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Awakening the imagination, agitating for change: Reflections on the life and work of Maya Angelou and Maxine Green

Kristina Brezicha

Pennsylvania State University

At the end of May, we lost two influential and impassioned voices. As many of you know, Dr. Maya Angelou, a noted author, artist and activist passed away. Did you know that Dr. Maxine Greene, a preeminent educational philosopher, also passed away the same week? Throughout her long career, Dr. Greene examined the interconnections between education, aesthetics, democracy and the moral life. In many ways, these two women’s legacies hold important and intertwining lessons for graduate students in educational leadership. While my original post was going to discuss the importance of the time for reflection, this sad occasion has steered my post towards some reflections on the importance of these two women’s work and the message it holds for educational leaders.

Maxine Greene advocated living a life wide-awake to the world including the myriad of injustices we confront on a daily basis. As she writes, wide-awakeness requires the “conscious endeavor on the part of individuals to keep themselves awake, to think about their condition in the world, to inquire into the forces that appear to dominate them, to interpret the experiences they are having day by day…Only then can they develop the sense of agency required for living a moral life” (Greene, 1978, p. 44). She argued that the modern life allows us to operate with an automaticity that prevents this wide-awakeness. This automaticity breeds complacency and allows for the injustices of modern society to continue unchallenged. Greene, therefore, argued that educators must continuously work to awaken themselves and their students.

Maya Angelou provides an example of a person who lived her life wide-awake. In her work as an author and civil rights advocate, Dr. Angelou challenged the injustices she saw in the world and provided us a vision of another mode of living. Through Angelou’s work as an artist and civil rights activist, she “awaken[ed] us to alternative possibilities of existing, of being human, of relating to others, of being other” (Greene, 1993, p. 214). This awakening and imagination is at the core of moral life for Greene who argued that it should be one of the fundamental purposes of education.

Greene also recognized the importance of courage in living a moral life and educating future generations. In her last interview, Greene spoke of the importance for educators to be courageous. She said “I would tell them to have courage! I would tell them not to get frightened by the possibility that you might get thrown out, and not to worry so much about tenure. Make your voice audible, make sure it’s heard, and don’t conform” (Ignaffo, 2014, What advice section, para. 1). This is a powerful statement particularly for us as young scholars.

Indeed, Greene’s and Angelou’s life and work hold deep implications for us as graduate students in educational leadership. Both women courageously shared their work and dreams of how the world could be otherwise. As educators, we need to do the same. We need both courage and imagination when taking stock of the current educational system. This was clearly illustrated to me at Penn State’s Civil Rights and Education conference this weekend. In presentation after presentation, scholars detailed the injustices of the American educational system but rarely offered solutions to change these problems. While we need to know and name these injustices, it is just as important to then generate possible solutions. These solutions will require both courage and imagination. We need imagination to know that our education system can be otherwise and to envision such an alternative and courage to challenge the status quo and upend a system which is seemingly designed to perpetuate injustices.  Both of these women provide us examples of the deep courage, conviction and imagination needed to change our educational system. Therefore this summer, I ask you to think about this: how can our educational system be different and what can we do to make it so?


Greene, M. (1978). Landscapes of Learning (p. 255). New York: Teachers College Press.

Greene, M. (1993). Diversity and Inclusion: Toward a Curriculum for Human Beings. Teachers College Record, 95(2), 211–221.

Ignaffo, T. (2014). Profile of Maxine Greene, Professor Emerita. Arts & Humanities. Retrieved June 08, 2014, from


Surviving the Summer Slump

James E. Vines

Clemson University


The end of the spring semester marks the completion of another school year.  A new batch of newly minted Ph.D.s and Ed.D.s are transitioning from student to Drs.  However, for students who are still continuing their doctoral studies, the summer means coursework, research, and writing conference proposals and journal articles.  Despite the overscheduled, sometimes hectic, graduate student life, it is important to keep ourselves motivated, in good health, and squeeze some time to enjoy the summer.  

Campus Library

College campuses become very quiet each May, as students travel home for the summer break. However, the summer can be a great time for hard-working graduate students to take advantage of the resources on campus.  We all love our offices, but remember the library is still open.  The summer can be an excellent time to gather other graduate students, and head over to the library.  You will find there are more empty study rooms, and graduate student can set up shop to work all day.  Spending some time working in the library can be beneficial, because librarians are only footsteps away; you have quick access to stacks and stacks of resources, and less traffic during the regular school year.

