Cohort 21 is a group of seasoned activists, educators, and researchers. Learn about this accomplished group of scholars starting their Ph.D. journeys together in 2021.
Brian Aguilar Avila is a proud two-time CUNY alumnus and works as an Administrative Specialist/PhD Program Administrator in the Biomedical Engineering Department at The City College of New York (CCNY). He holds a B.E. in Biomedical Engineering from CCNY and recently earned an M.S.Ed. in Higher Education Administration with a focus on Institutional Research from Baruch College. Originally from Argentina, he chose to pursue a career in Education since as a first-generation student, he has personally seen the benefits of social mobility of higher education, making him a staunch advocate for a college degree. Brian chose to continue his education at CUNY because being undocumented in the United States has presented him with many challenges, but the urban university has helped him break down barriers and overcome obstacles, helping him achieve “the American dream”. Brian hopes to thrive in the field, using institutional research for institution- and industry-wide reform, and his success can be attributed to his path thus far, the education CUNY provided him, and the opportunities that have come his way. Brian will be working closely alongside Associate Professor Ariana Mangual Figueroa throughout his doctoral studies, where he hopes to pursue a research topic involving undocumented students in higher education. He will hone-in his engineering and institutional research skills from his prior studies as he embarks on the urban education doctoral journey, where he will also be working Data Analysis research specialist at the CUNY Initiative on Immigration & Education (CUNY-IIE).
Michael Alston. Born and raised on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Michael currently serves New York City’s public school students as a Spanish teacher. A former New York City Teaching Fellow, Michael earned an M.Ed. in Spanish Adolescence Education (7-12) at City College of New York, CUNY. He also earned an M.A. in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Criminology and Deviance from The John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, and a B.S. in Criminal Justice and Spanish from the College of Saint Rose.
Believing that education is activism, he strives to improve the educational outcomes of marginalized youth through scholarship. Broadly, his areas of interest focus on the disciplinary experiences of students of color. He hopes to research how disciplinary practices and educators’ biases impact Black and Latino students’ educational outcomes.
Michael loves traveling to Latin America (Mexico and Puerto Rico are his favorites) and Spain. During his free time, he enjoys cooking, spending time with friends and family, watching television, and most recently, TikTok. He could not be more excited and ready to be a part of the efforts to improve and reimagine equitable education for K-12 students at the Graduate Center as a Doctoral Student.
Rosa Angela Calosso is a Queens native, whose family comes from the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. Her current scholarship examines the ways in which Black Dominican women use social media as a tool to cultivate community and educate in nontraditional ways. Social media platforms like Instagram Live, Twitter, and blog posts have cultivated educational spaces focusing on race and identity, eliminating financial barriers and geographical borders. In her professional realm, she has served as an academic consultant for first and second-year college students by providing counseling and facilitating professional development workshops. In her free time, Rosa enjoys spending time with her chosen family, brunches, art galleries, true-crime YouTube videos, and working on DIY projects.
Jillian Crosby is an enthusiastic educator who has nurtured, cultivated, and empowered children and families for over 15 years in the public and private education sector. Her mission is to highlight the importance of infant-toddler development, parental engagement, and teacher preparation. Her practical, hands-on experience includes early intervention specialist, teacher, and director. Currently, as an Adjunct Professor of Early Childhood Education specializing in infant/toddler care at Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY) she incorporates best practices and the realities of current education in each of her courses to prepare tomorrow’s teachers in meeting the needs of all students in their classrooms. As a researcher, Jillian is the third PI in a recent study investigating infant-toddler course content in NYS undergraduate early childhood education programs. In response to the research and in conjunction with New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute the research team co designed and facilitated the Infant-Toddler Collaborative Symposium and Community of Practice where NYS ECE undergraduate teacher educators increase their expertise around working with infants, toddlers, and families.
Vivian D’Andrade. The breadth of Vivian’s decade-long career in nonprofits, government, and higher education undergirds her commitment to research that reveals the cunning deceit of capitalism through the fair façade of the charitable industrial complex. Moreover, Vivian seeks a collective resistance and pursuit of equitable futures in education under the duress of philanthropy, which is driven by racial capitalism. While receiving a Master’s in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Utah, Vivian co-founded and secured funding for the Black Cultural Center— a center for research, professional development, and socio-cultural programming for faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students. As her career reflects, Vivian is academically and professionally drawn to a breadth of emergent projects including developing global professional development resources for educators and teaching herself. Vivian is currently an Assistant Director of Student Life in the City of New York (CUNY) school system, where she writes culturally responsive leadership and civic engagement curricula. Vivian draws inspiration for her work from her family— their laughter, persistence, care, and sense of adventure.
