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Strengthening classrooms and communities

Finding connection through the Educator-Scholars of Color program

Melissa Noel ’24 came to Salem State University with dreams of working in early childhood education, and thanks to a suggestion from her academic advisor Dr. Leslie Duhaylongsod, she is now set up for success in that field as a member of the Educator-Scholars of Color program.

“I’m really happy I have her in my corner,” Melissa says of Dr. Duhaylongsod. “She has been my main support system. She does not give up on me, has faith in me and is always motivating me.”

The initiative, funded initially through a generous donation from Eastern Bank and supported by four Salem State University faculty members, will increase racial and ethnic diversity in the teacher workforce.

Dr. Duhaylongsod, assistant professor of secondary and higher education along with Dr. Steven Thurston Oliver, associate professor of secondary and higher education are co-directors of the Educator-Scholars of Color Program. Dr. Oliver is invested in the program because the university can potentially play a pivotal role in bringing more diversity into the state’s teacher pipeline.

“It’s important for students of color—and white—students to see teachers of color in roles of authority,” says Dr. Oliver. “It allows students to imagine themselves in the roles of who they want to become because they have seen examples of it.” 

Since the initiative was piloted, Dr. Oliver has helped to create a safe space for students to make connections with each other, fully dedicating himself to developing a powerful sense of community within the cohort. 

“We often bring in guest speakers who are experts in the field and there are a lot of frank, honest conversations about challenges Black teachers and other teachers of color face in the field. Having a space that allows people of color to come together and talk about their experiences and how those very same experiences can profoundly impact the lives of their students is a powerful thing.”

Dr. Oliver emphasizes that this initiative is a collective effort, one that is embedded in the mission and vision of the university, in addition to advancing the DEI work within the McKeown School of Education. 

“Students talk about the fact that they feel seen and supported. Through the Educator-Scholars of Color program, we are creating learning environments where students can deeply engage with the curriculum and culturally sustaining teaching methodologies, because Salem State graduates have a critical role to play in diversifying the teacher pipeline so that our classrooms across the state are more welcoming and inclusive of everyone.” 

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