PhD student uses fellowship to explore youth action for equity, social transformation

By

Erik Ketcherside

Ashley D. Dominguez, an MLFTC research assistant and third-year student in the Learning, Literacies and Technologies PhD program, received a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Dissertation Fellowship. She is one of only 71 such fellows nationwide for 2020. Dominguez shared some of her thoughts about her research and the fellowship.

What’s your research focus?

My scholarship focuses on the use of artistic embodiment methodologies, such as theater and other arts-based methods, that empower youth to conduct participatory action research as a form of transformational resistance. Transformational resistance is the belief that young people who both critique oppression and embody resistance have significant potential to transform systems and institutions (Solórzano and Bernal, 2001). Specifically, I intend to utilize an ethnographic approach to study how youth engage in critical arts-based YPAR to explore issues of equity, and how the intersection of research, art and justice concurrently contribute to youth identity and social transformation across school and community spaces. Two guiding questions that drive my work are: 1) How does art-based inquiry shape youth critical consciousness and civic engagement?; and 2) How do young people engage in performance as praxis to embody their identities as youth researchers, artists and advocates?

What are your long-term plans for your career?

As a future tenure-track university professor I have prioritized three overarching goals to relate my research to the larger community. First, to facilitate an ongoing and sustainable arts-based participatory action research program for youth and adults in the community, to both aid in the development of critically conscious youth and to address the lack of arts-based methods in the participatory action research literature corpus. Next, to mentor youth and center their voice in the research process through their inclusion in all stages of scholarly work. Lastly, to find community and support other diverse leaders in the academy through my scholarship, teaching and service.The fellowship will help me reach these goals by giving me the opportunity to produce exceptional and innovative work alongside emerging youth researchers.

How do you feel your LLT PhD program is preparing you for those goals? 

The LLT program suits my graduate study plan for two reasons. The program is interdisciplinary and empowers me to research complex problems along the nexus of education, arts and justice. And it enables me to work alongside Melanie Bertrand, an expert with over 10 years of experience in participatory action research methodology. Both provide me knowledge and field experience that prepare me for a professional trajectory in academia.