Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Spotlight on MLK Studies Specialization

Did you know that Union Institute & University offers one of the few Ph.D. specializations in Dr. Martin Luther King Studies in the country? In recognition of this distinct honor, and in remembrance of Dr. King, we asked a few MLK Studies students to share how they apply Dr. King’s philosophies in everyday life. Learn more about Union’s MLK Studies Specialization.

Cheri Scott, Union Institute & University, Ph.D.
Cheri Scott

As a student in the Martin Luther King Specialization for Union Institute and University, I utilize Dr. King’s theories of social justice and equality to my area of study, which includes food and environmental justice. My passion for food and environmental justice stems from my personal experience as my son was diagnosed with a developmental disability. Researching his symptoms, I began to modify his food choices by eliminating environmental toxins as well as food toxins from his diet. Once I eliminated those toxins, my child's behavioral problems rapidly decreased. I incorporate whole foods that are fresh and organic. This is one of the reasons why I am seeking a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Social Change, as it relates to my theory that violent diets in predominately impoverished communities enhance behavioral issues in children and the entire community. All people should have equal access to full-service food markets that offer fresh and organic whole food. I have devoted my research work in pursuit of these mechanisms.

Cheri is a full-time student at Union Institute and University, starting her fifth year in the Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies program. From 2008 to July 2013, she worked as a Project Management Specialist for Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Her responsibilities included developing project budgets for all clinical research projects that required laboratory services and extensive review of clinical research study protocols that were approved through the Institutional Review Board. Cheri has extensive knowledge and training in Cerner Tools, an international health care information technology system that manages and integrates electronic medical records, computerized physician order entry, and financial information for hospitals and other medical organizations.

Cheri earned her MBA from Indiana Wesleyan and BS in Business Management from Northern Kentucky University.

Mildred Van Bergen, Union Institute & University, Ph.D.
Mildred Van Bergen

Dr. King said, “Develop within ourselves a deep sense of somebodiness. Don't let anybody make you feel that you are nobody.”

I have the privilege of striving to keep that philosophy alive in my position as director of academic support services for SUNY Empire State College at the Long Island Center.

Perhaps nowhere is that belief more visible than in the workshop series Women of Color: Valuing Experience, Identifying Learning. In this series of four workshops, my colleagues and I both support and learn from the women who attend them. We guide them to critically reflect on their daily lives, and emphasize the importance of valuing all learning and ways of knowing, as well as discuss what we all can learn from the historical struggles of minority women.

In addition, these workshops allow a safe space for analyzing and valuing the specific set of skills and levels of understanding that women of color have developed in order to successfully navigate a predominantly white culture, among these is the capacity to translate their experiences about race and gender to others. By supporting these students to tell their stories, and value them not only within the walls of academia, but within themselves, I pass on Dr. King’s philosophy of “somebodiness” to these remarkable women.  This experience continues to allow me to better understand not only the students I work with, but myself.” 

Mildred Van Bergen is the director of academic support services for SUNY Empire State College at the Long Island Center. She has the responsibility of helping working adult students develop their writing, reading, and research skills. In addition, she develops their prior college level learning—knowledge they bring with them that they can receive college level credit for. 

She is also an alumna of SUNY Empire State College, earning a B.A in Cultural Studies and an M.A. in Liberal Studies. Prior to serving as director, she worked for the office of Academic Support Services as a writing learning coach. In addition, she served the university as an adjunct instructor in College Writing and Literacy. Mildred has also worked as a teacher assistant in the West Islip School District, Easter Suffolk Boces and the New York City School System. As a student in Union Institute & University’s MLK specialization, Mildred is researching the cultural phenomenon related to how the creative process allows young women to engage in authority. She is examining how the creative process, or art in general, can empower young women to self-actualize and own their femininity and realize their full potential. 

Deborah Richardson, Union Institute & University, Ph.D.
Deborah Richardson

I grew up in Atlanta during the civil rights movement and lived on the same street with Dr. King’s parents—Rev. and Mrs. Martin Luther King, Sr. The work I do now is a direct reflection of what I saw and learned growing up. I often use Dr. King’s quote in my presentations: Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.

It is not enough to do good work, but to change the systemic conditions that contribute to the situation. My work in addressing human trafficking has shifted, for instance, from rescue and restoration of the victims, to instead address the legislative and cultural conditions that facilitate the demand to purchase children for sex. There would not be a need for homeless shelters if a living wage, access to healthcare and safe housing is recognized as a human right—which it is.”  

Deborah Richardson is the Executive Vice President of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, leading its fundraising and program development. She was Chief Program Officer at Women’s Funding Network in San Francisco, CEO of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation, Director of Program Development for Fulton County Juvenile Court, founding Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Fund (now YouthSpark) and Managing Director of the National Black Arts Festival.

She has been honored by many organizations for her community service. Most recently she received the "Lives of Commitment Award" from Auburn Theological Seminary and The Pathbreaker Award from Shared Hope International. She is a nationally recognized leader on social justice for women and girls and an advocate to end child sex trafficking. She has designed leading programs for girls victimized by sexual trafficking and testified before Congress.
Deborah is a graduate of St. Mary's College of California with a Masters of Arts in Leadership.

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