Points of Pride

MA-CEL Alumna Invited to White House to Receive Presidential Arts Funding

Posted on Thu, Aug 14, 2014

By Marianne McCarthy

Malissa Cindy Rachel with captionWhen Principal Rachel Clark Messineo (MA-CEL, ’08) received an invitation to the White House this past May, she knew her school had been chosen as a recipient of an arts education initiative that could help make a difference in her school. But the students of Burbank Elementary and the rest of San Diego didn’t know for sure until they watched the event streaming live from the White House. Of course, they couldn’t be more proud and excited, as are we at Fielding.

Burbank Elementary is one of only 35 schools across the nation to participate in the Turnaround Arts Initiative, an assistance program that provides training, development, and workshops to ensure that the arts are an available avenue to success for all students.

Underperforming School Struggles to Change

Led by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, together with local partners, Turnaround Arts aims to help failing schools implement high quality arts education to “turnaround” the pervasive problems found in high-poverty, chronically underperforming schools. By using the arts as a strategic tool, students are engaged while they learn 21st century skills critical to their success.

Burbank Elementary is located in the “Barrio Logan” area of San Diego, serving 350 students, all of whom are socioeconomically disadvantaged. In 2010, it was identified as performing in the lowest 5% of all California schools.Burbank Elementary

 “We’ve been a chronically under-performing school for many years working hard to make a difference, but our scores just go up a tiny bit each year, so it’s hard work. Our kids are low income, second-language learners, part of a very transient population. There are lots of things working against us, but we’re really hoping that integrating arts will be an avenue to attract students to stay at our school,” says Rachel.

She explains that due to limited funding Burbank Elementary doesn’t offer any on-going activities like some of the other more affluent schools in her district. When funds get cut, it’s usually the arts and extracurricular activities that go first. Burbank doesn’t have funds to provide anything other than the core classes: reading, science, math, and history. Kids who struggle in these areas typically don’t want to come to school, says Rachel.

“If we had an acting class, or a singing class, or a dance class, they’d be more excited about coming to school and could learn through song or dance. They could learn through acting, building sets, things like that.  So we’re looking at integrating arts as a way to improve our academics which will ultimately improve self-esteem, confidence, and attendance…maybe we could even become a school of choice for new students.”

Believing in the Value of Arts Education

She believes that there is a connection between arts education and academic achievement. She has a personal connection and passion for arts education as she has played the flute, piccolo, and piano since elementary-school age. She has experienced first-hand how arts education increases student motivation, confidence, and teamwork.

Associated with the school since 2009, Rachel has moved up the ladder from teacher to grant coordinator to just last year being appointed principal.

“As I began my journey toward an administrative position, I started utilizing materials that I had learned at Fielding. It just kept sinking in deeper and deeper,” says Rachel.  “Now that I’m a principal, I frequently draw upon the readings, the books, the activities, and the collaborative tasks that were assigned. Facilitators said, ‘Trust the process,’ and several years later, I see what they meant.”

Turnaround Arts Equips Teachers with Powerful Tools

TurnaroundArtslogoAccording to the Turnaround Arts website, placing the arts as the heart and soul of a school gives leadership and teachers powerful tools to improve school climate and culture, increase student and parent engagement, which ultimately contributes to improved academic achievement and the successful turnaround of a failing school.

Obamas KidsTurnaround Arts began as a pilot program with eight schools, and celebrating that success is what the White House event was all about. First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a talent show in the East Room of the White House, which was transformed into an old fashioned school auditorium. Students from the program’s inaugural schools showed off their skills singing, dancing, making music, and reciting poetry. The First Lady also announced the expansion of the program, from eight pilot schools to 35 schools, 10 from California. Celebrities Sara Jessica Parker and Alfre Woodard, artist-mentors who were paired with one of the original eight schools, were there to help promote the event. President Barack Obama even made a surprise appearance before the show concluded—and Rachel and her superintendent got to shake his hand at the event.

