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Meet the Fall 2017 DDCE Travel Grant Recipients

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This fall, seven doctoral candidates will be presenting their research at conferences and professional meetings across the nation with a $250 travel grant provided by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. Established in fall 2017, the grant supports doctoral students in schools and colleges across the university who are studying areas that promote diversity and social justice.

We caught up with the grantees to learn more about their research and how they plan to make a positive difference for underserved populations here in the United States and across the globe.

Stacia Cedillo
Program: Cultural Studies in Education, College of Education
Travel Destination:  American Educational Studies Association Conference, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Image of Stacia Could you briefly describe your research?

I research the intersections of ideology, curriculum, race, STEM and teacher education.

Why are you passionate about this field of study? 

Before beginning my Ph.D., I taught middle school science. During my five years of teaching, I was always frustrated by the ways in which science was presented to students as disconnected from political, racial and economic forces. In reality, there are and have always been powerful political, racial and economic forces that continually shape our teaching, learning and “doing” of science. My research argues that, especially in this particularly tumultuous political moment, it is critical to re-orient our pre-service STEM teachers to both be aware of and grapple with these realities. Given the rapid rise of Silicon Valley and other STEM industries, I argue it is also important that pre-service STEM teachers be equipped to be critical of those in their own field who currently exert incredible influence over society and education policy while simultaneously disproportionately accumulating and possessing tremendous amounts of wealth.

What implications does your research have on our society? 

In my view, teacher education is one of the most powerful sites for transformative social change. And typically pre-service teachers are in this because they, too, want to fight for social justice. Unfortunately because K-12 curriculum tends to frame social justice very one-dimensionally, pre-service teachers often enter college with one-dimensional ideas about what it means to be an “effective” teacher. For example, while pre-service teachers might desire racial justice for their students and society, many lack specific understandings of anti-Blackness. My research and my work with pre-service teachers asks them to be more carefully attuned to specificities of oppression and how these specificities show up in our everyday educational policies, schooling practices, learning environments, as well as in our teacher-selves.

What are you future plans?

I hope to be a professor in teacher education and continue working with pre-service teachers.

Shanting Chen
Program: Human Development and Family Studies, College of Natural Sciences
Travel Destination: National Council on Family Relations Conference, Orlando, Florida


Image of Shanting Could you briefly describe your research?

I mainly study how the contextual factors (e.g., discrimination, poverty and immigration) influence adolescents’ psychological and academic wellbeing, and I examine which factors (e.g., parenting, school diversity and parental marital quality) help underprivileged children overcome their challenging situations and attain success.

Why are you passionate about this field of study?

Helping children has always been a passion of mine. I believe that children should have equal rights to succeed in their future. However, this is often not the case in our current society. Children who were born into families with high socioeconomic status always outperform those who were born into families of low socioeconomic status. Therefore, I want to find the factors that can promote the development of underprivileged children and help them overcome challenging situations.

 What implications does your research have on our society?

The implications of this line of research are very important as it can help policymakers better understand the problems that underprivileged children face, and this research can better inform the development of intervention programs.

What are you future plans?

After graduation, I plan to continue my line of research, and I also hope to develop intervention programs to put my research findings into practice. I plan to do a few years of post-doc to strengthen my research skills before applying for a faculty position at a university.


Name: Tianca Crocker
School: Steve Hicks School of Social Work
Travel Destination: 2017 Mozilla Festival in London, England


Image of student in black turtleneck sweaterCould you briefly describe your research?

My research focuses on digital inclusion policy strategies to support the financial stability and mobility of people living in poverty. My work is a branch of research in the study of digital inclusion, which refers to efforts to ensure that everyone has access to information and communication technologies (ICTs). Digital inclusion strategies are particularly needed for groups who are disproportionately excluded from the diffusion of ICTs in American society such as low-income earners, African Americans, Hispanics, people with disabilities, female-headed households and those living in rural communities.

Why are you passionate about this area of study? 

have long held an interest in anti-poverty interventions as a social worker with over a decade of experience working with and on behalf of low-income households. In those roles, I observed the short-term and generational impact of financial instability on the life course of vulnerable communities. The intersection of ICTs and poverty emerged during my doctoral studies when I served in several digital inclusion roles. I believe that digital equity is an opportunity to ensure that all people have an opportunity to ‘get ahead’ as our society evolves.

What implications does your research have on our society?

A digitally inclusive perspective is needed in policymaking to ensure that we fully account for the intended and unintended consequences of ICT policy decisions. More and more, our society is steeped in internet-based products and services.  This shift is also impacting our cultural practices. The findings from my research will have implications on ICT policymaking, digital inclusion implementation and the future of social work practice.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to thank the DDCE for the support and the opportunity to share my research with a wide audience of scholars, technologists and advocates from around the world.

Ashley Paige Jones
Program: Educational Leadership and Policy, College of Education
Travel Destination: Association for the Study of Higher Education Conference, Houston, Texas


Image of Ashley Could you briefly describe your research?

