2016 Lynton Award Recipient
The annual Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty recognizes a faculty member who connects his or her teaching, research, and service to community engagement. The award is designated for either pre-tenure faculty at tenure-granting campuses or early career faculty (i.e., within the first six years) at campuses with long-term contracts.
This year, NERCHE is pleased to present the Lynton Award to Dr. Mara Tieken, Assistant Professor and Associate Chair of Education at Bates College.
Dr. Tieken began her career as a third-grade and adult basic education teacher in a rural community. As she writes, “nearly one in five public school children attends a rural school. But these children and communities are often forgotten or subjected to stereotype and misrepresentation. Efforts to expand educational opportunity have typically bypassed rural communities or exacerbated existing inequities. Rural schools have long been subject to policies and practices that have meant under-resourcing, a loss of political voice, and rural outmigration.” These are issues that Dr. Tieken experienced first-hand—and that continue to drive her teaching, research, and service as a Bates faculty member.
Specifically, Dr. Tieken’s work has focused on rural school/community relationships, the effects of state and federal policies on rural schools and communities, rural school segregation and racial inequality, rural college access, and rural community organizing for education reform. As stated by Dr. Darby Ray, Director of the Harward Center for Community Partnerships at Bates, who nominated Dr. Tieken for the Lynton Award: “Two commitments characterize [Dr.] Tieken’s life and work: a commitment to social justice in a diverse democracy and a commitment to mutually transformative relationship or, in civic engagement practice, to reciprocal partnership. These priorities are abundantly evident across the range of roles and responsibilities Mara undertakes … [and are] embodied pedagogically through community-engaged learning.” For instance, her current project, funded by the Spencer Foundation, examines the factors shaping the college experiences—aspirations, transitions, and persistence—of rural, first-generation students.
Dr. Tieken remains true to her commitment to community engagement and community-engaged scholarship via her use of portraiture as a scholarly method. Through this methodology, she makes her scholarship truly accessible to non-academics and fosters “new scholarly trajectories in response to community needs [which offer] profound examples of her social justice orientation,” explains Ray. “She not only teaches about and takes scholarly aim at inequities within public education but also courageously contests the myopia, misinformation, and negative stereotyping that abound within education scholarship and policy, and she works tirelessly with and on behalf of rural communities to fight their undoing. To advocate for, organize with, and give witness to the struggles, stories, and strengths of rural America is not sexy work, but it is vitally important social justice work nevertheless, and Mara and her students are doing it with extraordinary thoughtfulness, passion, and integrity.”
Dr. Tieken’s scholarship on rural education, social inequality, and educational organizing has made clear intellectual contributions to educational reformers and scholars of education, sociologists and critical race theorists, and analysts of poverty and inequality and rural studies. Her latest book, Why Rural Schools Matter (UNC Press, 2014), is an ethnographic study of two rural Arkansas communities which examines the roles that schools play in rural towns—specifically how they shape a particular community and how they shape the racial landscapes of these towns. In addition, she has published an essay in A Match on Dry Grass: Community Organizing as a Catalyst for School Reform (Oxford University Press, 2011)—which shares a promising model for training community-engaged scholars for the future—co-authored Inside Urban Charter Schools: Promising Practices and Strategies in Five High-Performing Schools (Harvard Education Press, 2009), and wrote an essay about teaching antiracist history in all-White classrooms which is included in Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real about Race in Schools (The New Press, 2008).
Dr. Tieken’s teaching, scholarly, and community impacts are vast and apparent, and the close connections among her three faculty roles are virtually seamless. Her work with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform provides a good example. As a consultant for the District Level Systems Change Initiative, she provides technical assistance to the seven community-based organizations involved, works closely with Pittsfield Listens in rural New Hampshire to develop parent and student leaders to push the local district to engage with the town’s poorest residents. This engagement has led to research opportunities (culminating in a book chapter) and to unique teaching opportunities in which Dr. Tieken worked with students to co-create a community organizing course. These opportunities give her students the change to see the practice of education organizing and provide Pittsfield Listens new resources and information.
Dr. Tieken advances the field of community-engaged scholarship not only via her own work, but through a commitment to developing the next generation of community-engaged scholars through her and her colleagues’ development of a model for training community-engaged education scholars. Her commitments and contributions to the field of community-engagement expand beyond rural communities, beyond the discipline of education, and beyond institutional type represented by her home institution of Bates College. Indeed, Dr. Tieken’s work embodies the values of the next generation of community-engaged scholarship and thereby does justice to the transformative legacy of Ernest Lynton.
NERCHE is honored to recognize Dr. Tieken as this year’s 2016 Ernest A. Lytnon Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty recipient.
The 2016 Lynton Award will be presented at the 22nd Annual Conference of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), "Charting the Future of Metropolitan Universities,” which will be held from October 23-25, 2016 in Washington, DC.