Dr. Rachel Geesa was our 2020-2021 Graduate Faculty Inclusive Excellence Award recipient. Dr. Geesa is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Educational Leadership.
Nominator Charla Chailland, EdS said this about Dr. Geesa, “I nominated Dr. Geesa for the Graduate Faculty Award for Inclusive Excellence due to her dedication to providing inclusive and equitable opportunities in the MAE, EdS, and EdD educational leadership programs, and enhancing inclusion and access for all PK-12 learners throughout the state and nation.” She also wrote that “Dr. Geesa had demonstrated advocacy for diversity and inclusive excellence through teaching, service, and research in graduate education.”
Here is a Q and A with Dr. Geesa
What is your inclusive excellence philosophy?
Inclusive excellence encompasses what we do as educators to ensure all learners have equitable access to educational experiences, opportunities, and resources to enhance learning outcomes through instructional practices, scholarship, and professional and community-based service.
What strategies do you employ in your work in inclusive excellence?
I am dedicated to supporting and guiding all learners, educators, and leaders to:
- achieve their personal and career goals;
- gain personal, social-emotional, academic, and professional support;
- learn about one another and how to best assist one another and different groups of people; and
- adopt, utilize, and foster culturally relevant practices.
I enjoy studying and educating others about various cultures, educational practices, communication and collaboration strategies, and personal and professional experiences throughout the world. Prior to my position at Ball State, I worked for the United States Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) and served United States military families and children located on bases in South Korea, Japan, and the United States for several years. Now, as part of my role at Ball State, I am the Teachers College Director of International Programs and coordinate a Ball State student teaching program in DoDEA schools in Germany each semester. Through this position, I am able to provide Ball State students and faculty opportunities to experience living in a different country, serving United States military families, traveling throughout Europe, and learning more about themselves, others, and the world around them. These opportunities to live and work outside of the United States and within military communities, for example, strengthened my work in inclusive excellence, internationalization, and culturally relevant pedagogy.
I also believe it is important to be actively involved in the community where I live. For instance, I volunteer with a variety of organizations in the greater Indianapolis area, which include:
- Indy Honor Flight: An organization honoring Indiana’s veterans that transports veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit their memorials;
- Junior League of Indianapolis: An organization of women focusing on volunteerism, personal and professional development of women, and community improvement through action and leadership;
- Patachou Foundation: An organization dedicated to cultivating an equitable future for children and youth by emphasizing the importance of food.
What is your proudest achievement in inclusive excellence for your graduate program?
Every year, I am so proud to see our graduate students complete their degree and/or licensure programs and pursue new positions in educational leadership. Within our doctoral program, I developed a Mentoring Pathways Program for our candidates in Educational Administration and Supervision five years ago. Several faculty members from our department support the mentoring program each year. The purpose of the program is to address academic, social-emotional, and career readiness needs of scholar-practitioners; support candidates of traditionally underrepresented groups; and increase the amount of doctoral candidates who complete the program in five years or less. Recent graduates of the program serve as mentors to the candidates, and we make revisions to the Mentoring Pathways Program each year after extensive research and discussions with candidates to better meet their needs. I enjoy staying in communication with graduates of our educational leadership programs and learning of their experiences and growth within programs and their career pathways upon commencement.
Who has helped you along the way as you have developed your skills in this area?
Ball State graduate students, staff, and faculty have been extremely influential as I have developed skills in areas of inclusive excellence. Through a focus on recruitment and retention of graduate students in our Master in Arts of Educational Administration and Supervision (MAE), Building-Level Administrator License, Specialist in Educational Administration and Supervision (EdS), and Doctor of Education in Educational Administration (EdD) programs in the Department of Educational Leadership, I have had the opportunity to work closely with our program advisors, directors, and students to ensure we are intentional in our efforts to reach and support a diverse and culturally representative group of students. Additionally, I lead the doctoral mentoring program and work with a variety of faculty members, students, and mentors in my department with efforts to increase retention and graduation rates for all students.
Beyond my department, I have had meaningful experiences throughout Teachers College and the university to promote equity and inclusion. For example, in my position as the Teachers College Director of International Programs, I have the opportunity to work with a variety of people throughout Ball State and within institutions and programs throughout the world on research projects, exchange programs, and international studies experiences. Additionally, I have participated in a variety of professional learning opportunities throughout the university (e.g., Diversity Associates, Internationalization Committee, Sustainability Committee) with faculty who have increased my knowledge and perspectives of areas related to inclusive excellence.
Anything else you would like us to know?
Inclusive excellence is a critical practice for all! It is important to be actively involved in inclusive practices and dedicated to supporting others and enhancing our communities.