Noelle Mapes learns daily alongside funny, creative kids who like to ask big questions and think critically about power structures as a third-grade teacher at a public school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She was raised in Omaha, Nebraska, attended college outside of Philadelphia, and has lived in NYC for the past 7 years. Her interests include abolition in the classroom, baking quiches, reading all the new fiction, and the ways integration policies fail us and serve us. learns daily alongside funny, creative kids who like to ask big questions and think critically about power structures as a third-grade teacher at a public school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She was raised in Omaha, Nebraska, attended college outside of Philadelphia, and has lived in NYC for the past 7 years. Her interests include abolition in the classroom, baking quiches, reading all the new fiction, and the ways integration policies fail us and serve us.
Harmony D. Osei works as an Associate Director in the Baruch College Honors Program. She is a Core Member of CUNY’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Incubator and active in the Coalition to Undo Racism at Baruch. She’s also the proud recipient of the 2021 Baruch Excellence Award for Diversity Leadership. Harmony earned a degree in Human Development & Family Relations from SUNY Plattsburgh and a Masters in Higher Educational & Student Personnel Administration from NYU. She studied race and culture in the Dominican Republic and Brazil, and has conducted research on the educational outcomes of foster youth. Harmony is a first-generation student, foster care alumnus, and Afro-Latina – all identities that have impacted her journey in life. She’s committed to empowering marginalized populations and enacting agency, especially within Black and Latinx communities. She’s facilitated workshops on cultural resistance, hair discrimination, and racial trauma and healing. She always remembers that “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for; we are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama
Veronica Paredes. I am a proud Latina who arrived in the states at the age of 10 from a tiny South American country in the middle of the world. My immigrant experience has provided me with unique insight into the lives of marginalized youth, shaped my liberatory teaching philosophy, and solidified my passion for becoming a changemaker and culture-shifter.
I have worked as an inclusive high school educator for the past 5 years during which I actively sought out opportunities to dismantle exclusionary barriers, and challenge ableist or racist dominant discourses and ways of knowing. This led me to design and implement an inclusion initiative, conduct classroom action research projects, and lead teacher workshops, along with other community engagement work.
I am a firm believer in foregrounding student voices and community-based knowledge in research. As a scholar, I am interested in decolonizing research, and the impacts that neoliberal ideologies play in educational settings. I seek to study everyday acts of student resistance, and I am excited to stretch beyond dominant research discourses, engage with nontraditional forms of data, and translate research into social action.
Lacretia Pendergrass. My name is CREE and I am an educator who is extremely passionate about serving young people and creating liberating educational spaces promoting student agency, centering their voices. The “revolutionary” act of challenging “how to do school” by curating curricula centering social justice tenets, cultural practices and narratives of BIPOC, while simultaneously de-centering Eurocentric oppressive pedagogy and practices- is what drives me. I work through the lens and knowledge it is their birthright to THRIVE and to receive an educational experience rooted in radical LOVE that stimulates the JOY of learning. I’m ready to take another approach in this work to uproot an education system built on oppression and violence towards young people, especially Black, Indigenous and brown students of the Global Majority.
My Guiding Precept:
“Only when we dare to reimagine education outside of the racialized oppressive context it is built and sustained in, do we get to envision a system that liberates rather than enslaves and educates rather than incarcerates.” -C Pendergrass
A few of my favorite things besides a smooth writing pen and laughing:
COLOR(s): a deep rich purple, though orange and yellow are strong contenders.
TV SHOW(s): A Different World, Martin, The Office, Parks and Rec
FOOD(s): Anything pasta and french fries
SNACK: CHIPS! (Sour Cream and Onion FTW)
MUSIC: Listening to music on Vinyl, it’s something about the crackling that does it for me
SPORT: Basketball (I’m only a Knicks fan by default..they make it SO hard!)
SLOGAN: “Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free”-Shoutout to Fannie Lou Hamer.
William Shelton is a life-long educator and community activist. In addition to teaching middle school, William is a professor at Saint Joseph’s University Department of Teacher Education. He is also a doctoral student at The Graduate Center at CUNY, where he is pursuing a PhD in Urban Education. William’sresearch focuses on improving literacy in Black and Brown communities, focusing on young men of color, and creating policies that disrupt systematic oppression.
Eleanor (Ellie) Williamson has been an educator for over 22 years. She has taught various math and science courses in secondary and collegiate settings. Her career began in Jamaica, where she completed undergraduate work at the University of the West Indies and post-graduate work at the University of Technology. When she migrated to New York she continued teaching, developing creative and rigorous science curricula. She is excited to deepen her learning and embark on this journey through the Urban Education Ph.D. program.