Celebrating opportunity and inclusion: Highlights from the 2021 Virtual Fellowship Breakfast

Tuesday, February 16, 2021
a screencap of a toast with the new GGSE mugs

At the Gevirtz School’s 2021 Virtual Fellowship Breakfast, the Zoom room was filled with warmth and gratitude. The event theme—Celebrating Opportunity and Inclusion—sparked meaningful discussions among the Gevirtz School faculty, staff, donors, and fellowship recipients in attendance.

“There are students in the Gevirtz School that wouldn’t be here unless there was fellowship support to open the door,” Dr. Jeffrey Milem, Jules Zimmer Dean of the Gevirtz School, said during his opening remarks. “These students are essential voices that our school must have in order for us to be the best school we can be. Inclusion doesn’t just help the students that we include, it helps all of us. And it takes the visionary support of donors to make it happen.”

During the 2020-2021 academic year, 52 students received funds from 28 different fellowships awarded to students in all areas of the school: the Department of Counseling, Clinical & School Psychology (CCSP), the Department of Education, and the Teacher Education Program (TEP).

This year’s featured speaker was teaching professor emerita and former Associate Dean, Dr. Carol Dixon. Carol and her husband Jim established an endowed fellowship in 2016 and have continued to invest every year. A nationally recognized scholar in reading instruction and literacy studies, Carol was the Director of the Gevirtz School’s first reading clinic, co-Director of the South Coast Writing Project, and co-founder of the Santa Barbara Classroom Discourse Group. Carol taught and mentored many graduate students over the course of her 36 years on the faculty at UCSB. Carol remarked on the support she received throughout her educational journey and career. "Remember the people. Remember the institutions that helped you get where you are, that allowed you to realize your dreams," Carol said, addressing the many graduate students in the audience. "And then, give back."

In a poignant video montage (included at this story's end), a few of this year’s fellowship recipients reflected on the impact of receiving a fellowship. Jazzmyn Ward, a doctoral student in counseling psychology and recipient of the John Dewey Fellowship expressed her heartfelt gratitude: “This kind of support really allows for me to be able to focus on things that are important to me like my clients, my students, and my research.”

Elsy Mora, a M.Ed. and teacher credential candidate and recipient of the PEAC Community Teaching Fellowship, addressed the emotional impact of receiving a fellowship: “I don’t think that even we, as recipients, ever fully understand the amount of validation that something like a fellowship brings us.” While reflecting on the morning’s theme, she spoke about her experiences within a greater context of issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education. “Being the only Latina in my math cohort reminds me that I am now in a space that wasn’t built for me,” she said. “This fellowship has given me a voice to tell my students that these spaces are changing because now people are making sure we belong in these spaces. You all are making sure we exist and thrive here.”

After the speaking portion of the program, donors, fellowship recipients, and Gevirtz School staff and faculty had the chance to meet in Zoom breakout rooms. At the close of the event, all guests were invited back into the main session for a toast with their new Gevirtz School coffee mug—a small token of appreciation from the school. Dean Jeff Milem provided closing remarks emphasizing the critical importance of fellowship support this year and in the coming years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Current funding will be spread thin as many students will need to stay longer. “With all of this in mind,” Milem said, “I’d like to thank our students for being so resilient and our donors for stepping up in such big ways. Cheers to you!"