Pitt Education Fulbright Students Meghan Orman (left) and Jennifer Ponce Cori (right)
For many academics, receiving a scholarship from the Fulbright Program is a prestigious and highly sought-after goal. While the program is competitive, the University of Pittsburgh School of Education Office of Child Development boasts two Fulbright Students in their Student Fellows program: Meghan Orman and Jennifer Ponce Cori.
Launched in 2019, the Office of Child Development's Student Fellows program is a yearlong experience for students to participate in professional development opportunities and assist with the organization's programs and services.
Infusing Science and Philosophy Into Education and Learning
Orman, a PhD student in the Pitt Education Applied Developmental Psychology program, received a Fulbright-National Science Foundation Arctic Research Grant. Through the grant, she will travel to Iceland this September to spend nine months studying early childhood ecopsychology, which will be the basis for her dissertation.
“The scholarly aspect of the Fulbright is exploring how Icelandic preschoolers conceptualize nature, how they connect with nature, and how this connection shapes their interactions with nature,” Orman says. “It will also look at how teachers connect to nature and how Icelandic preschool classrooms support children’s connection to nature.”
As a researcher with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy, Orman is interested in infusing science and philosophy into education and learning.
“I want to understand what the connection to nature looks like and means to people, both philosophically and psychologically,” she says. “I want to understand how educational settings utilize this knowledge to support learners of all ages across contexts.”
As a student fellow and graduate student researcher for the Office of Child Development, Orman co-leads the Community Strand of the 3Rs: Reading, Racial Equity, and Relationships, a cohort of The Pittsburgh Study that works with schools, organizations, and families to support readers in grades K-3. The Community Strand works to build relationships with local literacy organizations to support their learning around integrating racially equitable practices.
“This has been an amazing opportunity to learn from the community, learn about and practice community-engaged scholarship, and also develop my own racial literacy skills,” she says. “I cannot express how impactful participating in the efforts to address racial biases in early childhood have been for me and, in my case, as a White woman, addressing the ways that racial biases and White supremacy impact how I interact with the world and providing me with the tools and conversations I need to ensure I can actively work against racism in myself and through the work I do.”
Transformative Social Justice Work From Peru to Pittsburgh
Ponce Cori, a 2022 graduate of Pitt Education's Master of Education in Social and Comparative Analysis in Education, is a Peruvian Fulbright scholar who spent the first 29 years of her life in San Juan de Lurigancho, a district in Lima, Peru. Her background in political science and community organizing inspired her to research and develop projects on issues of citizenship education, scholarships, and Andean and Aymara culture.
"One of the main reasons I pursued my master's was the connection I have with my own community," she says. "San Juan de Lurigancho has high levels of street violence, violence against women, people without access to water or electricity, and a lot of other issues. I feel I have a responsibility to do research that contributes in a way that can transform our society."
As an Office of Child Development student fellow, Ponce Cori assisted faculty member Caitlin Spear with The Pittsburgh Study’s teacher professional development sessions and participated in the book coding process for the annual Books for Change book drive. She describes this work as a transformative experience that expanded her way of thinking about discrimination, racial justice, and racial literacy.
"While I had experience in social justice work before the Office of Child Development, it opened my mind more to asking how and why discrimination happens," she says.
This summer, Ponce Cori plans to take this new perspective back to Peru to talk about the importance of preserving green spaces and how people from disadvantaged communities can embrace ecological citizenship. She also plans to continue working with the Office of Child Development before starting the Pitt Education PhD in Educational Policy program this fall.
The Office of Child Development is a university-community partnership dedicated to improving the lives of children, youth, and families. Learn more about their research, programs, and resources.