Profiles of Our Doctoral Graduates

Dr. Ana Luisa Muñoz García:

analuisa_photo.jpg My name is Ana Luisa, an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, Chile. I was a student in the program from 2009 to 2014 with a Fulbright Scholarship. Every time I was entering the U.S., the police asked me why I was going to Buffalo, too cold, and too far away from any entry point in the south of the United States. I did not have a straight answer for that and the story why I became a doctoral student in the Social Foundations (now ECPS) program in Buffalo was too long to tell. In my mind, my answer was always that the program gave me a unique learning experience.

As an international student, I had the opportunity to engage with students from different countries and scholars from different programs who encouraged me to think otherwise. I know it is difficult to imagine what it means to think beyond our intellectual horizon, but the program I pursued provided a real possibility to read and interact with people from different backgrounds and to think critically about the social and educational problems from our own context.

As a feminist scholar from the South, I also engaged with different groups in the Graduate Student Association in the University, which made me think about myself in academia and the context where I am working today in Chile. I was able to re-examine my previous research experience and to connect with broader networks by presenting at conferences and meetings, which program faculty encouraged me to do. Today, UB is my second home and the memories I have saved are full of great intellectual discussions and invitations to constantly reflect upon the world from multiple perspectives.


Dr. Qiongqiong Chen states:

Qiong.jpgThe Ph.D. program in Social Foundations of Education (now Educational Culture, Policy and Society) at the University at Buffalo (UB) was the perfect program for me to learn, grow, and begin my career in academia. As I reflect back on my years at UB, I am reminded of how profound and developmentally appropriate the experience was for me personally and professionally.

Although earning a PhD was extremely intense and challenging, the culture of ECPS made it enjoyable as well. Over my 5 years of doctoral training, I developed life-long friendships with both faculty and students. From the first day I started the program, I was treated more like a colleague than a student. The faculty gave me enormous support and assistance at each phase of my doctoral studies. This support lives on even today, as I continue to draw on advice from them. Moreover, the student community was vibrant, creating a culture wherein students learn from each other, celebrate each other’s success, and support each other during challenging times. Many of my fellow students remain both friends and colleagues. Due to the collegial atmosphere, I always felt extremely supported by the faculty and fellow students as I worked through course work, research projects, and the dissertation process.

The rigorous training and collegial atmosphere provided in the program have well prepared me to work as a researcher and administrator at the Southern University of Science and Technology in China.


Dr. David Cantaffa states:

Dr. David Cantaffa.JPGMy experience as a student in ECPS (Social Foundations) and ELP will always be a significant contributing factor in who I am as a professional in the field of education. The way that I develop and approach lines of inquiry is rooted in the thought processes that were encouraged by faculty and students who were part of this aspect of my academic upbringing. Members of the program challenged and supported us. And through this, we learned, not merely discrete bits of knowledge, but instead ways of thinking we could apply to new contexts. I feel fortunate to have found ECPS and the ELP department and to have had the opportunity for such formative experiences. To say that I am proud to be an alum of ECPS, is an understatement. I offer sincere appreciation for the multi-year efforts through which program faculty became a central figure in my academic and professional development. I have come a long way from that nervous graduate student presenting at the AESA conference in Miami many years ago. Thank you for helping build the path to where I am now and to the possible futures that are in front of me.

David Cantaffa was recently named Assistant Provost for Educator Preparation at the State University of New York (SUNY).


Dr. Julie A. Gorlewski states:

gorlewsj.jpgMy experiences earning a PhD in Social Foundations (Educational Culture, Policy and Society) enabled me to work across the fields of English Education, Educational Leadership and Policy, and Social Foundations. The ability to consider the interrelations of these fields in as they intersect in dynamic contexts supported my development as an activist scholar educator who is able to navigate, research, and advocate in K12, higher education, and various sociocultural settings.

The coursework in my program at UB provided rich, comprehensive involvement in cutting edge qualitative and qualitative methodologies, allowing me to apply established practice and extend in emerging approaches. Content and theory were consistently grounded in the lives and experiences of the people who shape and are shaped by the social structures and systems – analysis that represents the heart and soul of the work of education and educational research. I have no doubt that the critical interdisciplinary inquiry, coupled with comprehensive grounding in historical and cultural foundations, positioned me to participate meaningfully in the field of education.