Break a Sweat!

Studying, but don’t forget to take time to sweat.  Do you know that your campus has a gym?  No matter how big or small, it does exist.  Hit the gym.  Fewer students on campus means more time you can spend on a machine without a 30 minute limit.  If you are not into being cooped up inside the gym, go outside for a walk, a jog, or a run.  The key to a good workout is to be prepared.  Bring workout clothes, shoes, socks, and a positive attitude.  Bringing the items with you ensures that you won’t have to worry about leaving campus.  Whether you are into cardio, weightlifting, or simply want to get moving, working out has tons of benefits.  Working out helps you sleep better, improves your health, and can boost your memory and concentration.  The health benefits then translate into our seemingly endless work which requires focus, energy, and perseverance. 

Hit the Open Road!

Time to gas up.  So you come into the office each day, and you may even be taking summer courses.  Many people tend to go on vacations, or take family trips to get away and relax.  For a graduate student, it can be hard to distinguish the summer session from the fall and spring semesters.  Remember you are not alone, because there are other students in your department and on campus who are feeling the summer slump.  Reach out to these graduate students and plan a trip away.  It can be as simple as choosing a destination within an hour or two away.  Organizing a trip can be a great way to get to know other graduate students on a non-academic level.  A short trip and change of scenery can be refreshing, boosting your creativity and giving you a chance to step away from your work and return with fresh eyes.  Try to reach out, plan a trip this summer, and reap the benefits.

Friends and Family

The campus is quiet, the library is yours, you are working out, and you and your peers have seen new sights.  As you continue on in the summer do not forget that there are individuals back home who love, support, and miss you.  Be sure to take time to make a trip home.  Some of you may attend an institution close to home, so you have more time to go home during the school year.  You have a few months before the school year is back in full swing.  Plan a trip home, your family misses you, and wants to see your smiling face.  Also, going home means you can take a break from cooking your own food, and have a chance to catch up with old friends.


To all of the hard working graduate students, the undergraduate days of going home for the entire summer are over.  However, that does mean that you cannot have a successful academic summer, while staying healthy.  I encourage you to get outside the office, take time to explore places on your campus, and get your peers out with you.  The summer can be just as busy as a regular school year, but that does not mean you have not earned a break.  Give yourself the refresher you need in order to be the best, productive, graduate student you can be.


Lessons learned at the 2014 Clark Scholars Seminar: Notes from the panel discussion, Publishing in Academic Journals

Participants included Alex Bowers (Columbia University), Bridget Terry Long (Harvard University), Jonathan Supovitz (University of Pennsylvania), and Julian Vasquez Heilig (University of Texas at Austin).

