Spotlight on 2013 National Commencement Grads

Union Institute & University’s National Commencement is October 12, 2013 in Cincinnati. To celebrate, we are highlighting a few of the upcoming graduates. Each participant was asked to write a response, in their own words, to the question “How has your Union experience changed your life?”

What began as an interest in obtaining a doctorate degree became a full endeavor for me as I returned to graduate school in my mid-50’s to earn my Ed.D. with a specialization in Educational Leadership (Pre K-12). I wanted to be part of a program and school community that was committed to the academic scholarship of students while offering them an opportunity to shape their lives as practitioners. I came away with so much more. I completed my Ed.D degree, I am graduating with a 4.0 average, and I researched and wrote my dissertation The Attrition of African American and Hispanic Students in Advanced Placement: Implications for Retention.

Early in my experiences, I recognized that the complex ideas and issues of social justice would become a common thread in everything I learned. I became part of a community of learners that modeled and practiced the principles of justice. The study of compelling topics, research, writings, internships, dialogue with cohort learners and faculty, reflective practice, technological innovations, dissertation, and a host of other learning experiences helped to shape my experiences as an authentic school leader. My enriched and unique experiences at Union Institute & University taught me the relevance of understanding self and my role as a change agent. I understand that a big factor in creating change comes from taking a leap of faith and having the moral courage to do so. I developed the skills and attributes of an authentic school leader and educator—empowering me to shape school reform, teaching practices, and innovations that are necessary to provide an inclusive education for scholars built upon the principles of equity, fairness, and quality for all children. I am able to visualize a future filled with new possibilities that unite us in the preservation of the world we live in.

Dr. Annette Aron has more than 35 years of experience in the field of education, including serving as a school administrator for the Austin Independent School District in Texas. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in education from Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas. She later earned an M.B.A. from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos before pursing her Doctor of Education at Union Institute & University.

Dr. Aron is an active member of several organizations including the Pi Omega Zeta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta sorority in Round Rock, Texas; Phi Delta Kappa, Chapter 12 of Austin, Texas; Austin Area Alliance of Black School Educators; Association of Secondary School Principals; National Black MBA Association; and the Jarvis Christian College Alumni Association.

Learn more about Union Institute & University’s Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program here.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams -Eleanor Roosevelt

It was this thought that encouraged me to fulfill my dream of earning my doctorate in education, becoming a college professor, and teaching pre-service teachers. So, as I neared the end of my elementary school teaching career, I began to look for a doctoral program and found Union Institute and University. I am so glad I did.

From the beginning of my first July residency at Union, there was an impression of warmth and caring, along with the perception of tough challenges ahead. Both were true, and the warmth and caring of the professors and cohort members carried me through the challenging coursework. Union exemplifies what university education should be—theoretical and practical applications, cooperative and independent learning, varied assessments, professors imparting their vast knowledge, who are available for assistance at all times, and who also have become friends and mentors, and cohort members who have been so supportive and intellectually stimulating. This experience has given me insights and direction for my future career as a college professor.

As I pursue the next part of my dream, university teaching, I am so grateful for what I have learned and experienced, and the new colleagues and friends in my life. Wayne Gretzky, a famous hockey player, said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” I took a “shot” on Union Institute and University, on my education, on my future, and I won.

Dr. Linda S. Hon received her bachelor’s degree in education from Ohio State University and her master’s in education from Kent State University. The Ohio native taught for 35 years in the Twinsburg City School District. Dr. Hon recently achieved her dream of earning a doctoral degree. Her future plans include teaching at the college level and instructing pre-service teachers. She is married and is the proud parent of one daughter.

Learn more about Union Institute & University’s Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program here.

My experience at Union Institute & University has transformed my life. Not only have I fulfilled my dream of obtaining my degree, but I have new confidence in my abilities.

The idea of returning to college as an adult in my early 50s filled me with fear. But at Union, a college that specializes in adult learning, I found peers with similar concerns. Through interactions with other adult students, I found that I was not alone.

My coursework was challenging and rigorous. I learned to think creatively and critically. I was empowered to do my best. My professors challenged me, and the end result is my bachelor’s degree.

