September 2020 Newsletter

As we move into the new virtual semester, we seek to create spaces that continue to build our community and advance our scholarship. Check out Urban Ed’s September 2020 newsletter for all of the program’s happenings. Subscribe here for these updates to be delivered to your inbox twice per semester. You can also find top stories cross-posted here on the student-created Urban Ed website on the CUNY Academic Commons.

Have ideas for what you’d like to see in this space in future issues?  Use this Google form to contribute!

April 2020 Newsletter: Physically Distant, Socially Close Edition

There’s no CUNY red carpet, but if there were one, Urban Ed students would strut, sparkle and shine (walking 6 feet apart). This month, the shout outs section of the Urban Ed newsletter is bursting with the stellar accomplishments of our community members.

We’ve also crowdsourced a special section “Teaching and Learning Through a Pandemic.” Urban ed folks share songs to wash their hands to, tips for virtual pedagogy and scholarship, and the media that’s been getting them through what many are calling “physical” rather than “social” distancing. Stay safe out there!

Access the newsletter here.

Have ideas for what you’d like to see in this space? Use this Google form to contribute! This was technically last newsletter of the semester, but if folks write in with more to share, there will be a special May edition.

February 2020 Newsletter: Here comes the Spring (semester)!

Here comes the Spring semester! (Maybe not the sun just yet.) While you wait for the weather to catch up with the academic calendar, check out this month’s Urban Ed newsletter!

This month, we spotlight some of the authors among us whose books hit shelves this season. We also share upcoming events, and shout out some of the stellar accomplishments of our community members.

Have ideas for what you’d like to see in future issues? Use this Google form to contribute!

Urban Ed Bookworms

Winter is the perfect season for curling up with a good book. Luckily GC Urban ed students, faculty, and alum have plenty on offer. Check out these new titles, coming to a (digital) library or bookstore near you!

En Comunidad: Lessons for Centering the Voices and Experiences of Bilingual Latinx Students

By Carla España and Luz Yadira Herrera

Lessons and units that bring bilingual Latinx students’ perspectives to the center of classrooms.

Pre-order through Heinemann

Dr. Carla España and Dr. Luz Yadira Herrera, both C10, defended their dissertations within a few days of each other in April 2017. During a meal to celebrate the culmination of their seven years of graduate studies, their advisor and mentor, Dr. Ofelia García encouraged them to write together.

“That summer, we thought of the students we taught in our teacher preparation programs, our experiences teaching in NYC public schools, and our advocacy with and for bilingual Latinx children,” Carla said.

“It was a beautiful day, so we had to be outside.” Luz said. “I didn’t have childcare and brought Remi with me, and of course, Carla went full-on teacher mode with him, while we also discussed our ideas for the themes of the book and worked on an outline.” (see below)

That Fall, Carla and Luz crafted chapter one together in the 9th floor skylight cafeteria of the Graduate Center, checking in periodically with Ofelia, who wrote the forward to their book, over FaceTime. The following year they worked on the proposal with their editor, and during most of 2019, they met every Friday to share their progress towards their writing goals.

After nearly three years of work, their book, En Comunidad is nearly in hand. The text shares classroom-ready lessons that amplify the varied stories and identities of Latinx children, creating liberating learning spaces and experiences.

Carla said about the process, “Working as coauthors, friends, and Grad Center alum on this project helped us not only make progress on our book, but also nurture our friendship and reimagine our role in the field of bilingual education.”

Classroom Talk for Social Change: Critical Conversations in English Language Arts

By Melissa Schieble, Amy Vetter and Kahdeidra Monét Martin 

A guide for engaging students in noticing and discussing harmful discourses about race, gender, and other identities.

Pre-order through Teacher’s College Press

Kahdeidra Monét Martin, C16, and Dr. Melissa Schieble, Urban Education faculty member, wrote this book with co-author Amy Vetter to support teachers in having critical conversations in English Language Arts class.

Talking about key issues of race, gender, and other identities with students can be challenging for teachers. This book takes readers through a framework that includes understanding power, taking a stance as a critical learner, getting to know critical pedagogies, engaging in critical talk moves, and exploring issues of vulnerability. It features in-depth classroom examples and offers specific ways that teachers can begin and sustain these important conversations.

Children Framing Childhoods: Working-Class Kids’ Visions of Care 

By Wendy Luttrell

An alternative angle of vision on working class children’s lives—animated by their own photographs, videos, and perspectives over time.

