Meet students in the Cultural Foundations of Education and Disability Studies master’s, certificate, and doctoral programs! Our students have wide and varied academic interests such as the history of education, intergroup dialogue, critical gender and race studies, student retention, and community engagement. Students profiled here are open to being contacted by prospective students to talk about their experiences in the program.
Areas of Study: Transnational Feminism and International student experiences in mainland US.
Biography: Maria del Mar Aponte Rodriguez (she/her/hers) is a doctoral student in Cultural Foundations of Education. She is originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico and has over 8 years of experience as an international educator, specifically the areas of education abroad, international students, and ESL teaching. As an undergraduate, Maria del Mar studied abroad in Cairo, Egypt and studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo. She also completed her master’s degrees in International and Comparative Politics, and English as Second Language at Wright State University. Her current research focuses on the experiences of Saudi Arabian women in mainland US higher education institutions.
Languages: Fluent in English and Spanish, intermediate in French and Arabic, and beginner in Italian.
Areas of Study: Black Feminist (endarkened) epistemologies, Black girl/women literacies and self-making, Afrofuturism, and decolonial methodologies
Biography: Chelsea Bouldin (she/her/hers) is a doctoral fellow in the Cultural Foundations of Education program pursuing a Certificate of Advanced Study in Women’s and Gender Studies. Her work and embodied ethos co-creates worlds that embrace expansive processes of knowing, expression, and being. “How do us Black women, girls, and femmes know ourselves with/in proximity to literature?” is her most persistent query. As an interdisciplinary scholar, her work and writing style embraces a multiplicity of non-conventional practices and angles. She is the current lead for the Graduate Student BIPOC Alliance (GSBA) and is a facilitator for the Breedlove Readers program– a YA bookclub for Black girls in central New York. Her current research interests include Black feminist (endarkened) epistemologies, Black woman literacies and self-making, Afrofuturism, and decolonial methodologies. Flavorful food, Black sci-fi, boundless writing, impromptu exploration, and laughing endlessly fill her dreamiest days.
Areas of Study: Race & ethnicity, higher education, disability, & educational equity.
Biography: Nadaya A. Brantley (she/they) is graduate of Syracuse University (’04 UG and ’06 MSW), a doctoral student in Cultural Foundations of Education, and currently the Internship Placement Coordinator in the David B. Falk College, School of Social Work Field Education Office. Her practice experience includes work with adolescents, developmental disabilities, mental health, and incarcerated populations. As a systems thinker, she believes that, in the words of bell hooks, “there must exist a paradigm, a practical model for social change that includes an understanding of ways to transform consciousness that are linked to efforts to transform structures.” Nadaya’s research interests include exploring intersectional identities and educational equity in higher education through a critical race theory lens.
Areas of Study: Black girlhood, Black Feminist Thought, Critical Race Theory, Critical Feminist Theory, AfroFuturism, Sociology of Education, Pop Culture, Black Cinema, Decolonial epistemologies and methods and Critical Whiteness Studies
Biography: Calissa A. Brown (she/her/hers) is a current doctoral student in Cultural Foundations of Education. Calissa is currently a teaching assistant for EDU 310 in the education program. Before attending Syracuse University she was an adjunct professor at SUNY Buffalo State teaching UNC 100 courses. Calissa current research interest centers around the dehumanization and criminalization of black girls in educational settings and where can black girls create places of healing and love in these types of spaces. In addition to how can media positively reinforce or negatively reinforce tropes of black girls. Calissa hold’s a master’s of science degree of education from University of Pennsylvania (F’21) and a bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College (S’20)
Areas of Study: History of education, disability studies.
Biography: Caitlin Cafiero (she/they) is a queer, disabled CFE master’s student whose research interests include the intersection of history, disability studies, and education (ask them about polio sometime!); professional training of special educational professionals; and the use of theater to build disability community. She is passionate about early childhood education, representation in the arts, and outer space.
Areas of Study: Trans Studies, Mad Studies, Contemplative Studies, and dialogic pedagogy.