My career trajectory can be attributed to the excellent preparation I received at UB. I have been privileged to contribute as an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Adolescent Education at Medaille College in Buffalo, New York (2008-2009) and as an Associate Professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz (2010-2016). Recently, I was appointed Chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at Virginia Commonwealth University, where I hope to continue to apply the knowledge, skills, and perspectives I gained in the Department of Educational Culture, Policy, and Society at the State University of New York at Buffalo.


Dr. Miao Li states:

Miao LI.pngMy name is Miao Li, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Shandong University in People’s Republic of China. I obtained a M.A. from Renmin University of China, and a Ph.D. in Educational Culture, Policy and Society (ECPS) from University at Buffalo in 2013. Before I joined the Shandong University, I worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at University of Toronto. The primary areas of my research are youth culture and activism, globalization and education, and citizenship education. My first book, Citizenship Education and Migrant Youth in China: Pathways to the Urban Underclass, was published by Routledge in 2015. I have been awarded an International Peace Scholarship (2010-2012) and a few research and travel grants.

During my five-year study in the ECPS program, I took several courses on sociological theories and on both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. Their critical acumen guided me to understand education in the context of political economy, larger social structures, and cultural processes. Dr. Lois Weis' mentorship was paramount in providing a well-rounded training consistent with my career goals. She is always there for me with her generous support whenever I stumbled. She inspired me to interrogate education in China within and beyond Western scholarship, and gradually develop my own intellectual interests. She offered me unique opportunity to build my own academic record while still a graduate student. She encouraged and supported me to turn my dissertation into a book. I own great thanks to her, more than I can express on this page.


Dr. Liang Du states:

Liang DuI am Associate Professor of Education in the Department of Educational Studies, Beijing Normal University. I have been a DAAD scholar at Humboldt University of Berlin, and a visiting scholar at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia. My research interests include minority education, migrant education, rural education, teacher development in high-needs contexts, and intercultural communication and education. I published Learning to Be Chinese American: Community, Education, and Ethnic Identity (Lexington, 2010), co-authored The Blue Book of Chinese Special-post Teachers (Educational Science Publishing House, 2012), and written numerous articles that have appeared in both English and Chinese academic journals, including The Urban Review and Educational Studies (Chinese).

I studied in GSE at the University at Buffalo between 2002 and 2008. During this period, I benefited tremendously from the systematic academic training provided by the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy as well as GSE more generally, including the course work, research project experience, and individual guidance from outstanding scholars. In addition, the vibrant student academic life in GSE was also an asset. I was actively involved in a graduate research group that focused on research related to the education of Asian Americans. The group organized regular academic activities ranging from academic presentations to collective academic writing and publishing. The annual graduate research conference in GSE was another impressive academic experience, where I actually completed my first conference presentation, and my first publication in English. The brilliant faculty members at GSE were highly friendly and helpful. Besides my academic advisor, Dr. Lois Weis, I still remember people like Dr. Greg Dimitriadis, Dr. Steve Jacobson, Dr. Robert Stevenson and many others, who offered generous help at various stages of my academic pursuit at UB. In retrospect, it is hard to exaggerate the role of the rigorous academic training in GSE at UB in my career path. To give one example: I was able to turn my dissertation, the final product of the training process, into my first book, which still is the foundation of my academic career.


Dr. S. Gopinathan states:

S. GopinathanI am currently Adjunct Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. I was Dean, School of Education (1994 – 2000) and subsequently Dean of Initial Teacher Training (July 2000 till June 2003) at the National Institute of Education, Singapore. I am a founder member of the Education Research Association of Singapore and served for over a decade as President. In 2003, I helped NIE establish a Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice and served as its Head. My research interests span teacher education, higher education, values and citizenship education, and education development. I am the founding editor of the Singapore Journal of Education, now the Asia Pacific Journal of Education, serve on the International Advisory Board of the Asia Pacific Journal of Education, and co-edit the Routledge Critical Studies in Asian Education. I have consulted widely on policy development for educational excellence with the World Bank, UNESCO, and UNICEF, among other international agencies, and am acknowledged internationally as an expert on Singapore’s educational development..

Two features of the PhD programme at the University at Buffalo were particularly significant. I was introduced to the works of Bowles and Gintis, C. Jencks, Collins, Coleman, M. Apple, P. Altbach, L. Weis, M. Carnoy, Karbabel and Halsey, among others. It opened my mind to new and more powerful ways of studying education, and the implications this had for policy development.