Now available, Bristol University Press
Also see the companion website!

As Dr. Wendy Luttrell, Urban Education Executive Officer put it, she has “lots to report on” this month. Her book, Children Framing Childhoods, challenges those who think about educational research, practice, and policy “to see differently and, thus, set our sights on a better future.” The book describes how a racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse community of young people in Worcester, MA used cameras at different ages (10, 12, 16 and 18) to capture and value the centrality of care in their lives, homes, and classrooms, challenging dominant deficit-based narratives on these populations.

In addition to the book, which hit shelves after Thanksgiving, Luttrell has also launched her book’s accompanying website. Look out for a podcast interview on the Graduate Center website and a Spring book launch and a “salon” hosted by the Women and Gender Studies program.

Reimagining American Education to Serve All Our Children: Why Should We Educate in a Democracy?

By Deborah Greenblatt and Nicholas M. Michelli with Lisa Auslander, Stacy Campo, Sharon J. Hardy, Tina Jacobowitz, and Audra M. Watson.

Examines and re-evaluates the history and purpose of public education in the US

Now available, Routledge

In their new book, Urban Education Emeritus faculty Dr. Nick Michelli, along with Urban Education alumni Drs. Deborah Greenblatt, Lisa Auslander, Stacey Campo, Sharon J. Hardy and Audra M. Watson remind us that education is about more than “workforce development” — it is about providing students of current and future generations with a fulfilling and holistic learning experience. The authors define knowledge from a critical perspective, positioning education as a gateway to endless possibilities. This volume includes activities and strategies for developing assessment techniques which further help to illustrate concepts and discuss the relationship between education and policy.

CS for What? Diverse Visions of Computer Science Education in Practice

By Rafi Santo, Sara Vogel, and Dixie Ching

A framework for using communities’ core values and impacts to shape computer science education pedagogy and policy.

Download digital copy via CS for All

Along with co-authors Dr. Rafi Santo and Dr. Dixie Ching, Urban Ed doctoral candidate, Sara Vogel, C15, launched a paper during December’s Computer Science Education Week to help educators and policy-makers answer the question “CS for What?” It encourages communities to discuss and deliberate around their core values, and to use those values to drive design and implementation of efforts.

November 2019 Newsletter

The air is cool and crisp. You’ve got your tea or coffee brewing, a stack of papers to grade (and to write), and an inbox filled with unread messages. It must be November!

Take a break with GC Urban Ed’s quarterly newsletter! Click here.

This month, the spotlight is on Urban Ed students who use multimedia – podcasting, children’s books, TV journalism and beyond – to share knowledge and build movements. We’ll also update you on events and happenings in the lounge, shout-out some of our community’s stellar accomplishments, and tell you about some new jams and books to keep you going through mid-term.

Have ideas for what you’d like to see in this space in future issues? Write to Sara Vogel at svogel@gradcenter.cuny.edu or use this Google form to contribute!

Urban Ed’s Multimedia Makers

Building knowledge and movements across platforms

Knowledge takes many forms. It can be sung, spoken, embodied, drawn, captured on video, in still images, and beyond. Nobody understands this better than Urban Ed students. Through their work across platforms, communities, disciplines, and media, they push against traditional ways of doing and presenting scholarship, broadening their audiences, and building movements in education and beyond. See below to learn about just a few of Urban Ed’s multimedia makers.

Atasi Das, C15, and LaToya Strong, C12, have hit the one year mark on their podcast, Abolition Science “an anti-colonial project that envisions a science and math delinked from racial capitalism, imperialism, and oppression – a science and math that serves all people.” Season one explores the history and meanings of both abolition and science, and season two takes a deep dive into science in Palestine. By interviewing scholars, activists, students, educators, and artists, and sharing their favorite music, they aim to imagine and shape liberatory alternative math and science futures. Atasi says: “Thanks to all our Urban Ed followers for all the love, support, shares, and listens this year!” Available on Apple podcasts, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts!

While you’re at it, check out Color Theory Pod, another podcast produced by Urban ed students José Alfredo Menjivar, C12, Robert Robinson, C15, and Makeba Lavan of the English department. It’s all about being black, brown and queer in academia, and in life.

