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Big Ideas in Education A Webinar Series

The Big Ideas in Education Webinar Series was implemented by the American University School of Education in response to the ever-changing education landscape on topics such as the School's commitment to antiracism, equity in education, and the educational response to COVID-19. We welcome experts so that our students, faculty, staff, and larger community are engaged in conversations and projects focused on creating new, big, and innovative ways to resolve long-standing inequities in education.

The 2023-2024 theme will focus on “Transforming Education: The Promise and Impact of Equity, Civil Rights, and Justice.” This year’s theme sits at the confluence of critical issues in US education and schooling in this first quarter of the 21st century. While we anticipate the 70th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education (1954) Supreme Court ruling and the 60th anniversary of the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the reality suggests that the promise of equity for all remains a dream unfulfilled. Join us for riveting conversations and opportunities to engage as we seek solutions to what seem like intractable challenges that thwart the possibilities for social and educational change.

A Conversation on School Violence and Safety with Dr. Sophia Rodriguez March 19, 2024 from 6:00-7:00 p.m. ET

A Conversation on School Voilence and SafetyJDr. Sophia Rodriguezoin us for a thought-provoking fireside chat on the critical issues of school violence and school safety. In an era marked by increasing concerns about the safety and well-being of students and educators, this intimate conversation provides a platform to explore the multifaceted challenges and opportunities facing our educational institutions. From understanding the root causes of school violence to examining strategies for prevention and intervention, our guest expert will delve into the complex dynamics shaping the landscape of school safety in today's society. 

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Format: This fireside chat offers a unique opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue, share insights, and collaborate on innovative approaches to creating safer and more inclusive learning environments for all.

Who Should Attend: Whether you are an educator, parent, policymaker, or concerned community member, your voice and perspective are invaluable as we work together to address the urgent issue of school violence and chart a path toward safer schools and communities for generations to come.

Cost: $25. This session ties into the Summer Institute on Education, Equity, and Justice happening virtually from June 24-26. The theme of this summer’s Institute is “Ending Violence in PreK-16 Schools.” Those who pay for this event will get free access to all three days of SIEEJ programming, including the hybrid Dr. Edmund Gordon Distinguished Lecture featuring Dr. Bettina Love on June 25.

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Dr. Sophia RodriguezDr. Sophia Rodriguez

Dr. Sophia Rodriguez is an Associate Professor in the Urban Education specialization in the Teaching, Learning, Policy, and Leadership department at the University of Maryland's College of Education. Dr. Rodriguez's interdisciplinary scholarship, drawing on tools from education, anthropology, and sociology, asks questions about the social and cultural contexts of education policy and practice. Her integrated research agenda addresses issues related to racial equity, urban education and policy, and centralizes minoritized youth voices. Her two current longitudinal projects, funded by the Spencer and W.T. Grant Foundations (2018-2022) and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), utilize mixed-methods and ethnographic designs to investigate how community-school partnerships, teachers, and school-based mental health professionals promote equity and advocate for undocumented (im)migrant and refugee youth. The IMLS project that focuses on newcomer migrant youth belonging was recently awarded the prestigious Library of Congress Literacy Award. Her scholarly work has appeared in Anthropology & Education Quarterly, Educational Policy, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Teachers College Record and Urban Education, and is forthcoming in Educational Researcher. In 2022, she was named a William T. Grant Scholar to conduct a longitudinal study about how schools manage the welcome of newcomer immigrant youth. For her work to date, Rodriguez received the Early Career Award for Division G (Social Contexts of Education) in the American Educational Research Association.


Immigrants' Educational Rights: Peril or Promise


Webinar - Immigrants' Educational Rights: Peril or Promise

This webinar - which took place on Thursday, February 8, 2024 - sheds light on the plight of immigrant families who have children in US schools; the recurring challenges to landmark court cases, including political battles happening during this #election year; the obstacles threatening immigrant families' fundamental right to education; and the possibilities and promises for the future.


