“I’d like to make diversity central to our curricula rather than a separate chapter at the end.” Dr. Grace Kim

Grace S. Kim

Clinical Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology

Clinical psychologist Grace S. Kim’s research tackles diversity from two angles: social justice education and Asian American psychology. In each case, she dives into the messy areas that others might ignore or find discomforting. Kim has studied belonging and exclusion in transracial adoptees, women and war trauma, and the “model minority myth” attached to Asian Americans.

She’s also writing a primer on social justice efforts and a guide for teachers on engaging with students’ emotions, as well as leading research into student attitudes toward diversity. In a study currently under review, she followed college freshmen in a required course that explored issues of diversity, and found that while it helped students become more appreciative and aware of others’ differences, it also made them uncomfortable, forcing them to reconsider their biases. Some students challenged the ideas they were hearing, which Kim says is a normal part of development. She hopes her findings will inform BU Wheelock’s efforts to integrate diversity into its curricula.

“As educators,” she says, “we need to expect pushback—it’s a sign that students are thinking and considering what’s being taught—and create a space where that kind of engagement can happen.”

“In academia, we’re charged with understanding students’ needs and then altering what we do to support them.” Dr. Raul Fernandez

Raul Fernandez

Lecturer in Higher Education Administration

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to inclusivity, says Raul Fernandez (COM’00, Wheelock’16), chair of BU Wheelock’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee.

“We’re talking about many different populations, so  when we think about what it means to be inclusive of  LGBT students, that might be a very different answer from what it means to be inclusive of first-generation students  or veterans.”

Fernandez’s mission is to ensure that universities across the country look more like society at large, which includes building more diverse student and faculty bodies and welcoming nontraditional students like parents and veterans. At BU Wheelock, he’s helping the college to survey students’ needs and review policies in response.

He’s also led training sessions for faculty—at BU and beyond—on topics like implicit biases and the gender divide, and organized social justice expeditions, including to Rwanda and Israel, for students.

“We cannot educate our students in color- and gender-blind ways,” he says. “Our different identities benefit classroom discussions, graduate assistantships, and our ability to connect with our increasingly diverse student body.”

“It’s important for bilingual and immigrant students to see their language and their home culture as valued in the school and in the classroom.” Dr. Christine Leider

Christine Leider

Clinical Assistant Professor of Language Education

As a first-generation Filipino American, Christine Leider would speak her parents’ language at home, but “I never had the opportunity to learn it in school,” she says. “Bilingual education allows that space for students who speak a language other than English at their home to be seen as an asset and to leverage their strengths.”

As program director of bilingual education, Leider is restructuring BU Wheelock’s bilingual education program to align with the Language Opportunity for Our Kids (Look) Act, which in November 2017 overturned Massachusetts’ English-only education policy. “Our program has been preparing teachers to work with bilingual students in ESL classrooms and in sheltered English immersion classrooms,” Leider says. “With the new law, we’re also going to be preparing teachers again to work in bilingual education programs.”

Leider, who is a lead evaluator with the federally funded International Consortium for Multilingual Excellence in Education, is constantly looking for ways to improve bilingual education—even on vacation. During her summer break, she tweeted from Argentina with a call for book recommendations: “I’m hoping to support and then bring some Latinx authors into classrooms. #WeNeedDiverseBooks.”

“My personal mission is to prepare graduates who are skilled and knowledgeable teachers who view education as a way to advance social justice.”

“My personal mission is to prepare graduates who are skilled and knowledgeable teachers who view education as a way to advance social justice.” Dr. Linda Banks-Santilli

Linda Banks-Santilli

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Clinical Associate Professor

Linda Banks-Santilli came to higher education from  the Boston Public Schools, where she worked with children who had experienced trauma. She’s since spent close to two decades teaching special and elementary education to college students, but says those early career experiences still drive her.

Today, they’re fueling her ambition to help position BU Wheelock “as a think tank for big national issues, like gun violence and the immigration crisis” through research, policy, and advocacy. “I love getting involved in projects that are focused on improving educational conditions for our most vulnerable children and families,” she says.

As well as researching and teaching special and elementary education methods, Banks-Santilli is leading the college’s new office of professional preparation, which will handle field education, community partnerships, and accreditation, and support students in their transition into the workforce—responsibilities that currently occupy much of the faculty’s time. She also hopes the office’s efforts will keep the college responsive to the issues and challenges that teachers face in the classroom and make sure its programs stay at the cutting edge.