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When you're at a school like Bucknell, you have a unique position to have an impact on the world in a powerful way. I want my students to see that and use it.
It was November 1989. As a political tsunami brewed several nations away, a cascade of events was about to dramatically change Ramona Fruja's life trajectory — she was about to have sudden access to a world of education.
"I was 11 years old when the [Berlin] wall came down. My entire life shifted simply because of that geopolitical event," she says. "I wouldn't be here if the Cold War hadn't ended. I had completely different opportunities than my parents. Sometimes those historical and political shifts change a person's narrative."
From her native Romania, to studying at universities in Bulgaria and the United States, and now teaching at Bucknell, Fruja has lived the very multicultural educational experience that became her academic specialty.
"You can't divorce someone's scholarly interests from their own biography," Fruja says. "As I was pursuing my degree, I became very interested in the experiences of immigrants in schools."
With a dual doctorate in sociology and education, Fruja examines immigration and citizenship in her research, which includes studying multicultural education. She says students entering her classrooms don't always see themselves as part of the multicultural education story.
"Students sometimes think these are courses about other people, other races and ethnicities," Fruja says. "But I want them to turn that lens inward and position themselves on the map of multiculturalism. They do a lot of exercises about their own racial and ethnic identification so they start to put themselves inside the story rather than looking from the outside in. We are all part of multiculturalism, even if we all have different experiences with power, access or privilege."
By examining barriers to equitable education, Fruja wants students to further integrate their history and experiences into the wider structural narratives to become part of solutions aimed at greater equality in education.
"I don't just teach disciplinary theories — there's also an ethical dimension," she says. "I hope students leave my classes with the ability to live beyond themselves, and to have a sociological vision about life that makes them care about other people's stories. When you're at a school like Bucknell, you have a unique position to have an impact on the world in a powerful way. I want my students to see that and use it."
Posted July 2018