Four PhD Grads Tell of Professional Support and Personal Joy as SESP Alumnae

Four PhD Grads Tell of Professional Support and Personal Joy as SESP Alumnae

“I have been enjoying periodic reunions with three other SESP PhDs. It occurred to me that these meetings viscerally illustrate the value of SESP’s interdisciplinary programming,” says R. Michelle Green (PhD05). She contributes this story. 

PhD Alumnae

SESP has two great doctoral programs, but few students do more than peek at the other program. These four women have found great joy and professional support in mixing Learning Sciences with Human Development and Social Policy (HDSP). All graduated in different years, but they took courses in both departments, worked closely with both faculties and stayed in touch after graduation, continuing to support each other personally and professionally. 

Formerly Aki Duncan, professor Aki Murata (PhD02), a Learning Sciences graduate, teaches elementary math education and teacher education at University of California–Berkeley. Her 2013 paper, “Diversity and High Academic Expectations Without Tracking,” benefitted from conversation with fellow Learning Sciences alumna Lisa Bouillion Diaz (PhD01).

Professor Diaz works at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, studying identity and achievement for teens in STEM fields. In 2012, Diaz co-authored a chapter in Constructing the Self in a Digital World. This book caught the eye of the outlier in the group, R. Michelle Green (PhD05), a graduate of the HDSP doctoral program. Her research interest, why some adults embrace or reject technology, continues to feed her online footprint of blog posts and papers.   

Green’s mid-life training in policy and the life course from HDSP dovetails nicely with her 20-year career in business in her current job as chief operating officer of Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation in Boston. Her company helps enrich the life chances of low- and moderate-income residents in one of Boston’s most diverse neighborhoods. Under her leadership, DBEDC has leveraged millions to revitalize abandoned factories thereby creating jobs. 

Green and fellow HDSP graduate Lisa Dorner (PhD06) each helped the other through candidacy, with editing, data collection and the occasional movie night. Professor Dorner is on the faculty at the University of Missouri–Columbia. The impact of her training is most visible in her 2012 American Education Research Journal paper, "The Life Course and Sense-Making: Immigrant Families’ Journeys Toward Understanding Educational Policies and Choosing Bilingual Programs."

Given Dorner’s focus on the implementation of language policies and programs, she's been working closely with the St. Louis Language Immersion Schools since their founding. She recently invited Murata to be a keynote speaker at their first-ever "co-laboratory" planned for April 28. Together, they will address how teachers must work as "inquirers" about their practice, especially as they cross significant linguistic and cultural boundaries.

These four women cherish the connections they made at Northwestern and look forward to their reunions. The photo on this page shows them at one of their recent get-togethers. All four are thrilled that Northwestern opened their hearts and their minds to such wonderful friends.

Photo: Clockwise from left, Aki Murata, Lisa Bouillion Diaz, R. Michelle Green and Lisa Dorner.
(Photo by Lisa Dorner)

By R. Michelle Green
Last Modified: 3/5/14