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Education Professor wins Education and Culture Grant

RajniClass-hands up-3-copyEducation Associate Professor and Jessie Ball duPont Chair of Social Justice Education, Rajni Shankar-Brown, Ph.D., pictured in the classroom, has been awarded an Education and Culture grant by the U.S. Department of State and the Partners of the Americas. This competitive grant will allow Shankar-Brown to travel to Brasilia, Brasil and Bogota, Colombia to facilitate intercultural exchange and work to develop programing to connect public schools in Central Florida and around the nation with schools abroad.

“I am humbled and honored,” Shankar-Brown said after receiving her award. “As a social justice educator, I am committed to promoting global citizenship and passionate about advancing educational equity. Encouraging cultural understanding and building relationships is indispensable to social justice.”

Shankar-Brown has high expectations of what she will accomplish during her trip and she looks forward to keeping a full schedule. “I will work on developing K-12 programming focused on EcoJustice education,” she said. “In particular, I will focus on increasing students’ understanding of ecological and social issues, as well as their entwined cultural roots, and providing opportunities to explore collaborative pathways to a sustainable, equitable future.” Shankar-Brown will also be researching human rights issues, including family homelessness and poverty while she is overseas.

The people Shankar-Brown will be interacting with in South America are not the only ones who will benefit from her work. Once Shankar-Brown returns to Stetson, she plans on sharing everything she has learned with her students. “This journey will actively support Stetson University’s values of personal growth, intellectual development and global citizenship and support my work as a social justice teacher-scholar. I look forward to bringing back experiences and knowledge to share with my students and our community.”

As the director of Education Graduate Programs and the co-coordinator for the M.Ed. in Elementary Education: Educating for Social Justice program, she is especially excited about involving Stetson’s graduate students in global justice work. Shankar-Brown conveys deep gratitude to be part of a university that encourages social responsibility and interdisciplinary partnerships.

Until her departure at the end of this month, Shankar-Brown has other important events to keep her busy. Shankar-Brown is currently working on planning the second annual Poverty and Homelessness Conference, which will take place at Stetson in October. She is also the Co-PI for the Volusia Center for Excellence in Education, a $1.1. million grant recently awarded by the Florida Department for Education. Shankar-Brown has been invited to serve as a keynote speaker as a member of the steering committee for the first annual Educational Justice Conference hosted by Bethune-Cookman University on July 12-14. The theme of the conference is “Connecting with the Diverse and Underrepresented Youth of Today,” and the goal is to provide inspiring discourse for educators that will empower leadership skills. Shankar-Brown’s title for her presentation is “Collective Impact: Advancing Social Justice Education.” Shankar-Brown insisted, “We must work together to address persistent social inequities and build a brighter world for our children.”

For more information about the upcoming Educational Justice Conference, visit http://www.cookman.edu/ejconf/.

by Nicole Melchionda

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