Biography: Jersey Cosantino (they/them), a former K-12 educator, is a doctoral student in Cultural Foundations of Education at Syracuse University, completing Certificates of Advanced Study in women’s and gender studies and disability studies. Jersey’s scholarship resides at the intersections of Mad studies and trans studies and, utilizing disability and transformative justice frameworks, their research centers the experiences and subjectivities of Mad, neurodivergent, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals. Through oral history and autoethnography, Jersey seeks to construct Mad trans archives that create pathways and portals to Mad trans futures, imaginaries, and elsewheres. Using Mad trans methodologies that challenge sanism, ableism, and transmisia, Jersey’s research confronts medical model discourses and the pathologizing gaze of the psychiatric industrial complex.
Jersey identifies as Mad, neurodivergent, queer, trans, and non-binary and is white with class, education, and citizenship privilege. They are also a co-facilitator for SU’s Intergroup Dialogue Program and a co-editor of the International Mad Studies Journal. Jersey holds a Master’s Degree in high school English education (‘14) and a graduate certificate in mindfulness studies (‘19) from Lesley University, and a bachelor’s degree in English and studio art from Wellesley College (‘09). Additionally, for the past four years, Jersey has engaged in peer support work via an abolitionist framework as a volunteer call operator with the Trans Lifeline.
Areas of Study: Embodied epistemologies, Black feminisms in education, healing justice and dialogic pedagogy
Biography: Easton Davis is a doctoral student in the Cultural Foundations of Education program at Syracuse University and is pursuing certificates of advanced study in Women’s and Gender Studies and Disability Studies. By centering the well-being of Black bodies, Easton’s work aims to create and explore how educators of color engage the body when teaching issues or race and racism through a healing justice framework. Easton’s dissertation topic seeks to build from his most recent project, Homebase BIPOC Dialogues, a seven-week co-curricular dialogue series sponsored by the Intergroup Dialogue Program at SU, that invited undergraduate and graduate students of color to dialogue and explore elements of creative and cultural resistance rooted in love through poetry, art-making and performance. Easton holds a master’s degree in CFE from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Randolph-Macon College.
Areas of Study: Retention rates and success of first-generation, students of color in colleges, specifically predominantly white institutions.
Biography: Cassaundra Guzman (she/her) is a doctoral student in Cultural Foundations of Education. Throughout her college career she has done work as a peer mentor, editor, and facilitator. Cassaundra currently works in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Office of Financial Literacy, and the Office of Student Living. Alongside her jobs, she holds positions within the Graduate Student Organization and the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students. Guzman holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Humboldt State University and a Masters of Science degree in Cultural Foundations of Education from Syracuse University.
Areas of Study: Ecofeminist, peace, and transformative pedagogies; informal and out-of-school spaces of learning; creative and decolonial qualitative forms of inquiry; rural educational spaces; and museums and memorials as ongoing sites of critical peace education
Biography: Amanda Kingston (she/her/hers) is a Ph.D. student in Cultural Foundations of Education. She received her B.A. in English Literature from the University of Missouri, and she received her M.A. in Social Foundations of Education from Oklahoma State University where she also worked as a teaching and research assistant. Amanda has worked in education for 10 years, with experience across public, private, and community-based schools and programs as a mentor, teacher, and administrator. Her research interests include ecofeminist, peace, and transformative pedagogies; informal and out-of-school spaces of learning; creative and decolonial qualitative forms of inquiry; rural educational spaces, and museums and memorials as ongoing sites of critical peace education. She has peer-reviewed articles published with the Journal of Peace Education and Vitae Scholasticae. Additionally, she has peer-reviewed book chapters in-progress with focus on memorials as sites of peace education and walking as a method of ecofeminist inquiry.
Areas of Study: Black (a)sexualities, embodiment, and trans studies, and dialogic pedagogy and social justice education.
Biography: Atiya McGhee (they/them/theirs) is a doctoral student in Cultural Foundations of Education and is pursuing a Certificate of Advanced Study in Women’s and Gender Studies. Atiya currently serves as the teaching assistant for EDU 470 in the Selected Studies Education program. Their current research interests include Black (a)sexualities, embodiment, and trans studies. The fundamental question Atiya interrogates is how various systems of oppression and dominance influence discourse around sexuality, particularly asexuality, within the Black community. Prior to moving to Syracuse, Atiya worked in Residential Life at various higher education institutions for five years. Atiya holds a master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration (‘16) from the University of Vermont, and a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Literature from Wheaton College in Massachusetts (‘14). Outside of academia, Atiya spends a lot of time reading fanfiction, listening to Kpop, and watching anime.