Speaking of podcasts, José Luis Jiménez, C17 (above, third from left), and Kym Vanderbilt, C17, were both interviewed for the Ethical Schools show this semester. They shared their expertise as school leaders and teacher educators. Jiménez, principal of A.C.E. Academy for Scholars, PS 290, in Queens shared a story about coming out to his students, telling the hosts of his episode, “you don’t check a part of yourself at the door,” and describing how he he encourages teachers to design culturally-responsive project-based curricula. Vanderbilt, a Lecturer and Professional Development Liaison in the Early Childhood/Childhood Department at CUNY/Lehman College, traced the complicated history of early childhood education, and described how she supports teacher candidates long after graduation.

When she’s not in class or writing papers, Elena Romero, C19 (above, top row, second from left), is a TV correspondent for the new CUNY TV show, LATINAS, a monthly magazine show focusing on the lives and achievements of influential Latinas. In the premiere September episode, Romero debunked myths about Latinas and diabetes. In October, she featured Susan Jaramillo, the creator of the beloved award-winning bilingual sing-along book and Emmy-nominated animated television series Canticos (airs on Nick Jr.) This month learn the story and impact of La Borinqueña, the Boricua superhero created by graphic novelist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez. Be on the lookout for future segments on the experiences of Latina Muslims and PhD Latinas. Watch online or view the show on Ch. 75 (Spectrum and Optimum), Ch. 77 (RCN) and Ch. 30 (Verizon FIOS).

While attending the Urban Ed program, alumna Whitney Hollins discovered that there were very few books for children dealing with the topic of incarceration, and those that were out there “were either dark and gloomy, or unrealistic,” as she put it. So she wrote one. Her book, Anna’s Test, seeks to lessen the stigma surrounding incarceration by providing caregivers, educators, and others with a tool to spark conscious conversation. She developed it as a project in a course taught by Dr. Wendy Luttrell. Dr. Luttrell and Hollins’ classmates encouraged her to publish it. “Once I found a directly impacted artist to illustrate the book, I knew everything was coming together,” Hollins said. She self-published in June. “So far it has received a wonderful response, I am looking forward to writing more books about Anna in the future.”

September 2019 Newsletter

The lounge and hearth at 4201/2 are once again filled with laughter, big hugs, and critical conversation — it must be a new semester! As you skim your syllabi, fire up Zotero, and reconnect with your classmates, check out Urban Ed’s September 2019 newsletter for all of the program’s happenings. We are testing out a new format, your feedback is welcome! These updates will be delivered to our students, alumni, and faculty members’ inboxes twice per semester.  To subscribe, click here.

You can also find top stories cross-posted here, at the student-created Urban Ed website on the CUNY Academic Commons.

September 2019: From the Hearth

Happy Fall, 2019. I trust you all had a healthy, restorative and creative summer and are ready for the new rhythms and routines of the semester. I love writing “from the hearth” as a message of gratitude to people who help nourish and sustain our community. This year’s message starts with a word of thanks to a committee of students and faculty who planned a full day Orientation Program for Cohort 19, which students Gladys Aponte, Leylah Bighach and Karen Zaino coordinated and facilitated. The incoming students were invited to make a collage depicting their personal journeys to graduate school. Their images and introductions were powerful, personal, and inspiring. We agreed that these images should be kept in a “time capsule” ready to be re-visited upon graduation.

In that same spirit, I chose an image from David Connor’s art exhibition in the Hearth to express how I want the UE program to be experienced: as a bright, bold, textured set of learning activities, stitched together with a vision of social justice.

I also want to thank Sara Vogel for experimenting with a new format of the newsletter as a means to keep us better connected and informed about program events and the lives of faculty, alumni and students.   Her idea of having a page for “shout outs” is an invitation to recognize and celebrate each other’s accomplishments as well as our affection and appreciation for the people who support us.  Thanks to Wendy Barrales for starting the ball rolling and setting just the right tone!

Finally, the summer was filled with loss and mourning: for Toni Morrison; the victims of the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Midland and Odessa, Texas; for families separated at the border; and for the marking of the anniversary of 1919’s “Red Summer” (given this name because of the bloodshed caused by some of the worst white-on-black violence in U.S. history). I also chose Connor’s image because it reminded me of the comfort of quilts and the history of quilt making as a collective endeavor to honor the dead and bring solace to the living. This season, “from the hearth” is also “from the heart” with hopes for a season of healing justice.

