Meet Dr. Claudia G. Pineda, New Assistant Professor at USC Rossier
Claudia Giovanna Pineda is one of the two new incoming faculty members who have joined the Rossier School of Education at the outset of this academic year. She is passionate about the intersectionality between the psychosocial and educational development of disadvantaged and immigrant youth. Moreover, she focuses on the role of context and culture to further understand how to promote the development of community and individual assets. As an immigrant herself, she has an appreciation of both the challenges and potential of immigrant families. She has taught at the University of California, Irvine, Northeastern University and Harvard University, and brings a more personal approach to her classroom. At Rossier, Pineda teaches the two tracks (Interpretive and Inferential) of the Inquiry Methods II course, which help students utilize logic of qualitative and quantitative methodologies in the examination of educational issues.
Q: Why did you choose the USC Rossier School of Education?
A: USC is a very exciting place, with top faculty and students. Rossier’s strong EdD program, which aims to work and prepare leaders not only locally, but globally, was critical in my decision to join USC. As a person who grew up in Colombia and is interested in international immigration through a transnational lens, I wanted to be at an institution where a strong emphasis was put on the “global.”
Q: What are some aspects of USC Rossier that make it unique from any other university you have worked at?
A: Rossier places great value on preparing practitioners to effect change in the various educational contexts in which they work. Moreover, Rossier not only values high caliber research, but also teaching. This is what, in my mind, distinguishes Rossier from other institutions that may stress one at the expense of the other. For someone who feels passionate about teaching and research, I was attracted to this dual emphasis.
Q: You are currently immersed in research on immigration and risk-taking behavior and resilience. Where did you get the idea to combine these two fields of research?
A: When it comes to risk-taking behavior and resilience research, I am more interested in the resilience aspect. More specifically, I am interested in understanding how we can foster the positive development of immigrants. For too long, immigrant and disadvantaged youth have been studied from a deficit-perspective, which is extremely problematic.
In my years of experience as a researcher and educator, what has become more evident to me is immigrants’ strengths and potential. Thus, it is important to think about how educational contexts can support those strengths. It is easy to point out what is wrong with immigrant students because we tend to interpret difference as deficit. However, immigrant youth have incredible assets, such as being raised in the context of very supportive families that have made tremendous sacrifices for their children to do better. Most importantly, immigrant youth have the ability to bring a variety of cultural lenses to connect and relate to others, in addition to the potential of becoming fully bilingual.
Q: You have been a researcher for a while. What does effective research entail?
A: There is good and effective research, and there is research that creates change. For research to be effective for practitioners, it needs to be able to be translated into what practitioners can understand and implement. It is important for researchers to pose relevant practice questions and to communicate the findings in the clearest way possible.
What does it take to do good research? It takes a thoughtful process that is deliberate in every step, from the research design to the presentation of findings. Moreover, a rigorous research process is not only good research, but a necessary aspect of it. For a researcher, it is an ethical responsibility to hold high standards and to be rigorous, because research results are often used to guide important practice and policy.
Q: What are some of your professional and personal goals at USC Rossier?
A: First and foremost, my professional goal is to contribute and strengthen what my colleagues have already built in terms of the methods courses. Furthermore, I hope to contribute to the training of EdD students and integrate my research interests with my teaching, which I see as intertwined.
Q: What specialty or expertise will you bring to USC Rossier?
A: I bring a transnational lens into my work that draws from my academic trajectory of going from an international student to a Latino scholar. I believe this lens provides greater depth to whatever I am teaching. I am also adamant about incorporating different perspectives into my classes from those of transnational families to sexual minorities. In my view, research methods can be invaluable in bringing to focus the voice, struggles, and assets of populations that have not traditionally been represented in mainstream academic venues.
Also, I have a great deal of experience conducting both quantitative and qualitative studies and see myself as a mixed-methods researcher. Being able to speak the “language” of both methodologies is one the strengths that I will bring to Rossier.
Q: Please tell me about the challenges that you faced as an immigrant. What did you learn from the experience?
A: I faced many of the challenges that other immigrants have faced, such as learning a new language and understanding American culture. I have also come from a context that has gone through tremendous political and economic turmoil, which has directly affected my family. So, it is those experiences that have guided not only my research agenda, but also my teaching philosophy. Having a dual perspective from having been part of two cultures is one of the greatest benefits I have gained from my immigrant experience. I try to communicate to my immigrant students that this is one of their greatest assets, even if at times they may feel as part of the margins.
Q: What does professional development look like to you?
A: I love teaching. Professional development is a constant examination of the process of teaching and learning. I really want to improve my practice, and I pay a lot attention and am receptive to how my students are doing. In addition, I have so much to learn from my colleagues, I like to keep my classroom open to feedback from colleagues and students. More than anything, I believe that through collaboration, great results can be achieved. This is why I appreciate the collaborative style that course leads implement here at Rossier.
Q: Please describe your teaching style.
A: I try to keep my classroom very interactive and safe for students from different backgrounds. When you engage with problems, rather just lecture, you gain a deeper understanding. Whenever possible, I have my students engage with real dilemmas. I also try to convey to my students that I care about their learning by emphasizing comprehension rather than assessment.
I also make a point of bringing in different voices into the curriculum. It is important to make room for all students. By being a very good listener and promoting critical conversations about different types of issues, I attempt to create a safe environment for everyone.
Q: What do you most look forward to teaching Rossier?
A: Honestly, I am looking forward to everything. I am looking forward to working with a group of students who are so serious about their education and have such a wide range of stimulating professional experience. Also, I am excited to be a part of the Rossier faculty, who are very supportive of new faculty members and are extremely invested in having students at Rossier succeed. I am also looking forward to teaching online classes.
Q: What do you like to do when you are not on a university campus?
A: I have a 15-month-old boy, Nico, who keeps me busy. I am very social, and I like to spend time with my friends and family. But, whenever I have time, I love to watch movies. Movies are like books, they are gateways into different worlds.
By Samuel Kim