News Story

JFEW/SUNY Scholar Spotlight: Passion for Sociological Research and Education Brings Scholar to Teachers College at Columbia University

Chenelle SeckA scholar in the Jewish Foundation for Education of Women SUNY International Relations and Global Affairs Scholars program at Binghamton University was able to combine her research interests and her personal passion into a graduate program she calls a "perfect match."

Chenelle Seck, a senior sociology major, will enter Teachers College at Columbia University in the fall to study sociology and education. She says the program first became of interest to her through Dr. Maryalice Mazzara, director of educational programs at the SUNY Office of Global Affairs and director of the JFEW/SUNY International Relations and Global Affairs Program.

"Dr. Mazzara as well as my JFEW mentor went to Teachers College, so I was surrounded by all of these women who are a great example." Seck said. "It's the same thing with JFEW. Before getting accepted into the program, I knew all of these women on campus in the program. It was a good set of women to look up to and a good influence."

Through the support of the Jewish Foundation for Education of Women, the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development is able to provide a two-year experiential learning program for select undergraduate women with a strong interest in international affairs. The program includes scholarship support, monthly seminars, a summer internship in NYC in an internationally focused organization, funded by a stipend, and more.

Seck's undergraduate years have been largely focused on research and advocating for the opportunities of others. President of the Thurgood Marshall Pre-Law Society and a McNair scholar, she completed her first research project during her sophomore year.

"The title of my project was 'School Segregation in the Southern Tier: Consequences of Race and Class on Education.' That got the ball rolling on my research interests," Seck said. "I've had the opportunity to present at the University of Pennsylvania, which told me this is what I want to do, that whole experience of presenting what you've learned and also learning about what other people have done. That was really fun for me. With that, I decided to apply to grad school."

Seck is from the Bronx, NY, and says her lifelong passion for equality and social justice became focused on education because of her own experiences of inequality in K-12 schools.
"I'm most passionate about, especially in my field of study, equity in education, especially for black people, which is something that I try to shed light on in my research," Seck said. "I'm currently doing research on the punishment and policing of black girls in school. It's not really common to come across that focus in the literature and the scholarly work, so that's something that I'm passionate about, exposing the inequalities that I had to go through personally and my whole race has to go through."

But her research also extends to an international interest.

Last summer, Seck was placed in an internship at the SUNY Global Center through the JFEW program. There, immediately following a semester spent studying abroad in Cuba, she researched for a lecture series on Cuba, which included meeting with academics and public policy associates who focus on the economics, history, sociology, and culture of the country. One of the people she met was Dr. Maritza MacDonald at the American Museum of Natural History, through her connection with Dr. Mazzara.

"It goes to show how you need to maintain the connections you have with people in order to help others. With that, I got to visit the museum where they had an exhibit on Cuba," Seck said. "Dr. Mazzara also emphasizes and encourages you sharing your opportunities with others, so I had the opportunity to invite one of my fellow scholars. After that I got to speak with [MacDonald] personally, and she gave me some tips and advice on who to contact for the event, but also advice on postgraduate life and just life in general."

A graduate of the JFEW/SUNY program, Seck was able to draw on the mentors available to her through to develop her own interests and career goals. Now, she will continue to expand her network at Teachers College in the fall.

"I'm grateful and indebted to Dr. Mazzara for exposing me to that school, where I can focus on education, school segregation, race, class, and gender," Seck said.

Seck's goal is to obtain her masters degree and continue her research on the social factors that affect education. Her eventual goal is to obtain her Ph. D. She says she will take the lessons she has learned from JFEW into every interaction she has in the future.

"One thing that you learn in JFEW, that helped me as a scholar and a student and a person, was the diplomacy that you learn from Dr. Mazzara. How to be polite, stating your opinion without being offensive," Seck said. "Thinking about things in a global perspective, which is something that we don't do as much as we probably should. Visiting different ambassadors and learning about those customs and their country and not necessarily trying to compare it to the United States, but appreciating it in a different way and celebrating those differences."