October 11, 2016
Doctoral student Ileana Cortes Santiago shares the College of Education’s passion for social justice and diversity.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Cortes Santiago is a doctoral student in literacy and language and a recipient of Purdue’s prestigious Bilsland Dissertation Fellowship. Ileana’s dissertation focuses on educators’ and Latino/Latina families’ community-based initiatives. In August, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) named Ileana the Holmes Scholar of the Month. The Holmes Scholars program supports doctoral students from underrepresented backgrounds who are pursuing careers in education.
“El mundo es tan pequeño,” she says. “The world, it’s small. And so is Purdue: it’s a large university, but once you begin meeting people, you have an amazing network that leads you to more and more opportunities. I’ve found that if you’re working with people who you trust, and who are invested in the cause, it just works out.”
Ileana incorporates the people she knows in her projects as frequently as she can. She is always thinking about who might benefit from being a part of the project — from other academics, to the Girl Scouts in the troop she volunteers with, to the families she works with. Ileana says that her best connections have come from other graduate students she has met at Purdue.
Cortes Santiago is engaged throughout the Lafayette community. She works with the social media group Latino Family Network of Lafayette. She said, “Working with families has been such an enriching and rewarding experience. I’m not sure if I can do anything but that for the rest of my life.”
Her engagement work also extends internationally. In May, she spent three weeks in Nigeria volunteering and collaborating with a colleague and friend, Genevieve Aglazor (Ph.D. ’12). They developed a comprehensive educational program for teachers, secondary students, and families and co-led a roundtable discussion on gender and leadership.
In May, she published a chapter in Recontextualized, a book about incorporating music in the language arts classroom. Her chapter is about how teachers can use music to incorporate social justice and multiculturalism into the classroom, while also facilitating English language learners to participate more actively. A recent article in Gender and Education, co-authored with fellow graduate students Nastaran Karimi and Zaira Arvelo Alicea (Ph.D. ’15), is about the challenges that women of color face while teaching in predominantly white institutions.
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