June 03, 2016, BY Matthew Beltz

Manisha Chase in the library
Manisha Chase '16 (Photo by Brett Simpson, Division of Communications)

Difficult teachers often don't gain favor with most typical high school students. But for Manisha Chase '16 and many of her classmates at El Camino Real High School in Los Angeles, AP literature teacher Natasha Zwick was an exception.

"She was such a difficult teacher, but every student loved her," said Chase. "She had this way of pushing students and encouraging and believing in them so that they didn't mind doing the extra work. It fascinated me that she was able to create that type of a classroom, and how she did it was of interest to me. I figured learning more about education was one way I could find out."

A first-generation college student, Chase will continue her journey toward a career in education in one of the world's most prestigious education programs. She is the recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant, which will take her to the United Kingdom in the fall to work toward her master's degree in educational assessment at University College London Institute of Education. Administered by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, these awards send U.S. citizens abroad for an academic year to research, teach or study.

Chase's experience in that AP history course was the first of three in her life that inspired her to pursue a career in education. Chase, who graduated from Bucknell University with a degree in education and psychology last month, came to Lewisburg as a Posse Scholar. It was during the nine months of Posse training leading up to her matriculation to Bucknell that she had her second experience, which consisted of a session about the pedagogy of the oppressed.

"That session made me recall so much of my K–12 experience. I thought it was amazing and it opened so many doors in my mind," said Chase.

The third experience came after taking EDUC 101, Social Foundation of Education, with Professor Richard Henne-Ochoa, education.

"Education was already a big passion, but that course just really put everything else into motion. I knew for sure I wanted to pursue an education degree," she said.

"In that course, I believe Manisha discovered constructive ways to think about the interrelationship between schooling and society," said Henne-Ochoa. "Her sense of morality and social justice seems to have fueled her dedication to improving the lives of students and families through education.

"Manisha is a model to me and others of what it means to be fully dedicated to realizing one's potential through education, and to creating a life trajectory towards helping others do the same."

At the UCL Institute of Education, which QS World University rated the top education institution in the world in its 2015 subject rankings, Chase hopes to build on the research that she started while studying in the Bucknell in London program in fall 2014, and which eventually became her honors thesis. She previously studied experiences of secondary-school students in the U.K. prior to the its national curriculum reform toward a more standardized testing model.

"Coming from Los Angeles, I knew how difficult it is in the classroom to mediate the different identities that students bring to the classroom, especially in an urban area where you have a large immigrant population," said Chase, whose parents are of Indian descent and emigrated to the U.S. from Kenya. "You're trying to create this acknowledgement of student identities in the classroom, but then you're implementing a one-size-fits-all assessment, so it didn't quite make sense to me. It seems that many don't recognize the ways in which certain aspects of identity can play into different subjects in education."

She plans on researching how different assessment methods shape education and its meaning for all of its various stakeholders. After completing her master's degree, she intends to pursue a doctorate in educational psychology, with hopes of securing a faculty position at a university, where she feels she can have the most impact on education policy.

"I have so many passions within education and there are so many things I'd like to reform, but I'm only one person," said Chase. "To be able to help a future generation and incite their passions just as my teachers and professors did for me will be far more effective."

Chase never thought she would be a Fulbright Scholar when she first entered Bucknell, but she credits her professors for sparking her passions.

"I would have never thought it — not in a million years. I didn't have the capacity to even think about double-majoring when I was a first-year student, but I think that had to do with not recognizing my potential," said Chase.

"A lot of faculty helped me see that if you reach for it, you can achieve it, and they've pushed me to be the best version of a lifelong learner I can be. It's so valuable as a Bucknell student to have professors who feel their first job is to be your mentor and support and inspire you. I want to give that personal experience to my future students."