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Fordham GSE Hosts New York State Education Department Conference on Bilingual Education


In December 2023, the Fordham University Graduate School of Education hosted “Voices United: Embracing Diversity to Foster Multiculturalism and Multilingualism” in partnership with the New York State Education Department Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages (OBEWL). Convened at the end of a year when the influx of migrant families contributed to the first increase in New York City public schools enrollment since before the pandemic, the daylong conference was a timely opportunity to address the urgent educational needs of multilingual and multicultural learners.

Held Thursday, December 7, at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus, the conference was the result of a strategic partnership between the GSE and NYSED, according to Diane Rodriguez, Ph.D., Associate Dean and Professor, Curriculum and Teaching, Graduate School of Education, Fordham University.

“By fostering multiculturalism and multilingualism, we not only enrich the educational experience but also prepare students to thrive in an interconnected and globalized world,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “Through workshops, training sessions, and resource development, we aim to empower educators with culturally competent strategies and, in turn, contribute to the creation of learning environments that affirm the identities of all students, irrespective of their cultural or linguistic backgrounds.”

Following welcome remarks from Tanya Rosado-Barringer, Executive Director of the Mid-State Regional Bilingual Education Resource Network (RBERN); Elisa Alvarez, Associate Commissioner, New York State Education Department, Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages; Dr. José Luis Alvarado, Dean, Graduate School of Education, Fordham University; and Dr. Betty A. Rosa, Commissioner of Education & President of the University of the State of New York, the conference program began with a keynote address, entitled “Learning, Acting and Advocating at the Intersection of Immigration and Education,” by Tatyana Kleyn, Professor of Bilingual Education and TESOL at The City College of New York. 

In several breakout sessions that followed, facilitators covered topics ranging from basic sociolinguistic concepts and teaching approaches, co-teaching English language learners, and trauma-informed pedagogies for language learners who are refugees, asylum seekers, and unaccompanied minors.

In both her keynote address and a breakout session on holistic support for immigrant students in bilingual and ENL settings, Dr. Kleyn discussed and shared her work as Principal Investigator for the City University of New York-Initiative on Immigration and Education (CUNY-IIE), a NYSED-funded project that aims to collaborate with immigrant communities and advocate for equitable policies and opportunities. 

“CUNY-IIE has created a range of multimodal and multilingual resources that center the strengths of mixed-status immigrant communities that include undocumented, refugee, and asylum-seeking members,” said Dr. Kleyn. “These materials were shared and framed within the context of what schools can and should be doing to serve their newcomer immigrant students in the multilingual and multicultural apple.”

The afternoon program included remarks by Dr. Lester W. Young, Jr., Chancellor, Board of Regents, University of the State of New York, and featured a learning session facilitated by Christa Stevenson, Executive Director of the Long Island

RBERN; Rachael Wasilewski-Alcantara, Assistant Director of the Hudson Valley RBERN; and Vanessa Gulfo, a general, bilingual, and dual language teacher and literacy coach in the New York City Department of Education.

Associate Commissioner Alvarez applauded “Voices United” for sounding “a call to action in promoting authenticity of self through the love and power of language.”

“The NYSED Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages is extremely appreciative of Fordham Graduate School of Education’s efforts to ensure that we could deliver this educational experience for teachers of English Language Learners across New York State,” she added. 

“Thanks to Fordham’s contribution—and especially to the leadership of Associate Dean Diane Rodriguez—our participants were inspired by the life stories and wisdom gained through years of experience by NYS Board of Regents Chancellor Lester Young, Jr., NYSED Commissioner Betty Rosa, and Fordham GSE Dean José Luis Alvarado.”

Describing the conference as a vital opportunity for “educators, advocates, and policy makers from across the state to come together to share promising practices, disseminate key resources, and discuss the changes that are needed to respond to our changing context,” Dr. Kleyn said, “I came away from the day inspired to keep pushing the field forward, (re)connected with colleagues and hopeful that New York State will continue to be a leader in the education of immigrant-origin multilingual learners.”

“Our goal at the Graduate School of Education has always been to equip and empower teachers, counselors, psychologists, school administrators, and various educational practitioners and scholars with the tools necessary to serve diverse populations effectively,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “Along with an unwavering dedication to social justice, personal responsibility, and equity for all learners, we strive to ensure that our educational outreach transcends boundaries of race, cultural background, religion, and ethnicity. In this respect, ‘Voices United’ was an exemplary initiative.”


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