Burbank Gets Assigned an Artist-Mentor

This month, Burbank Elementary meets their new artist-mentor, Grammy award-winning musician Jason Mraz, who lives in the San Diego area. Mraz will work with Rachel and Burbank teachers to infuse the arts into curriculum and campus culture over the next three years.

“We have planned to learn how to play the guitar and ukulele, and Jason plays both!” says Rachel.  “Our hope is that we can have a concert with him at the end of the year with students all playing one of his songs.”

Mraz said in a statement, “I’m humbled by the opportunity to support and represent a school in our country and my local community that will greatly benefit from the support of a vibrant arts education program. The arts are the key to life and the Turnaround Arts program will open the doors for youth to life, love, creativity and endless imagination.”

Tags: art education, change agent, social justice, educational leadership, diversity, multicultural, arts, fielding graduate university, graduate education, teacher education, MA-CEL

A Life of Activism and Advocacy: Supporting Exiles and Survivors of Sexual Violence

Posted on Tue, Nov 26, 2013

By Marianne McCarthy

Indira K. Skoric, PhD

Few people can say they were on the front lines of societal change, especially if it dealt with a cultural taboo.  Yet, humanitarian Indira K. Skoric (HOS ’12) proudly witnessed the alteration of a long-standing sentiment about women subjected to sexual violence during the Yugoslav Wars and a system that tolerated such abuses.  A victim of sexual violence herself, she has consistently advocated for those subjected to systematic rape and torture during the war. It took over a decade, and the work of countless other advocates, but finally women survivors were legally labeled “civilian victims of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Indira was living and studying in Belgrade during the Yugoslav National Movement when she first became involved with feminist groups. In 1991, she helped establish the Belgrade Women in Black, an antimilitarist peace movement protesting the war in Serbia and all forms of hatred, discrimination, and violence.  According to the group’s website, it has organized more than 500 protests throughout the former Yugoslavia since its founding.Belgrade Women in Black

After the war started, Indira joined the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as an information officer.

“I wanted to do something tangible for people who were survivors and victims of the war,” she said.

Many of these victims were the unacknowledged sufferers of sexual violence. Years later, Indira would write in her dissertation that post war reports estimated that 10,000 to 60,000 women had been submitted to sexual violence during the war, although the European Commission settled on a figure 20,000.

While one part of her felt devoted to working with people who were minorities like herself or those who were working on gender issues, another wanted to escape the violence and the intense political climate of ethnical and territorial conflict.

In 1994, Indira found her way out of Yugoslavia after winning a fellowship at the New School for Social Research in New York. She continued her activism with the American Friends Service Committee and a New York branch of Women in Black. But pressure was building from the war in Kosovo, and she received threats to her life. Many of her Women in Black colleagues had been forced into hiding. Eventually, she was granted political asylum and was able to complete her master’s degree in International Relations, writing her thesis on “Understanding War Rapes.” It was a topic she would continue to explore during her time at Fielding.

In the meantime, Indira focused on survivors of sexual violence and refugees of the former Yugoslavia. She consulted on the documentary film, Calling the Ghosts. The Emmy-award winning documentary reveals the torture and humiliation of women in concentration camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Directed by Mandy Jacobson in 1996, it also won the Human Rights Watch Int'l Film Fest and Nestor Almendros Award for best documentary.

Indira also co-founded the Reconciliation and Culture Cooperative Network (RACOON, Inc.), an organization she would eventually direct until 2011, raising over $1.5 million to assist in community-building programs for an estimated 250,000 Western Balkan refugees and exiles in the New York and tri-state area.

Indira Skoric and staff of Reconciliation and Culture Cooperative Network (RACOON, Inc.)

“We were mostly political activists,” said Indira, “but early on, we realized that these refugee populations not only needed a conflict resolution program, but they also needed someone to help them navigate complexities in the system and advocate for them.”

Indira describes how things became especially difficult for immigrants after 9/11. “People couldn’t get social security numbers, and so they would end up in the category of aliens, or illegals,” even if they were awaiting a “legal” status.

Her organization began working on issues such as advocating for health care and ensuring her constituents could get the care they needed in their native language. In 2004, RACOON, Inc. received the Union Square Award for grassroots activism that strengthens local communities.

