture Speakers Examine Significant Topics in Educational Equity
 
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April 2021

The 2020 AERA Distinguished Lecture and the 2021 and 2020 Wallace Foundation Distinguished Lectures featured prominent scholars engaging attendees in important conversations about educators’ responsibility, racial education, and community colleges at this year’s virtual Annual Meeting. Due to technical difficulties, the 2021 AERA Distinguished Lecture, scheduled to be delivered by Sylvia Hurtado (University of California, Los Angeles), was cancelled and will be held in September. The two 2020 lectures were delivered this year because there was no 2020 Annual Meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cynthia B. Dillard
University of Georgia

The 2021 Wallace Foundation Distinguished Lecture, “When We (Re)member, ‘Everything Is Possible’: Black Women Teachers and the Spirit of Our Work,” was delivered by Cynthia B. Dillard (University of Georgia), a national leader in the study of critical teacher education, spirituality in education, and African/African American feminist studies. Shaun R. Harper (University of Southern California) chaired this session.

Dillard’s lecture drew from the work in her new book, The Spirt of Our Work, which explores how engaging identity and cultural heritage can transform teaching and learning for Black women educators. Drawing from a seven-year study of Black women teachers and teacher educators, this lecture highlighted the need to acknowledge and (re)member the powerful spirit of Black women in education.

Dillard began her lecture with a poem from Octavia E. Butler’s science fiction novel Parable of the Talents and called on the audience to look at the history of Black women in Africa who thought of their daughters’ harsh realities in the New World. “Black people have a desire to be with community, but when your people are taken and flung to other unknown countries, how do you create community?” asked Dillard.

She explored how Black women teachers and teacher educators can heal, resist, and (re)member their identities in ways that empower them and their studies. “Black women educators sit at the intersections of many identities that are important for education and educational scholarship,” said Dillard. “Therefore, educational settings should curate structures of support and pay explicit attention to the spirit of Black women in education.”

Vivian L. Gadsden
University of Pennsylvania

Chaired by Vanessa Siddle Walker (Emory University), the 2020 AERA Distinguished Lecture, “The Education and Social Imperative for Responsibility and Partnerships: Can Children and Their Families Count on Us?” was delivered by Vivian L. Gadsden (University of Pennsylvania). Gadsden served as AERA president in 2016-2017 and is an AERA Fellow.

In her engaging talk, Gadsden examined longstanding and shifting definitions of responsibility to ensure that the work of educators and education researchers advances positive change and elevates the humanity of children and families. Gadsden discussed ways that research partnerships can embrace this responsibility, especially for the youngest and most vulnerable and those who care for them.

“Our field needs to fulfill our commitment to the well-being of children and their families,” said Gadsden. “We need to demonstrate that they can count on us to dream with them and act with purpose in their best interests. If children’s lives include poor schools, violence, and lack of clean water and ‘systems reinscribe social and societal inequality,’ we must include these systemic inequalities in our research.”

Gadsden added, “We must address problematic analysis that ignores the systemic barriers. Rather than being the solution, we may be the problem. How can children and families trust us if we do not look at these systemic barriers?”

Cecilia Rios-Aguilar
University of California, Los Angeles

Cecilia Rios-Aguilar (University of California, Los Angeles), a national leader in the study of the educational and occupational trajectories of marginalized students, delivered the 2020 AERA Wallace Foundation Distinguished Lecture, “Research as Resistencia: Studying Community Colleges as Sites of Hope, Possibilities, and Transformation Through a Systems/Funds of Knowledge Approach.” Vanessa Siddle Walker (Emory University) chaired the session.

In her insightful presentation, Rios-Aguilar discussed innovative conceptual and practical approaches to studying community colleges to transform them into equitable spaces. She challenged existing myths, models, and assumptions about community colleges.

“There is a view that ‘community college is not a real college,’” said Rios-Aguilar. “However, community colleges educate the vast majority of vulnerable populations, and they continue to do the most with the least amount of resources.”

Rios-Aguilar provided concrete examples of reimagining funds of knowledge from a systems perspective to challenge deficit notions of what community colleges are, who they serve, and what role they play in redressing inequities in higher education.

“We need to pay more attention to how students’ funds of knowledge interact with the complexity of the institutions they navigate along their educational career trajectories and how institutions can help,” said Rios-Aguilar.

 
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