Pack IDEAs Student Spotlight: Corina De La Torre ’24PHD
In each edition of Pack IDEAs (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access), a newsletter released by the NC State College of Education Change Agent Task Force, we highlight faculty, students and alumni who have expertise and experiences that align with advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the college. In becoming an anti-racist college community, we must deepen our commitment to creating and sustaining a healthy teaching and learning community that uplifts the humanity of all people, but especially Black, Indigenous and people of color, who due to structural inequities are marginalized in education and society. The spotlight feature offers a counternarrative that celebrates and showcases the brilliance of individuals within our college community.
Corina De La Torre
Ph.D. in Teacher Education and Learning Sciences: Educational Psychology Program Area of Study
What is your current role at NC State and the College of Education? I am a doctoral student in the Educational Psychology program area of study. I am also a graduate student instructor for the College of Education. I currently, and have for the past year, been teaching EDP 304 – Educational Psychology to sophomore standing students.
How long have you been a student at NC State? I became a graduate student in Fall 2020 and am currently in the second year of my doctoral program.
Why are diversity, equity and inclusion in education important to you? As a first-generation Latinx womxn, I am invested in supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in and out of academic spaces through promoting, advocating and bridging the gap between theory and praxis. My passion and dedication for diversity stem from my roles as an educator, community organizer and mother. I am committed to creating substantial changes within education to ensure my son and other Black, Indigenous and students of color are able to receive equitable opportunities and quality education. Being born and raised in East Salinas, California, I have witnessed and experienced firsthand injustices and inequalities related to my race and ethnicity and I don’t want my son or future generations to experience similar barriers and feel the impacts of unnecessary hardships. Future generations deserve an educational system that uplifts them as individual students and that is culturally inclusive and community-oriented.
Are you currently conducting research around the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion? If so, tell me a little about your research. Currently, I am conducting qualitative research with Dr. Christy Byrd on critical consciousness in diversity courses. We have been analyzing students’ learning competency in awareness of social identity, structural inequality and knowledge of social identities through submitted assignments to get an understanding of how students’ learning competency changes over time.
Are your research interests around DEI? If so, tell me a little about your research interest, and why. My research and professional interests are in supporting K-12 students of color to succeed by investigating non-academic barriers that intervene with their schooling. Non-academic barriers to me are defined as social, developmental, health-related or family-related factors that limit or prevent a student’s engagement and learning. Salinas, California takes the lead in the trillion-dollar agricultural industry. My city is known for its rich soil and being the salad bowl of the world, but many do not know the county Salinas resides in also holds the title of California’s capital of childhood poverty and is ranked high on the list of segregated metropolitans. How is it that a city that has rich soil is not rich in resources for its residents? Why are the youth of agricultural field workers suffering when their parents are essential workers who fuel the U.S economy and feed the country? My research is critical to my community and the larger society to gain an understanding of non-academic barriers faced by students of color and the need to address these barriers in and outside of the classroom and education system.
What are you hoping to accomplish as a result of your research and how do you hope it impacts the field of education and learners? I hope through my research I am able to hold leaders in education accountable by providing explicit data and suggestions to policymakers that will ensure that all learners receive an equitable and quality education regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic class, culture, sexual identity, citizenship, ability status and religion.
Are there community projects and/or initiatives you are involved in that are related to diversity, equity and inclusion? Tell me about those projects. Outside of academia, I am a community organizer in my hometown of Salinas, California. I am part of the local defund the police movement there and organize alongside other Salinas natives and residents. We focus on advocating for reinvestment of funds that have been over-allocated to the police department as a way of addressing systemic racism and to secure financial sustainability for effective community services that increase public safety and health. Our work is done through educating residents and community leaders, mobilizing stakeholders and advocating for policy changes and solutions.
We have successfully supported and led Salinas City Council to take action in prioritizing and allocating funds into longstanding, neglected community projects and sectors like parks and rec and library and community services, that will dramatically improve the lives of Salinas residents. Keep up with our efforts on Instagram @reinvest831
What do you hope to teach future educators and scholar-leaders about equity and inclusion in education? How do you incorporate that into your instruction and curriculum? I hope to teach future educators and scholar-leaders to take personal responsibility in advancing equity and inclusion in their future classrooms and scholarship. My efforts in doing so ties into my instruction, assigned work and classroom discussions. I challenge my students to reflect on their privileges, race, gender and socioeconomic status and how their social identities position them in the world, in the education field and in the classroom. I challenge my students to think critically by bringing in current civil rights issues in education and encourage them to speak on the matter directly to school boards and districts.
For other students who are interested in learning more about social justice and anti-racist education, what are two resources you would recommend? Students who are interested in learning more about social justice and anti-racist education should check out our university’s Women’s Center and the Multicultural Student Affairs Center and take advantage of special topic courses the university offers related to social justice, equity in education and serving marginalized populations.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the College of Education community? I’d like to share a quote from civil rights activist Dolores Huerta. “Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist and every minute a chance to change the world.” We as leaders in education have an obligation to engage civically and uplift communities outside of our ivory tower. To bring forth true and genuine change we must set aside our prestigious titles and research, and organize in the streets and communities we have the most ties to.