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Meet Our Students

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.

Maria del Mar Aponte Rodriguez

Maria del Mar Aponte RodriguezAreas of Study: Transnational feminism, Critical Race Theory, and Caribbean experiences in mainland US.

Biography: Maria del Mar Aponte Rodriguez (she/her/hers) is the Campus Outreach Manager for Syracuse Abroad and a doctoral student in Cultural Foundations of Education. In her position, Maria del Mar strives to create and implement a comprehensive strategy for engaging Syracuse University students in Syracuse Abroad programs and initiatives, with special attention devoted to currently underrepresented groups of students. 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 Puerto Rican women from the island in mainland US higher education institutions.

Languages: Fluent in English and Spanish; intermediate in French and Arabic; beginner in Italian.

Chelsea Bouldin

Chelsea BouldinAreas of Study: Black Feminist Theory, Critical Race Studies, Sociology of Education, and Critical Whiteness Studies.

Biography: Chelsea Bouldin (she/her/hers) is a Master’s student in Cultural Foundations of Education. In May 2020, she received her B.A. in International Studies with a minor in Social Justice and Human Rights from George Mason University. At George Mason, she worked as a teaching assistant for an upper level Social Justice and Human Rights course in her program. Continuing to support underrepresented students, Chelsea now serves as a graduate assistant for Syracuse University’s chapter of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program and is secretary of the Black Graduate Student Alliance. Her current research interests include Black feminist theory/thought, critical race studies, and socialization in higher education. The fundamental question she asks is how the lack of Afrocentric canonical work influences Black people’s ability to understand their own identities and relative subjugation.

Nadaya A. Brantley

Nadaya A BrantleyAreas 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.

Rosa Angela Calosso

Rosa Angela CalossoAreas of Study: Race-ethnicity-class-gender, transnational Black feminism, community building, race/ethnic identity formation and belonging, and digital spaces.

Biography: Rosa Angela Calosso (she/her/hers) is a doctoral student in Cultural Foundations of Education and is pursuing a C.A.S. in Women’s and Gender Studies. Her current scholarship utilizes a transnational Black feminist framework explore the ways Black Dominican women are teaching and contributing to their communities in nontraditional ways. Rosa’s research focuses on ways that Black Dominican women utilize social media as a tool to access and teach their local community. In the professional realm, she has served as an academic consultant for first and second-year college students by providing one-on-one counseling and facilitating professional and academic programs for students. As a recipient of the 100 Hispanic Women Inc. Graduate Fellowship, Rosa focused on a research project titled “The Need to Look Back: Dominican Community Building and Activism in New York City,” which focused on Dominican migrants and Dominican-American community builders and activists from 1965 to the present. In her free time, Rosa enjoys spending time with family and close friends, exploring new brunch sites and art galleries.

Cassaundra Caudillo

Cassaundra Caudillo Areas of Study: Retention rates and success of first-generation, students of color in colleges, specifically predominantly white institutions.

Biography: Cassaundra Caudillo (she/her) is master’s 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. She received her B.A. from Humboldt State University in Journalism.

Jersey Cosantino

Jersey CosantinoAreas of Study: Trans Studies, Mad Studies, Contemplative Studies, and dialogic pedagogy.

Biography: Jersey Cosantino (they/them/theirs) is a former K-12 educator and doctoral student in Cultural Foundations of Education. They are also pursuing 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 seeks to center the voices and experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming students with intellectual, developmental, and psychiatric disabilities in K-12 academic settings. Jersey identifies as trans, non-binary, queer, and mad and is white with class, citizenship, and able-bodied privilege. They are also a co-facilitator for Syracuse University’s Intergroup Dialogue Program and a Teaching Assistant for EDU 310: The American School. Additionally, 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).

Michaela Quinn Rice

Michaela Quinn RiceAreas of Study: Qualitative methods, Africana Studies, cultural anthropology, history (specifically African, Middle Eastern, and European), Gender and Women’s Studies, philosophy of education, Christian Theology, and Biblical Studies.

Biography: Michaela (she/her/hers) is a graduate student in Cultural Foundations of Education and received her B.A. degree in Cultural Anthropology, specializing in Africana Studies with a minor in History, from SUNY Plattsburgh. While at Plattsburgh she completed her undergraduate qualitative research on pregnancy and midwifery as well as being part of a research team examining immigration at the Canadian border. Her interests include education, social justice training, and the writing of curriculum and policy in the context of rural communities.

D. Romo

D. RomoDissertation 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. As a Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellow alumni and member of Imagining America (IA), they have served on the IA National Advisory Board and as PAGE Co-Director. 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. Romo is a research consultant for the Leading and Learning Initiative research team that aims to address institutional and campus culture challenges/barriers that constraint community engagement, public, and activist scholarship among graduate students participating in an engagement program.

Ionah M. Elaine Scully

Ionah Elaine ScullyAreas of Study: Indigenous and decolonizing methodologies, storytelling in research and education, Indigenous epistemologies and land pedagogy, Indigenous feminist and Two Spirit (Indige-queer) studies, publicly engaged scholarship, and liberatory/social justice education.

Biography: Ionah Scully (they/them) is recipient of the University Fellowship, Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) fellowship, and the LGBT Resource Center Social Justice Award. Ionah graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a Bachelor’s in Labor History and Writing with an emphasis on Native Studies. For over a decade, Ionah has been a professional dancer and organizer for racial and economic justice. They are the co-founder of the Resilient Indigenous Action Collective and work on recognition efforts with the Michel First Nation.  Ionah’s research involves public scholarship, storytelling, Indigenous methodologies, land pedagogy, and Two Spirit critiques. Ionah’s work has been accepted as keynote for the New York Six Spectrum LGBT Conference. They currently co-direct the PAGE Fellowship and are a member of the Intergroup Dialogue team. Ionah holds Certificates of Advanced Study in Women’s and Gender Studies (Syracuse University) and Conflict Resolution (Maxwell School). They are Cree-Métis and Irish of the Michel First Nation.

Shiilā Seok Wun Au Yong

Shiilā Seok Wun Au YongAreas 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.