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Mercy in the Community: Mercy College Literacy Practicum

Once again, several School of Education teacher candidates kept themselves busy over the summer and came to the Cabrini Immigrant Services (CIS) in Dobbs Ferry for the Mercy College Literacy Program. Graduate students from the college enrolled in Dr. Barbara Keckler’s course, “Assessing and Correcting Literacy Problems Practicum in Early Childhood and Childhood,” came to CIS to help their students with different types of reading strategies. The School of Education teacher candidates attended class during the day and then came to CIS twice a week to meet with their students. They did pre-testing, reading aloud, comprehension as well as fun games that made the stories even more interesting.

Dynamic Speakers and Research are Highlights of Mercy STEM Teacher Conference

June 10, 2019
In May, the Rotunda at Dobbs Ferry was the scene of a K-12 STEM Teacher Conference, hosted by the Mercy College Center for STEM Education and sponsored by Regeneron, a leading science and technology company in Tarrytown, N.Y. The event featured dynamic speakers, poster presentations and an exhibitor hall of local STEM providers.
Keynote speaker Dijanna Figueroa, Ph.D., a marine biologist and educator from Pacific Palisades, Calif., captivated the audience by recounting the setbacks and triumphs she faced as a woman of color in a white, male-dominated field. Figueroa, who is one of the world’s first black deep-sea marine biologists, is the director of the Lucas Scholars Program, a California community-based social justice and equity program designed to engage young people in science, engineering, design and art.
“We are grateful for Regeneron’s support in presenting this important conference,” said Amanda Gunning, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Secondary Science Education and Chair of Mercy’s Department of Secondary Education. “Their grant made it possible for us to invite a speaker of Dr. Figueroa’s caliber, and she has inspired us with her efforts toward creating diverse, inclusive and equitable access to STEM fields.”
Figueroa’s work on science documentaries, nature programs and publications have amplified her commitment to making ocean science accessible to all people. “Not all people have equal access to the pathway, pipeline and resources that make a STEM career achievable,” she said. In her travels around the country speaking to student groups, Figueroa was often approached by girls and young women who told her they had never before seen a scientist of color. “That’s when I knew that I can’t stay in the lab. I need to more visible. When I started working on films, I began speaking to a greater audience. I realized that my gift to planet Earth was as a science storyteller.”
Lisa Purcell, Ph.D., Regeneron’s senior staff scientist in infectious disease and scientific director for secondary education programs, also spoke at the conference. Regeneron’s many grants and programs reflect the organization’s commitment to supporting science education and research, increasing the effectiveness of STEM teachers and generating career awareness among students historically underrepresented in the sciences.
Dr. Purcell is actively involved in Regeneron’s science education efforts including the Regeneron Science Talent Search, high school research mentorship program, Westchester Science and Engineering Fair and STEM Teaching Fellowship. Purcell praised teachers of STEM subjects, encouraging them to be role models to all students, even those who may be unaware of their own gifts. “In my life there was a teacher. He’s the reason I’m here. You’re that teacher to someone,” Purcell noted.
“One of the goals of this conference was to start the conversation about bringing together all STEM educators in Westchester,” said Mercy Professor of Secondary Science Education Meghan Marrero, Ph.D. “Currently there is no local organization that can bring together educators from a diversity of disciplines to address the issues of equity and social justice in STEM education. By sharing resources and facing challenges together, we can help to enrich a wider diversity of students—right here in Westchester, where it’s most needed. Mercy is prepared to be a facilitating resource in that goal.”

