Dr. Lisa Rubenstein received the 2022-2023 Graduate Faculty Inclusive Excellence Award. She is a Professor of Educational Psychology. 

The nominating group of students shared this about our winner, “it says a lot when every first year Ph.D. student in Educational Psychology agrees that [she] deserves this award. All the first-year PhD students whole-heartedly believe Dr. Rubenstein cares about our success and feeling of connectedness in this program and believe she has taken numerous steps to make us feel welcome.” 

Here is our Q and A with Dr. Rubenstein: 

What is your inclusive excellence philosophy?

Portrait of Dr. Lisa Rubenstein

Dr. Lisa Rubenstein

This award truly surprised me because I know so many others who are doing remarkable work in this area. My philosophy is simple: welcome everyone. I want everyone to feel at home in our program. I commit to seeing students as complex humans with both assets and places for growth. Inclusivity is championing our students’ strengths, such that they and others recognize what they are bringing to the broader field. 

What strategies do you employ in your work in inclusive excellence? 

At the core, my strategies make the invisible visible; this includes adding clarity to the academic process as well as creating an obvious environment of care.  

First, graduate school is filled with hidden curriculum. To make this visible, I designed a website. The website delineates the milestones our graduate students need to earn their degree. It contains all the support documents, instructions on where to complete the forms, protocols for the meetings, and examples and tips from former students. In addition to the milestones, the website also has information about professional organizations, conferences, grants, and journals, which will help students understand how to contribute to the broader field. I know they are bringing incredible talents and perspectives, and I try to provide the framework to ensure those talents and perspectives reach a broader audience. 

Second, as most faculty members care deeply about our students, I think we simply need make that care visible. Everyone may do this is a variety of ways, but my strategy is to vocalize my excitement when I see them. I am authentically happy they are here in our program, so I tell them. I want them to feel at home, so I invite them to my home. I want them to physically be a part of our department, so I host lecture nights, pizza nights, and writing sessions. When they are showcasing their talents or passions, I show up. 

What is your proudest achievement in inclusive excellence for your graduate program? 

Out of 22 doctoral students, 18 of them were able to hit a major program milestone this year, whether that was building their committee, defending their comps, presenting their dissertation proposal, or defending their dissertation. Further, 20 of them had major professional accomplishments this year, from getting a new job, publishing a paper, presenting at a conference, to winning or being a finalist for an award. While these accomplishments are not all there is to life, I think they demonstrate our students are growing and sharing their expertise, and I am incredibly proud of their efforts. 

Who has helped you along the way as you have developed your skills in this area? 

I am hesitant to give specific names because I know I will forget someone, and that would not be very inclusive. However, I want to recognize the entire Department of Educational Psychology (EDPS) for their commitment to inclusive excellence. Each faculty member provides a nuanced perspective, and they have implemented specific, unique strategies to facilitate inclusive excellence. From my department colleagues, I have learned how important it is to recognize the media’s influence on our students’ well-being. I have heard multiple perspectives on how to rise above political narratives to simply prioritize student success. I have read amazing books because they were recommended. My syllabi have been reviewed and improved upon by my Educational Psychology colleagues. I have been introduced to new methods and theoretical frameworks to integrate inclusivity more thoroughly into my research. I am grateful for all they do to support each other and our students.