Kamden StrunkAs part of an effort to encourage collaboration between the College of Education faculties at Auburn University and the University of Alabama, Dr. Kamden Strunk, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Foundations, Leadership, and Technology, recently spent four days in Tuscaloosa as part of the SEC Travel Grant program. While there, he worked with their faculty and students on a variety of projects. His visit also coincided with Alabama’s annual research symposium. In addition to his participation in that event, he also delivered its keynote address and led a workshop on quantitative methods for social justice and equity.

“This is part of an effort to build collaborative relationships between the College of Education at Auburn and at the University of Alabama, especially around research on equity and social justice in education,” Strunk said. “This fall, Dr. Stephanie Ann Shelton, an assistant professor of qualitative research at Alabama, visited our campus. While here she gave a research talk and led workshops. So my visit there was a follow-up to her visit here. We’re working to identify opportunities for collaboration and an ongoing relationship with Alabama. Our goal is to continue this collaboration and strengthen ties between the two campuses to build our capacity to work together in creating more equitable education in Alabama.”

Kamden Strunk and collaborators

Over the next two years, the collaboration will focus on critical studies in education, which is centered on understanding cultural, institutional, and structural dynamics that create and perpetuate injustice, inequity, and oppression in education and schooling. Strunk is part of the Critical Studies Working Group here at Auburn, and Shelton has similar research interests at Alabama.

“Although Auburn and Alabama are rivals in sports, we can be partners in research and education. By integrating our efforts, we hope to meaningfully improve education for the state of Alabama, particularly in creating more equitable and just education systems,” Strunk said. “In the new program we’re starting this fall, faculty from both institutions will develop collaborative writing projects and hold an annual research symposium in the Spring. For now, the symposium will be in Tuscaloosa, but we plan to rotate locations in the future.”

The symposium will initially emphasize critical scholarship, with about 20-25 faculty and graduate students from Auburn participating.

“There are many faculty at Auburn and Alabama with complementary research agendas. For example, Dr. Shelton and I both focus on queer studies and LGBTQ people in education. She is a qualitative methodologist focused mostly on K-12 education, and I am a quantitative methodologist focused mostly on higher education. By collaborating, we can take a holistic approach, both methodologically and in the level of schooling.”

Strunk also noted the benefits of faculty exchanges for students.

“Students gain perspectives and expertise from scholars at other institutions. This helps expand their educational experience and reinforces scholarly expectations for graduate students.”

Future possibilities include collaboration on coursework, which might include occasional combined class meetings across the two institutions via video conference technology.

“The bottom line is we have great resources at both schools, and there is a lot we can do to promote scholarship, broaden our students’ horizons, and help improve and enhance education at all levels in our state. I’m excited about this collaboration, and look forward to seeing it grow.”