Tag Archive | "School of Education and Human Development"

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Learning About Trust at the U: First Star Academy Supports Foster Care Youth


By Michael Malone
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (August 4, 2017)—Trust comes painstakingly slow for many foster care youth, those who spend their childhoods tossed from family to family as they tumble through “the system,” often wondering where “home” will be tomorrow.

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School of Law Professor Kele Stewart and counselors enjoy some leisure time with First Star students (not pictured).

Yet for the 20 rising 9th-graders in foster care that comprise the first cohort of the First Star Academy of the University of Miami, “home” has been the University’s Coral Gables campus for five weeks this summer. And trust—together with math, language arts, science and life-skills—has been the focus of their learning as part of this national model that provides a pathway to college for foster care youth.

Bringing such an ambitious program that works with at-risk youth to a college campus requires both visionary leadership and committed partners. The effort has been fueled by the passion of School of Law Professor Kele Stewart and the planning team of Professor Laura Kohn-Wood and Associate Professor Wendy Morrison-Cavendish, both in the School of Education and Human Development (SOEHD).

“Everyone in our program has a trauma history,” Stewart said. “We talked with case managers to determine who would be a good fit. As long as the student fit the criteria and wanted to be here, we were determined to give everyone an opportunity.”

The teens spent their mornings strengthening academics; afternoons focused on life skills, with weekly field trip to see the murals in Wynwood, the Frost Science Museum, a dance performance, and doing a beach clean-up. They ate in the Hecht Dining Hall and slept in the residential colleges.

The same group—with the potential to add 10 more students—returns for the next three summers. During the school year, UM staff from the School of Education and the School of Law will coordinate monthly Saturday meetings with the adolescents and their parents or caregivers while also providing educational advocacy support. The program is funded in this first phase by The Children’s Trust and by Our Kids of Miami Dade/Monroe.

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Program director Maria Pia de Castro counsels one of the First Star Academy students.

The dramatic change of scenery, and the commitment and support of the UM team has yielded fast progress for many of the participants.

“You already see the wheels turning,” commented Stewart just a few weeks into the program. “They’re being exposed to a lot of different things, and the youth are very engaged, asking a lot of questions. Their questions are very empathetic and insightful. It’s been nice to see how they’re responding,”

“Meeting the students is huge. Now you have a face, a personality, a history to build around,” explained Morrison-Cavendish, whose research and expertise focuses on special education and juvenile justice education. “There is so much variability in their needs. Being able to meet with students and talk with them to explain that we’re going to be building this together…and to reinforce that this is a four-year program, that we are committing to them—that’s something they generally don’t hear.”

Kohn-Wood and Morrison-Cavendish have been instrumental in developing the design and research protocol for the program. The program promotes positive behaviors that will enable the teens to graduate high school, and enter and succeed in college.

“We use our practice and research to apply to a community in need,” said Kohn-Wood. “Foster kids are one of the most vulnerable groups. It’s heartbreaking that there are federal dollars available to go to many youth, but they’re not able to take advantage of it.”

Federal and some state dollars are available for foster youth to attend college, but lacking the skills, the study habits, the support, they inevitably drop out. First Star seeks to lay a foundation for success.

Deborah Perez, a First Star counselor and UM alumna who is in the second year of her Ph.D. program at the U, understands the challenges the youth would face in navigating the transition to college without an oar of support.

A foster child herself, Perez was raised by her Cuban grandfather—she honors him with a tattoo of his youthful face on her left forearm. She grew up an overachiever, propelled by a drive to excel in one of Miami’s most under-served and impoverished neighborhoods. Perez served as a youth rep on several agency boards, including the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami. Former UM President Donna Shalala sat on the same board and took special notice of this incredible young leader.

“You’re going to come to UM,” Shalala told her. Offered such an incredible opportunity, Perez chose to attend.

“The first weeks at college were a nightmare, I cried myself to sleep every night—no one to talk to, no one to advise me. I was a first-generation college kid,” Perez remembered.

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From left, counselors Stephan Ambrose and Alkean Smith, director Maria Pia De Castro, and teacher Deborah Perez talk with Professor Kele Stewart.

The First Star Academy is composed of a cadre of UM alumni and students who serve as teachers, advisors, and support staff. Program director Maria Pia De Castro, a UM alumna, adjunct, and former Miami-Dade County Public School teacher, is the only full-time staff.

“The kids see the unity and cohesiveness of our team—and it’s really good for them to see. It’s been a very positive experience,” said Pia De Castro, adding “we’ve had to prove ourselves from the beginning, to show that we’re really here for them, that it’s not just a summer thing.”

Stephan Ambrose, a rising junior studying public health at UM, Ryan Severdija, a rising junior studying biology, and Alkean Smith, a student at Miami Dade College North, are the three male counselors.