Areas of Study: Decolonizing Pedagogy and Praxis, Transnational Feminisms, Politics of Muslim Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Discourses, and Oral History.
Biography: Fatemeh Moghaddam (she, her, hers) is a doctoral candidate in Cultural Foundations of Education and received a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Women’s and Gender Studies at Syracuse University. Fatemeh’s work is at the intersection of decolonial transnational, Black, indigenous, and Muslim feminist praxis and pedagogies. Her current work centers around a critique of discourses of Muslim women’s leadership, empowerment and agency in the context of global and settler-colonial liberalism. Using ethnography and oral history, her current research theorizes and reconceptualizes women’s leadership, practice of power and homosocial community building and charts an indigenous genealogy of feminist leadership in Iran. During the past fifteen years, Fatemeh has been trained in the ontological approach to leadership in academic institutions in Iran, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United States. Fatemeh is also trained in Persian traditional singing and in her free time enjoys doing yoga, singing, and listening to music.
Languages: Farsi, English, and French.
Areas of Study: Disability studies, theoretical underpinnings and impacts of constructions of disability in public spaces
Biography: William Myhill (he/him/his) has completed a CAS in Disability Studies and is a Ph.D. student in Cultural Foundations of Education. He serves as Syracuse University’s Director of Disability Access and ADA Coordinator in the Office of Diversity & Inclusion. He identifies as having unearned white, heteronormative cis-male, U.S.-born, middle class, walking, speaking, seeing, hearing, neuro-normative privileges. William further identifies with mental health, neurological, and recovering addiction impairments. He co-chairs SU’s Disability Access & Inclusion Council and the Information & Communication Technology Accessibility Council. He designed and teaches part-time (IST 564 Accessible Library & Information Services) in the iSchool. William’s research interests focus on the limiting ways disability is constructed and understood by society, and how these understandings might be more nuancedly understood so as to better prepare educators and public servants for creating a world that effectually includes and engages disabled persons. William earned a B.A. and M.Ed. from the University of Texas-Austin, and a J.D. from the University of Iowa.
Areas of Study: Issues in dis/ability, universal design, cripping social justice and inclusion
Biography: Jordan Nyirenda (he/him) is a graduate student in Cultural Foundations of Education and is a Fulbright recipient. He has over 17 years of teaching experience in inclusion and special education. As an undergraduate, Jordan studied special education at the University of Zambia and did his master’s in Clinical Neuropsychology following a Norwegian (NOMA) award. His dissertation was “adherence to antiretroviral therapy and performance on the neuropsychology test battery”. Jordan also studied for a master’s in Inclusion and special educational needs at Queen’s University Belfast (UK) through the Chevening Scholarship. His dissertation focused on teachers’ understanding of children’s rights and classroom practices. His interest includes disability studies, social justice in special education, higher education, and curriculum and policy in special education
Dissertation Title: Wrestling with Public Engagement: Histories of Settler Colonialism and Ongoing Expansion of the University
Areas of Study: Space & place, publicly engaged scholarship, history of education, community engagement, intergroup dialogue, youth participatory action research, critical race theory, and disability justice.
Biography: D. Romo (they/them) is a first-generation Xicanx doctoral candidate in Cultural Foundations of Education with a concentration in history of education. Their background and scholarly interest in space and place, history of education, publicly engaged scholarship, and community organizing, drives their commitment to the communities that they collaborate with ongoing reflection on their social responsibility to the land. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles they worked on publicly engaged scholarship initiatives in their neighborhood through the Pico Neighborhood Association and Pico Youth and Family Center to address issues of access to affordable housing and overdevelopment, unequal educational resources, and culturally relevant/sustaining pedagogies. It was within academic and community spaces that their interest in social justice education and activist-scholar identity emerged, and they have continued to do this work in Syracuse, NY.
