Twenty summers ago, I started at Florida State University (FSU) in 2001 as a “CARE baby.” My senior year in high school, it felt like Jovany Felix came down to Miami, picked us up, and brought us back to Tallahassee to start our new lives as Noles. After receiving two bachelor’s degrees, one from Florida International University in political science and the other in art history from FSU in 2006, it was a no-brainer to explore FSU as an option for graduate school once I was ready to resume my formal education. In 2019, I enrolled in the online MS degree in Art Education. I finished in a year and jumped right into my doctoral studies in the Department of Art Education. FSU is home and I am a lifelong learner.
Motivation to pursue a graduate degree
After more than a decade of art, history, and arts integration in the K12 setting, I began to expand my audience as a motivational artist. In February 2018, the Lonnie B. Harris Cultural Center at Oregon State University invited me to facilitate “I am,” a participatory experience designed to explore identity through visual arts. Later that same year, I led an “Identity through Art” workshop hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. My function in educational spaces started to evolve, and I believed a graduate degree would provide a theoretical framework that complemented my practical experience as an educator.
Importance of research and work
When considering the dismally low percentage of Black male teachers in K12 classrooms across the country, it is appropriate to interrogate the recruitment and retention of Black male students majoring in education and enrolled in teacher preparation programs. If representation truly matters, it is essential to discover ways to increase the recruitment and retention pipeline of African American men in K12 education. Uncovering the contributing factors that lead to the lack of Black male educators through a narrative inquiry can inform decision-making and potentially lead to an increase in representation of traditionally underrepresented groups in, through, and around educational spaces.
Advice for anyone considering graduate school
Have an idea of what you want out of the graduate school experience. I am fortunate to have brought over ten years of work experience in public education into my studies. I have a great sense of who I am and, more importantly, who I am not! It’ll be difficult for someone to give me a wooden nickel. Become familiar with university and departmental policy, ask clarifying questions, and believe in yourself. Pats on the back are not readily given, but just because you don’t get one does not mean you haven’t earned it.
Accomplishments during graduate career
National Art Educator Association: Committee of Multiethnic Concerns, 50th Anniversary Planning Committee. Presenter: Art and Education for Social Justice Symposium at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. Spring 2020 College of Fine Arts Student Travel Grant.
Many have inquired about my “end game”; “what do you plan to do with a PhD, Stephen?” My career aspirations are to continue to educate and inspire through culturally responsive pedagogy. I have the ability to contribute to an alternative narrative by being in the room. Simply put, I would like to teach the teachers responsible for teaching the future. A social reconstructionist approach to education requires a shift in the way we conduct business as usual.