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GSE researcher recognized by literacy research organization

By CHARLES ANZALONE

Published February 15, 2017

Fenice Boyd

The nation’s most prominent literacy research organization has honored UB faculty member Fenice Boyd for her service to the group.

The Literacy Research Association awarded Boyd, associate professor of learning and instruction in the Graduate School of Education, the Albert J. Kingston Award recognizing her contributions to the association, as well as her outstanding contributions to the academic community. Boyd’s research focuses on diversity as it relates to students’ academic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, as well as approaches to instruction and curriculum materials.

Boyd has been an active member of LRA for 27 years, and has served as chair of the association’s early career achievement award committee.

“As an educator, reading literature that is culturally diverse and then studying this literature with my students is my responsibility,” says Boyd. “I believe this is beneficial to the growth and development of learning.”

Boyd, who has been a member of the UB faculty since 2001, first became interested in literacy learning as an undergraduate at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. Following the university’s motto of “Every teacher is a teacher of reading,” Boyd pursued numerous reading education courses despite her interest in music education.

Boyd says her experiences as both a student and educator led her to pursue multicultural literature as a focus of her work.

“One issue is the necessity to include more literature from diverse groups in classrooms, especially at a time when the Common Core State Standards present the view that only traditional literature from ‘the classics’ is worthy of being included,” she says. “I think this move sets an extremely unfortunate precedent. We all need to read literature that is written by and about people who are from different ethnic, linguistic and cultural groups.”

She works with pre-service and in-service teachers at UB to emphasize diversity and multicultural education.

Boyd says her longtime association with the LRA stems from her desire to be a member of an organization dedicated to ethically and socially responsible research. 
“Being a part of this organization connects me to scholars from across the country,” she says. “It gives me an opportunity to learn about the research interests of other scholars, as well as make some contribution to the organization and the field.”

The Kingston award is the latest of Boyd’s numerous accolades and grants. In 2016, she won the Virginia Hamilton Essay Honor Award for her contribution to literature concerning multicultural literary experiences. Prior to that, she received the Visiting Distinguished Researcher Award from the University of South Australia and the STAR Award for Advising from UB’s Graduate School of Education.

Boyd says she plans to continue her work as an advocate for diversity in education. She currently is collaborating with Joanne Song McLaughlin, UB assistant professor of economics, to study the financial literacy knowledge of middle school children.

A tireless advocate for incorporating different perspectives in education, Boyd acknowledges that some oppose her work. Nevertheless, she believes this opposition is imperative to progress.

“Resistance is inevitable,” she says. “But I believe that learning should be uncomfortable in order to grow.”