  • 2-2-2-2-2-2 Plan: This highly ambitious plan suggests that at any given time, you should strive to have 2 articles coming out, 2 articles in press, 2 articles in revise and resubmit, 2 articles submitted, 2 articles that you are writing, and 2 articles for which you are conducting research.  Sounds exhausting, right?
  • Find the right fit:  One suggestion for finding the right fit is to look at the reference lists for the articles that you are citing in your work and observe where those authors are publishing.  Since your interests are similar, looking at the journals where your predecessors are publishing should give you an idea of which journals publish work in your area of interest.  The following journals were mentioned by panelists as top journals in educational leadership and policy: EAQ, JEA, JRLE, AERJ, EPA, and ER.  Check out this article from Educational Administration Quarterly (available free to Clark Scholars for the upcoming year) for more advice on choosing a journal that is right for you: Richardson, J. W., & McLeod, S. (2009). Where should educational leadership authors publish to get noticed by the top journals in the discipline?. Educational Administration Quarterly, 45(4), 631-639.
  • Meet the needs of journals: Submission requirements for individual journals are available online.  You should print those requirements and follow them closely.  You should also pick out 2-3 articles that have been published in the journal and deconstruct them.  Then, follow that structure when you write.  Another suggestion from the panel was that you should shop your papers around.  As you become more familiar with individual journals, you can contact the editors.  Let them know what you are working on, and find out if they think your research fits their needs.  One panelist even suggested that you should look at the editorial board for the journal and cite members of the board towards to beginning of your manuscript, bringing their attention to your paper.
  • Create a line up of journals:  Take the time to think about the line up before you begin writing, and be aware that you may want to work on multiple versions of an article to expand your options. The submission process is often slow.  Although after you have been rejected you can submit the same paper to other journals, it is beneficial to be strategic about the first submission and subsequent options.  You want to aim high but be reasonable so that your hard work does not get held up awaiting an acceptance letter that may never come.  The panelists pointed out that your dissertation is written in a highly supportive environment with more readers and more input than you will have later in your career, so you should aim high with the articles that make up or accompany your dissertation.
  • Pay close attention to feedback when you revise and resubmit:  Whether or not you are ultimately rejected from the journal, the revise and resubmit process can be very useful for tightening your paper.  If you copy the feedback that was provided by the journal into a letter, you can use that outline to craft your response that accompanies your next draft. Also, the suggestion was made that you should send a paper when it is 90-95% ready, and use the reviewers’ feedback to figure out what you need to add to further drafts of the paper. 
  • Make your contribution clear: You need to put together a carefully constructed argument that is at the center of your article and justify why your work is a contribution to the field. Make sure to explain how your work fits into the already existing body of literature. 
  • Translate research across disciplines and formats: Simply put, different audiences require different formats for your writing.  You should be prepared to write about your research for academic use, practical use, and policy use. While a little disheartening, the truth is that most people will not want to read your full-length journal article.  By creating reduced versions of your work such as brief summaries or concrete applications that policy makers and practitioners can easily digest, you increase the likelihood of practical application of your work.  Another suggestion was to create online appendices that can be accessed alongside or in lieu of your journal article.   Also if you feel strongly about a topic and you want your ideas to reach the greatest amount of people, you may want to translate your academic findings into a blog, Facebook entry, or tweet. 
  • Negotiate your contract wisely: Ensure that you are maintaining ownership of your work when you negotiate your contract.  You can request to have access to your work and to be able to post PDF’s of your published articles on your personal or university website.  While many journals are open to this contract change, some will not be.  Decide ahead of time if you are willing to work with journals that do not allow self-archiving.  Check out Sherpa Romeo (, a searchable database of publisher's policies regarding the self- archiving of journal articles on the web and in Open Access repositories. Concerned about open access? Contact your librarians and fight back versus the journals.  For those not prone to activism, see the suggestion above.  
  • Build in rewards: Academic work requires high levels of concentration and a commitment to structuring your own time wisely. It is also induces self-doubt and lends itself nicely to procrastination.  For these reasons, it can be difficult to complete a manuscript.  By building in rewards such as nice meals or fun trips, you create your own self-imposed deadline with something satisfying on the other end of submission.  Once that the manuscript is out of your hands, go enjoy yourself.
  • Last but not least . . Use the "compliment sandwich": When you begin serving as a reviewer yourself, it is helpful to offer your critique by leading and ending with what the author(s) have done well and then providing the more critical analysis in between.  This format will help the recipient of the feedback be more open to your suggestions, and you will be paying them a professional courtesy that you will hope to have extended to you.

For more advice on this topic, panelist Alex Bowers suggested an ebook for the bargain price of $3, Fabio Rojas’ Grad Skool Rulz (  This book contains advice for PhD and EdD students on how to negotiate writing a dissertation, getting a tenure track position, and succeeding in the early years of the academy.


Written by Erin Anderson, UCEA Graduate Assistant and 2014 Clark Scholar


Serving on Graduate Student Council—A Personal Perspective

The UCEA Graduate Student Council (GSC) is now accepting 2014-16 GSC representative applications. Our new representative, Kristina Brezicha, blogged about her experience in GSC. Today, as a representative who has served on the GSC for almost two years, I’m sharing my rewarding experience with graduate students and prospective GSC representatives. Overall, my service on the GSC, in turn, offered me an incredible platform to sharpen my leadership skills, expand my professional network, and grow intellectually.

