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Lecture: Listening to Indigenous Communities, Students & Mentors
October 15, 2019 @ 7:00pm
MSU provost’s lecture series continues Oct. 15 with talk by education professor Christine Stanton
BOZEMAN — Montana State University education professor Christine Stanton remembers many students from her days as a high school teacher and instructional coach. One of those students, a Native American girl with whom Stanton worked in Lander, Wyoming, was a “really smart young lady,” Stanton said, but she skipped class frequently.
One day, Stanton and a colleague approached the student to ask why she wasn’t going to her history class.
“She looked straight at us and said, ‘It ain’t going to be my history,’” Stanton recalled.
“For me, that really resonated as a moment that I realized the students know; we just don’t give them enough credit,” said Stanton, now an associate professor in the MSU College of Education, Health and Human Development’s Department of Education. “Here was a young woman who clearly knew that the curriculum was not going to reflect her experiences, her histories, her perspectives, and she was actively choosing to resist being a part of that curriculum.
“Since then I’ve learned about this ‘active not learning’ and how, especially, minoritized and marginalized students will purposefully choose not to learn in a certain setting,” Stanton added. “It’s not because they’re not engaged or they don’t care or they’re being lazy. … But they’re doing it purposefully and intentionally, and it’s an act of resistance. That was when I started working with community members (in Lander) to figure out what is it that we need to do to change the curriculum?”
Stanton will discuss these and additional observations when she delivers the second lecture in this year’s Provost’s Distinguished Lecturer Series, which recognizes outstanding MSU faculty. The lecture, “We Tried to Tell you: Learning to Listen to Indigenous Communities, Students and Mentors,” is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, in the Hager Auditorium of the Museum of the Rockies. It is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow at 8 p.m.
Stanton said the lecture will address how community-centered educational research is grounded in the belief that educational stakeholders have the expertise needed to address their community’s unique challenges. However, she said, indigenous communities continue to be excluded or marginalized when it comes to decision-making in many K-12 and postsecondary educational settings.
“A disconnect between schools and indigenous communities exacerbates academic, economic and political challenges for indigenous students and is particularly pronounced when educators and researchers are not themselves community insiders,” she said.
To combat the challenges, Stanton said one of the main things that she tries to do as a scholar and educator is to educate people — herself included — to listen more effectively to indigenous communities.
“I know that research and teacher education — the things we do here at MSU in the Department of Education — can make a difference in those communities, but we have to listen to the people in the communities to make sure the things we do are appropriate and correct and that they don’t just perpetuate the problems,” Stanton added.
Stanton said the lecture will be framed around key stories about community members, students, mentors and others who have been instrumental in her development.
“Through sharing stories, I’m hoping to be able to share examples of my own challenges,” she said. “Everything I’ve learned and a lot, if not everything, I’ve achieved is because of my students and because of my relationships with people in communities,” Stanton said. “I feel really fortunate to be part of those stories and those experiences, and I try really hard to keep my eyes and ears open.”
Stanton’s career in education spans 20 years in both urban and rural settings across four states. At MSU, Stanton teaches social studies pedagogy in curriculum and instruction courses and conducts research in collaboration with indigenous communities throughout the state, with a specialization in revitalizing indigenous knowledge within social studies education.
Her research projects — which total more than half a dozen since coming to MSU in 2010 — have been driven by requests from the communities, she noted. And her work has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the office of the MSU vice president for research and Humanities Montana, among other sources.
Recent awards Stanton has received include the Early Career Scholar Award from the
American Educational Research Association’s social studies research special interest group; the Teresa Veltkamp Advocacy Award for Excellence in Indian Education for All, given by the Montana Office of Public Instruction; the National Technology Leadership Initiative Fellowship Award, given jointly by the College and University Faculty Assembly of the National Council for Social Studies and Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education; and MSU’s James and Mary Ross Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship.
Stanton earned a doctorate in education from the University of Wyoming. She also has a master’s degree in teaching from the University of Iowa and bachelor’s degrees in geography and English from Augustana College.
Stanton hopes that people who attend the lecture will leave with a recognition that communities across the rural West — particularly indigenous communities — are “incredibly resilient despite the many, many hardships and the geographic, economic and political isolation that has been imposed upon a lot of those communities.”
She also hopes audience members will consider what it means to listen and engage with stakeholders with whom they are serving as co-researchers and partners. And she hopes to encourage work that engages with communities in sincere ways.
“By sharing some of the stories that have been really transformative for me, I hope (those stories) can encourage other people to start paying attention to stories around them,” Stanton said.
The Provost’s Distinguished Lecturer Series recognizes faculty distinguished at MSU for their scholarship and creativity. Faculty members presenting during the series will reflect on the inspirations for their work in lectures suited for professionals and lay people alike. A full schedule of lectures for the 2019-2020 academic year is available at montana.edu/news/18901.