Ambrose says, “The kids test us, wondering if we’re here for the money [stipend paid to counselors], to exploit them. ‘No, we’re here to help your self-awareness,’ we tell them.”

“It’s been a rollercoaster—wonderful some days, some days a tug of war, like we pull them and they pull us. We’ve got through to a couple of them, the others—we don’t ignore them, but we give them their space,” says Smith, noting that the discussion groups where personal stories are shared have had a big impact on him. “The other day one of the kids shared that his mom passed, and mine did too. I feel that.”

Nicole Swanson, a SOEHD alum, is one of the science teachers, and Ambar Alfaro, a School of Communication alumna, teaches language arts.

The summer residential program ended on Friday. The first family session is scheduled for early September to reconvene with the students after they’ve started their high school classes, and to meet with foster parents and caretakers to continue to build family bonds.

“This summer will be our baseline to decide where we really want to go, what these kids need and want, and to develop the plan for the partnerships that we want to develop,” says Morrison-Cavendish.

“We’re doing First Star for a reason, and this program has great potential. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to work on a project with people who are really committed to these students for the right reasons. This is really about the kids,” she adds.

 

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Can Dance Improve Your Mental Abilities?

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Can Dance Improve Your Mental Abilities?


A University of Miami study suggests that both aerobic and more sophisticated dancing can enhance mental capacity.

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

DanceCORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 23, 2017) — A study at the School of Education and Human Development showed mental improvements after 10 weeks of dance classes. The findings suggest that exercise might improve mental function by learning new movements, as well as improving aerobic capacity.

The study was conducted at UM’s Laboratory of Neuromuscular Research and Active Aging, in collaboration with Arthur Murray Dance Studio. Sean Nicolle, a graduate of UM’s Doctorate in Exercise Physiology program, led the study and used the findings and analysis as his doctoral thesis.

Forty volunteers, from 40 to 80 years old, participated in 10 weeks of either ballroom or aerobic dance classes. Subjects were tested for mental function, both on a computer and using a movement test in a physical environment at the beginning and at the end of the study.

Why compare aerobic to ballroom dance? The ballroom dance group was focused on learning new steps (movement patterns), while members of the aerobic dance group were busy trying to keep their heart rate up (aerobic capacity).

The researchers found that both groups improved mental functioning. Michela Laureti, of Arthur Murray Ballroom Studio, explained that the mental benefits of ballroom dance come from the process of learning new steps, as well as working with partners. Aerobic dance is thought to improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain, and the aerobic dancers might also have had to pay attention to quickly changing movements.

Nicolle explained that the goal wasn’t just to see what kind of dance improves mental function, but to understand how the brain and mind work.

He believes that “the brain adapts in specific ways to what is demanded of it. It doesn’t have to be dance. Everything with a mental demand will make the brain adapt. The mental benefits of dance classes are probably different than those of rock climbing.

“We would expect dance classes to improve mental functions related to rhythm and coordination, while learning something like rock climbing would probably challenge the brain to improve mental functions related to anticipation, planning, and problem solving,” he said.

The study is titled “Impact Of Dance Complexity on Computer-Based And Movement-Based Cognitive Performance.”

 

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Celebrate Educator Liz Rothlein’s Life on February 4


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Liz Rothlein

Liz Rothlein

Educator Liz Rothlein, who taught at the School of Education and Human Development for a quarter- century, including 13 years as associate dean, passed away on January 6 in her home in Warne, North Carolina, where she lived after retirement and volunteered for Meals on Wheels. She was 80.

Schooled in Ohio, Rothlein, who earned a doctoral degree in education from Ball State University, moved to Miami in 1976, authoring or co-authoring approximately 30 teacher education books for children, numerous journal articles, and presenting at many local, state, and national conferences.

Some of her noted credits and recognitions include Teacher of the Year, official listing as an outstanding Teacher of America, and teaching plaudits from the Bahamas and Oxford, England, summer exchange student visitation programs.

She is survived by her husband of more than 40 years, Ash Rothlein; two daughters, Terri Wild and Kimberly Brandt from a previous marriage to Floren Christman; two step-sons, Jay and Steve Rothlein; four grandchildren, Amanda, Jason, Tyler, and Sophie; sister Linda Foley; and brothers Jim and John Brandt.

A celebration of her life will be held in the Hurricane 100 Room at the University of Miami Watsco Center on Saturday, February 4 between 3 and 6 p.m. For more information, call Marilyn DeNarvaez at 305-284-3711. For directions check the website www6.miami.edu/hurricane100/ .

