Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Faculty Highlight: Dr. Michael Raffanti

Dr. Michael Raffanti, Union Institute & University

Dr. Michael Raffanti takes the value of social responsibility seriously—and he lives out the definition of that value in his work, his teaching, his life in the surrounding community and in his outreach.

Dr. Michael A. Raffanti is the Associate Dean in Union Institute & University's Ph.D. program in Interdisciplinary Studies, and he is also a faculty member within the Ed.D. program. Dr. Raffanti has been with Union Institute & University since 2007, but the passion for combining education and social engagement is something that has characterized his life and work for decades.

“Union’s long-time focus on social responsibility is what attracted me to join the doctoral faculty. My professional life has, I think, reflected my desire to connect social responsibility with my day-to-day work," he said. Dr. Raffanti is interested in interdisciplinary approaches to the subject of education, legal issues, social justice, leadership, systems change, qualitative methods, and action-oriented research. Grounded Theory Review, Journal of Qualitative and Ethnographic Research, and Journal of Integral Theory and Practice have all been venues for Dr. Raffanti's research to be published.

His background in history and philosophy, law, and teaching has provided him with an integrated intellectual framework for his engagement of the surrounding community in very practical ways.

In his former career as an attorney in San Francisco, he specialized in issues of poverty law. "My first career as an attorney was primarily spent working in non-profit organizations that focused on serving low-income communities,” said Dr. Raffanti. “This work took the form of housing, immigration, and domestic violence matters; it was a combination of legal advocacy and educating the community of their rights."

He has also worked with outreach organizations supporting the AIDS community, and helping develop HIV prevention programs. In addition, teaching elementary school in high-poverty, urban environments and mentoring high school students through weekend tutoring and workshop programs have been signatures of Dr. Raffanti's commitment to being a socially responsible scholar practitioner.

"By the time I came to Union in 2007," Dr. Raffanti said, "my professional career was a bit eclectic, but it had a common thread of educating people of all ages in the hope that such education would improve lives as it had mine. At Union Institute & University, my sense of worth now comes from helping adult learners, mostly nontraditional doctoral students, achieve something that perhaps would otherwise seem out of reach—a doctorate. As a first-generation college graduate and someone who grew up poor, I understand some of the obstacles that people may face, not only the financial barriers and the academic challenges of higher learning, but also the self-doubts that can arise when perhaps one hasn’t been groomed for higher education. In my current work as an educator and administrator, I gain some satisfaction from knowing that I am helping to facilitate adult learners in their educational journeys. What really motivates me from the perspective of social responsibility is the knowledge that our doctoral students (who already come to us with strong values of social responsibility), will use their enhanced knowledge, skills and credentials, to better serve their communities.”

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