"The educational system is a significant gatekeeper in terms of further integration, in terms of the opportunities students will have. We need to work toward structures in which students of all kinds of groups have equitable access."

School can be tough for any child, but immigrant children can face exceptional hurdles. Assistant Professor of Education Ramona Fruja is interested in the relationship between immigration and education and the ways that schools participate in a student's transition to a new society.

"People coming from the outside can become insiders," she says. "Schools might be able to participate in that process, facilitate the welcome and the transition of immigrant children into U.S. society. We need to see how we could minimalize any possibility of marginalization."

Fruja's interest in the immigrant experience in the U.S. educational system led her to investigate another immigrant experience - taking the naturalization exam to become a U.S. citizen. She has explored the theory and history of the exam in terms of its critiques, revisions and expectations as a civic education for society's newest members. Looking forward, Fruja plans to delve into the personal experiences of individuals who have taken the exam.

Her interest in the exam stemmed from a recognition of the importance of legal status in determining access to educational and other opportunities. Her interest grew when she encountered a growing body of literature arguing that borders and national identities have become passé. She realized that the reality many people are living is a far cry from the academic literature. Fruja was born in Romania, educated in Romania and Bulgaria, lived in France and earned her doctorate in the United States.

"You could call me transnational, easily moving across borders, yet there is a paradox because it is not as easy as it seems, and most people never benefit from this ease of movement," she says. As a teacher, Fruja hopes to help her students understand how multiculturalism fits into the educational system, and how schools can help students from all backgrounds find a place to belong and succeed.

Bucknell's education program is open to future teachers, who also earn a teaching certification, and to students interested in studying education though a Bachelor of Arts but not planning to become teachers themselves. Fruja appreciates Bucknell's approach, she says, because it shows the University recognizes the broader picture of how schools participate in society at large, and that not only teachers but also "citizens in general have a say and play vital roles in the institutions of schooling."

"The educational system is a significant gatekeeper in terms of further integration, in terms of the opportunities students will have," she says. "We need to work toward structures in which students of all kinds of groups have equitable access."

Posted Sept. 27, 2010

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