Q&A with UNC Asheville associate professor Tiece Ruffin
Recently, UNC Asheville education professor Tiece Ruffin was named a 2016-17 North Carolina – West Education Policy Fellow by the North Carolina Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP), a leadership and policy development program for mid-career professionals who work in public, private, and nonprofit institutions in education, health and human services, business, community development, and other areas. Ruffin shared her thoughts about education and what it means to be a part of the fellowship program.
What led you to pursue academics as your career?
I was born in Washington, DC. As a young child, I walked toward the U.S. Capitol everyday on my way to school. Growing up in such a powerful and influential city with the White House, U.S. Capitol, and Supreme Court as the backdrop to your residential neighborhood was amazing. There was always a buzz in the city from influential leaders, change makers, and lawmakers. I was reminded every day that an individual has the capacity to affect and impact lives. The imposing buildings and iconic structures of DC and all the workings that occurred inside of them inspired me to work for the people as an influential leader and change-maker in education as a social reconstructionist dedicated to equity.
What are some of your current initiatives in training educators?
My professional objectives are three-fold.
One is to adequately prepare pre-service teachers for the realities of today’s diverse and inclusive classroom through a social justice framework. It is the role of the teacher to create a positive learning environment in an equitable manner for these diverse learners. Ultimately, I want today’s learners in K-12 public education to benefit from teachers effectively prepared, equipped, and empowered to truly make a difference in their lives. Through my work in the Department of Education at UNC Asheville, I prepare and equip all licensure students with basic tools for the diverse and inclusive classroom.
Second, my goal is to support in-service teachers with contemporary evidence-based practices so they may be responsive to the changing demographics of the 21st century classroom.
Third, I have assisted community organizations to develop understanding to advocate for policies that support teaching innovations, resources for teachers, and enhanced community and school partnerships. My community engagement emphasizes working collaboratively to identify problems and to enact solutions. During my time in Asheville, I have been engaged in significant service to this area through various committees, boards, and other volunteer work. A good education system is one that maintains a good working relationship with all stakeholders, and my goal is to use my professional knowledge and expertise to make that happen.
What does being named a 2016-17 North Carolina – West Education Policy Fellow by the North Carolina Education Policy Fellowship Program mean to you?
Essentially, the 2016-2017 Fellowship will allow me to gain new insights and perspectives on education policy in NC and afford me the opportunity to enhance my knowledge and skills in education policies and services, and issues and perspectives facing public education in North Carolina. With the tools and skills gained or refined from the fellowship and the policy project within the fellowship, I hope to influence others on particular education issues as an advocate on behalf of the children and youth of North Carolina.
I have experience as a K-12 classroom teacher, school administrator, and eleven years as a teacher educator. My experiences as a faculty member at UNC Asheville and as a teacher and administrator in public schools provide me with an ideal background for this fellowship.
Compiled by Phillip Ramati