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UC Education Student Receives National Award

Date: Jan. 5, 2001
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Archive: General News

A UC College of Education doctoral student is one of only 10 people nationwide to be selected for a new program introduced this fall by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Karen C. Titsworth, a doctoral student in literacy, was chosen to participate in the two-year program, Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color. The program provides support, mentoring and networking opportunities for members of underrepresented groups.

Titsworth flew to Milwaukee in November when the scholars were introduced at the NCTE's fall conference. As part of this experience, Titsworth met her mentor, Dale Jacobs, a member of the NCTE research community who will work with her over the next two years. Jacobs is an assistant professor for the Department of English Language, Literature and Creative Writing, University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. "He'll help me shape my research questions for my dissertation. When we met with our mentors and the other scholars in November, we introduced ourselves and told our own story about what led us on this path (in education). I met a talented, fun group. It's going to be a great two-year relationship. God continues to show me favor, and I am truly blessed to have this opportunity."

Titsworth adds she has several UC mentors from the College of Education who have supported and guided her as she created her dual research and advocacy agenda. "Karen is going to be a dynamic presence for family literacy in the academic world and in her community," says Elizabeth Peavy, UC assistant professor of teacher education. "We've worked closely on her research, so I know she takes a very progressive approach to literacy. She's not only a wonderful asset to the profession, but she's also a dynamic woman and mother. I think she will be a great scholar, teacher, and advocate for family literacy practices in the country."

Karen Titsworth and Kayla

Titsworth spent more than 11 years teaching children who are hearing impaired, and she also taught language arts to 8th grade students at Project Succeed Academy in Cincinnati. She has a bachelor's degree in speech pathology and audiology, and a master's degree in special education from UC's College of Education. In addition to her doctoral focus on literacy, Titsworth earned certification in adult literacy several years ago. She says her seven-year-old daughter, Kayla, led her in that direction. "I read and sang to Kayla from the time she was in my womb, and her language skills are strong. I know that talking, reading and singing to her had an impact on why she's such a good reader and writer. Also, I needed to help my hearing-impaired students improve their literacy learning"

Titsworth has been exploring how intergenerational learning, both positive and negative, can be passed from mother to child. "We're quick to talk about intergenerational blessings, but we often fail to talk about intergenerational dysfunction that exists between and within families," she explains.

"Karen Titsworth's doctoral research will establish important new ground in the field of education," says Deborah Hicks, associate professor of teacher education. "She breaks down barriers between research and advocacy and brings her own history of mothering to her project in order to understand mothering practices and literacy in an urban community. This is the kind of work that will have a local impact on the lives of urban mothers and children and a national impact on literacy research."

A single mother, Titsworth says she's had first-hand experience tackling the challenges of raising a child, working and furthering her education. She says she wants her research to reveal how women can liberate themselves as she explores the issues affecting single mothers in an urban Appalachian community. "It's been difficult for me to balance work, school and motherhood. My strong faith in God, along with the support of my family and friends, has kept me grounded throughout my doctoral program.

"I talk with single mothers who are struggling in their own way but who are doing for themselves. Last year, I facilitated a parent literacy group with single mothers who participated in a welfare-to-work program, and I've met some awesome women. Eventually, they all got jobs, and all of them are still working with goals to continually transform their current living conditions. They speak of life and hope, rather than despair."

Titsworth says daughter Kayla often asks when her work will be finished, and Titsworth explains that the work will never be completely done. "I say, 'You need to understand that Mommy will always have time for you.' The moms I've worked with in the past have reaffirmed my beliefs about establishing priorities and making time for our children, no matter what. Nevertheless there's a lot of work that needs to be done."

As Titsworth's research progresses, she'll be presenting her findings and getting feedback from her nine peers (who are doctoral students, postdoctoral associates, assistant professors and other NCTE researchers) when the program funds her trip to a workshop in the spring. The participants also will receive a $2,000 stipend over the program's first year and an additional $600 to pay for equipment related to their research. Students will get the same stipend and equipment funding through the second year of the program in addition to expenses for their trips to the NCTE fall conference and spring workshop.

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