Three students in the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations (EAF) have been named to the Jackson Scholars Network with the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA). Armen Álvarez, Shaun Crisler and Tiffani Robertson are all doctoral students with future plans to become full-time faculty.

The Jackson Scholars Network is a two-year program designed to provide professional development to graduate students of color who plan to become professors. The program provides formal networking with peers and mentoring with a seasoned professor.

“The UCEA Barbara Jackson Scholarship program is a valuable tool for succession planning and repopulating the pool of doctoral students within the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations who aspire to become professors of educational leadership,” said Dr. Lenford Sutton, chair of EAF. “The program is very much hands-on in that it provides EAF graduate students with an extensive mentoring and networking portfolio to establish relationships very much needed to successfully transition to the professoriate. Students become a part of a larger network of professionals in the field and foster life-long professional relationships.” 

We sat down with each of the Illinois State scholars to learn more about their scholarship and future plans.

Armen Álvarez

Armen Álvarez

Originally from Puerto Rico and of Afro-Taíno decent, Armen Álvarez has been a critical scholar throughout her whole educational career. She has degrees in economics and diplomacy and remarks that she was often the only woman in many of her classes. While completing earlier degrees, she began to examine how people are educated from a multi-dimensional approach. And when she discovered the EAF doctoral program, she knew that it was going to be a good fit to continue her studies and scholarship.

Álvarez’s Research

“My overarching research interest revolves around the imposition of Eurocentric epistemologies in the education system, and how it calculatedly affects Puerto Rico’s education system as a current colonial territory of the U.S. and the oldest colony in the world since 1493.

On being selected as a Jackson Scholar

Álvarez is excited to be part of the Jackson Scholar Network because of the community, the impact on her research and the mentorship opportunity.

“When you do this research, it can feel lonely, so coming to UCEA and the Jackson Scholars made me not feel so lonely,” said Álvarez. “And it made me feel that my line of thought was adequate for my research.”

She equates being selected for this group like winning an Emmy award and is so excited because she has not won anything like this before. She knows that her research is good, but it is a very specific topic and hard to conceptualize. She was paired with a faculty mentor who understands her concept and has many personal experiences in Puerto Rico. “I feel like we are already family,” states Álvarez. 

COE Shout Out

Álvarez wants to give a special shout out to Dr. Pamela Hoff, professor in EAF, who has provided so much support and guidance for her in her study, research and in starting in the Jackson Scholar program.

Shaun Crisler headshot
Shaun Crisler

Shaun Crisler

Shaun Crisler was born and raised in Chicago, and commutes back and forth from New York to Chicago. He is the assistant vice president for Residence Life at SUNY Oswego. He has spent his career in higher education, specifically residence life operations and has dreams to someday combine that with teaching on a regular basis. He chose the EAF doctoral program because he wanted a cohort model program and he wanted Black faculty as part of that program.

“Given the limited amount of Black faculty in academia and that all of my other institutions have been historically white colleges, having Black faculty was really important to me for this degree,” said Crisler.

Crisler’s Research

“My research will look to critique whiteness in higher education and the ways that it impacts students, faculty, and administrators at both the individual level and institutional level at Historically white (1) College and Universities (HwCU).

  • I have opted not to capitalize whiteness or white when they are referring to entities or systems, and to capitalize White when it refers to the racial identity of an individual or a group. The decision was made to challenge and minimize the power given to socially constructed notions of whiteness by dominate society.”

Benefit of the Jackson Scholar Network

Crisler is excited to be part of the scholar network because it is designed to help students of color progress into academia through a supportive network of peers and mentors of color. For him, this opportunity is a blessing because he loves being a part of mentoring environments where he can learn from others and be pushed to continue to improve.

“I try to mentor young professionals and create a receptive and supportive environment, so being invited to be a part of a group like that is really helpful professionally,” said Crisler. “In addition, I’ve always been a practitioner, so learning how to create a syllabus and use my research in teaching is so important.”

Fun Fact

American Sign Language is his second language. He worked in a program during college for a few years where he was a resident assistant on a floor for students who are d/Deaf and hard of hearing. Once he completes his doctoral program, he is looking forward to strengthening that skill again.

Tiffani Robertson headshot
Tiffani Robertson

Tiffani Robertson

Tiffani Robertson has been in higher education for 15 years in registrar and admissions roles. She is currently the associate director of admissions at Governor’s State University. Soon after earning her master’s in business and marketing, she started teaching in an adjunct professor role and has been teaching an introduction to college course for many years. Now she is hoping to become a full-time professor once she completes her doctoral degree.

Research Interest

Her research topic is the persistence strategies that Black women academic deans use while at four-year institutions. 

On joining the scholars network

Robertson is very excited to get to work with her mentor who works at a university in the state where she dreams of living. In fact, her mentor was previously a Jackson Scholar and loves to give back to future faculty. Robertson is thankful to be part of a group where faculty of color mentor future faculty of color. She knows that this experience will help her develop her research skills and better prepare her to land a full-time faculty position.

She is honored to be selected to be part of this great network and thankful that Dr. Dianne Renn, associate professor in EAF, nominated her. Robertson shared her goal of becoming a full-time professor with Dr. Renn many times.

“I think it’s always important to share your goals with your professors because they will remember and you never know what opportunities they will recommend or the connections they have,” said Robertson.

COE Shoutout

Robertson gives a shoutout to Dr. Renn and Dr. Venus Evans-Winters, professor in EAF, who Robertson says she bugs the most for advice and guidance. She is grateful for their time and effort that they put forth to challenge her and help her be her best.

Fun Fact

She is a clothing model in Chicago. She’s done many runway shows, was on TV twice, and appeared in a couple local magazines.