Alumni & Student Spotlight

Justine DeFrancesco

Kent State Early Childhood Education provides you with endless possibilities and countless avenues to take. It opens doors, windows, and hidden paths toward a more informed, passion-driven future.


Early Childhood graduate student Justine DeFrancesco

I graduated from Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and training in International Baccalaureate teaching. I am currently working toward my master’s degree in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Globalization and Intercultural Competence. The drive I have for working toward my M.Ed. is built upon my interest in the vast world we share and my journey as an internationally minded educator and human being. This interest was crafted by the courses I have taken at KSU while I was an undergraduate student and ignited by the professors who pushed me to always work towards building myself as an interculturally minded pre-service teacher. I came to Kent State for the stellar early childhood education program; I continued at KSU for my master’s program because of the professors, their passions, and to continue on my journey alongside a university and staff that I trust.

My best learning experiences in the program have been…

  • Studying abroad in New Zealand for my final semester of student teaching during my undergraduate degree.
  • Presenting at the Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education (RECE) Conferences held in Toronto, Canada (2017) and Copenhagen, Denmark (2018).
  • Writing alongside Dr. Marty Lash and publishing our chapter within Dr. Ken Cushner’s new book. (Lash, M. & DeFrancesco, J. Global learning: How international student teachers grow into world class educators. In K. Cushner’s Teacher as Traveler – Travel as Teacher: Moving Beyond Tourism to Enhance the Intercultural Development of Teachers and their Students, 2nd edition. Rowman and Littlefield: Lanham, MD.)

The ECED courses I attended at Kent State awoke in me a curiosity for cultural awareness. The IBPYP certification broadened my views of the world we share and helped me to solidify a passion for attaining intercultural competence. And finally, my semester teaching and living abroad, immersing myself in the culture of New Zealand, as well as this M.Ed. Program I am currently a student in help me to continually reweave my perceptions of this world and intensify the desire I have for becoming an internationally minded person.

Mustary Mariyam


Early Childhood doctoral student Mustary Mariyam

I am an international student from Bangladesh. I graduated from Kent State University with a Master of Education degree in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Globalization and Intercultural Competence in May 2017. I am currently pursuing my Doctorate Studies in Curriculum and Instruction at Kent State, with a focus on Early Childhood Education.

The C&I doctoral program meets my goals because I have been able to focus on my passion and research interest to learn about how to meet the needs of young immigrant children and their families when they first arrive in the country. As a doctoral student I am helping my academic advisor in editing the Journal of Family Diversity in Education.

My best learning experiences in the program have been...

  • Being an associate teacher for two years at the Kent State Child Development Center surrounded by a supportive teaching and administrative team.
  • Presenting at the Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education (RECE) Conference held in Toronto, Canada (2017).
  • Presenting at the 19th International Roundtable on School, Family, and Community Partnerships, INET at AERA conference, New York, USA (2018).
  • Presenting at the Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children held in Sandusky, Ohio (2018).
  • Writing alongside Dr. Janice Kroeger and Janis McTeer and publishing an article in the Journal of Research in Childhood Education (2019).

I would highly recommend a new graduate student to choose KSU ECED because there is a huge scope for conducting research along with teaching and learning at Kent State. The faculty and staff are very welcoming and value the individual choice and experiences of their diverse student population.


Early Childhood graduate student Jasmine Price

Jasmine Price

I am currently the Room Three Lead Teacher (Preschool) at the Kent State University Child Development Center. I am also a graduate student in the master’s Early Childhood Education program. I initially began my undergraduate journey at a different university my freshman year of college. I later fell in love with Kent State and transferred my sophomore year. I completed my Undergraduate Degree in Early Childhood Education and decided that I wanted to continue to grow in this field. The rest as they say, is history.

My best learning experiences while in this program thus far have been being able to grow as a writer and a critical thinker. This program has provided me with the opportunity to be able to stretch myself in many different ways. It has also allowed me to connect to brilliant professors and colleagues. I am excited for what is still to come.