– Wendy Luttrell, Executive Officer

Getting to know Dr. Ariana Mangual Figueroa

Dr. Ariana Mangual Figueroa
Dr. Ariana Mangual Figueroa

New school year, new Associate Professor! Dr. Ariana Mangual Figueroa is joining the GC’s Urban Ed and Latin American, Iberian and Latino Cultures programs from Rutgers University. A researcher who focuses on language use, learning, and immigration in Latinx communities living in the United States, Mangual Figueroa is also an educator, activist, and mom. Sara Vogel, cohort 15, caught up with her over video chat during a busy week settling into her new office and moving with her family from one to another part of Brooklyn. They talked about what students can expect from her as a teacher and mentor, and what keeps her grounded. Click here for the full interview!

What is important for the Urban Ed community to know about you?

I’d love folks to know that I’m deeply informed by and committed to the work of CUNY broadly, and of Urban Education and work happening at the GC in particular. I feel like this is a formalizing of a conversation that I’ve been a part of and peripheral to as an educator and activist through NYCoRE [the New York Coalition of Radical Educators], of which I was a founding member, and through relationships with friends and colleagues at CUNY. I feel very connected to the commitment, work, and dispositions that students, faculty and staff here all share. I want folks to know I’m deeply committed to public education — I was a teacher of ESL and Spanish, and I’ve taught in public schools ever since, and I was at Rutgers for 10 years. It is an imperative for faculty to be committed to public education at this time for our students in all of their intersectionality and diversity.

What excites you the most about coming to the GC?

One of the things I’m really excited about is teaching the core course on methods in the Spring, and thinking about the responsibility and ethics involved in everyday life and in research and teaching. Being a part of an intellectual community that is so situated within the city that is my home and the city that I grew up in, taught in, and am now a faculty member, mother, and activist in, prompts me to think about the integration of those various domains and forging new work at the GC and with Urban Ed students.

Continue reading “Getting to know Dr. Ariana Mangual Figueroa”

Meet Cohort 19!

They rep NYC and NYC public schools hard! They include activists, educators, researchers, dog-lovers and word nerds. Learn about the accomplished folks starting their PhD journeys together in 2019.

Jayson Castillo is a proud New York native of Salvadoran and Dominican descent. Driven by his experiences growing up in immigrant households, Jayson is passionate about the issues impacting the lives of young people from linguistically diverse communities and backgrounds. When not studying, Jayson can be found playing music, reading on the train, and running throughout different parts of New York City.

Christopher Colon was born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn and received a B.A. in sociology from The City College of New York. He has worked as a tenant organizer combating gentrification in neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn and continues to explore mediums like photography and film to bring awareness to issues affecting communities living on the margins.

Meagan Hammerbacher was born and raised in New York City, East Harlem, and now lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She has attended all NY public schools (#PublicSchoolProud), and was a sculpture major during Undergrad. She got her Master’s in Special Education, and has been teaching for the last 7 years! She teaches 8th grade, all subjects, in Washington Heights. She is a proud momma to two lovely little kids!



Lizzie Murchison is the Senior Research Associate for ExpandED Schools, a nonprofit that provides support services to afterschool providers throughout NYC. There, she manages a portfolio of evaluation projects related to elementary literacy, middle school STEM, and pre-service teacher training. Prior to joining ExpandED, she worked as a program evaluator for the Children’s Aid Society and as a communications manager for Global Kids. In addition to holding a Master’s degree in Public Administration from New York University and a bachelor’s degree from Boston University, Lizzie brings over ten years experience in the nonprofit sector and seven years experience working specifically with afterschool programs. She recently moved to Hastings-on-Hudson where she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband Matt and daughter Ruby.

Brett Gardiner Murphy is a 9th grade global history teacher at Vanguard High School, one of 38 consortium schools in New York City. Brett is the editor of the book Inside Our Schools: Teachers on the Failure and Future of Education Reform, published by Harvard Education Press. She’s currently developing a curriculum about the Transatlantic Slave Trade and African Diaspora in Latin America, supported by a Fund For Teachers travel grant and a fellowship with New York University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. When not writing lessons about social constructions of identity in history, you can find her walking her pit bull in Prospect Park.

Lucy Robins is in her ninth year teaching chemistry at a public 6-12 school in Queens, New York.  She also facilitates professional development for other teachers at her school and at Math for America, serves as an instructional coach for Breakthrough New York, and organizes with the Justice for All Coalition.  She is a native New Yorker.


