AACTE through the Eyes of New Holmes Scholars
The AACTE Holmes Scholars Program recently welcomed two new members: University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) doctoral students Stephanie Jones-Fosu and Deondra Gladney. The two Scholars share their experience as first-time AACTE Annual Meeting and Holmes Preconference attendees.
The Holmes Scholar Program is designed to provide equitable opportunities to emerging scholars from underserved populations. By having the distinct opportunity to be one of first Holmes Scholars from UNCC, an entire level of educational greatness has been literally dropped in my lap. During the 2019 AACTE Annual Meeting in Louisville KY, the Holmes Program created an exclusive preconference event where Holmes students at various levels of education came together to learn and grow from Scholars around the country.
The preconference experience provided professional development opportunities from recent graduates in tenured track positions like LeNessa Coe-Clark from University of South Carolina (Aiken). During a session with Coe-Clark and one of her colleagues, we learned critical milestones that will help us stand apart as we prepare for the job market. A poster session by Holmes Scholars around the country even affirmed the greatness that exists from my very own university. One poster in particular from Holmes Scholars from the University of Central Florida cited articles from professors from UNCC, specifically, Bettie Butler, Tehia Glass, Chance Lewis, and Stephen Hancock, respectively. Being professionally developed by these individuals and seeing their work cited in a poster presentation about teacher preparation was an amazing and humbling experience.
Breakout sessions with experienced scholars in the field, like Jennifer Hodge, gave us an in inside look on the dos and don’ts during the interview process. The information Hodge shared would rarely if at all be taught in a classroom setting, yet the notes I took during her session could easily fill a book. And finally, an inspirational keynote presentation by Marvin Lynn from Portland State University, who is also an amazing scholar and Critical Race Theorist, was the icing on the cake. His inspirational words and his passion to see us succeed permeated from his speech and left us feeling empowered and excited. And such was the end of a preconference.
The preconference was definitely the precursor of what was an awesome conference experience. During the AACTE conference, I was even more embraced by established scholars in the field of education such as Wanda Blanchett, the outgoing president of AACTE, and Lynn Gangone, the AACTE president and CEO, as well as many others throughout the conference. The sessions were also a rewarding experience as they created a visual representation of what research looks like in practice. As an emerging scholar, I found myself frequently reflecting on how my research will look when applied in the real world. I also experienced sessions that affirmed the void that my research and scholarship will fill. Had I not been there as a Holmes scholar, I doubt my experience would have been the same.
While public education as a whole in America faces many challenges, there are so many success stories that never see the lights of the media due to being obscured by the large and pervasive shadow of single stereotypical stories of those in my African American community. This is why initiatives like the Holmes Scholar Program are so important.
This program and others like it, highlight realities of success that exist within minority communities beyond the stereotypes touted in the media. For instance, for me one of the most powerful moments I experienced at the 2019 AACTE Annual Meeting was being able to attend the luncheon for Minority Serving Institutions. At this luncheon, a number of educational leaders from historically black universities and institutions (HBCUs) and other key minority stakeholders in the field shared current initiatives and measures they are taking at their perspective institutions to increase enrollment of culturally and linguistically diverse populations and the number of minority professors and educational leaders.
Attending the conference also provided a network of professionals dedicated to increasing the presence of minorities in higher education in a real way. While I am in the nascent stages of my own burgeoning career in academia, these opportunities light a path in the darkness of the hopelessness and alienation the single stories oftentimes depict for minorities in our educational system. As the story of my own education career has unfolded from being an instructor to being accepted to the UNCC doctoral program in special education, I hope to add my own story of success someday as an African American female tenure-track professor to the rich tapestry of so many who have achieved excellence in our community. Initiatives like the Holmes Scholar program, help scholars like me shift the narrative from a single one of hopelessness to a rich story of possibility unfettered by the limits of others.