The Undergraduate program helped me to understand children in a way that honors them and gives them a sense of agency. It helped shape me into the teacher that I am today. The Graduate program continues to challenge me and presents me with new opportunities to grow in ways that I never imagined.

The Early Childhood Education program is filled with brilliant professors and colleagues who are passionate about their work. They will help you grow and become a lifelong learner. This program will also help you to become more knowledgeable about the ECED field and equip you with information so that you can impact change!


Black and white drawing of Dr. Casey Myers

Dr. Casey Y. Myers

I graduated from Kent State University in 2015 with a PhD in Curriculum & Instruction, with a concentration in Early Childhood Education. I came to Kent State to pursue my doctoral work in ECED because I was looking for an outlet to explore sociopolitical and philosophical issues related to childhood, such as historical constructions of children and families, and the intersections of race, class, and gender. I was also given the freedom at KSU to pursue an interest in posthuman philosophy as it relates to childhood.

My experiences in the program include...

  • I was able to grow as a scholar and researcher through the mentoring I received in my PhD program.
  • As a teaching fellow, I was able to teach multiple undergraduate and graduate courses and gain valuable experience in curriculum design and pedagogy.
  • I was able to present at multiple national and international research conferences and publish peer-reviewed articles while still a doctoral resident. One of the most important aspects of my scholarly development was being introduced to the RECE organization by my advisor, Dr. Kroeger, and subsequently becoming involved in the reconceptualist movement.
  • I was the recipient of the 2015 Outstanding Doctoral Student Research Award.
  • I was also awarded the inaugural Jeanette Rhedding-Jones Outstanding Dissertation Award in 2015 from the International Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education organization for my research on the everyday materialities of young children’s school lives.

Because I was able to develop as a teacher, scholar, and researcher, I was prepared to work in a variety of settings. I am currently an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at KSU and the Coordinator of Studio & Research Arts at the KSU Child Development Center. This is a dynamic position that allows me to continue my research with young children, as well as work in teacher education.

Because of the research training I received at Kent State, my scholarship has reached an international audience and this has helped me to develop meaningful collaborations with colleagues around the world. For example, in 2016 I was designated as a visiting scholar to the University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education’s Youth and Child Research Center. I have co-edited a special issue of an international ECE journal with colleagues from New Zealand. I currently have two forthcoming chapters in International Handbooks, on Children’s Rights and Global Childhoods, respectively. And in 2019, my first book, a monograph based on my dissertation, is being published with Springer as part of an international Childhood Studies book series.

There are mentors at Kent State that will help you to grow into the scholar you want to be. I have dedicated my life to working for young children and their families and KSU was a crucial part of my professional growth and development.

Now that I am in a position to mentor my own graduate students, I feel so honored to take what I have learned and help the next generation of ECE teachers, scholars, and activists grow into their own life’s work.


Early Childhood graduate student Corina Stein

Corina Stein

I earned my undergraduate degree in early childhood education from Kent State Salem Campus as a non-traditional student and decided to return to Kent to complete a graduate degree in early childhood education with a focus on leadership and advocacy. I came to Kent because of my wonderful experiences as an undergraduate.

The graduate program has stretched me academically, personally, and professionally through critical inquiry. My best learning experiences were the opportunities that I had for presenting materials in the class, creating an online module for a class, reading Jillian Rodd’s Leading Change in the Early Years, and completing my exit project which pushed me to think and rethink. In classroom discussions, we were not only able to discuss ideas and materials but to encourage and sharpen one another. The KSU teaching staff have been exceptional.

The program has helped me to establish a strong leadership identity that has equipped me to better fulfill the requirements of my current Head Start position.  I also hope to have an opportunity to teach a course in the future as adjunct faculty.

In the Kent State Early Childhood program, you will be stretched and challenged to think critically. You will be able to articulate an understanding of early childhood education that is top notch which will in turn enable you to be a leader in this field.

Brianna Foraker

I began my Professional Studies at Kent State University in 2009, as a student in Early Childhood Education. Following my graduation, I continued studies to receive a Master of Education degree through the Curriculum and Instruction program and then began my PhD. During this time, I became a member of the Child Development Center faculty first as a preschool teacher and now as a full-time toddler teacher.


