I entered the RIC/URI Joint Ph.D. program with one goal: to think critically and systematically about educational equity. I had taught middle and high school English, had served as principal in a K-8 setting, and had counseled college students with disabilities. I knew that classrooms were contested spaces, where some flourished and others floundered. I also knew that individual ability and effort were not the only variables, probably not even the main ones. A question nibbled at the corners of my consciousness until it set up camp right in the center, impossible to ignore: How might classrooms function less as sorting mechanisms and more as democratic learning communities?
I chose to explore this question as a doctoral student in the RIC/URI Joint Ph.D. program. Under the guidance of an exceptional faculty, I researched, reframed, and refined my question. Fellow doctoral students in my cohort had other questions. Our questions became the focus of communal inquiry. Together, we encouraged, prodded, and challenged each other. We functioned as the democratic learning community I envisioned.
I now serve as an Assistant Professor of Foundations in the Department of Educational Studies in the Feinstein School of Education at Rhode Island College, where I teach undergraduate and graduate courses that emphasize the theoretical and social justice aspects of education. My students (teachers and teacher candidates) and I continue to examine my original question and pose others, which we research, reframe, and refine. Graduate study at Rhode Island College expanded not only my intellect–it expanded my world.