I spoke with Dr. Denise Yull, Assistant Professor of Human Development and newer CCPA faculty member, about how she approached her dissertation and about the wealth of data she collected, along with a sneak peek as to what she is working on now. A graduate of the School of Education, Dr. Yull was one of the professors I had as an undergraduate student whose curriculum and teaching philosophy opened up a new world of critical engagement and understanding for me. In speaking with Dr. Yull about the process of formulating research questions and determining research methodologies she would use in her work, she outlined to me a process where there would be many opportunities to present and aggregate the data collected into post-doctoral publications.
Dr. Yull had four specific research questions, and her dissertation was an undertaking of a significant amount of data collection. Her data collection included vast oral histories gathered in order to answer questions regarding the educational experiences of Black New York State residents across four generations. She collected oral histories from people living in Binghamton, Elmira, Syracuse, and Buffalo. One of the salient findings is that these participants valued education for themselves and their children, but one of the main differences are with regard to the level of education sought after. Those whose families were from the North were content to strive toward completion of the high school credential, whereas those families that emigrated from the South aspired to a higher level of education. Another theme was rural vs. urban sensibilities and differences in the salience of racism based on geographical locations, and that those who were from Binghamton and Elmira had a different sense of racism in the schooling experience than those from Syracuse and Buffalo, larger urban areas. She also discussed the notion of schools as reproducing racism, providing distinct criticisms of the institution of education and how it fails youth of color. A specific quote that stands out is that “black boys never get to be kids because they are always seen as men, who aren’t seen as humans.” Powerful.
This research project and the questions she asked are important because these stories are important. As a result of gathering this data, she has identified an opportunity to publish research on the Millennial generation of youth of color. Dr. Yull discusses her ideas on this as illuminating the experience and comparing it to the traditional discourse associated with the Millennial generation as a whole, noting the disparities among them. This has the potential to be very influential work, work that provides a representative voice and challenges commonly accepted ideas.
Dr. Yull had a strict deadline to finish writing, which was ultimately incredibly helpful, in addition to stressful and daunting. She had a job offer that was contingent upon her completion and successful defense of her dissertation. She had all of her data collected, and large pieces of her dissertation complete, however with vast amounts of qualitative data, she had a significant amount of coding left to do in order to arrive at some of her data driven conclusions, independent of assumptions and the output of essential critical thinking of the researcher. She defended in August of 2012 and then started in her current role with CCPA in September of 2012. Dr. Yull made it a point to tell me to use the data contained within the dissertation and immediately begin the work of extracting and publishing it.
Community engaged scholarship is demonstrated throughout the work undertaken by faculty in the College of Community and Public Affairs. Dr. Yull spoke briefly of the process of being tenure track and what that looks like at the level of collecting relevant experience and information that supports receiving tenure. Specifically, she outlined three key areas of excellence that must be demonstrated: teaching, scholarship, and service. In addition to providing students with a qualitative means of assessment that speaks to her capabilities as a teacher, she also sits on several boards locally, including the Broome County Urban League. These are just as important as maintaining an active research agenda.
Doctoral Student, College of Community and Public Affairs at Binghamton University