Elena Romero is Assistant Professor in the Marketing & Advertising Communications department at The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT-SUNY). She teaches a myriad of undergraduate media courses including Intro to Journalism and Advertising and Promotion. Prior to joining FIT full-time, Ms. Romero served as Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Marketing & Advertising Communications department at FIT for 17 years. Concurrently, she worked as Academic Advisor, Communications Coordinator and Adjunct Assistant Professor at The City College of New York (CUNY) Division of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Center for Worker Education. For the past six years, Ms. Romero served as a member of the Community Education Council District 15 and most recently served as its Co-Vice President. Four out of those six years, she was a Brooklyn Borough President Appointee. Academia is her second career. Ms. Romero is an award-winning journalist for the past 25 years and has published in both consumer and trade publications including Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), Sportswear Internal and the New York Post. Her beats include fashion, TV and film, hip-hop, and Latinx culture. She is the author of Free Stylin’: How Hip Hop Changed the Fashion Industry (Praeger, 2012). Her fashion expertise can been seen on documentaries Fresh Dressed (2015) and The Remix: Hip Hop x Fashion (2019), which made its debut at the recent Tribeca Film Festival. Ms. Romero currently freelances for remezcla.com and LATINAS, a half-hour monthly magazine TV show debuting September 10 on CUNY-TV. She is also a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). Ms. Romero is a 2017-2018 recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching. She is also the recipient of the 2011 Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies at The City College of New York’s Faculty Leadership Award for her instructional work in service learning. Her academic interests include Diversity, Inclusion & Equity as well as Leadership and Policy. Ms. Romero earned her B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications and an M.S. in Publishing from New York University. She is of Puerto Rican ancestry and resides in Brooklyn with her three daughters.

Fatima Sherif is a first-year Doctoral Student in the Urban Education- Policy and Leadership track at the CUNY Graduate Center. Prior to attending the Graduate Center Fatima received her Masters degree from Teachers College, Columbia University.  Her professional experiences working with preschools and higher education institutions have reinforced the notion of an opportunity gap which has contributed to her sense of urgency to be a catalyst of change. More specifically, she is interested in educational inequities, accountability standards, and how economic decisions impact outcomes.

Kushya Sugarman is a middle school math teacher at a public school in Westchester. Prior to her current role, she taught fourth grade and tutored in NYC. A product of NYC public schools, she has a BA from City College, an MA from Hunter College and looks forward to completing her set with a PhD from the Graduate Center. She lives in the Bronx with her partner and hilarious two year old daughter. She dreams of owning a dog one day.

Mariatere Tapias was exposed to an alarmingly wide range of policies and practices as a student in the NYC public school system. Drawn to Wesleyan University’s commitment to the arts, social justice and diversity, she spent her undergraduate years working to understand the colonial experience in the Americas and teaching in summer enrichment programs. Shortly after graduating, she began teaching at a dual language public school in Brooklyn, where she experienced progressive education in action. She joined Bank Street College to gain a deeper understanding of this educational philosophy. In 2003, Mariatere joined Manhattan Country School as a language, culture and textiles teacher, examining issues of wellness, equity, agency, and justice. She is committed to organic farming practices, textile arts, yoga, and educations that move us towards a more sustainable, just and loving society.

Jessica Velez  is a dual language teacher who grew up in Bushwick. She has been a teacher both abroad and in the US, and is a strong advocate of student-centered curriculum and the use of multiple languages in students’ academic and social lives. Her undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Brooklyn College gave her the background she needed to be a teacher. She received her MA in English Education from Teachers College, where it became clearer to her that public education in NYC is deeply segregated. She has worked in East New York and Cypress Hills since then, where she was able to further understand the systematic issues in education. This is also where she got to work with parents, students, and community leaders to rise together as a community, which has been life-changing and where she hopes to continue to contribute as she works on her doctorate. If she is not tweaking curriculum and reading, she is probably hiking at least 3hrs away in an effort to leave the city.

Consummate word nerd and passionate language arts educator, Lydia Villaronga has spent the last four years working in a variety of out-of-school contexts teaching critical reading, critical writing, grammar, and fiction writing. Their commitment to public education is embodied most deeply by their dedication to the CUNY system. Before arriving at The Graduate Center, Lydia received a B.A. from John Jay College where they majored in Culture and Deviance Studies and an M.A. in Youth Studies from the School of Professional Studies. When Lydia is not in the classroom, you’re most likely to find them with their dog in Fort Tryon Park and their head in the clouds.