Faculty Q&A with Professor Ann Ishimaru

December 19, 2023

As the newly appointed Kerry and Linda Killinger Endowed Chair in Diversity Studies, Professor Ann Ishimaru looks forward to continuing her work convening collaborative spaces of research and inquiry to advance educational justice in our schools and communities. Next month, Ishimaru and a dedicated committee of UW scholars, alumni and staff — including Professor of Practice and Director of the Leadership for Learning Program Anthony Craig and Teaching Professor and Director of the Danforth Educational Leadership Program Ann O'Doherty — will host the inaugural Leading Towards Justice Symposium on January 19-20, 2024 in the Husky Union Building. The symposium will build on the Leading Towards Justice Series begun in 2022, and invites scholars, practitioners, educators and leaders to share their work and evolve our collective leadership practices of justice-seeking in education.

Learn more about the symposium and Professor Ishimaru’s vision for educational justice in our Q&A with her. Please note that responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

The symposium asks participants to engage the question, “How do we lead towards justice within these territories?” Can you elaborate on this central question and its criticality in the work you and your colleagues do?

Ann Ishimaru

This question really emerged not only from my own research, teaching and partnerships, but also the work that many of us do at the College of Education, as we seek to grow and support the leadership of our students in their schools, systems and communities. We know that leadership is crucial in efforts to disrupt longstanding racial and intersecting inequities in educational systems. But disruption alone is insufficient; leading towards justice calls us to set our sights beyond the system as we know it and towards realizing futures that are “answerable” (as Leigh Patel would say) to young people, families and communities and to the knowledge and learning on these Indigenous lands, in particular.

For ourselves and our students, that means developing ongoing, sustained relationships with communities, especially those systematically marginalized or erased. It means discarding heroic, individualistic approaches to leadership and instead moving collectively and relationally with others in the challenging work of fostering well-being and wholeness for young people and the adults who support them. And it means transforming systems and our own practices towards more expansive visions of the possible.

The symposium will feature a keynote conversation with scholars Michelle Jacob, Dana Nickson and Betina Hsieh. Why is it important to create spaces for collaborative conversations through this keynote as well as throughout the symposium?

We refer to this collective engagement as an “un-keynote” because we wanted to provide a platform for these three scholars that does justice to their brilliance while also enabling them to model the collective knowledge-building and change-making we see as core to the work of leadership. We deliberately invited scholars whose work seeks to realize justice in these territories, because leading is always contextual and because we wanted to push back on the notion that expertise resides solely in luminaries from afar — lucky for us, they are right here!

Dr. Jacob, a member of the Yakama Nation, traces her leadership and educational work around Indigenous well-being on these lands back to her ancestors since time immemorial. Dr. Nickson, who has taught in the College of Education since 2020, will bring her scholarship on Black student and family knowledges, geographies and placemaking into the conversation. Meanwhile, Dr. Hsieh will have just arrived at the UW as the new Boeing Endowed Chair of Teacher Education, and we are delighted to introduce her to our community and can’t wait to witness the synergies between her work in teacher identity, teachers of color and critical digital literacies with the work of the other two scholars. We feel that the very act of bringing these scholars and aunties together to share knowledge and space with each other and with us is an act of critical hope in this moment.

What do you and your co-organizers hope participants will contribute to the symposium as well as learn and take with them to their communities?

Our committee has been very intentional about ensuring that this symposium is not a typical talking-heads conference with a couple of “experts” lecturing behind a podium. Rather, we have designed the symposium with the presumption that everyone brings crucial expertise to the challenging work of transforming education. Thus, participants will learn with facilitators and have opportunities to interact, move, connect, remember, bear witness, imagine — and cultivate joy amid times of enormous challenge and weight. The concurrent sessions will be led by current Leadership for Learning Ed.D. students on topics as broad-ranging as student voice, restorative practices, Indigenous knowledge in schools, humanizing data, justice in instructional leadership, BIPOC women in leadership, Theater of the Oppressed, transforming state agencies, and inquiries into identity, well-being and vulnerability in leadership.

Thanks to Collective Liberation in Practice and Franklin Elementary School Principal Constance Daw, we are also delighted to screen elementary student-created films centered on narratives of Black liberation and Indigenous Sovereignty that connect educational justice to food, housing, creativity, land, water and language.

Through our collective learning, we hope to catalyze a sustained network of leaders that weaves across our different degrees, certifications and programs to build community and solidarities between current students, alumni, faculty, educators, youth and community members.

As the newly appointed Kerry and Linda Killinger Endowed Chair in Diversity Studies, what is your vision for the College’s advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion and how do you imagine leveraging your position to support it?

I want to deeply appreciate the first and original holder of this chair, Professor Emeritus James A. Banks. His work has been so influential across all of education — I think many of us can quite easily say that without his and his Center’s work for decades, our own work would not be possible. It is a credit to James and Cherry Banks’ profound (and ongoing!) contributions that the field continues to evolve as we work to transform and realize more just educational systems. I look forward to continuing that legacy by leveraging this chair to support the Just Educational Leadership Institute’s work of cultivating cross-racial leadership and solidarities in our communities and schools — a vital effort especially as external political forces seek to undermine or suppress equity-focused learning, dialogue and change. Thanks to the College of Education’s collective of leadership programs, the Corbally Fund, and Kerry and Linda Killinger, the Leading Towards Justice Symposium is one of the ways that legacy is already bearing fruit!

Anything else you’d like to add?

If you are a student, educator, or community member who cares about education and the role of leadership in catalyzing more just schools, we hope you’ll join us! The symposium is an unparalleled opportunity to explore what our multiple leadership programs have to offer and to learn and grow community in this work.

The Leading Towards Justice Symposium is hosted by the College of Education’s Danforth Educational Leadership Program, Leadership for Learning Program and the Educational Foundations, Leadership and Policy area with support from the Corbally Fund and the Just Ed Leadership Institute. Register for the symposium here.

The Kerry and Linda Killinger Endowed Chair in Diversity Studies will ensure the College of Education maintains its national prominence in diversity studies, multicultural education and community-centric research to advance educational equity in Washington state and beyond. Established through a gift from The Kerry and Linda Killinger Foundation, this endowment permanently sustains the College’s capacity to recruit and retain national luminaries and advances efforts to diversify the College’s faculty body. Additionally, the endowment continues the legacy of impact begun by “the father of multicultural education” Professor Emeritus James A. Banks and will unite and lead efforts across the College related to diversity, equity and inclusion.


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