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Asian American Experiences Matter: Centering Asian American Leadership Experiences in Teacher Education

In honor of AANHPI Heritage Month, Asian American leaders in educator preparation programs (EPPS) Rachel Endo and Nicholas D. Hartlep, share their collective experiences that caused their interest in collaborating on researching and writing a critical inquiry paper that explores the experiences of current and former Asian American leaders in EPPs in the United States. Endo is dean of the School of Education at the University of Washington, Tacoma and Hartlep is chair of the Education Studies Department at Berea College.

Our paper seeks to answer the following questions:

  • What are the intersecting social identity markers within the current pool of Asian American leaders?
  • How do Asian/American EPP leaders describe their trajectory into leadership positions?  

This study is the first of its kind that seeks to fill a critical void in the literature by centering the experiences and perspectives of Asian/American Educator Preparation Program (EPP) leaders that will inform policy and practice, including how to recruit, retain, support, and advance the next generation of EPP leadership. We hope to publish our report, tentatively titled: Toward an AsianCrit Exploration of the Experiences of Current and Former Asian/American Leaders in Educator Preparation Programs, sometime this fall. In this short blog post, we share a few details regarding our EPP leadership experiences.

What caused you to be interested in leadership in higher education?

Hartlep: Although I didn’t know it at the time, my time as an undergraduate student at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, was a formative time for me developing my aspirations to becoming a formal higher education leader. While at WSU I served on the student senate, and I also had the good fortune of being the building steward for a wellness center that was being built on the campus. I worked with the athletic director and others to develop the floor plan and other details of the multi-million-dollar complex. These formative experiences allowed me to see higher education leaders in action and made me realize that I wanted to be a professor and campus leader after I taught in the K-12 schools. My interest in higher education continued to grow as I transitioned into graduate school and completed my doctoral studies; and that is why I consciously pursued leadership roles within teacher education programs as an assistant professor on the tenure-track. To date, I have been a department chair at two colleges/universities. To me, leadership is a great opportunity to serve others by listening, supporting, and encouraging those around me to accomplish their dreams. Moreover, being mindful of the values and vision of the institution that you work at as a leader is important. Berea College is a remarkable institution in my experience and which is why I feel comfortable serving as its department chair of Education Studies.

Endo: I am an introverted and private person; thus, I would say I came to this work as a reluctant leader. One of my most significant role models, James Freeman, who led the Office of Multicultural Affairs at the University of Nebraska at Omaha at the time, encouraged me to go into leadership. Mr. Freeman was a key mentor and role model to students of color, taking us under his wing. I took his advice, starting my leadership career in higher education in student affairs, serving in different leadership roles over the years. I have been an EPP leader as a director, department chair, and now dean for over 15 years. To be frank, it is brutally taxing to be a racialized body, especially an Asian/Americanist and Asian/American woman, in the nearly all-White world of teacher education. However, I think back to the power of representation and how I’d like to give back to BIPOC faculty, staff, and students as a leader as Mr. Freeman did for me and thousands of other students.

As an Asian/American EPP leader, who are mentors/femtors of yours?

Hartlep: Valerie Ooka Pang, Thandeka K. Chapman, Fred Bonner, René Antrop-González, Terrell Strayhorn

Endo: Ali Modarres from UW Tacoma and Sheila Stamm (retired) are my main go-to people.

What leadership books have you read that you recommend to others who have aspirations to be a leader within an EPP?

Hartlep: Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing your Humanity by  Kim Scott, Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders by Alice Eagly and Linda Carli, and The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters by Priya Parker.

Endo: A Third University is Possible by la paperson; Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne marcee brown.

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