Look at What We’ve Been Up To: Building a Faculty During a Pandemic

Thursday, November 3, 2022
Antar Tichavakunda

Antar Tichavakunda showing his excitement about his new job at UCSB

The pandemic-induced shutdown in March 2020 could have been cataclysmic for academia, as so much of teaching and learning is centered upon being present. (Let’s not even consider the difficulties of doing most research at a distance.) And while the Gevirtz School managed to pivot—at the very end of a quarter, no less—to all distance learning after teaching not a single course that way, there was yet another complication. How could the School most effectively conduct job searches?

Like the rest of the world, we learned to Zoom. And since 2020, we have added (and will continue adding) to our faculty, despite the logistical difficulties. “Our 2020-2024 strategic plan kicked in right along with Covid,” says Jeffrey Milem, Jules Zimmer Dean’s Chair, “so we had to think creatively and pursue candidates persistently.” That became only more true as item number one of the School’s mission is: “To conduct scholarly inquiry into education and applied psychology, especially into community responses to the opportunities and challenges posed by individual, economic, linguistic, and cultural diversity in our multicultural society.” Clearly the pandemic made education and mental health even harder for those who were already needing the most assistance.

In fall 2020 we were fortunate to hire two new assistant teaching professors in the Department of Counseling, Clinical and School Psychology (CCSP)—Dr. Jon Goodwin and Dr. Miriam Thompson. Dr. Goodwin has become an essential member of our School Psychology faculty, helping shape our new professional M.Ed. program. "In my opinion, the Gevirtz School is absolutely unrivaled in terms of its exceptionally talented and diverse faculty," Goodwin claims. "I am constantly inspired to do better and aim higher because of the outstanding colleagues I get to work with and learn from. There is also a strong sense of collegiality that makes me confident that I am in the right place. I'm tremendously grateful to be here."

Dr. Thompson, meanwhile, took over what used to be known as the Psychological Assessment Center (PAC) and re-imagined it as the Mind and Behavior Assessment Clinic (MBAC); she also currently serves as CCSP’s Diversity Advisor. "The best thing about working in GGSE is that I am empowered to implement a dynamic vision in training and teaching students,” Thompson points out. “Also, I am fortunate to be surrounded by hardworking, talented colleagues who are enthusiastic about helping me grow as an early career scholar."

In fall 2021, CCSP hired another assistant teaching professor, Dr. Arlene Ortiz. With experience providing mental health services in English and Spanish to underserved populations, she is actively engaged in scholarship related to assessment, early intervention, and outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse students. Ortiz is committed to pay it forward and continue to increase access to high quality education and train future generations of equity minded professionals, also taking a lead in the M.Ed. program in School Psychology. Ortiz also praised the Gevirtz School students, claiming, “One of many great aspects of being part of the GGSE community is the student body. The students I have had the opportunity to work with are highly motivated, bright, and inquisitive. They bring diverse experiences and perspectives into the classroom, enriching the learning process for all.”

Now in 2022 and into the winter quarter of 2023, the School will grow its Department of Education faculty with three hires. Assistant professor Dr. Hui-Ling Malone conducts research on K-12 education that concerns culturally sustaining pedagogies, critical pedagogy, and youth activism to advance equity in schools and their surrounding neighborhoods. As a former secondary teacher, her work centers young people and draws on community centric pedagogies to strengthen relationships between students, schools and surrounding community members toward self-determination and social justice. “I'm teaching an introduction to qualitative research methods course this quarter and am really enjoying the thoughtfulness and engagement from GGSE graduate students,” Malone relates about her initial UCSB experiences. “My students give high energy every session and I am excited about their research plans that I know will contribute positively to the field of education and the lives of youth, families, and community members.” She then adds, “Also, the weather isn't bad!”

Assistant professor Dr. Antar Tichavakunda [see photo above] joins our faculty after working as an assistant professor of Higher Education at the University of Cincinnati. He uses qualitative inquiry to study the sociology of race and higher education. His published work can be found in venues such as Urban Education, Race Ethnicity and Education, The Review of Higher Education, and The Journal of Higher Education. His first book, Black Campus Life: The Worlds Black Students Make at a Historically White Institution, is published with SUNY Press. “I was drawn to the community of scholars at GGSE,” Tichavakunda says. “I’m very excited to learn from and work with both the students and faculty here!”

Assistant professor Dr. Mayra Puente joins our faculty after earning her Ph.D. in Education at UC San Diego. As a first-generation Mexican American mujer from an (im)migrant farm working family, her identities as a rural Latina and higher education advocate for Latinx (im)migrant farm working families and communities have significantly shaped her research agenda on higher education access and success for Latinx students broadly and rural Latinx students specifically. In her research, she engages critical raced-gendered epistemologies, Chicana/Latina feminist methodologies, and spatial research tools and lenses. “I was drawn to the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education because of its commitment to equity-serving and community-engaged research and service,” Puente says. “I am especially excited about UCSB’s location and proximity to farm working communities along the Central Coast. I look forward to partnering with these communities who remind me of my own home and developing solutions together to increase higher education access and success for rural Latinx students from immigrant farm working backgrounds.”

Jon Goodwin, Miriam Thompson, Arlene Ortiz, Hui-Ling Malone, Mayra Puente

(from left to right): Jon Goodwin, Miriam Thompson, Arlene Ortiz, Hui-Ling Malone, Mayra Puente