Partnerships with College of Education continue to broaden

Jim Carlson
October 05, 2015

As Penn State’s vast academic reach continues to evolve, its substantial number of partnerships and collaborations now stretch into the Deep South and well beyond to Puerto Rico.

Its XU2PSU program involves a mechanism for recruiting talented students of color from the master’s degree program at Xavier University of Louisiana into the College of Education’s doctoral program. It has a similar agreement with the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, with both collaborations designed to aid in the recruitment of highly qualified students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI). HBCUs confer more than 20 percent of all bachelor’s degrees earned by African-Americans. HSIs award about 36 percent of all degrees conferred to Hispanics.

These affiliations with Penn State also lead to program development beyond student recruitment, such as summer seminars and student and faculty exchange programs, according to Maria Schmidt, assistant dean for multicultural programs.

Five Xavier graduates have earned Penn State doctoral degrees and five more are in progress. The five who are working are either professors or administrators at North Dakota State, California University of Pennsylvania, University of Houston, University of Memphis and Penn State.

Stephanie Danette Preston, senior director of Penn State’s Office of Graduate Educational Equity Programs, is an alumna of the XU2PSU partnership, earning a doctoral degree in 2009 in science education.

“I appreciate and value the opportunity to work with key leaders in the field of science education and the support I received within my college,’’ Preston said, listing Schmidt, Murry Nelson, Carla Zembal-SaulGreg KellyScott McDonald, John Daniel Marshall and Charleon Jeffries as those who provided assistance.

“Leaving New Orleans to come to central Pennsylvania was a struggle for my family and me; however, the idea of obtaining a Ph.D., field training and preparation at an institution like Penn State made it all worth it.

“Partnerships like the XU2PSU memorandum of understanding are important because institutions/universities like Penn State might not ever cross the minds of educators (or those in other disciplines) who don’t reside in Pennsylvania or any of the surrounding states,’’ Preston explained.

“The partnership at the onset was set up so that students interested in attending Penn State would have the support of other Xavier grads while continuing to receive support from Xavier faculty. The cohort/mentor model proved to be beneficial in that we formed a sense of community within the group that helped in supporting each other in addition to having structured interactions with mentors/instructors from Xavier as we began to embark upon a research-focused agenda,’’ Preston said.

Dwayne Ray Cormier is the most recent College of Education doctoral candidate from Xavier. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida, a master of education in physical education: sports and leisure management from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, and a master of arts in teaching: middle school science and mild/moderate special education from Xavier.

“The degree I am seeking at Penn State University is a doctorate in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on curriculum and supervision,’’ Cormier said. “Though I do not have a research question at the moment, my area of interest is how policies and politics affect teacher education.’’

Cormier said he would like to seek a tenure-track position at a college or university to continue research in the field of curriculum and supervision upon completion of his degree. He also has the goal of providing consulting services to K-12 schools as well as publishing books in curriculum and supervision field.

“Upon my arrival at Penn State, my advisers and various stakeholders were welcoming and were knowledgeable about my past work in education and youth development,’’ Cormier said. “Partnerships such as this give students who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities opportunities to obtain advanced degrees at storied universities such as Penn State,’’ he said.

Five Puerto Rico-Mayaguez graduates also have achieved doctoral status. Three of them are professors at the Mayaguez campus of the University of Puerto Rico while the other two are employed at the University of Central Florida and Penn State.

Two others – Emily Rose Aguilo-Perez and Yamil Sarraga-Lopez – remain in the College of Education program, with Aguilo-Perez in her fourth year and Sarraga-Lopez in his first.

Sarraga-Lopez earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Puerto Rico-Mayaguez and this past summer completed his master’s in English Education. His doctoral focus at Penn State is in curriculum and supervision in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

"While participating in various professional organizations related to the field of education, I developed an understanding of our need as educators to research our methods of instruction, educational policies and the curriculum as a whole,’’ Sarraga-Lopez said.

Working with other professors who had participated in this collaboration fueled his interest. “Their experience in the program as well as Penn State’s reputation as one of the biggest research institutions led me to the College of Education and to curriculum and instruction,’’ he said.

Sarraga-Lopez said the partnerships provide students of different sociocultural and economic backgrounds the opportunity to experience new perspectives in educational research through the different programs offered by the College of Education.

The program allows for students to pursue a career in educational research and this partnership makes it more accessible for students to apply and benefit from this wonderful experience. “Additionally, it opens possibilities toward new collaborations between these two universities and both cultures,’’ he said.

Like Cormier, the early opinion on Penn State from Sarraga-Lopez is positive. “I felt welcomed from the very moment I got here and in the small amount of time I have been here I have gained a great amount of knowledge regarding education and research,’’ he said.

“The many opportunities available toward the professional development of students is astonishing and students are encouraged to take part in these important communities of learning. Eventually, I want to use the knowledge and experience obtained to become a better researcher and educator and participate in communities of research in education,’’ Sarraga-Lopez said.

  • Yamil Sagarra-Lopez

    Yamil Sarraga-Lopez is pursuing a doctoral degree with the College of Education after earning undergraduate and master's degrees from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated October 07, 2015