The boost to my self-esteem is priceless. This journey has shown me what I am capable of as an adult returning to school. I now recognize that I can move forward in my journey to obtain my master’s degree—and a Ph.D. is not out of the question. The confidence I feel going forward and seeking employment, I attribute to Union Institute and University.The boost to my self-esteem is priceless. This journey has shown me what I am capable of as an adult returning to school. I now recognize that I can move forward in my journey to obtain my master’s degree—and a Ph.D. is not out of the question. The confidence I feel going forward and seeking employment, I attribute to Union Institute and University.

While earning her bachelor’s degree in social work, Lisha Lungelow balanced one full-time job, one part-time job, and raising two children. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the National Association of Black Social Workers. Lisha is a lifelong resident of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Learn more about Union Institute & University’s Social Work program.

When I encountered the complex issues that transnational families confront as an educational consultant in Ecuador and a program director for Early Head Start and Head Start programs in Queens, New York, I made a personal and professional commitment to pursue a doctoral degree to help me understand migration-based family separation. After looking at other doctoral programs, I found that Union Institute & University’s Cohort Ph.D. Program’s approach—the scholar-practitioner model—would be the right path for me. I came to Union with twenty years of experience in human services, specifically community mental health counseling and early childhood and elementary education. I am a certified teacher in New York and a licensed counselor in Ohio and New York, with graduate degrees in both of these fields. I needed a doctoral program that would help me pull together my prior professional background and take my academic and professional training to the next level.

As a student in the Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies program, I strengthened my interdisciplinary foundation through the coursework and my scholarly interactions with other doctoral students and faculty at the academic residencies and conference days. The Humanities and Culture concentration was a good fit for me with its emphasis on narrative and cultural studies scholarship, along with Union’s integrated ethics and social justice focus. Listening to family member stories in Mexico and New York and trying to understand what they communicate about transnational family identity processes, agency, and family stress and resiliency was paramount to my professional goal of using my research to inform education and social service program policies. With this policy-based end in mind, I partnered with the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association for my dissertation research. Ultimately, my doctoral experience at Union helped me cultivate and strengthen my voice as an emerging leader in my fields and as an advocate for migrant and immigrant families and their young children.

Since my dissertation study and the completion of my degree, I have presented at the Head Start 10th National Research Conference, the Office of Head Start’s First National Birth to Five Leadership Institute, and the 40th National Head Start Conference. I have taken on more senior-level management responsibilities in my position as a program director for the University Settlement Society of New York. I coach other early care and education leaders at the Settlement and represent the International Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers (IFS) as a member of the NGO Committee on Migration at the United Nations. This past summer I began consulting for Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services in Washington, D.C. as they develop training and technical assistance materials to strengthen collaborations between Refugee Resettlement agencies and Head Start programs across the country. Lastly, I am an international volunteer with Restoring Family Links (RFL) at the American Red Cross of Greater New York, helping reconnect family members across borders and informing their new migration initiative that is evaluating how we can use RFL services to reunite family members separated at the Mexico-US border. In many ways, graduating from Union Institute & University feels like the beginning of a new era. Post-degree I am better prepared to embark upon my life’s work and I appreciate the new community of colleagues—nationally and internationally—I have gained throughout this process.

Dr. Kezia Carpenter is the first woman on the maternal side of her family to earn a college degree and she is the proud great-granddaughter of a woman who migrated to Cincinnati during the Great Depression to give her young daughter and future family a better life. Dr. Carpenter’s dissertation Family in the Borderlands/la Frontera: Transnational Narratives of Mexican Migrant Parents and their Young Children recently earned the coveted Sussman Award based on excellence in all criteria – originality, interdisciplinarity, social meaning, quality of writing, and overall presentation.

Dr. Carpenter graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Miami University in 1988. As she embarked on her community mental health career in Cincinnati during the early nineties, she simultaneously pursued a Master of Education in Agency and Community Counseling at Xavier University (1992) and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Counseling at the University of Cincinnati (1996). Mid-career she decided to focus on serving young children and families. She moved to New York City where she attended Bank Street College of Education and earned a Master of Science in Early Childhood and Elementary Education in 2000. Kezia is a certified teacher in New York and a licensed counselor in Ohio and New York. She is a member of the National Council on Family Relations and a member of the International Society of the Study of Narrative.

Learn more about Union Institute & University’s Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies program.