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RISE Center plans to bring equitable education research into practice

A new School of Education center from Colorado State University is here to help communities work on issues of racial inequality in education.

The Center, called the Race and Intersectional Studies for Educational Equity Center, or RISE, focuses on making the relevant research done by SOE scholars accessible and usable by the community.

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“RISE is essentially facilitating critical dialogues between and across scholars and communities of education, to practice to cultivate dynamic … ideas, (and) to improve education for intersectional racial justice,” said OiYan Poon, director of RISE.

RISE scholars and affiliates look at systems of racial inequality at all levels of education. The Center unites their work in one focused, accessible area. Those with questions or wanting to find solutions can easily reach out for resources and potentially collaborate with researchers, RISE scholars said.

For example, RISE already has plans for a professional development program to train Colorado STEM educators on racially inclusive pedagogy for the subjects, Poon said. 

RISE researchers approach issues through an intersectional lens which recognizes racism is often intertwined with other forms of oppression such as sexism and homophobia. Professor in education D-L Stewart said the Center is focusing on the entire K-12 pathway while higher education is also important to strengthening the linkages between educational stages at school and other learning spaces. 

“Education happens everywhere, not just in these things called ‘schools,’” Stewart said. “So there’s community partnerships and whatnot that are going to be very important aspects.”

The Center as a whole will focus on three areas: national, state and CSU-level concerns.

It gives more visibility, it gives more opportunity and it provides … the work that’s necessary to really look at education through the lenses it needs to be looked through.” —Antonette Aragon, associate professor in education

At CSU, the Center will be collaborating with other colleges and offices to ensure equitable treatment on campus, Poon said. They are also open to ideas on how to include students studying in the education field.

The Center is funded by a seed grant from the Office of the Vice President for Research and investments from the College of Health and Human Sciences and the SOE, said Poon.

Not many universities have a center modeled like RISE, but it’s an important one, said Antonette Aragon, associate professor in education.

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“It gives more visibility, it gives more opportunity and it provides … the work that’s necessary to really look at education through the lenses it needs to be looked through,” Aragon said.

While the Center is quite new, the motivation behind it is not.

Years ago, after a restructuring in the SOE, the College made “cluster hires” with the intent of hiring several faculty whose work focused on diversity, inclusion and equity, Aragon said. Those new faculty pushed their numbers to a critical mass, allowing the Center to gain traction.

The combined factors of the right mix of faculty, commitment from the University and sociopolitical climate of the country not only allowed but necessitated the rise of the Center, said Vincent Basile, assistant professor of STEM education.

Basile, as well as several other affiliates, mentioned how RISE fits with a land-grant university like CSU and how its impact makes us “think about the ways in which we interact with local communities.”

In a speech at the Center’s launch, Director of the SOE Susan Faircloth said the essential land-grant mission is doing research with the purpose of impacting “the people, the land and the communities of this area.”

“We have a unique and important mission and opportunity to be able to address why land-grant institutions were established by doing work that cuts across multiple different areas of diversity, work that really has potential to create more equitable and inclusive learning environments and communities,” Faircloth said. “And it’s not a choice for those of us who are in RISE. … It’s an imperative.”

Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.

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