Cassie J. Brownell, doctoral candidate and Marianne Amarel Teaching and Learning Fellow in the Department of Teacher Education in the College of Education, developed an interest in educational justice while working as an elementary school teacher in New Orleans, following Hurricane Katrina. Through her engagement with elementary school children and teachers, her dissertation aims to reimagine writing in the English Language Arts (ELA) classroom by interrogating how writing with a variety of communicative resources (e.g., visuals, audio, material items) facilitates new spaces for human diversities. In 2015, Brownell was a co-recipient of a National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Conference on English Education (CEE) Research Initiative Grant, allowing her to begin her most recent collaborative project – #hearmyhome – which explores how writing with and through sound might help children and youth attune toward communities of difference.
Through her research efforts, Brownell has had the opportunity to engage in a variety of national leadership experiences. At the 2016 NCTE Assembly of Research conference, she assisted with planning, implementing, and promoting a day-long pre-conference mentoring session for 32 early career faculty and graduate students. Additionally, Brownell served on the Graduate Student Committee for this conference. In both leadership roles, she helped foster space for her fellow doctoral students to network and engage with senior scholars as well as other graduate students.
Brownell also has an active leadership role with the Literacy Research Association’s (LRA) Doctoral Student Innovation Community Group. She is currently serving as social media coordinator for this group and in the spring of 2017, will begin the first of three years assisting with the American Educational Research Association’s (AERA) Language and Social Processes Special Interest Group’s mentoring session. Brownell also blogs for the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).
Beyond her work focused on ELA, Brownell is also actively involved in organizations grounded in equity and social justice issues. In 2015, she served on the National Association for Multicultural Education’s (NAME) Communications & Outreach Standing Committee, where she provided insight as to how NAME could use social media to engage younger scholars. This year she was invited to join AERA’s Division G Graduate Student Executive Committee for two years.
“I engage in leadership opportunities as a means to develop both professionally and personally,” Brownell said. “Across my doctoral studies, my faculty and peer mentors have encouraged me to take on various service roles to both cultivate my professional network and foster long-lasting, personal relationships. I often find that I benefit immensely from my participation in leadership work, as I learn a great deal from working alongside others.”
Brownell plans to use the $2,000 COGS Leadership Endowment Fellowship award to attend conferences at both the national and international level, during the 2017-18 academic year. Those conferences include the Computers and Writing Conference at the University of Findlay and the Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education Conference at the Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.
“I am deeply appreciative of the recognition by COGS and the Graduate School at MSU of my service,” Brownell said. “As a recipient of a COGS Disciplinary Leadership Award, I feel privileged to have worked with and learned from leaders in my field, including my doctoral student colleagues; faculty, within and beyond my discipline; and the many teachers and children I have encountered in my research. This award will help to facilitate my continued engagement in research, teaching, and service that centers the voices and experiences of young children.”