May 2021
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Celebrating the Class of 2021

Congratulations to all of our graduating students! Each of you have demonstrated such strength, determination, and resilience to get to this point and we could not be more proud of you. This graduating class is full of so many outstanding students, but there are a few in particular who especially stand out.
Congratulations to Outstanding Senior Megan McDevitt and Outstanding Graduate Student Amanda Cheromiah! Be sure to check out their Student Spotlight features at the end of this email.
Megan McDevitt
Megan McDevitt
Outstanding Senior
Amanda Cheromiah
Amanda Cheromiah
Outstanding Graduate Student
Congratulations also to all department award winners listed below! Thank you for your hard work and dedication to excellence.
Lori Switzer
Outstanding Senior, Deaf Studies
Lauren Fisher
Outstanding Senior, Rehabilitation Studies and Services
Dylan Balber
Outstanding Student Teacher, Mild to Moderate Disabilities
Sujey Benavides
Outstanding Senior, Literacy, Learning & Leadership
Jessica Roberts
Outstanding Student Teacher, Elementary Education
Diana Teran
Outstanding Student Teacher, Elementary Education
Jessica Borum
Outstanding Student Teacher, Elementary Education Co-Teaching
Vanessa Holmes
Outstanding Student Teacher, Elementary Education Co-Teaching
Shawnee Dixon
Outstanding Student Teacher, Early Childhood Education
Rae Richards
 Outstanding Student Teacher, Teach Arizona
Victoria Frank
COE Award for Excellence for Student Workers
James McKenzie awarded Ford Predoctoral Fellowship

Language, Reading, and Culture doctoral student James McKenzie is the awardee of the 2021 Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The prestigious award will provide a living stipend over the next three years. Congratulations, James!
Valerie Shirley and Jeremy Garcia receive COE Outstanding Faculty Service/Outreach Award

Congratulations to ITEP Directors Valerie Shirley and Jeremy Garcia on receiving the COE Outstanding Faculty Service/Outreach Award! It is atypical for faculty to receive this award as a team rather than as separate individuals. However, given their extensive, joint efforts, it is clear that both Shirley and Garcia should be recognized together for their exemplary service. Shirley and Garcia have led tremendously important efforts to address longstanding injustices and inequities in the education of Indigenous students. Through their substantial service and outreach efforts, sustained dialogues, and increasing partnerships, they have generated critical insights into the strengths, needs and goals of Indigenous students and communities, as well as the possibilities for Indigenous education at The University of Arizona and beyond.
Valerie Shirley
Valerie Shirley
Jeremy Garcia
Headshot of Karina Salazar
Karina Salazar receives 2021 Urquides Laureate Award

Congratulations to EPSP Assistant Professor Karina Salazar on receiving the 2021 Maria Urquides Laureate Award! The Urquides Laureate Award honors outstanding contributions by College of Education faculty and academic professionals in bilingual education on behalf of children.
Salazar is an assistant professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education. Her research program analyzes whether the enrollment management practices of public universities undermine access for underserved student populations. Her dissertation, titled The wealth and color of off-campus recruiting by public research universities, explores how university recruiting efforts spatially discriminate against high schools and communities with predominantly low-income students and Students of Color. Salazar is also co-principal investigator of the Enrollment Management, Recruiting, and Access research project, which investigates the recruiting practices of colleges and universities. This work has been featured by The New York Times, NPR, CNN, Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Forbes, and U.S. News & World Report. Salazar is a local Tucsonan and proud graduate of Sunnyside High School. She completed her graduate work at the University of Arizona where her research was funded by the American Educational Research Association.
Melody Buckner
Digital Learning InTech team receives 2021 UA Team Award for Excellence

Congratulations to Melody Buckner, affiliated faculty member in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies, and the rest of the Digital Learning InTech team for receiving the 2021 UA Team Award for Excellence! This award is given to select teams who merit special recognition for dedicated service to the university, its employees, and to the community. Throughout the pandemic, the Digital Learning InTech team has gone above and beyond their departmental expectations to ensure all instructors, staff, and students using InTech-supported tools had a smooth and easy transition. Learn more about the award.
Michelle Perfect
Michelle Perfect elected into the Society for the Study of School Psychology

Congratulations to DPS Associate Professor Michelle Perfect, who was recently nominated and elected into the Society for the Study of School Psychology. Their mission is to advance the science of school psychology and to promote the dissemination of school psychology research to scientists, practitioners, policy makers, and the public. Perfect’s scholarly record clearly indicates that she has the ability and commitment to contribute substantially to their mission.
Carl Liaupsin elected to HeadsUp steering committee

