The 31st annual University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) Convention was recently held on November 15-19, 2017 at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel in Denver, CO. This year, six students from the University of Connecticut’s Department of Educational Leadership presented their research. Daron Cyr, Jonathan Carter, Shannon Holder and Alexandra Lamb represented the Learning, Leadership and Educational Policy Program, while Scott Hurwitz and Lisa Sepe represented the Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) Program.
The UCEA Convention engages participants in discussions about research, policy, practice and preparation in the field of education with a specific focus on educational leadership. This year’s theme was Echando Pa’lante: School Leaders (Up)rising as Advocates and (Up)lifting Student Voices, and the intended discussion was centered around encouraging opportunities for reflective dialogue regarding the educational contexts that students, teachers, principals, and superintendents will be facing within a changing national climate and its impact on educational policy.
Such an opportunity has a meaningful impact on the development of doctoral students as researchers in addition to their professional advancement. Scott Hurwitz, a third-year doctoral student pursuing his Ed.D. and the current principal of Gideon Welles School in Glastonbury, CT, commented on the experience saying,
“Presenting at conferences like UCEA affords us the opportunity to collaborate with university faculty and leadership scholars around the globe. We are able to share our research and receive feedback that informs our current and future work.”
Hurwitz’s presentation was titled, “Institutionalizing School Security: A Case Study,” for which he utilized two branches of institutional theory, logics and myths, and symbols to analyze the organizational shifts that took place in Connecticut schools following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He worked on this research with the Department of Educational Leadership’s Dr. Sarah Woulfin and Dr. Jennie Weiner, who he said, “...served as guides and mentors,” in helping him produce relevant and robust research. Hurwitz is an accomplished researcher, who recently defended his Capstone proposal in October 2017. His proposal examined the how school leaders frame policy specifically around Connecticut’s anti-bullying policy.
Shannon Holder, who is a third year doctoral student in the Leadership and Educational Policy program presented two projects at this years UCEA conference. Her first presentation was titled, “The Sheff v. O’Neill Decision and Interest Convergence,” where she analyzed the ruling using Derrick Bell’s (1980) Interest Convergence principle which suggests the interest of Blacks in achieving racial equality will be accommodated only when it converges with the interests of Whites. Her findings revealed two themes: interests converge in the court documents, and interests have diverged since the case was decided. Holder’s second presentation was titled, “Teacher Sensemaking in the Detracked High School Classroom.” This qualitative study of high school teachers examined how they made sense of a detracking reform. Sensemaking theory is utilized to analyze participants’ conceptualization of detracking. Holder found that participants tended to have different definitions of detracking and as participants transitioned to teaching in a detracked environment those definitions became increasingly amorphous. These findings signal that teachers may create definitions of detracking that diverge from its formal intentions with implications for policymakers and practitioners.
Like Hurwitz, Holder had previous exposure to UCEA as they both presented at the 2016 conference in Detroit, MI. Jonathan Carter, a 2nd year Ph.D. student in the Leadership and Educational Policy program was a newcomer to the student research scene as the 2017 UCEA Conference was his first time presenting research with the Educational Leadership Department at UConn. His research, titled, “Supplementing the core curriculum in a university principal preparation program,” looked at an improvement initiative undertaken by one university’s principal preparation program to develop a supplemental workshop model to address identified gaps in the core curriculum. Carter was guided by EDLR’s Dr. Richard Gonzalez. As a researcher, Carter found the entire experience valuable to his development saying, “The feedback from other scholars in the field was very useful and will help guide our revisions as we prepare the paper to submit for publication.”
The UCEA conference was one of three academic conferences that the University of Connecticut’s Department of Educational Leadership students had the opportunity to present at this past year, including the The Harvard Graduate School of Education Student Research Conference in which six students attended and presented their research and the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting where five different students were able to present at.
Chelsea Connery, a second year Ph.D. student in Leadership and Education Policy, who attended the Harvard Conference offered a sentiment that all of the student researchers could identify with as she explained,
“Attending conferences such as these, being around motivated and like-minded individuals, can be reinvigorating, which is important, especially in the current sociopolitical context; it can re-foster your hope and resilience.”
The Department is extremely proud of the research and work that our students continue to produce, and thankful for the brilliant and caring faculty that always support them.
Access the full 2017 UCEA Convention program at ucea.org/conference/program-2017.