Alumna to receive Distinguished Dissertation award

November 9, 2015

Christina Berchini will receive the 2016 Award for the Distinguished Dissertation in Teacher Education from the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) in February. Berchini’s 2014 dissertation was a one-year study on teachers’ racialized identities, and how those identities play out in schools.

Berchini, Ph.D. ’14 (Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education), will receive the 27th annual edition of the award, meant to encourage, recognize and promote research that substantially contributes to the improvement of teacher education. She will also present at the ATE conference in February.

Her dissertation followed white teachers who embody a critical awareness of what it means to be white teachers in an increasingly diverse society. The dissertation showed how “whiteness” is constructed in the school setting and aimed to identify possibilities for theories of whiteness, teaching and education research.

“A lot of talk in older literature is about how white teachers enact their whiteness and white privilege in the classroom—and that it begins and ends with the teachers themselves. My dissertation argued against that framing,” Berchini said. “It’s not a simple story. Schools have a big role in how these discourses play out. They have an influence on teachers.”

Avner Segall, professor in the Department of Teacher Education, served as Berchini’s advisor during her studies at MSU.

“As a student, Christina stood out not only through the quality of her academic work—always thoughtful and thought-provoking—but also, and importantly, through her strong commitment, both intellectual and embodied, to issues of social justice and equity,” Segall said. “That commitment was paramount in her scholarship, her teaching and her service—and combined wonderfully in her brilliant dissertation.”

For Berchini, she credits much of her success at MSU to Segall. “He introduced concepts and ways of thinking that have changed my life, that have changed everything,” she said.

But she also credits the reputation of the college, and the opportunities that were available to her as a student.

“I heard MSU was the No. 1 school and that’s all I needed to know [when applying to doctoral programs],” she said. “It was the only place I wanted to be. And there is not a day that goes by that I’m not thinking about the opportunities I received as a teacher education student. Those opportunities are not lost on me ever.”

Berchini is currently an assistant professor in the English Department at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.