Congratulations to DPS Department Head Carl Liaupsin on being elected to serve on the HeadsUp steering committee!
The purpose of HeadsUp is to:
  • Share wisdom, experience, and ideas with the aim to solve problems
  • Strengthen leadership
  • Provide a vital voice to the administration
  • Promote effective communication
  • Build a sense of community at The University of Arizona
Some of Liaupsin's duties as part of the steering committee will include representing, advocating for, and creating a culture of career support for University Heads. Learn more about the HeadsUp Steering Committee at
Jesus Jaime-Diaz co-authors chapter in Teacher Education in the 21st Century

Alumnus and Semillas del Pueblo Outreach Coordinator Jesus Jaime-Diaz (seen at Tucson's El Tiradito Wishing Shrine above) is the co-author of a chapter, A Guide for Deconstructing Social Reproduction: Pedagogical Conocimientos within the Context of Teacher Preparation, in the new book, Teacher Education in the 21st Century — Emerging Skills for a Changing World. His co-author is University of Texas at San Antonio Professor Emerita Josie Méndez-Negrete. She was Jaime-Diaz’ doctoral advisor when he began his doctoral studies journey, which he completed at the University of Arizona in 2018.
Cindy Cruz wins Body of Work Award from AERA Queer Studies SIG

TLS Associate Professor of Education Cindy Cruz recently won the Body of Work Award from American Educational Research Association's Queer Studies SIG. The AERA Queer Studies SIG is committed to fostering empirical, interpretive, and critical educational research relating to queer issues, and to network individuals and organizations conducting or supporting such research. The award is an impressive recognition of the excellence and impact of Cruz’s work.
blaine smith
Blaine Smith co-authors article about student interpretations of video about vaccines

TLS Associate Professor Blaine Smith is the co-author of a recent article in the Journal of Literacy Research entitled, Students’ interpretations of a persuasive multimodal video about vaccines. This article, led by Carita Kiili at Tampere University in Finland and co-authored with Eija Räikkönen and Miika Marttunen at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, examined 400 adolescents’ interpretations of a YouTube video about vaccines. The findings from this timely study emphasize the need for students to be explicitly taught how to interpret persuasive videos.
Honoring faculty and staff for their years of service

This year, the following College of Education staff and faculty members are celebrating major milestone years in their service to The University of Arizona. Join us in honoring these individuals for their dedication to the University, College, and our students.
Pam Mendel, 40 Year Award
Sara Chavarria, 15 Year Award
Sandra Durazo, 15 Year Award
Sara Knepper, 10 Year Award
Carl Liaupsin, 20 Year Award
Michelle Perfect, 15 Year Award
Michael Hartley, 10 Year Award
Karen Sesler, 20 Year Award
Mary Irwin, 20 Year Award
Etta Kralovec, 15 Year Award
Erin Turner, 15 Year Award
State Farm provides funding for two College of Education programs

Two College of Education programs – Upward Bound and Pathways to Teaching – recently received funding from State Farm®. Upward Bound is a college-prep program that provides underrepresented, low-income, first-generation high school students the social and academic capital building support needed to transition from high school into college. Pathways to Teaching is a teacher preparation program that seeks to “grow our own” teachers by supporting Tucson- and Southern Arizona-area residents in earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. This funding will be critical in helping these programs further prepare future teachers and leaders in Southern Arizona.
Talk It Out Director Lia Falco with representatives from Links Inc
Talk It Out receives donation from The Links, Incorporated

Last month, the college's Talk It Out program received a generous donation from the Tucson chapter of The Links, Incorporated. Their contribution provided funds and materials for about 25 play therapy kits for the students and families who utilize Talk It Out counseling services. 
Talk It Out Director Lia Falco was able to visit Catalina High School's Family Resource Center last week to receive the donation. Pictured above from left to right are Lacey Grijalva (coordinator, Southwest Family Resource Center), Terri Howard, (program coordinator, Pantano region), Wilette Diggs (executive board member, The Links, Inc.), Lia Falco (assistant professor, DPS), Felicia Jackson (executive board member, The Links, Inc.), and Alma Iñiguez (director, Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) Family Resource Centers). 
The Links, Inc. is an international professional organization for women of color. They are committed to service through civic engagement and philanthropic activities to support African Americans and other persons of African ancestry.
ITEP Conference Indigenous Education Mobilizing Decolonial Praxis poster
You are invited to ITEP's Spring 2021 Inaugural Conference, Mobilizing Decolonial Conference!

