Closing Gaps

SPRING15closing-gapsGeorgia Southern faculty member Alejandro Gallard, Ph.D., loves to take on challenges. Presently, he serves as the Goizueta Distinguished Chair in the Department of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education (COE), and he is the director of the Georgia Center for Educational Renewal (GCER). Raised in Nicaragua and Florida, his interest in research and education stems from an earlier career in the private sector.

“Even though my job was a lot of fun, and intellectually challenging, I kept thinking it would be more fun and satisfying to work in a profession where the fruits of one’s labor went to the general good and not the stockholders,” he said. As a member of the Latino community, he wanted to pay attention to people underrepresented in rural educational settings, primarily Latinos and first-generation students. Gallard found it meaningful to devote his research to the “teaching and learning of science to those who have not been afforded equitable learning opportunities.”

As the holder of the endowed Goizueta Chair, Gallard has various responsibilities. He focuses on developing collaborative initiatives within the University to conduct research and projects that promote educational advancement and on closing the achievement gaps among underrepresented populations. In leading the GCER, he wants the Center to play a primary role in assisting COE colleagues with helping rural school districts meet the learning needs of students and the teaching needs of teachers.

Since arriving at Georgia Southern in the fall of 2012, he has become a mentor to faculty, junior scholars and Latino students while maintaining an active research agenda that includes collaborating with an international research team trying to understand those few Latinas who are successful in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Gallard said he is a socio-cultural constructivist trying to answer critical questions to make sense of the world in general, and education in particular. “Nothing ever happens in a classroom that doesn’t have mitigating factors that teachers need to deal with,” he said. “Something from the outside is always going to influence what the teacher wants to do inside the classroom. It can be poverty; it can be contrasting belief systems or all sorts of things. I am a strong believer that education needs to be looked at through multiple contextual lenses in which all teaching and learning takes place. These influencing factors or contextual mitigating factors must be made explicit and dealt with before one can expect meaningful education reform to take place.”

Gallard is also the co-principal investigator of a $2.5 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, for a project that helps middle-school special-needs students learn science content with e-text readers. The veteran educator said throughout his professional career he has found that not only is it okay to be a Latino, but it also has been encouraged and supported at Georgia Southern.

“That has been a delightful surprise to me,” he said. “Georgia Southern has a great reputation and does a great job with underrepresented people. It has been an outstanding three years.” – Sandra Bennett

Comments are closed.