Romo has worked with the high school/university partnership as a co-facilitator at a local alternative high school in the Syracuse City School District (Cultural Voices & Lit Arts). Cultural Voices is an English course that provides youth a space to analyze their individual experience as related to structural systems of power and privilege and Lit Arts is an after-school program bridging art-based social justice education and intergroup dialogue to promote youth activism and civic engagement. Romo is affiliated with Imagining America (IA), a consortium that brings together scholars, artists, designers, humanists, and organizers to strengthen and promote public scholarship, cultural organizing, and campus change. As an active member they have served in IA’s graduate network, Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE), as a Co-Director, IA’s National Advisory Board, and research consultant for IA’s Leading and Learning Initiative. As part of the research team, Romo co-published a research report that addresses the institutional and campus culture challenges/barriers that constraint community engagement, public, and activist scholarship among engaged graduate students and amplifies how engaged graduate students are navigating these barriers and shifting institutional culture.
Areas of Study: Public scholarship, storytelling, Indigenous methodologies, land pedagogy, and Two Spirit epistemology and critique.
Biography: Ionah Scully (Cree-Métis and Irish, Michel First Nation) is a doctoral candidate focusing on Two Spirit/Indigiqueer epistemology and storytelling pedagogy to offer insights into decolonizing education practices. Scully’s dissertation, Nehiyaw Two Spirit Creation Stories: Re-mapping Home, Desire, and Indigenous Education is a collaborative research project employing Indigenous methodologies to focus on reclaiming Indigenous pedagogies and Two Spirit knowledges and futures. A member of and instructor/facilitator with Syracuse University’s (SU) Intergroup Dialogue Program, Scully developed a land-based dialogue curriculum to foster relationships between human and nonhuman kin for more justice-oriented futures.
A publicly engaged, activist-scholar, Scully is active in Michel First Nation supporting education and nation-rebuilding efforts. Scully’s work has been accepted for keynote and presentation at international academic conferences as well as in scholarly journals. Of note, the recipient of numerous scholarly grants and awards, Scully recently received a grant to fund N8v Trails & Tales, a start-up, virtual land-based outdoor recreation and education initiative. An educator, Scully holds a B.A. in Labor/Two Spirit History and Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, a Certificate of Advanced Study (C.A.S.) from SU’s Maxwell School in Conflict Resolution, and a C.A.S. from SU’s College of Arts & Sciences in Women’s and Gender Studies.
Areas of Study: Black feminist thought, autobiography, dialogic pedagogy, & disability studies.
Biography: Shiilā Seok Wun Au Yong (they/them/she/hers) is a Ph.D. fellow in Cultural Foundations of Education as well as a filmmaker, educator and underwater cinematographer. Their/her research interests include disability studies, critical pedagogy, critical race theory, black feminist thought, postcolonial studies, and storytelling. Born and raised in Malaysia as a third generation Chinese descent, their/her filmmaking interest lies in telling compelling human stories by combining both fiction and non-fiction elements, exploring identities, LGBTQ, family dynamics and sense of belongings. Their/her films have been screened in film festivals in Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar and the United States. Shiilā embarked on their/her filmmaking journey doing underwater videography and photography in 2006. Being exposed to different social and environmental issues eventually led them/her to see the power of storytelling and realized that film is her purpose and service. They/she has conducted various community filmmaking workshops as well as teaching acting and filmmaking at a school for underprivileged children in Malaysia. They/She is now putting their/her focus on their/her scholarship with the intention of using personal narrative and reflexivity as a tool for healing and soft activism. They/she holds a MFA in Film, also at Syracuse University under Fulbright scholarship. Shiilā believes in the importance of embracing vulnerability and intersectional organizing.
Areas of Study: Cultural Anthropology, Urban Education, Race and Education, Critical Race Theory, Amplifying Student Voice
Biography: Etije Mehdori Walker (she/her/hers) is a doctoral student in Cultural Foundations of Education program. Etije currently serves as the teaching assistant for EDU 470 in the Selected Studies Education program. She holds a Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology from Skidmore College ’19 and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education ’21. Her current research interest are the effectiveness of charter schools for Black students in urban areas and the amplification of student voice within in the K-12 sector. She is committed to finding ways to make school better for all students of color.