A second feature was the range of courses available – higher education, sociology of the curriculum, language-in-education, colonialism and education, among others. It gave me a broad and stimulating grounding in education studies, and was crucial, both in my subsequent teacher preparation work, my own scholarship and transnational and consulting work. The University at Buffalo made me the scholar I am.


Dr. Tracy Johnson states:

Tracey JohnsonThe Ph.D. program in Social Foundations of Education (now Educational Culture, Policy and Society) at the University at Buffalo opened many professional doors. Currently, I am the Assistant Vice Provost of Cora P. Maloney College and Interim Director of the Educational Opportunity Program at the University at Buffalo. In my role, I am responsible for several academic and student development programs. The program allowed me to take an interdisciplinary course of study and weave together my past higher education, schooling, and societal experiences. This lens enabled me to examine issues, policies and programming impacting diverse groups on the margin and allows me to reach beyond the given roles and goals of educational specialists and practitioners. In my current position, I am able to view issues broadly and critically within a social, cultural, and intellectual context.

While the Social Foundation (Educational Culture, Policy and Society) program at UB embraces traditional disciplinary approaches in analyzing and interpreting education, it also vigorously promotes an interdisciplinary approach utilizing a variety of research methods to explore complex questions and issues in education. This interdisciplinary approach has enabled me to develop strategies and programs to increase retention, persistence, academic achieve, and graduation for our students. I attribute some of my success to the synergistic and flexible curriculum that I was exposed to as a Ph.D. student. My advisor Lois Weis and the ELP Social Foundation Faculty not only educated and mentored me to become a good academics, but also they provided me with theoretical understandings that enabled me to become a scholar and intellectual.


From Dr. Teresa Lawrence, we hear:

Teresa LawrenceI currently have the honor of serving as Superintendent of Schools for the Grand Island Central School District.

My decision to complete a Ph.D. in Social Foundations (now ECPS) was simple to make. Having already completed the necessary leadership and administrative schooling and certificates to work as a school district superintendent, I had the desire to expand my perspective of what it meant to serve in a leadership position.

“School” is a social experience. As such, I wanted to participate in a program that would deepen my understanding of the role which school plays, not from an administrative perspective but from a social perspective. My coursework prepared me to ask critical questions about the role school plays in social class reproduction and how schools prepare students for both work and life opportunities. Perhaps my one key take-away from my program is an understanding of the influence of a school’s hidden curriculum on students. The hidden curriculum refers to the subliminal messages communicated by the organization and operation of schooling, distinct and apart from the official or public statements of school mission and subject area curriculum guidelines. Every day as I walk the halls, interact with students, teachers and faculty, and with every decision I make, I ask myself three questions:

  • What message are we sending students about who they are?
  • What meaning are they making about themselves as a result?
  • How is that meaning-making preparing them for what comes next?

The Common Core Standards are explicit in telling schools what students need to know academically at every grade level and upon graduation. While schools have a responsibility to convey content, school leaders have an obligation to know the context in which the learning takes place. The best I can do for the students and the community I serve is to apply theory into my daily practice. Completing my Ph.D. in Social Foundations (Educational Culture, Policy and Society) prepared me to do exactly that.


Dr. Amy Stich states:

Amy StichMy considerable qualitative and quantitative training at UB, which includes course work, experiences working with tier-one academic publishing in both qualitative and quantitative research, and numerous research opportunities in the field, have allowed me to develop expertise in a wide variety of qualitative methods, in particular, and a solid foundation for quantitative work/mixed methods research activities. Both qualitative and quantitative course work provided me with foundational as well as intensive/advanced practical experiences in the field. Additionally, general research experiences/training encouraged engaging in broader conversations and working across methodological boundaries. For example, as an editorial assistant for the American Educational Research Journal-Section on Social and Institutional Analysis, I had the opportunity to learn the intricacies of tier-one academic publishing from an insider perspective. This position, in particular, has augmented my ability to converse with quantitative and qualitative researchers and work across methodological borders.

Perhaps most importantly, the Department has encouraged me to engage in broader intellectual conversations while working across methodological boundaries. The rigorous training and research experience afforded in the program, along with the Department’s emphasis on bridging theory and practice with particular regard for improving educational policy, has proven invaluable to my current position as a policy analyst for the Council of Ontario Universities.