The Indigenous Teacher Education Project is excited to host a 2-day virtual conference on Mobilizing Decolonial Praxis with amazing keynote speakers and presenters! Join ITEP on June 21-22, 2021 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to collectively reconceptualize Indigenous Education for our communities by engaging in sharing knowledge, experiences, and visions for the future.
The conference, Indigenous Teacher Education: Mobilizing Decolonial Praxis, will premiere critical Indigenous education efforts that mobilize a decolonial praxis in schools and communities serving Indigenous students. The goals of the conference are to: 1) share ITEP teachers' efforts in indigenizing and decolonizing curriculum and pedagogy; 2) contextualize the ways in which educators develop a critical Indigenous consciousness that engages justice-centered pedagogies; and 3) create opportunities for participants to engage critical dialogues that furthers the goal of mobilizing decolonial praxis.
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Megan McDevitt
Outstanding Senior

Name: Megan McDevitt
Major: Deaf Studies: Educational Interpreting
Expected graduation: May 2021
Hometown: Tucson, AZ 

You were recently named the college’s Outstanding Senior of the Class of 2021! What motivated you to excel as a student?
What motivated me most was finally finding the degree program that I loved. The interpreting emphasis inspired me to give it my all and motivated me to work as hard as I could to be the best interpreter I can be. I think the best part about this program is it’s a practice profession, so as long as I showed up and just kept practicing, I kept progressing. That really works with my personality so this program was a perfect fit for me to have the best chance of succeeding and then excelling. 

What led you to the University of Arizona College of Education?
The number one reason I chose the UA College of Education was that the Deaf Studies Interpreting Program is the only four year ASL interpreting program in the state and one of a handful in the country. I actually started my undergrad at Northern Arizona University as a pre-nursing major and quickly figured out healthcare wasn’t for me, so I spent countless hours trying to figure out what it was that I had a passion for. What I ultimately found out was that the perfect program for me was back home in Tucson. It was a long meandering road to the College of Education, but I am so grateful for the experiences that brought me to this incredible program at UA. 

What have you learned in the College of Education that's made a difference to you?
Something that I learned in the College of Education may seem a little silly but it made a huge difference for me was the superman stance. Whenever my classmates and I were having a rough day or were feeling down on ourselves about an interpretation our professor would make us do the superman stance. She made us stand up legs strong and apart, hands on hips, chest and head up and say together, “stand like a superhero, feel like a superhero, act like a superhero, I CAN DO THIS!” That always made me feel better and helped me learn how to be confident with myself.

Tell us about something you're involved with on campus and how it's impacted your life.
I’ve worked at C.A.T.S. Academics for three years as a tutor. Along the way I gained a leadership position on the Executive Board for C.A.T.S. student-workers. Being able to make a difference in the education and lives of my students while also getting to make a lasting impact on the program as a whole has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in college. Not only did I gain professional skills, but I also made lasting friendships with my co-workers. C.A.T.S. Academics will always hold a special place in my heart. 

What are your post-graduation plans as of now?
My post-graduation plans are to work as an educational interpreter in a public school district. I hope to stay in Tucson, but I’m open to moving if the opportunity arises. 

What advice do you have for students just getting started in the College of Education?
Showing up is 90% of success. It starts a snowball effect by dragging yourself to that class or those office hours. Once you’ve done that all the other stuff becomes more manageable and worthwhile. My other piece of advice is, get your education to gain knowledge and understanding, not to gain a GPA. As soon as I let go of the grades I actually started learning and enjoying my classes. Before I knew it, my grades followed suit too! 
Amanda Cheromiah
Outstanding Graduate Student