My dissertation focus is on the exploration of identity intersections of spirituality/religion and sexual orientation for LGBTQ undergraduate students. I am researching ways in which students make meaning of intersecting identities as well as their perceptions of how the campus environment influences their identity exploration.

Why are you passionate about this field of study?

My background is in student affairs administration and I believe that colleges and universities should be places where all students feel secure, safe and encouraged to explore multiple aspects of their identity.

What implications does your research have on our society?

LGBTQ students often face barriers in exploring their sexual orientation identity and, for some students, one source of tension can stem from religious or spiritual background/identity. My hope is to add to the knowledge base about a complex identity development process as well as best practices in supporting LGBTQ students in their spiritual/religious identity development. In regards to impact on society, that’s a big question, but I hope my work can, in some way, help students learn about and live out their authentic selves on campus and as they move forward.

What are you future plans?

I am not exactly sure where I will land following graduation, but I plan to be engaged in an administrative and/or faculty role in higher education.

Anything else you would like to add?

I very much appreciate this gift and look forward to representing UT Austin in a few weeks at ASHE [Association for the Study of Higher Education]—hook ‘em!

Jeongin Lee
Program: Ethnomusicology, Butler School of Music
Travel Destination: Society of Ethnomusicology Conference, Denver, Colorado


Image of student in white shirt trees behind herCould you briefly describe your research?

Ethnomusicology, according to the society, is the study of music in its cultural context. We approach music as a social process and aim to understand both the music itself and things (and people) behind the sound.

My primary research interest is gender politics in Korean music scene. My paper draws from my master’s thesis which focuses on the female body in the gugak (traditional Korean music) scene. This paper examines how their musical practices have empowered the female body, strengthened agency and shifted power dynamics.

Why are you passionate about this line of research?

My personal experience, as a gayageum (Korean string instrument) player, made me aware of the importance of socio-political issues in the music scene. The issue of gendered power relations in the music scene is not just limited to Korean performers, but to whole world music industry. I would like to highlight important yet underrepresented issues in the music scene, gender and power.

What implications does your research have on our society?

Some issues in the music scene (e.g., political voices of female performers) as well as society in general (e.g., voices of military sexual slavery victims) have been largely neglected, but they nevertheless need to be studied to promote justice and equality in the field and in society.

What are you future plans?

I wish to further my research in musical representation of cultural trauma during my Ph.D. study. After completing my doctoral program, I plan to continue my career as a researcher and an educator in the field of ethnomusicology.

Anything else you would like to add?

I am really grateful for receiving the DDCE graduate student travel award. It not only helps to soften the expenses of attending the conference, it also encourages me to think about the greater society and my sense of responsibility as a student and a scholar.

Xiaoqian Li
Program: Media Studies, Moody College of Communication
Travel Destination: TBD


Image of Ms. Lee Could you briefly describe your research?

My research focuses on digital inequality especially in disadvantaged and marginalized communities such as public housing.

What drives your passion for this area of research?

I am passionate about seeing how digital media technologies can empower people, especially those who are economically, digitally and socially marginalized, to meet their life and career goals.

What implications does your research have on our society?

My research has many potentials for policymaking. It shows what disadvantaged people really need in the digital inclusion programs and what organizations can offer to make the digital inclusion efforts more effective.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I really appreciate the grant opportunities offered by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, which help me explain my research to people who want to know more about disadvantaged groups and how we can empower them through digital inclusion.

Juanita Silva
Program: STEM Education, College of Education
Travel Destination: North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana.


image of juanita Could you briefly describe your research?

My research focuses on the role of mathematics instruction in fostering mathematical agency and learning among traditionally marginalized populations. I examine the use of children’s mathematical thinking in mathematical discussions with Latina/o emerging bilinguals who have learning disability labels.

Why are you passionate about this line of research?

I am passionate about the mathematical agency children develop because of my background as a minority Latina student in mathematics and previous experience as a middle school teacher in a public school serving culturally diverse populations. From this experience, I learned certain instructional pedagogies may be limiting the participation of marginalized children in developing agency and making sense of mathematics.

What implications does your research have on our society?

Implications for society include providing awareness to teachers and researchers about relationships between students’ agency and pedagogies in the areas of special education and mathematics. I hope to contribute to answering research questions that examine how pedagogies centered on children’s mathematical thinking help marginalized students exhibit ownership of their mathematical ideas and thus help them learn mathematics deeply.

What are your future plans?

I foresee working in academia as an assistant professor (tenure-track) in a mathematics education department with a plan to continue conducting equity research about culturally diverse populations.

More about the DDCE Travel Grant: T
he purpose of this grant is to promote the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion at UT Austin and across the nation. Through the support of graduate student activity in this vital area, this program will continue to grow campus capacity for inclusive excellence among faculty, students, staff, as well as the communities served by UT Austin. Visit this website for more details.