Commencement 2021 Profile: Miriam Burnett prepares teachers to teach Ethnic Studies in high schools

Monday, July 19, 2021
Miriam Burnett

Miriam Burnett graduated with a Masters of Education from the GGSE. She is a supervisor on the ÉXITO (Educational eXcellence and Inclusion Training Opportunities) project, an organization dedicated to providing high-quality ethnic studies education to high school students in California. She is also the Community College Office of the President Fellow. She will be entering the Education Department’s Ph.D. program in the fall.

GGSE: Tell me a little more about ÉXITO. How did you get involved in the project? Where do you hope the project will go in the long term?
Burnett: I got involved after seeking out faculty in the Black Studies Department to reaffirm my experiences as a Black woman at UCSB. From there the processes of my cultural and social shift in perspective after taking an ethnic studies course as a STEM major led me into my current research focus. The courses changed how I moved and acknowledged my identity in the sciences. I hope long term the ÉXITO project will meet its goal of serving high school students by helping prepare teachers to teach ethnic and feminist studies curricula to fulfill the high school graduation requirement created when the California state legislature passed an Assembly Bill in 2016.

GGSE: How has your experience as a Community College Officer of the President Fellow and at the Center for Black Studies Research helped you develop as a researcher?
Burnett: As an advocate for institutional change, my experience as a Community College Officer of the President Fellow and at the Center for Black Studies Research helped me develop as a researcher in stages. Honestly, nothing happens all at once. I see my ideas, methods, and strategies for my research constantly shifting with time. The programs and departments I am affiliated with give me a platform to discuss critical race issues that have kept me awake many nights. There’s no time like the present to have open discussions about diversity and inclusion for the greater good of all student learning spaces.

GGSE: What’s one thing from your research that you wish everyone knew?
Burnett: I want everyone to know that every person has the potential to succeed given their access to pathways are equitable!

GGSE: What research are you going to do for your Ph.D. program? Do you have an idea about what your dissertation research will be?
Burnett: For my Ph.D. program, my research will focus on enhancing the cultural and educational experiences of African American and other marginalized students. I believe that when the voices and histories of students are deliberately and intentionally recognized, the opportunity for self-efficacy emerges and a foundation is formed for academic success.
My dissertation research will be an effort to understand contextual ethnomethodology through coursework in various subject fields. At the moment I am exploring what it means to be a 21st century thinker/learner. Do students identifying as STEM & Humanities/Social Science majors/minors critically think at higher levels, and or have a higher sense of responsibility/empathy to effect institutional changes needed to deconstruct silos which exist in educational institutions across the US?

GGSE: Who at the GGSE would you like to thank?
Burnett: I’d like to thank my advisors: Dr. Rebeca Rios and Dr. Julie Bianchini for giving me a chance to indulge in my graduate experience and supporting my move onward to the Ph.D. Special thanks to Dr. Roberts for the inspiration and Dr. Banks in Black Studies for the undergraduate research preparation.