Interview: Chelsea Rodriguez

Chelsea Rodriguez is in her second year of her PhD at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in The Netherlands. She obtained her BA in Education and History in the US and taught at a public school for 3 years before moving to Leuven for her MA in Educational studies at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Her supervisors are Johannes Westberg, Professor of Theory and History of Education, and Hilda Amsing, Professor of the History of Dutch Education at the Faculty of Education Sciences at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. She has been affiliated to the graduate school in applied history of education since the start of her PhD in the autumn of 2020.

Interviewer: What is the topic of your research?
Chelsea: My PhD proposal was a follow-up on my master’s thesis topic, which was about the portrayal of education in news media through the concept of mediocrity. I started looking at the original use of the term in the 1930s and focussed on its use in news outlets mostly in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. As I narrowed my research, I began to focus increasingly on the portrayal of education in the media more broadly. Eventually, I narrowed my research again, this time on the portrayal of education specifically within The New York Times.

Interviewer: So, your topic has changed since you started? What did your supervisors make of the change?
Chelsea: They actually warned me when I started my research that it would change! As a PhD student, you have mentors, but it is your project, so you need to have a voice and find a way to express what you want to pursue and match it with what your supervisors find feasible. I reached out whenever I wanted to make a change, and every time they ultimately left it up to me if I wanted to change or not.

Interviewer: Aside from the research, what do you do as a member of the International Graduate School?
Chelsea: As part of the school, I have classes that I take every block. We have a mixture of classes and seminars, which mostly take place online because we are spread out across multiple countries. We did have an in-person conference in Uppsala, Sweden once already! The courses amount to 30 ECTS, which also satisfies my course credit requirements for the Rijksuniversiteit. I also had the opportunity to work as the Early Career Researcher Coordinator for an online international conference on the History of Education, for which Johannes of the International School was the Local Organiser. I am also an editorial assistant for the Nordic Journal of Education History.

Interviewer: Sounds like a lot! Even so, have you participated in any other related activities?
Chelsea: From the connections I made in coordinating the international ISCHE-conference, I was able to co-host the first conference about the History of Education held entirely on Twitter! People submitted academic works within a maximum of 12 total Tweets and we conducted live presentations on the platform. Additionally, I joined the LGBTQIA+ Expertise Centre at the Rijksuniversiteit, which is a collective of researchers involved in researching topics pertaining to LGBTQIA+ issues. I am the expert on Queer History within the research group.

Interview by Brandon Graham, MA, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

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