Spotlight on Faculty Pack IDEAs: Crystal Chen Lee, Ed.D. | College of Education
In each edition of the IDEAs (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) Pack, a newsletter published by the NC State College of Education Change Agent Task Force, we highlight faculty, students and alumni who have expertise and skills. experiences that align with the advancement of Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) within the college. In becoming an anti-racist academic community, we must deepen our commitment to creating and sustaining a healthy teaching and learning community that uplifts the humanity of all people, but especially Blacks, Indigenous people and people of color. , which because of the inequalities between education and society. The spotlight feature provides a counter-narrative that celebrates and showcases the brilliance of the individuals within our college community.
Crystal Chen Lee, Ed.D.
Assistant Professor of English Education
Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences
How long have you been a faculty member at NC State? I have been a faculty member at NC State for 3.5 years.
Why are diversity, equity and inclusion in education important to you? As a child of immigrant parents from Taiwan, diversity, equity and inclusion were not only important to me as a researcher, but as a second generation Asian American woman. Because of my lived experiences, my teaching and research focuses on how students from marginalized populations are able to amplify their voices. As an Asian American student who grew up in the United States, I never had a Kindergarten to Grade 12 educator that looked like me and I never read a book in elementary school. which represented my cultural identity. I spoke one language, English, in schools, and spoke a mixture of Mandarin Chinese and English at home. I have lived in two worlds, and although I loved both worlds, I wondered what it meant to bring my home world into my school world.
Therefore, as an educator, it is important to me that all students are able to bring their full humanity to the classroom and to their work. I believe that when students are invited to bring their multiple languages, cultures and experiences to our classrooms, DCI will become both a setting and a base for the teaching and learning that takes place in educational spaces.
Are you currently conducting research in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion? If so, tell me a bit about your research. The driving force behind my studies and research has been my passion for equity in education. Within this passion, my research program focuses on two strands: literacy and teacher training, with an intersection of community engagement and marginalized populations in each strand. The first strand focuses on how literacy, especially critical literacy, can lead to improved literacy and increased community engagement, especially for marginalized students. Specifically, this strand examines how literacy is not separate from youth advocacy and leadership, but rather is intertwined.
The best example of this strand is my research project, the Literacy and Community Initiative (LCI), a collaboration between the NC State College of Education and the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation (FI), which partners with community organizations (OCs). examine and empower the voices of historically and currently underserved youth. With co-principal investigator Jose Picart, Ph.D., this interdisciplinary project amplifies the voices of young people through student publications, advocacy and leadership.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work and how do you think it will impact education and learners? Our LCI research has shown that the stories of students in our community organizations are counter-narratives that schools need to pay attention to. For example, we analyzed the accounts of immigrant Latinx students and how they used their voices to advocate and lead their community. In other examples, we have analyzed the accounts of young people from urban communities in which they describe the social inequalities that affect their past, present and future lives. In everything we do, we hope that it is our student voices that will inform education practice and policy. We need to listen to them better.
Are there any community projects and initiatives in which you are involved in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion? Tell me about these projects. The extension and engagement of the community outside the university is the basis of my research, my studies and my teaching. Because my work focuses on literacy, teacher training, community engagement, and marginalized communities, I am passionate about research that supports awareness and extension. For LCI, our team teaches a 14-session program and publishes a book each year written by students in each organization. We work in partnership with four wonderful organizations serving young people:
- Bull City YouthBuild of the Triangle Literacy Council is a nine-month non-profit education and leadership program in Durham for low-income youth who are not currently enrolled in school and who are unemployed. Through the program, young people learn academic and leadership skills by achieving their high school equivalency and building a home through Habitat for Humanity to give back to their community.
- Juntos NC works to help Latinx students graduate from high school and pursue higher education.
- CORRAL Riding Academy is a non-profit organization that matches rescued horses with teenage girls in high risk situations to heal and change lives through tutoring, mentoring and equestrian therapy.
- Refugee Hope Partners works with refugee youth and families in a holistic program that strengthens local community partnerships through academic learning, mentoring, socio-emotional support and medical services.
We view our community organizations as strong community partners and we work together to develop a program that meets the needs of students in their communities. In total, our team has provided over 200 hours of direct instruction in community organizations, served over 60 students, and published seven books. We seek to learn from the diverse perspectives of our students.
What do you hope to teach future educators and university leaders about equity and inclusion in education? How do you integrate this into your teaching and your program? I hope to teach future educators and university leaders that it is important to recognize the full humanity of students. In doing so, it means questioning and questioning our own agenda, asking who is represented and not seeing the texts as neutral. We must ask ourselves: “Who is represented in the text? Which voices are omitted and why? “
In committing to equity, we must also reflect on ourselves. One of my favorite quotes is from Paulo Freire, in which he says, “Those who genuinely engage with the people must constantly reexamine themselves.”
I take these positions in the two doctoral courses that I have developed and taught here at NC State: Critical Theory and Public Engagement and Critical Literacy for Social Change. For me, education, and in particular critical pedagogy, has the potential to become one of the most powerful tools for transforming schools, communities and institutions today. In addition, I am also passionate about teachers in initial training and I ask my students to take this critical position in order to recognize the full humanity of their students.
For other educators and teacher-leaders interested in learning more about social justice and anti-racism education, what two resources would you recommend? I highly recommend Cultivating genius: an equity framework for culturally and historically sensitive literacy by Gholdy Muhammad, Ph.D., who advocates for a four-tier equity framework – a framework that is grounded in history and restores excellence in literacy. My high school English to English (ELA) teachers read it this year, and their teaching and learning has truly transformed!
I also had the privilege of working with Chandra Alston, Ph.D., and Michelle Falter, Ph.D., on a white paper for high school ELA teachers titled “Becoming an Anti-Racist ELA Teacher”. In the white paper, we include five steps to becoming an anti-racist educator. You can find our white paper and related resources here: https://ced.ncsu.edu/news/anti-racist-ela/.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the College of Education community? I am proud to be a faculty member at a university that seeks to learn and continue to progress in learning anti-racist pedagogies. I am constantly encouraged by my colleagues and students.