In trying to encapsulate my PhD. research project at UAF I have developed this working title for my dissertation – Designing adaptive schools for rural Northern communities: A comparative study of secondary school systems in circumpolar social-ecological systems. The academic linkages I make in my INDS Ph.D. proposal bring together coursework from Education, Rural Development, Biology, and Cross-Cultural Studies. The Resilience and Adaptation (RAP) program has allowed me to become a member of a broadly interdisciplinary group of scholars from which I can learn and to which I can contribute information, ideas, and methods related to northern sustainability.
My interest in education initiated from my work as a teacher in Teach for America in the Compton Unified School District of California. I then taught English Composition at Hacettpe University in Ankara, Turkey on a Fulbright Fellowship. It was through these initial years of my work as an educator that I determined that the impact I wanted to make would be in underserved communities where I could affect change to improve educational access for all.
My later years of experience as a Literacy and Leadership Consultant with the University of California Los Angeles led me to want to continue my formal education and my MA focused on Educational Administration. As a liaison between district and school site administration and teachers, my eyes were opened to the vital role leadership plays in student success and program implementation. Since then, an interest in educational policy, leadership, and administration has been at the forefront of my professional consciousness.
During my MFA program I served as an instructor for the UAF required academic writing sections. I also tutored weekly at RSS. Through this work I have witnessed the struggles that rural students encounter during the difficult life transitions between rural and urban settings. Some of the things I noticed among my students who were from rural areas reminded me of my previous work.
I see my research in rural schools as an ongoing process of returning what I have learned to communities. Personally, I see three potential career tracks. One would be to become an administrator in a school system that has significant urban to rural connectivity so I could foster the design and implementation of systems-based approaches for high schools. A second path could be as a university professor where I would entrain others into an interdisciplinary approach to education that stresses the importance of understanding the environmental context of rural schools, while maintaining grant-funded research projects. A potential third path is at the international level. For example through the United Nations (UNESCO) I could serve as an expert on circumpolar secondary education for programs such as Education for All (EFA). There are surely lessons for developing nations that could be shared from comparative circumpolar research.