• Dr. Ernesto Castañeda - Director of the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University (AU); Founding Director of the Immigration Lab; and Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director of the MA in Sociology, Research, and Practice at AU

• Karina Ayala-Bermejo, JD - President and CEO of the Instituto del Progreso Latino

• Celina Moreno, JD - President and CEO, IDRA (Intercultural Development Research Association)

• Moderator: Dr. Eric Macias - Professorial Lecturer at American University’s School of Education

Karina Ayala-Bermejo, JD

Karina Ayala-Bermejo is the President and CEO of Instituto Del Profreso Latino. Formerly she worked at Metropolitan Family Services where she served as General Counsel and Executive Vice President and the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services. Prior to Metropolitan, she worked for the City of Chicago in Mayor Daley’s administration as Acting Commissioner, First Deputy Commissioner, and Managing Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Human Resources. Karina spent seven years as the Director of Community Services for the Chicago Bar Association where she encouraged attorneys to take on pro bono work and collaborated with the bar and various divisions of the Circuit Court of Cook County on initiatives to improve the justice system. She also served as the first Executive Director of the Sun Times Judge Marovitz Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to Youth Program, a foundation that mobilizes the legal profession around mentoring youth, where she was instrumental in securing a $2 million dollar award. Karina’s legal career began as an attorney in the Litigation Division of the Chicago Board of Education handling labor and employment matters.

DDr. Ernesto Castaneda-Tinocor. Ernesto Castañeda

Dr. Ernesto Castañeda is the Director of the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University; Founding Director of the Immigration Lab; and Graduate Program Director of the MA in Sociology, Research, and Practice at American University. He conducts research on migration, urban issues, health disparities, marginalized populations, and social movements. He compares immigrant integration and ethnic political mobilization in the U.S. and Western Europe. Castañeda is the author of "A Place to Call Home: Immigrant Exclusion and Urban Belonging in New York, Paris, and Barcelona" (Stanford 2018), and "Building Walls: Excluding Latin People in the United States" (Lexington 2019), editor of "Immigration and Categorical Inequality: Migration to the City and the Birth of Race and Ethnicity" (Routledge, 2018); co-editor with Cathy Lisa Schneider of "Collective Violence, Contentious Politics, and Social Change: A Charles Tilly Reader." (Routledge 2017), and co-author with Charles Tilly and Lesley Wood of "Social Movements 1768–2018" (Routledge 2020).

Celina Moreno, JDCelina Moreno, JD

Celina Moreno, JD, is the president and CEO of IDRA, a national non-profit organization dedicated to equity and excellence in education. IDRA strengthens and transforms public education by: providing dynamic educator training, actionable research, and bold policy advocacy; directing powerful student and parent leadership programs; and building people power to create schools that nourish all students. Ms. Moreno previously directed policy and litigation for the Southwest Regional Office for MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization. At MALDEF, she successfully represented DREAMers to defend DACA and against a separate lawsuit that would have invalidated the Texas DREAM Act. Ms. Moreno also served as trial and appellate co-counsel in the challenge against the inequity and inadequacy of the Texas school finance system. She represented Bexar County and the cities of San Antonio, El Paso and others against Texas’ anti-immigrant Senate Bill 4 (2017). She served as co-counsel in the Texas redistricting case seeking to protect the rights of Latino voters, in a case challenging the conditions and the detention of an asylum-seeking woman at the Hutto Residential Center, and in a case representing the American GI Forum to reverse a “Whites-only” cemetery policy. She also co-authored MALDEF’s amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of over 20 Latino organizations to support the University of Texas at Austin’s race-conscious admissions plan.

Moderator: Dr. Dr. Eric MaciasEric Macias

Eric Macias (He/Him/El), Professorial Lecturer at American University's School of Education, is an interdisciplinary scholar whose work focuses on minoritized and illegalized youth who have been pushed-out of the educational pipeline. Dr. Macias received his PhD from the University at Albany (SUNY). His research and work often lay at intersection of migration and education. He is also interested in topics such as immigrant youth and families, urban education, anti-racist education, race and ethnicity, critical ethnography, alternative education, critical pedagogy, Latinx studies, and youth studies. Dr. Macias is currently working on a book manuscript about undocumented immigrant youth who left school and the challenges of navigating different illegalities and creating a sense of belonging and socio-emotional wellbeing despite their criminalization in and out of school settings.


How Book Bans Impact K-12 Students


Webinar - How Book Bans Impact K-12 Students

This webinar took place Thursday, October 12, 2023 with experts who weighed in on the history of banned books, what is happening politically today, and the potential impact on students in the future. 

PEN America reports over 30 states have banned books in the last two years, with nearly 1,500 separate instances of banned books in nearly 200 school districts in the US, including nearly 900 unique titles. This year SOE honors Banned Books Week with this first Big Ideas in Education webinar of the school year. We support the  international alliance and coalition of diverse organizations in the US and beyond and efforts to engage communities, schools, parents, and students to be advocates and create awareness about the importance and freedom to read.