First, our current eight GSC representatives work collaboratively. Each of us comes from different educational leadership and administration programs across the country (click here to know our current representatives), bringing our commitment and expertise to the table. There are always a lot of exciting things going on, including: planning for 2014 UCEA Graduate Student Summit (GSS, hashtag #UCEAGSS2014), writing group, graduate student development, and UCEA Review graduate student section. While these exciting initiatives are going very well, we are ready to embrace diverse, new ideas. So new representatives are welcome, or more precisely, are expected to bring and implement new ideas to serve graduate students in UCEA community.

Second, the graduate students I work with are my future colleagues. All the ups and downs we experienced together, the encouragement we sent to each other in emails, the heartwarming words we spoke at UCEA convention, and all hands on deck and having each other’s back at GSS when unexpected logistic challenges arose. All those moments we shared together transformed to such a strong bond which will accompany us our in our scholarly life.

Third, I would not be able to engage with so many doctoral students across the country if I didn’t join UCEA GSC. In addition to interacting with doctoral students in the same cohort or program, GSC provided me with a dynamic platform on which I was able to engage with those who are beyond institutional boundaries, to learn from them, and simply to be inspired. 

So my fellow graduate students, come and join us! It will turn out to be a memorable chapter in your graduate student life. As I’m going through a transition from a graduate student to a faculty member, I’d also like to express my gratitude to my GSC colleagues for being supportive along the way. Thanks!


Becoming a Graduate Student Council Representative

Kristina Brezicha, Pennsylvania State University

This month the Graduate Student Council (GSC) will release its call for the new representatives. This blog post will note some of the reasons you should consider applying for these positions. As some of you know, the GSC was only created in 2011. Despite being a young organization, the council has hosted two Graduate Student Summits at the annual University Council of Educational Administration (UCEA) Convention, posted blogs, hosted a series of webinars, and work with many talented graduate students and faculty to help improve the graduate student experience.

So why join the GSC? First of all, it’s fun. Really it is! As a member of the GSC, I have gotten to work with 6 other really smart, funny, organized graduate students from across the country. As we work together to generate new ideas, improve on prior practices and plan the next series of GSC initiatives, we have a good time doing it.

Secondly, it helps pull me and, I suspect, you out of your graduate school bubble. There is another world outside of our own graduate school programs. While conferences help remind us of that, it is easy to get caught up in the daily grind of our programs and forget that we are working not only with others in our program but across graduate programs. Being a part of the GSC reminds me of that on a monthly basis, which brings perspective to my work within my own university.

Third, speaking of perspective, working across departments and programs, helps also show the commonalities that we share. Working with the other GSC members helps show that our experiences and the experiences of other graduate students are not as idiosyncratic as you might expect. Surely, each program has unique characteristics but many of the concerns and joys are similar across the graduate student life. This is a helpful perspective to have as working within our own program and on the GSC.

Fourth, you get to meet many great people. This is embedded in some of the previously mentioned reasons but beyond the other representatives that you get to work with; you also meet a host of individuals who help to run UCEA, as well as a diverse group of faculty and graduate students who participate in various GSC initiatives. At our last summit over 300 graduate students participated in various GSS presentations, roundtables and workshops, while I certainly didn’t meet everyone, I did meet and get to know many awesome faculty and grad students.

Lastly, working with the GSC has given me a unique perspective on the planning and working that goes into staging a conference or a summit. This is a very helpful perspective to have as we will move into leadership roles that involve the development of conference sessions, summits and conferences ourselves. So in addition to all the other benefits of joining the GSC, there is a lot that you learn.

While there are a lot of benefits to joining the GSC, there are also responsibilities. These responsibilities include attending a monthly GSC planning meeting. We meet via Google Hangout regularly. The meetings can last anywhere from half an hour to an hour. During that time, we get a report from our UCEA representative. Our various subcommittees will also share updates on the various projects that we are responsible for. These projects include graduate student development and the planning for the Graduate Student Summit. Each subcommittee typically also meets to discuss and work on their project. Those conversations can occur via email, Google Hangout, or a series of collaborative documents. These are the main responsibilities. However, the GSC is a young organization and there are many other initiatives in the pipeline. It is also a growing organization and your input and thoughts will help shape how the GSC looks in the years to come.

The call for the GSC representatives will be out in the end of January. We will conduct interview and notify applicants in late spring. In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions about becoming a GSC representative. I would be happy to answer any of those questions.