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Professor Named President-Elect of International TESOL

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Professor Named President-Elect of International TESOL


Luciana de Oliveira will become the first Latina to head the 51-year-old Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages International Association

By Bárbara Gutiérrez
UM News

luciana-de-oliviera

Luciana de Oliviera

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (November 21, 2016)—University of Miami Associate Professor Luciana C. de Oliveira, who chairs the Department of Teaching and Learning in the School of Education and Human Development, is president-elect of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Association, an organization committed to advancing the quality of English-language teaching worldwide. Her three-year leadership term begins in March 2017, and includes a year as president and a year as past president.

Born in Brazil, de Oliveira will be the first Latina to serve as president of the 51-year-old association, which has as its main goal advancing the language teaching profession through professional development, research, standards, and advocacy.

“I’m so happy and humbled,” said de Oliveira. “This is pretty historic for TESOL since I am not only the first Latina who will become president, but also the youngest woman and the first South American. It’s just amazing to have this recognition from the members. I look forward to serving TESOL and its members in this new role.”

She joined TESOL in 2003 and served in various positions, most recently as a member of the board of directors for the past three years. As an immigrant who came to the United States in 1997, de Oliveira appreciates TESOL’s recognition of her as a Latina leader and hopes the organization will continue to focus on immigrant populations in the U.S. and support its members worldwide.

Isaac Prilleltensky, dean of the School of Education and Human Development, called de Oliveira’s election “a tremendous honor.”

“We are extremely proud of her work and of the international recognition of her scholarship. Her work is having a global impact and the TESOL results demonstrate her international standing in her field,” said Prilleltensky. “Her work touches on many of our University initiatives, such as educational innovation, culture of belonging, and hemispheric reach. Her presidency will enhance the visibility of the School of Education and Human Development and our work in the promotion of educational, psychological, and physical well-being in multicultural communities.”

De Oliveira joined the UM faculty in 2015 after teaching at Columbia and Purdue universities. Her research focuses on issues related to teaching English-language learners at the K-12 level, including the role of language in learning the content areas, teacher education, advocacy and social justice, and non-native English-speaking teachers in TESOL.

She has authored, co-authored, edited, or co-edited 17 books, with several others under contract, and has a total of over 200 publications, including refereed journal articles and book chapters. She has more than 20 years of teaching experience in the field of TESOL. Her many awards and honors include being the 2012 recipient of the Early Career Award by the Bilingual Education Research special interest group of AERA.

For more information about the TESOL International Organization visit www.tesol.org.

 

 

 

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Professor Wins Premier Psychology Award

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Professor Wins Premier Psychology Award


Blaine Fowers

Blaine Fowers

Professor Honored by American Psychological Foundation 

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (August, 29, 2016)—Blaine Fowers, a professor of educational and psychological studies in the School of Education and Human Development, has been awarded the Joseph B. Gittler Award from the American Psychological Foundation for his contributions to the philosophical foundations of psychology.

The annual award, which includes a $7,500 honorarium, honors theoretical psychologists who question the basic assumptions most psychologists take for granted. Among them: whether it is possible to study human psychology in a value-neutral way, whether human psychology can be explained only in terms of causal forces, or whether humans have agency or choice. They also ponder whether humans are fundamentally separate individuals or initially social creatures who only later become individuals.

“The Gittler award is an honor to receive because it is the premier award given to recognize work on the philosophical foundations of psychology in North America,” said Fowers. “The importance of the award was indicated by its first two awardees, Jerome Bruner and Daniel Kahneman (who also won a Nobel Prize), two giants in psychology.”

The Gittler award was established through a bequest from Joseph Gittler, Ph.D., who wished to recognize psychologists who are making and will continue to make scholarly contributions to the philosophical foundations of psychological knowledge.

Isaac Prilleltensky, dean of the School of Education and Human Development, said Fowers’ work helps to illuminate fundamental assumptions underlying psychological thinking.

“His contributions reveal the culturally embedded nature of much psychological thinking and practice. If you want to be a better psychologist, or a better consumer of psychological theories and services, you have to understand the philosophical foundations of the discipline,” Prilleltensky said. “Fowers has helped psychologists and the public at large to understand unquestioned assumptions about the profession, dealing mainly with biases towards individualism.”

Fowers joined the faculty in 1990 and served as the director of training for the doctoral program in counseling psychology from 1997 to 2005 and as department chair from 2005 to 2009. In his role as a teacher, Fowers provides instruction in character development and flourishing, research methods, the evolution of human social life, and preparation for academic careers.

He has an active research team of doctoral and undergraduate research assistants who are engaged in the interdisciplinary study of the virtues of kindness, fairness, and friendship. The author of two books, The Evolution of EthicsVirtue and Psychology and Beyond the Myth of Marital Happiness, Fowers also coauthored Re-envisioning Psychology and the forthcoming Human Frailty and Flourishing. His scholarly interests center on the contributions of Aristotle’s ethics to a richer understanding of psychological theory, research, and practice.

Fowers received a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He served as an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico before coming to Miami.

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