Moderator: Dr. OHeadshot of Dr. Ocheze Josephcheze Joseph

Dr. Ocheze Joseph is a DC native, and she is passionate about teaching and learning in urban settings. Joseph's areas of specialization are pre-service teacher development and mentoring, literacy and reading education, culturally relevant pedagogy, and family and community engagement. Her scholarly work focuses on the preparedness of pre-service teachers to teach literacy. Joseph has served in several K-12 roles including serving as a reading specialist, an assistant principal, and a Title I principal. Joseph has taught courses on Theory and Methods of Reading, Recognizing and Responding to Diverse Learners, Literacy for Diverse and Special Needs, and has led Early Childhood and Elementary Student Teaching Seminars. Joseph earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from The University of Maryland, College Park.

DDr. Ingrid Bynumr. Ingrid Bynum

Dr. Ingrid Bynum is in her 17th year as a public school principal, and is the principal of Alexandria’s Patrick Henry K-8 School. She is the current Mrs. Virginia America and is using her title to work with organizations such as Reading is Fundamental to ensure children who live in underserved communities have access to quality literacy materials. She is also an adjunct professor at Regent University where she received her doctorate. She has won numerous awards to include the Reading is Fundamental of Northern Virginia’s Literacy Luminary Award and the Washington Post Principal of the Year for Alexandria City Public Schools.


KHeadshot of Kiese Laymoniese Laymon

Kiese Laymon, Libbie Shearn Moody Professor of Creative Writing and English at Rice University, is a Black southern writer from Jackson, Mississippi. He authored the genre-bending novel, Long Division and the essay collection, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. Laymon’s bestselling memoir, Heavy: An American Memoir, won the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, the 2018 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose, the Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media, and was named one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by The New York Times. The audiobook, read by the author, was named the Audible 2018 Audiobook of the Year. Laymon is the recipient of 2020-2021 Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard. Laymon, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Oxford American, is at work on several new projects, including the long poem, Good God, the horror comedy, And So On, the children’s book, City Summer, Country Summer and the film Heavy: An American Memoir. He is the founder of “The Catherine Coleman Literary Arts and Justice Initiative,” a program aimed at getting young people and their parents more comfortable reading, writing, revising and sharing.

Dr. THeadshot of Tanji Reed Marshallanji Reed Marshall

Tanji Reed Marshall, PhD brings more than two decades of experience in education to advance the work of practice on behalf of students of color, those experiencing economic uncertainty, those perpetually left on the margins of our education system. Dr. Marshall partners with states, school districts, schools, and education organizations to solve complex issues related to educational equity. Through strategic thought partnerships, educational leader and educator development, curriculum review, vetting, and restructuring, and on-going system support, she seeks to ensure every student has access to the education they deserve. She is a nationally recognized and sought-after expert on educational equity and educational leadership. She has consulted with organizations throughout the US and abroad to improve educational leadership, stem the effects of systemic inequity, improve teacher instructional practice and student outcomes. Dr. Marshall has presented at international and national conferences on topics related to educational equity and power dynamics, curriculum development, literacy, critical literacy, education leader and teacher development, and authentic pedagogies. Most recently, Dr. Marshall served as the Director of P12 Practice at The Education Trust where she led their work on assignment analysis work, performing educational equity audits and designing a way to analyze curriculum to ensure representationally balanced depictions of people, cultures, and topics. 

DHeadshot of Dave Saiaavid Saia

A 32-year veteran of public education, David is the librarian at Heim Middle School, part of the Williamsville Central School District in New York. He chaired the American Library Association's 2023 Stonewall Book Award committee, a national children's book award for queer literature written for young people. He also served on the 2019 and 2022 Stonewall committees, as well as the 2021 John Newbery Medal committee. A 1986 graduate of American University, he also holds a master's in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's in education from the University at Buffalo. He and his husband live in Buffalo, New York.

Resources mentioned during the webinar:


Raise Your Hand for Equity in Education


Webinar - The SCOTUS Decisions: What School Counselors Should Know

In this July 10, 2023 webinar event, American University School of Education (SOE) Dean Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy (a counselor educator) moderates a conversation with counseling and higher education professionals - Dr. Diana Camilo (Assistant Professor of Counseling, College of Education, California State University, San Bernardino), Dr. Erin Mason (Assistant Professor of School Counseling, Counseling Education & Practice, Georgia State University), Dr. Brian McGowan (Provost Associate Professor, American University, School of Education), and Dr. Mandy Savitz-Romer (Senior Lecturer in Human Development and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education) - about the ramifications of the recent decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Feel free to access the PowerPoint slides from Drs. Holcomb-McCoy and Erin Mason featured in the webinar.