Name: Amanda Royce Josanaraae Cheromiah from the Pueblo of Laguna tribe in New Mexico
Major: Higher Education
Minor: American Indian Studies
Expected graduation: May 2021
Hometown: Paguate, New Mexico
You were recently named the college’s Outstanding Graduate Student of the Class of 2021! What motivated you to excel as a student? 
The College of Education has a phenomenal legacy of Indigenous students graduating with degrees, especially advanced degrees from our College. I am honored to be one of those students graduating. At the forefront, it’s about honoring the Creator and serving the people, especially Indigenous students and students of color. Earning an advanced degree debt-free is a great privilege that was made possible by 19 scholarship entities who funded my entire graduate schooling. I honor those scholarship entities and the many changemakers who have come before me who have paved ways for other students and me to thrive in the academy and beyond. I have tremendous responsibility to carry forth the Indigenous ways of knowing for my tribal community and I am very grateful for the love, support, and friendships I have made in the academy and local community. At the end of the day, it’s about being a role model for my little brothers and sister. I want them to know that college is possible and they too can become doctors!  
What led you to the University of Arizona College of Education?
During my sophomore year in 2005 (gosh, that seems forever ago), I enrolled in COE’s Project SOAR, which at the time Dr. Jenny Lee oversaw. I learned a lot from Dr. Lee, especially through her stories about her family. Through Project SOAR, for the first time I learned about concepts related to student access, retention, and persistence. As an undergrad, I loved serving the campus community, especially Indigenous students so I was excited to learn through Project SOAR there were careers in higher education that helped students succeed. Within Project SOAR, I participated in one of the discussions called Native SOAR, which was led by Amanda Tachine who at the time was a Master’s in higher education student. Eventually Native SOAR became its own program, which was established by Drs. Lee and Amanda Tachine. I was part of Project SOAR/Native SOAR for two years as an undergraduate. Then, in 2013, I became a Master’s student in higher education. I served as a graduate student affiliate for Native SOAR until 2015 when I graduated. Then, I transitioned into the lead instructor role for Native SOAR. I’ve served in Native SOAR throughout my graduate schooling. In total, I have been part of Native SOAR for nearly 10 years. It is amazing that Dr. Lee has been my mentor since 2005. It was fitting to have her as my doctoral committee advisor.   
What have you learned in the College of Education that's made a difference to you?
In 2018, during my second year in the higher education doctoral program, the trauma I experienced as a young person mentally and emotionally bogged me down in very dark ways. There were many days that I did not know what life was for me anymore. I lost my sense of value, esteem, and worthiness. I had many dark days in that season of time. By a miracle, the Creator rescued me and provided many strands of healing and restoration tools that have helped me overcome. As a result, today I am mentally and emotionally the strongest I've ever been. 
Dealing with trauma and being a graduate student is tough. As many of my peers and I have discussed in our higher education classes, the academy can be a toxic and hostile place, especially for Indigenous students and other students of color. Personally, the academy has been a place of significant trauma. HOWEVER, I found healing in an unexpected place, from the faculty in the College of Education (COE), specifically the faculty in the Department of Educational Policy Studies and Practice and Indigenous faculty in COE. My family and I honor the faculty in EPSP, especially Drs. Lee (advisor), Rhoades (committee member), Deil-Amen, Lopez, and Cabrera. We also honor Indigenous faculty in COE, in particular Drs. Sheilah Nicholas (committee member), Jeremy Garcia, and Valerie Shirley. I honor COE's Indigenous Thinkers Group members, Felisia Tagaban, Garrison Tsinajinie, Dr. Charlinda Haudley, Amanda LeClair-Diaz, Judy Salcido, Nicholas Wilson, and Alejandro Higuera. I also honor other COE alumni and students like Karen Francis-Begay, Drs. Amanda Tachine, Christine Nelson, Natalie Youngbull, Tiffany Sorrell and Eliza Yellow Bird.  
Tell us about something you're involved with in the College of Education and how it's impacted your life.
I’ve been part of the Native SOAR program for almost 10 years. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with hundreds of K-12 Indigenous youth, undergraduate and graduate students. One of the most rewarding elements of being part of Native SOAR is helping students amplify their narratives in the academy and building a family unit within a large institution. Native SOAR provides a home away from home and I’m honored to be part of the program’s legacy.  
What are your post-graduation plans as of now? 
Watch TV! I’m looking forward to having my evening and weekends which will not include writing a dissertation! I have not really known a season of time where I was not in school or thinking about school. Now that I am graduating from 22nd grade, I’m looking forward to much needed rest and relaxation. In late January, I contracted COVID-19. I took three weeks to recover and I have been going non-stop since then to finish school. I’m looking forward to a slower pace of life to heal. 
This summer my family and I are driving from the Southwest to Alaska. That will be a fun road trip! As for work, I will continue to serve as the Director for Native SOAR. I also look forward to developing my photography portfolio and hopefully down the road, I can write a book. I imagine I will also make more short videos about the Indigenous college life.   
What advice do you have for students just getting started in the College of Education?
Earning a Ph.D. is one of the most interesting initiations in higher education. It's hard. It's mentally and emotionally challenging and it's a wild adventure of self-discovery and innovation. There were several times I wanted to give up, but my community wouldn't let me. They carried me to finish line. 
Keep your community close, find writing or study groups, and apply, apply, apply for scholarships!!!
Amanda invites all who are interested to attend her dissertation defense, titled The Indigenous Revolt in Education: Indigenous Feat - A Scholar's Pace. It will take place Monday, May 10 from 2 to 4 p.m. (AZ time). To attend the dissertation defense, register at
The purpose of this study was to understand how 10 Native students, staff, and faculty conceptualized self-determination in higher education and investigated how they used running to navigate the academy through Indigenous based frameworks. The methodological approach honored Indigenous ways of knowing and incorporated storytelling and filmmaking, thus creating new knowledge for preparing, gathering, and analyzing oral-based data. The dissertation is based on the movie, Indigenous Feat - A Scholar's Pace.