Student Spotlight

Brenda Rubio
Educational Policy & Planning, Educational Administration 
Proposal Title: Academia Cuauhtli: A Study of Bilingual Teacher Identity Development in a Culturally Relevant Schooling Space 
Faculty Advisor: Angela Valenzuela, Ph.D.

Having served as a research assistant and program coordinator for local grassroots organization Academia Cuauhtli Saturday Academy, doctoral candidate Brenda Rubio now hopes to tap into the wealth of data she knows to be available from the program, a fourth-grade Saturday school that promotes students’ culture, language, and knowledge.

“I was intrigued by the irony that bilingual education teachers carried with them such a deeply embedded sense of internalized and structural oppression they did not seem aware of,” wrote Rubio in her grant proposal. “I began to wonder whether culturally relevant programming and curriculum, like the one offered through Cuauhtli, could provide the professional spaces and materials for teachers to explore and transform their own identities and, in turn, affect their role as transformative agents within their schools.”

Rubio’s data collection will include observations, informal and formal interviews, a focus group, in-class observations, document collection, and an analysis of the oral life histories of nine Academia Cuauhtli teachers.


Photo of EunJin SeoEunJin Seo
Human Development, Culture, and Learning Science; Educational Psychology
Proposal Title: Be Careful What You Wish For: Characteristics of Students’ Academic Goals and Their Daily Effort

A native of South Korea with two master’s degrees—one in educational psychology and one in quantitative methods—EunJin Seo is on her way to completing a doctorate in human development, culture, and learning science. Her research focuses on examining student goal characteristics and their related daily effort patterns. “Little work has examined how different goal characteristics impact college students’ daily motivation, commitment, and effort toward their goals,” says Seo. This makes it hard to guess why students may choose to procrastinate or offer only minimal effort toward achieving some academic goals.

Thanks to her research grant, Seo will be able to define how students can set realistic goals, as well as how educators can help motivate students more effectively. Her study will include 200 UT Austin students who will each fill out a daily questionnaire for 14 consecutive days. Participants will record observations like the hours spent working toward a specific goal, their feelings of commitment and effort, and any perceived progress.

While similar studies used one-time data collection methods, Seo’s longitudinal study will capture the stability and variability of students’ goal pursuit over time and in real life.


Photo of Florian HemmeFlorian Hemme
Sport Management, Kinesiology and Health Education
Proposal Title: Change Readiness in a Public Recreation Organization: A Multiple-Case Study
Faculty Advisor: Jan Todd, Ph.D.

Another international scholar with two higher degrees under his belt, Florian Hemme is dedicated to examining the impact of environmental and institutional forces on sport organizations and how well those organizations prepare for and adapt to change. Hemme’s dissertation research, which he expects will result in four to six peer-reviewed publications, will take a closer look at public recreation organizations, which are currently underrepresented in current sport management research.

“It is unclear,” notes Hemme, “if the change readiness of collectives—be it small teams, departments, or an entire organization—is nothing but an additive outcome of individual members’ readiness or if other, more complex mechanisms are at play.”

Hemme’s longitudinal comparative case study analysis will involve twenty public recreation facilities and involve multiple interviews and focus groups. Primary research questions include how organizations balance continuity and change readiness, how strategies for continuous change readiness relate to change-specific readiness, and whether or not change conditions impact the relationship between continuous and change-specific readiness.


Photo of Man YangMan Yang
Multicultural Special Education, Special Education
Proposal Title: A Meta-Analysis of Cross-Linguistic Transfer Between Chinese and English
Faculty Advisor: North Cooc, Ph.D.

After completing a bachelor’s degree in law in Tianjin, China, Man Yang switched gears and dove into the world of teaching and education. Yang achieved a master’s of education from Vanderbilt University, where she studied English language teaching and learning. Now a doctoral candidate specializing in multicultural special education at UT Austin, Yang will use her research grant to conduct a meta-analysis to identify the linguistic features in Chinese that are highly correlated to the corresponding language skills in English among Chinese-speaking bilingual students in the United States.

The research project centers around three main questions. First, among linguistic skills that transfer, which predict Chinese-speakers’ English performance? Second, do results differ between Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese? And lastly, are there factors that contribute to cross-linguistic transfer?

Such work reaches beyond applications for Chinese and English language users, Yang notes. “Our results could also be used to compare with relevant cross-linguistic studies focusing on Spanish-speaking children…two widely used languages across the United States.” Similar crossover could appear between regular and special education settings. The study “will help educators identify potential reading disabilities from an early stage, rather than waiting for a certain level of English proficiency to be reached.”


Photo of Noreen Naseem RodriguezNoreen Naseem Rodriguez
Social Studies Education, Curriculum and Instruction
Proposal Title: Hidden in History: Examining Asian American Elementary Teachers’ Enactment of Asian American History
Faculty Advisor: Cinthia Salinas, Ph.D.

A Longhorn through-and-through, Noreen Naseem has been a student of the College of Education since her undergraduate days, when she double-majored in applied learning and development and Spanish. While Naseem’s research interests include, at first glance, dissimilar topics like Asian critical race theory and elementary social studies, both are woven seamlessly together in her current project.

Utilizing a qualitative case study methodology, Naseem and her team will collect data from Asian American educators in an urban Texas school district. Teachers will be asked questions such as, “How do Asian American elementary educators’ cultural and teacher identities inform each other?” and “How do these educators enact Asian American histories in their classrooms?”

Naseem describes the short-term goal of the project as an attempt to “diversify American history narratives in social studies classrooms by including Asian Americans who have long been omitted from official curriculum.” Long-term, the research will go beyond traditional journal publications; it will help refine necessary alterations in social studies curriculum for young people, honing them into shareable tools that will reach a nationwide audience of educators via an online database and website.