Reconciliation and Culture Cooperative Network (RACOON, Inc.)“The organization that started as a conflict transformation group, thinking how do we reconcile in exile, ended up providing advocacy and networking,” said Indira. “As part of the leadership, I was pushed in a place that I needed to learn how to navigate, not only practically but also strategically. Fielding provided that place for my own learning and growth, to be able to lead this small organization.”

Intrigued by women, like herself, who used their experiences to “transform their lives and even emancipate themselves from the horror that haunts them,” her Human and Organizational Systems research focused on the life stories of nine women survivors of and advocates against sexual violence. In a way, it was her way to seek greater understanding of her own growth.

Then, in 2007, the Law on the Protection of Civilian Victims of War in Bosnia and Herzegovina was amended to include victims of rape. By essentially garnering women who had been raped during the war status of civilian war victims, they became eligible for disability, health care, and professional rehabilitation. It was a “huge” moment for Indira.

According to her dissertation committee chair, Richard Appelbaum, "Indira's life and work bear witness to Fielding's concern with social justice—with putting theory into practice. Her dissertation was a powerful exploration into the lives of women who were severely traumatized, yet who used their pain and sorrow to devote their energies to helping other women similarly afflicted.”

A recipient of multiple Fielding scholarships, Indira’s research contributes to the literature on “emancipatory learning by revealing how these women created the conditions for their own survival, and adds to the literature of feminist studies.” Indira has organized and presented at numerous international seminars, conferences and United Nations meetings. During her doctoral studies, she was a fellow in Fielding’s Institute for Social Innovation and was named Revson Fellow by Columbia University. Her article “Advocacy and Survivors of Sexual Violence” is set for publication in Canadian Oral History in the spring of 2014.

In addition to being assistant professor at Kingsborough Community College, Indira currently sits on the board of the Women’s Refugee Commission, a research and advocacy group that accomplishes life-changing improvements for vulnerable displaced populations. 

Tags: change agent, social justice, diversity, women's issues, graduate fellows, violence, human rights, scholar activist

Touching Lives, Changing Systems, Creating the Future

Posted on Mon, Oct 22, 2012
describe the image

By Henry H Fowler (ELC '10)

Fielding allowed me to thrive from the comfort of my cultural environment.

Fielding’s focus on the art of teaching brought me back to my Native land.  I was challenged to study and investigate curriculum as it related to my native population and create new approaches that could make a difference in the lives of young Navajo people. 

Even though I have long been motivated to teach math, throughout the years of my teaching career, I began to have mixed feelings about teaching math.  My enthusiasm about teaching math had begun to lessen. Each year in my math classes, I observed my students who were quiet and unmotivated to learn mathematics. My teaching was unattractive to them and they found my questions meaningless. My daily challenge was to teach math to students who lacked knowledge of basic math facts, were unmotivated, had high absenteeism and tardiness, were unprepared for class, lacked parental support, lacked current math books, had no access to technology, had high class enrollment, and were disruptive.  The sum of these reasons weighed heavily on me, and my passion for teaching began to stall.  Fortunately, my enrollment at Fielding afforded me a new platform for thinking critically about my teaching experience.  As a direct result of my work at Fielding, I have made inquiry and gained clear insight about teaching math to Navajo students.  This has set the stage for invigorated research about and development of new instructional strategies that have energized my students to learn math and me to teach.

I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to experience a wealth of education through Fielding Graduate University. Fielding provided me an education that was practical, meaningful, and relevant. The Educational Leadership and Change curriculum was suitable for me and it was tailored to my needs.  The schooling I received at Fielding is closely correlated with the teaching of the Navajos. In the Navajo culture, our elders illuminate their teaching based on the notion that is up to an individual to be a self-directed learner, to find balance, and to produce positive experiences that will improve quality of life for everyone. Fielding’s similar emphasis on self-direction to create positive experiences, has allowed me to extend my knowledge in areas of my interest to me and to explore and integrate other theories to expand my perspective in education. Fielding was open to and supportive of my cultural background.  This support has allowed me to strive for more in-depth study.