Raise Your Hand for Equity in Education


Webinar - Gun Violence: Leading Schools Through an Epidemic

With gun violence plauging American education communities, this one-hour webinar taps into the expertise of panelists who bring diverse perspectives to propose practical solutions to support our school leaders as they grapple with this problem. This event took place virtually on February 14, 2023.

Join a panel of experts: Zachary Parker, District of Columbia Ward 5 Councilmember; Dr. George Parker, III, Former Superintendent of Newport News Public Schools; Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, Dean, SOE; Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr., Executive-in-Residence, SOE and Founder and CEO of Revolutionary ED; and Moderator Dr. Terence Ngwa, Director of SOE's ARASL Program and Senior Professorial Lecturer.

Panelists unpack recent situations at school districts around the country, share their perpectives, and take questions from the moderator, as well as questions from webinar registrants.


Raise Your Hand for Equity in Education


Webinar - Antiracist Leadership During the Backlash of Critical Race Theory with Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr.

Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr., Executive-In-Residence at the School of Education and former Superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools, spoke as part of the “Big Ideas in Education” series focused on antiracism in education at the School of Education at American University. This event took place virtually on March 29, 2022.

Facilitated by Dr. Phelton Moss, Senior Professorial Lecturer in the School of Education, Dr. Hutchings shared insights into his experiences during his time serving as Superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools and how he has led with an antiracism framework at his core amidst what he describes as “dual pandemics.” In addition, he shared key learnings and takeaways for current and future educational leaders to repeat his success in their local communities. If you're interested in leading education with a focus on antiracism, check out SOE's Anti-Racist Administration Supervision and Leadership Certificate Program here.


A Conversation about Anti-Racism in K-12 Education


Webinar - A Conversation about Anti-Racism in K-12 Education

In this webinar, Dr. Arelis Diaz, Director of the the Office of the President at the Kellogg Foundation, Dr. Andre Perry, School of Education Scholar in Residence and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, and Dr. Bren Elliott, Chief of School Improvement and Supports at the District of Columbia Public Schools, engage in a conversation about antiracism in K-12 education. This virtual event took place on March 17, 2021. Learn more about SOE's Antiracist Administration, Supervision, and Leadership Certificate Program here.


Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss Discusses "Hate in the Homeland"


Webinar - Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss Discusses "Hate in the Homeland"

In this webinar, Dr. Cynthia Miller- Idriss, current faculty member at AU School of Education and author of "Hate in the Homeland," engages in a conversation with Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, Dean AU School of Education, about her new book. This virtual event took place on February 22, 2021. Learn more about SOE's Master of Arts in International Training and Education Program here.

Miller-Idriss is a sociologist and professor in the School of Public Affairs and in the School of Education, and runs the Polarization and Extremism Research & Innovation Lab (PERIL).

Dr. Miller-Idriss has testified several times before the U.S. Congress and regularly briefs policy, security, education and intelligence agencies in the U.S., the United Nations, and other countries on trends in domestic violent extremism and strategies for prevention and disengagement. She is the author, co-author, or co-editor of six academic books, including her most recent books Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right (Princeton University Press, 2020) and The Extreme Gone Mainstream: Commercialization and Far Right Youth Culture in Germany (Princeton University Press, 2018). She has also published over one hundred peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and essays on nationalism, extremism, education, higher education and internationalization. 

In addition to her academic work, Miller-Idriss writes frequently for mainstream audiences. She is an opinion columnist at MSNBC, and has additional recent by-lines in Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, CNN, The Hill, Politico, The Guardian, Le Monde, Salon, and more. She appears regularly in the media as an expert source and political commentator, including regular appearances on Fareed Zakaria GPS as well as other CNN news programs, PBS News Hour, NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, MSNBC's Meet the Press Daily with Chuck Todd and Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC's Evening News with Lester Holt and The Today Show, C-SPAN's Washington Journal, ABC's Good Morning America, and in global news outlets in over a dozen countries, including BBC News, Deutsche Welle, France 24, al Jazeera and more. 


Raise Your Hand for Equity in Education


Webinar: A Conversation with Dr. Kerry-Ann Escayg on the Response to COVID-19, a Big Idea in Education


A Conversation with The Honorable Dr. John King Jr.


Webinar - A Conversation with The Honorable Dr. John King Jr.

The first featured speaker for the Big Ideas in Education series was the Honorable Dr. John King Jr, former Secretary of Education. Dr. King engaged in a conversation with Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, Dean of the AU School of Education, and Dr. Jason Snyder, AU Faculty Member and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the U.S. Department of Education, about his Big Idea in Education.