Welcome Holmes! The college selects three scholars for its inaugural cohort

This spring, the Wayne State University College of Education became one of nearly 40 American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) institutions to participate in the AACTE Holmes Scholars program. Launched in 1991 for doctoral students, the initiative supports individuals from historically underrepresented communities who are pursuing degrees in education by providing them with mentorship, peer support and professional development opportunities.

“The college is proud to be part of the Holmes Scholars program,” said Dean Anita G. Welch. “Our involvement allows us to give more students from underrepresented communities access to doctoral programs, resources to help them complete their degrees and support to ensure their success in their future roles. We are thrilled to provide students with opportunities to expand their professional network and achieve their educational goals.”

The 2020 inaugural cohort includes first-year doctoral candidates Manasseh Cudjoe, Rachel Torres and Anthony Webster. For the next three years, they will receive financial support to cover tuition costs, mentorship and funding to attend the AACTE Annual Meeting and the Holmes Scholars Summer Policy Institute.

“The committee was extremely impressed with this year’s applicants, their vision for the future of education and their commitment to making a positive impact in the field,” said Julie Osburn, director of research and chair of the college’s scholarship committee. “They bring a wealth of their own lived experiences to our college and are very deserving of the award. We wish them success as they begin their doctoral journey.”

photo of Manasseh CudjoeCudjoe is from Axim, a small village in the western part of Ghana. He earned his bachelor’s in education (mathematics) from the University of Education in Winneba, Ghana, and a master’s in industrial mathematics from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. A mathematics lecturer at the Accra College of Education, Cudjoe wants to earn a Ph.D. in educational studies. Cudjoe is interested in investigating the extent to which current effective approaches to successfully teach mathematics can be adapted and implemented in developing countries like Ghana. He is particularly interested in studying global and other cross-national comparisons of alternative approaches to effectively teach mathematics.

Cudjoe also serves as the lead national volunteer coordinator for the Centre for Excellence in Mathematics (CEMATHS), an organization that helps students overcome their fear of mathematics and improve their competency in the subject. He believes doctoral studies will enhance his efforts to train the teachers and support students he meets as he travels to schools across Ghana.

“Doctoral studies will help me gain a deeper understanding of how to support mathematics learners from different cultures,” he said. “It will also provide me with a solid foundation upon which to build a fruitful career as a researcher.”

Cudjoe said his experience with Wayne State’s Math Corps program while attending the CEMATHS international conference in Ghana in 2018 played an instrumental role in his decision to attend the university.

“During the breakout sessions, I watched Mr. Leonard Boehm and Dr. Darryl Gardner demonstrate a lesson,” he said. “This way of teaching mathematics — using songs, technology, jokes and peer teaching — was counter to the traditional approach to teaching mathematics in Ghana. Since adopting the Math Corps approach in my teaching, I have noticed a significant change in my students. The change in their disposition and attitude to the study of mathematics has been truly rewarding. Also, my teaching career has been transformed immensely by journal articles and publications of faculty in the College of Education.”

Cudjoe is grateful for the support provided by the Holmes Scholars program.

“Embarking on a doctoral degree requires a lot of effort, motivation, and hard work,” he said. “Participating in the Holmes Scholarship will provide me with a community of like-minded people to be able to grow and develop as a scholar.”

photo of Rachel TorresTorres is pursuing a Ph.D. in educational studies with a specialization in curriculum and critical social inquiry. Although she is originally from Indianapolis, she considers Ypsilanti, Michigan, her hometown. She earned a master’s in public policy and a bachelor’s in economics and international studies with a minor in Spanish from the University of Michigan. Torres’ interest in education stemmed from her tenure as a coach for first-generation college students of color.

“It was during that time that I saw how the impacts of their K-12 education followed them to college. A lot of what I saw was closely linked to challenges and inequities in the U.S. education system,” she said. “I began to look into the experiences of people of color in primary and secondary education in urban areas. I have found this topic particularly interesting in cities that were considered the ‘north’ in early U.S. history. This area of interest will be something I hope to specialize in during my program.”

Torres said she chose Wayne State because of the college’s focus on urban education and its involvement in and commitment to Detroit.

“I was an intern for 482Forward, a Detroit-based group, in 2018, and I knew that I wanted to work with families and students in Detroit schools,” she said. “Wayne State is so well integrated into Detroit, and the college started a new program in curriculum and critical social inquiry that I wanted to be a part of. Luckily, the faculty in the College of Education saw me as a good fit, and I am proud to be a part of this prestigious university.”

Torres is excited about being named a Holmes Scholar and believes her participation in the program will prove beneficial.

“The connections and mentorship fostered by the Holmes Scholars program will provide me with unique and valuable opportunities,” she said. “I will leverage the experiences provided through the initiative as a foundation to network, publish my work in journals, present at academic conferences and pursue grant opportunities that support my research.”

photo of Anthony WebsterAnthony Webster — a Ph.D. student in educational leadership and policy studies — is interested in investigating how high school students from underserved populations are prepared for post-secondary education and increasing their exposure to opportunities in career and technical education. He chose Wayne State because its location gives him access to resources and relationships he needs to conduct his research.

“Having worked with students attending a historically Black college and university, a predominately white institution and now a community college has allowed me to see firsthand the deficit students of color face in terms of gaining access to post-secondary education,” he said. “My goal is to explore how high schools can better prepare young people for two-year and four-year institutions because we need people with an array of knowledge and skills at all levels of higher education to make an impact. Many Detroit nonprofits are helping students obtain the education and technical skills to secure employment. Attending Wayne State gives me exposure and access to a community of people in the city who are already doing this great work.”

Originally from Greenville, Mississippi, Webster earned a bachelor’s in psychology at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, and a master’s in higher education and student affairs from Eastern Michigan University. A first-generation college student, he discovered his passion for student affairs at Jackson State.

“While working in the Dean of Students Office, I realized that was the work I wanted to do,” he said. “I thought I could earn a four-year degree and make things happen. When I asked the dean what I needed to do his job, he told me I needed to attend graduate school. I wasn’t aware I had to get another degree to access the space I wanted to be in.”

Now a student success specialist at Washtenaw Community College, Webster said he was honored to be a Holmes Scholar and looks forward to giving back what he gains from the program.

“No one achieves success on their own,” he said. “You must welcome people in, give them opportunities and work together to get better. Being connected to a network of individuals who are going to invest in me is a phenomenal opportunity. Everything they pour into me, I will pour back out into the community. I want to teach and encourage younger practitioners, conduct research that informs practices in higher education and show my younger siblings and student affairs professionals who are looking to education as way to change the world around them that it is possible.”

Erica B. Edwards, Ph.D.Erica Edwards, Ph.D., assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies, serves as program coordinator for the college’s Holmes Scholars. A former undergraduate and graduate student at historically black and predominately white institutions, she is aware of challenges students of color often face.

“In my career and personal life, I strive to build meaningful relationships where people feel a sense of belonging,” she said. “Universities can sometimes be alienating – especially for students of color. I hope to create what bell hooks calls a ‘homeplace’ for students so that they feel welcomed, supported and empowered throughout their doctoral journey.” 

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