Constructing Educational Resiliencies: My Education Capstone & Attending AERA's Conference

April 15, 2024

This semester, I embarked on a journey to complete my Education Research Capstone Project, a requirement for the new Educational Sciences major on campus. You have to two take two classes to fulfill this requirement: a core field research class and an elective. This semester, I took EDUC 150: Advanced Seminar in Education – Teachers of Color in the United States. Initially, I took this class as a research elective. However, it has been approved as one of the core requirements for the capstone project. Taught by Dr. Travis J. Bristol, this course taught me more about all the modern research on teachers of color in the United States from various perspectives. From teacher recruitment to higher education to professional development, I gained a variety of knowledge on different research methodologies to understand the central question: Why is there a massive shortage of teachers of color in the United States?

One critical component of this class is that students may have the opportunity to attend the AERA Annual Meeting. The AERA, or American Education Research Association, is one of the most significant research associations in the nation and handles the professional development of academic and professional education researchers. From education policy and child/student development to teaching/learning and more, this association helps researchers conduct work to enhance the education experience of all students by influencing the best practices of education practitioners.

This year, I had the opportunity to attend the conference as an undergraduate student alongside my five classmates: Anthony, Erica, Heaven, Josh, and Stephanie. We were guided by Dr. Bristol and two fantastic graduate students, Aukeem and Ja’Nya, throughout the conference. Going into this space, I was very nervous and slightly intimidated. Many of the conference’s participants were working researchers, professionals, and graduate students with immense research experience. I came in with little to no experience besides researching for class assignments and papers.

However, when we attended our first session, I began to feel that nervousness and intimidation lift off my shoulders. I got to watch someone who I’ve read frequently in my Ethnic Studies classes speak LIVE and IN-PERSON. This annual meeting’s theme was “Dismantling Racial Injustice and Constructing Educational Possibilities: A Call To Action,” thus, many of the sessions involved conversations about the intersections of race, ethnicity, and education. This theme could not have been highlighted better than by the opening address by Civic Rights Attorney Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term “intersectionality.” Hearing Dr. Crenshaw speak, I was in awe and mesmerized to hear her speak out her research live.

Throughout the conference, I got to attend a lot of sessions based on some of the previous research I’ve read in my EDUC 150 class and others. One session I attended, “Enacting and Sustaining Equity-Centered Work in Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Organizational, Federal, and Systemic Levers of Change,” spoke on research I had always been interested in exploring further and was facilitated by one of the new Berkeley School of Education professors, Dr. Gina Ann Garcia. I gained so much knowledge from all of the sessions I attended and walked away with many more authors to read about and use for all my classes.

Besides the sessions, we also had evening networking receptions with various graduate schools, such as the University of Colorado Denver and Harvard Graduate School of Education. And Berkeley’s School of Education hosted its own reception. Through these, I was able to really break out of my shell and connect with fantastic faculty and graduate students in and outside of Berkeley. I got to learn through their research experiences and have heartful conversations on navigating academia as a queer person of color.

One graduate student in particular introduced me to Critical Mixed Race Studies, a field within Ethnic Studies I had not yet been exposed to in-depth. Research about mixed-raced/multiracial people like me is something that is not commonly talked about. Thus, I was so excited to hear that this area of research needed to be explored further.

As I walk away from this space, I take away some of the most influential knowledge, conversations, and connections I have ever received during my undergraduate education at Berkeley. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this conference to learn, grow, and become empowered to make a lasting change in education. As I prepare to write my proposals for my Ethnic Studies senior thesis, I am left wondering: how can I further contribute to the knowledge I’ve gained, or rather, create my own?