Marist College Professors Receive Spencer Education Research Foundation Grants Focused on Social Justice and Equity


April 20, 2022 — Three Marist College professors within the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences have received prestigious Spencer Education Grants to enhance their research focused on social justice and equity.

Dr. Carol Rinke and Dr. Christina Wright Fields were together awarded a Spencer Education Grant to conduct their research entitled, The Storied Experiences of Teachers of Color through Photovoice. Dr. Vanessa Lynn also received the grant to study the undergraduate education and faculty experience of criminology and criminal justice programs and the curriculum surrounding race. Dr. Lynn’s research is entitled, Race Pedagogies in Criminal Justice/Criminology.

The Storied Experiences of Teachers of Color through Photovoice

Dr. Rinke, who is Assistant Dean for the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Associate Professor of Education, and Dr. Wright Fields, an Assistant Professor of Education, are partnering with researchers from Rutgers University - Newark, including Dr. Rinke’s prior research partner, Dr. Lynnette Mawhinney.

This work will continue and extend Dr. Rinke and Dr. Mawhinney’s co-authored book, There Has to be a Better Way: Lessons from Former Urban Teachers, which was released in 2019. “In previous research, we found that teachers of color were subject to microaggressions in many educational workspaces. This project is an effort to dig deeper into the particular experiences of teachers of color in P-12 schools, using their own perspectives to shape counter-narratives of schooling,” said Dr. Rinke.

The research will utilize the Photovoice methodology in partnership with three groups of 20 educators to capture their experiences with visual findings. This methodology allows research participants to capture their everyday realities and visually provide valuable insights and data to the investigators.

“We selected this methodology and applied it to P-12 teachers because we valued the way it encouraged participants to capture their own realities, rather than an outside researcher doing so on their behalf – we found it to be an empowering approach,” said Dr. Rinke.

This research's motivation stems from the frequent experiences of educators challenged by a system that is resistant to change and adaptability, leading to increased turnover within the profession. Dr. Rinke, Dr. Wright Fields, and the researchers at Rutgers University - Newark aim to understand the disillusionment for educators of color. “This project is an effort to engage directly with teachers, understand what may be some sources of this disillusionment for teachers of color in particular, and engage educators in a collective effort to challenge those experiences,” said Dr. Rinke.
Race Pedagogies in Criminal Justice/Criminology: Influence of Faculty Habitus and Education on Racial Pedagogies in Criminal Justice Programs

Dr. Vanessa Lynn, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, alongside researchers at Idaho State University, will conduct research over the next three years on how faculty learned how to discuss race in Criminal Justice and Criminology courses. 

“Our study aims to examine how the educational experiences of faculty who teach in criminology and criminal justice programs shape the pedagogical practices related to race within their classes,” said Dr. Lynn.

Dr. Lynn, along with Dr. Deirdre Caputo-Levine of Idaho State University, will interview faculty across the nation and examine professors' syllabi in undergraduate-level courses. “Our study will allow us to investigate the relationship between graduate school experiences and the ways that faculty members construct race as an object of knowledge within courses in criminology and criminal justice programs,” said Dr. Lynn.

In her research, Dr. Lynn hopes to understand how academic departments educate on bias within the criminal justice system.

With three faculty members being awarded grants from the Spencer Education Research Foundation across two different studies, Dr. Rinke highlights the importance of their social justice and equity focus.

“It’s quite significant that three faculty members from within Social and Behavioral Sciences have been awarded grants from the Spencer Educational Research Foundation for projects focused on issues of social justice and equity,” said Dr. Rinke. “The long-standing efforts of our faculty to engage with the local community around topics of mutual importance are now being recognized externally and supported in their application and expansion.”

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