Mercy in the Community

Summer Program Inspires High Schoolers to Become Future Education Leaders

September 2019
With an eye to the future of social justice, advocacy and education, Mercy College presented the inaugural Leading for Change Summer Institute, developed and led by the School of Education.
For the pilot program, which took place on the Dobbs Ferry Campus in early July, organizers recruited 21 high school students representing more than 20 high schools in New York and New Jersey. Participants were selected through a rigorous screening process that evaluated academic achievement, commitment to activities outside the classroom, and a demonstrated passion for advocacy, social justice and education.
The innovative program was developed by faculty in the School of Education with guidance from the School of Business. Spearheading the initiative were Mary Ellen Hoffman, associate dean for administration in the School of Education, and Teresa Quackenbush, a member of the childhood education faculty. “We based our pilot program on guidelines developed by the School of Business for its highly acclaimed Leadership Academy, now in its fifth year,” said Quackenbush. “Instead of seeking out future business leaders, we sought out future educators who want to make a positive impact on society through education leadership.”
Working in consultation with Eugenia Macchiarelli, director of undergraduate operations in the School of Business, Quackenbush and Hoffman led an education faculty team to plan six full days of programming on the theme of social justice and advocacy. The organizers recruited school superintendents, community activists, guidance counselors and advisors from area high schools, and arts professionals who encouraged students to effect change through the creative arts.
Each day was packed with team-building activities, educational field trips, workshops and lectures presented by a diverse group of speakers and faculty, both from Mercy and the outside community. Participants hiked up Bear Mountain to test their mettle through teamwork exercises and toured Harlem to explore its rich culture and history of advocacy. Classroom sessions offered inspiring talks and panel discussions with a variety of educators, social justice activists and people from the arts.
“We know that many high school students feel trepidation about entering college, so our initial aim was to begin forming relationships with students from high schools in the area,” said Quackenbush. “It allows them to see how much they can be supported and guided through their college experience, especially if they choose a place like Mercy.”
What the program netted was so much more. Participants blossomed under the warming influence of dedicated professionals and educators who wanted only to help them succeed in their quest to build a better and more just world. “By Friday, when we held a graduation ceremony and each participant gave a short speech, you could really see the impact it had on them,” said Quackenbush.
“In the School of Education, we take seriously our social responsibility to serve our community partners and to make a difference in our communities,” said Dr. Eric Martone, interim dean of the School of Education. “The Leading for Change Summer Institute was not only a way for participants to develop their own voices and learn ways to become advocates for change, it also allowed the School of Education to distinguish itself as a leader among its academic peers by offering such an impactful program for this group of talented teenagers.”
“We often think of leadership and advocacy as too big to take on,” said Quackenbush. “We wanted these young students to leave the Summer Institute with a new way of thinking about themselves. All week the presenters kept encouraging the students to ask themselves, what is my gift, my voice, my outlet? I hope this program enabled them to begin the work of finding out the answers, and using them to make a difference.”

The School of Education's Summer Korean Language and Culture Program is a Hit

August 2018

STARTALK, the Korean language and culture summer program at Mercy College, just wrapped up its second year. Held over three weeks during the summer, 26 middle-schoolers from diverse language and cultural backgrounds engaged in a program of learning about and experiencing Korean language, art, music and dance.
Co-directed by Drs. Mi-Hyun Chung and JungKang Miller, faculty members in the School of Education, STARTALK provides language practice, cultural connections and perspectives on traditional practices in Korea and America. The full-day program is offered free for up to 30 students with limited knowledge of, yet strong interest in, Korean culture and language.
Why offer a Korean cultural program for middle-schoolers, some of whom may have no connection or prior exposure to that country’s language or customs?
According to One World Now, a Seattle-based international educational program, Korean enrollment at four-year colleges nationwide increased more than 45 percent between 2011 and 2013. Currently, Korean is spoken by more than 70 million people worldwide.
Closer to home, word about Mercy’s STARTALK program has spread. “Parents see it as an opportunity for their children to learn a foreign language over the summer — something they will need for college applications and for life in a more globally-focused world,” said Miller.
“Foreign language programs at the middle- and high school level are generally not well-funded,” said Chung. “We provide an integrative focus on what we call the five Cs — Communication, Culture, Connections, Comparisons and Communities — that facilitates development of Korean language skills and understanding of Korean culture through student research and hands-on activities in Korean arts and crafts.”
While most participants have one or both parents who are second or third generation Korean, a fair number had no prior association. “Some came because they have friends who are Korean,” said Miller. One student began learning Korean on her own, and commuted from Manhattan to Mercy for the program. Still others, fascinated by the current musical trend from Korea known as K-pop, came to find out more about their idols’ home country.
“In our program we focus on both traditional and modern Korean cultural influences, and K-pop certainly fits in with that,” said Chung. “A positive association with a culture through any form, be it food, music or language, makes people more receptive. K-pop captured their attention, and now they want to learn more about Korea’s centuries-old traditions.”