Fielding helped open the opportunity for me to address the dismal outlook of the Navajo high school poor performance in mathematics.  As a direct result of the Fielding curriculum, I am more aware of my surroundings and how they impact teaching delivery and reception.  I bring an enlivened critical thinking mindset to my intellectual endeavors, and I feel empowered as a teacher to lead efforts to change the math education on the Navajo Reservation.  I am encouraged to broaden the perspective of my immediate horizon and challenged to actively pursue my interest in improving math education for Navajo students.  The Fielding approach to learning engaged me and afforded me learning experiences which were was relevant and meaningful.

The Navajos believe they are part of nature, and that this natural order gives directions for life.  The Navajos agree their natural surroundings bring the energy of spirit to the people.  That energy is infused with purpose and direction for the Navajo people.  According to Hozho, the Navajo purpose on this earth is to keep in balance, harmony, and respect with the natural order.  A good life resides in every angle of the morning light with a promising sense of beauty, hope, and determination for every individual.  The Navajo understand, that with a sense of the complementary and supplementary, an individual will feel beauty above, below, around, and before him or her from every angle.  The Navajo continue to practice this traditional heritage.  Complementary angles are two angles whose angles add up to 90 degrees and supplementary angles are two angles whose angles add up to 180 degrees. Using the Hozho model, this phenomenon could be represented to Navajo learners as ‘beauty above me + beauty below me = 90 degrees, and beauty around me + beauty before me = 180 degrees.  I believe it is time for Navajo educators to lead in creating educational math materials for the Navajo high school students to support their mathematical reasoning and communication. This approach to Navajo education would help students realize that math is part of their culture and to inspire students take an interest in appreciating and studying mathematics rather than feeling separate from it and mystified by it. 

The learning I acquired from Fielding provided me with new skills to tackle the problematic issues faced by the Navajo high school students in learning mathematics and succeeding on the standardized tests. Fielding staff provided excellent feedback for me to grow and expand my horizons in the scholarly world by recommending stellar literatures to read that related to my interests and field of study.  Fielding staff made me feel special because they listened to and valued my opinions.  I feel as if I have been nourished.


Tags: educational leadership, diversity, multicultural, graduate education

HOD Faculty Member Exemplifies the Essence of the Scholar-Activist

Posted on Thu, Mar 05, 2009

School of Human & Organizational Development (HOD) doctoral faculty member Christine GT Ho, PhD, received Fielding’s Social Justice Award at Winter Session 2013.


By Christine G.T. Ho, PhD
Faculty, School of Human & Organizational Development

For 25 years, I have been a migration scholar studying border crossing (literal and metaphoric), migration theory, immigrant adaptation, and transnationalism. I am also a globalization scholar, studying the workings of the capitalist global economy, the inequality it produces worldwide, and its impact on cultures around the world. I have published two books, Salt Water Trinnies (AMS Press, 1991), and Globalization, Diaspora and Caribbean Popular Culture (Ian Randle Publishers, 2005). I am currently writing a book that reframes immigration discourse away from violations of law to the recognition of globalization as a powerful engine of economic restructuring.

I am one of only two anthropologists at Fielding, a career that came from my interests in cultural differences, social inequality, and concerns about social injustice based on race, ethnicity, and gender. I taught these subjects at several universities before coming to Fielding, where I helped found the Structural Inequality and Diversity knowledge area and the concentration in Transformative Learning for Social Justice. I now serve on the Diversity and Social Justice governance team.


When I joined Fielding, I was looking for challenges beyond teaching undergraduates.  Fielding was the ideal solution, not only because of its dedication to adult learning but also its strong commitment to diversity and social justice. Fielding aspires to the ideals of social justice and understands its impact and importance.


If you are a prospective student wishing to produce social change, then I highly recommend you choose Fielding. Fielding is strongly committed to diversity and social justice, and many faculty members are knowledgeable about globalization, which has touched all human beings on this planet whether or not they are aware of it.

Tags: globalization, social justice, diversity, multicultural, graduate education