Morgridge College of Education second year Higher Education PhD student Liliana Diaz-Solodukhin has been awarded the Newman Civic Fellowship from Campus Compact, a national coalition of 1,000+ colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education. The fellowship, named for Campus Compact founder Frank Newman, recognizes and supports community-committed students who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country. The fellowship is a one-year experience for students in which fellows have access to in-person and virtual learning opportunities, networking events, and mentoring. Diaz-Solodukhin was nominated by University of Denver Chancellor, Rebecca Chopp.

According to Dr. Cecilia Orphan, professor of Higher Education at Morgridge, this award is one of the highest honors a student can receive in the civic engagement movement.

“It has been those few but critical individuals that helped me achieve my educational and professional goals,” said Diaz-Solodukhin.  “Today, I am privileged with the skillset necessary to continue on this journey and recognize the individuals who took time to mentor and guide me.”

Diaz-Solodukhin has experiential expertise about the nexus between college access and civic engagement as an activist, researcher, and student. For Diaz-Solodukhin, a doctorate is an expanded platform to create social change. She is a collaborative leader who draws on her network of policymakers, community, nonprofit and postsecondary leaders to effect change. In educating herself about civic engagement scholarship, Diaz-Solodukhin was dismayed to discover that much of the research about Latinx individuals paints a deficit-based picture about these communities that fails to capture the civic contributions they make that does not match her own experience of her communities. As a result, Diaz-Solodukhin is planning to examine the civic behaviors of Latinx communities in her dissertation so that she can educate the civic engagement field about the important contributions of these individuals. She is excited to continue this work as a way to say thank you to those who made her goals a reality.

To Dr. Judy Marquez Kiyama, bringing cultural background to work is second nature. Her new book, co-authored with her long-time collaborator Dr. Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, “Funds of Knowledge in Higher Education,” explores and makes a case for honoring students’ cultural experiences and resources as strengths.

Kiyama explains, “This is something of a K-12 construct. We know that within individual cultures, knowledge is shared and passed on and in a K-12 environment it is part of the instruction.”

For example, if you live within a Latinx community and your neighbor knows how to work on cars and your mom knows how to cook, you trade cultural and practical knowledge to build a knowledge base. Children from these communities arrive to school with knowledge of their culture and it becomes a vital part of their education. But what about applying the same construct to higher education research and teaching?

Refining and building on the concept in a sophisticated and multidisciplinary way, Kiyama’s book uses a funds of knowledge approach and connects it to other key conceptual frameworks in education to examine issues related to the access and transition to college, college persistence and success, and pedagogies in higher education.

Research on funds of knowledge has become a standard reference to signal a sociocultural orientation in education that seeks to build strategically on the experiences, resources, and knowledge of families and children, especially those from low-income communities of color. Challenging existing deficit thinking in the field, the book applies this concept to and maps future work on funds of knowledge in higher education.

Kiyama’s research is organized in three interconnected areas: the role of parents and families; equity and power in educational research; and underserved groups as collective networks of change. As an Associate Professor of Higher Education, she is in a unique position to put her research into practice in her classroom.

“I see the classroom environment as an opportunity to converge research, teaching, and service and draw on frameworks like funds of knowledge used in my research, to construct inclusive pedagogical spaces,” she said. “As such, the goals of learning process are created alongside students, with home, cultural, and experiential knowledge steering the direction of our scholarship.”

Kiyama’s book is published by Routledge Press and available in print and digital editions.


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