Early career scholars shine at national research convening

April 23, 2018

An annual gathering of education researchers brings accolades to many at USC Rossier

By Ross Brenneman

PhD student Liane Hypolite responds to an audience question at AERA 2018 after presenting with PhD student Antar Tichavakunda on the racialized experiences of Black college students seeking financial aid. Credit: Ross Brenneman

If you want to hide a conference, bring it to New York City. Even with a name badge, it’s easy enough to blend in among the throngs of cabs and pedestrians.

Thousands of education researchers hustled between the skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan this past week for the American Educational Research Association, the largest gathering of its kind each year, a jam-packed conference in a jam-packed city.

More than 50 scholars represented USC Rossier, many of them students doing their first conference presentations, a significant stepping-stone for those in academe. And with more than 2,500 sessions over five days, the conference has the capacity to feel overwhelming for the newly initiated.

USC Rossier Assistant Professor of Higher Julie Posselt, receiving the 2018 AERA Early Career Award for her work in the field of graduate education, offered a hand up to the graduate students in attendance.

“The injustices around us may make the most difficult years of our careers more challenging, but each of us has a crowd of support through which we’ve come this far,” she said. “Please count me in your crowd—we’re all in this together.”

A whirlwind

At USC Rossier, the supporters don’t lack credentials.

Posselt is the fourth faculty member to win the Early Career Award over the past five years.

Last year’s winner, Morgan Polikoff, an associate professor of education, delivered an award lecture on the implementation failures of standards-based education reform.

Blending nuance and incisiveness, Polikoff called out states and policymakers for often bungling how they meshed standards with instructional practices. Polikoff, who has established himself as a national expert on standards, also criticized states that have adopted Common Core State Standards or variations thereof for undermining those standards with bad approaches to accountability.

“I think the most important thing states should do is use good tests,” Polikoff concluded. “If you’re going to test students, then you should really use good tests that reinforce the messages of the standards that send teachers consistent messages about what to do, and that at least aren’t obviously, on their face, instructionally non-useful.”

Several other USC Rossier scholars earned accolades as well this year:

  • Professor of Higher Education Estela Mara Bensimon received the Division J Research Award, for scholarship in the field of higher education.
  • Associate Research Professor Zoë Corwin, with USC Pullias Center project specialist Tattiya Maruco and Provost Postdoctoral Scholar Stephen Aguilar, won the top paper award from AERA’s Media, Culture and Learning special interest group.
  • Postdoctoral scholar Rachel White received two awards for her dissertation, from AERA Division L and the AERA Politics of Education special interest group.
  • Associate Professor Julie Marsh and Polikoff were announced as the new co-editors of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a journal of AERA.

But maybe the best recognition of all: As USC Rossier students made their presentations, their peers and future colleagues could be seen filing into the audience, taking pictures and tweeting praise.

A growing throng of early supporters.

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