C&I graduate student Brianna Foraker

My professional interests include anti-bias curriculum, critical multiculturalism, and social justice issues. I came to Kent State because of the outstanding reputation for the Early Childhood program and the extensive number of hours in the field. I stayed because I found a sense of community of critical colleagues at the Child Development Center and within the ECED and C&I departments. Kent State provided a space for me to work and research with young children that aligned with my teaching philosophy and beliefs.

My best learning experiences have been…

  • Student teaching at the Kent State Child Development Center and Crouse Community Learning Center in Akron.
  • Taking a summer course surrounding global perspectives of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Curitiba, Brazil.
  • Spending a summer abroad in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Presenting at the Kent State University Teaching Council Conference in 2015 and 2016.
  • Being a part of the host committee for the 2014 Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education (RECE) Conference.
  • Presenting at the RECE Conferences held in Dublin, Ireland (2015), Toronto, Canada (2017), and Copenhagen, Denmark (2018).
  • Applying for and receiving a Virginia Hamilton and Arnold Adoff Creative Outreach Grant to fund a multicultural library at the Child Development Center.
  • Publication of my chapter "'Good Hair': Exploring race within Multicultural Literature" in Text Sets: Multimodal Learning for Multicultural Students (Dowdy, J. K., & Fleischaker, R. 2018).

So far in the program, I am learning to question traditional and conventional approaches of research and practice within early childhood education. My graduate studies have driven me to more critical examinations of the field of early childhood and contemplation of myself as a teacher. I am finding out how to pursue my interests and big questions, and finding ways to connect with scholars and practitioners internationally. This supports my philosophy surrounding the respect and agency of young children while meeting my goals of making a lasting impact in the lives of children and the world.

I would encourage a graduate student to choose Kent State Early Childhood Education because it offers the opportunity to work closely with children in innovative ways and includes the support of an incredible faculty along the way.

Emily McHenry

My background is in early childhood. I taught third grade, kindergarten, and preschool for ten years and entered the doctoral program at the end of that classroom era. I came to Kent State because of the opportunity to engage in scholarly discussion free from judgement. While I stretch my thinking and understandings, I can make a difference.

My best learning experiences have been while sharing my work. Through support of several faculty members at KSU, I have presented at local, state, national, and international conferences. Even while I talk about my work, I am learning from people around the world. I am also learning how much I don’t know. The more I read and engage in scholarly discussion, the more I want to know and do.

My program is helping introduce me to social justice activisms I couldn’t have fathomed before starting my studies. I want to make a difference. As I develop my voice and expand my consciousness, I find new ways to make positive change in the world.

In the Kent State Early Childhood Education program, you will develop a unique perspective on early childhood and be supported through that journey.

Abigail Recker

In 2017 I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Kent State University. During my undergraduate career I also earned my International Baccalaureate teaching certificate and had the opportunity to present research at several on campus events. Currently I am working on my Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Globalization and Intercultural Competence. I decided to stay at Kent State for graduate work because of the strong emphasis on culturally sustaining pedagogy and global learning integrated into the curriculum. This focus, along with the supportive and passionate faculty, would allow me to grow as a teacher and researcher.


Early Childhood graduate student Abigail Recker

My best learning experiences have been…

  • Leading/co-leading 7 state conference sessions and 2 sessions at a national conference.
  • Publishing two peer reviewed articles in national journals within the field. (Kroeger, J. & Recker, A. [2019]. Tate and the pink coat: Exploring gender and enacting Anti-Bias principles in practice. Young Children. and Recker, A., Mulvey, B., & Ortiz, J. [accepted]. What is happening to our water? Students assist a scientist in a local water investigation. Science and Children.)
  • Conducting research beside Kent State faculty as a graduate research assistant.
  • Volunteering as a Quest Mentor for LGBTQ+ undergraduate students.
  • Volunteering as a tutor for K-12 struggling readers within the Kent community.
  • Working as a summer teaching fellow for the department of Graduate Studies (GSO Fellow).
  • Assisting in teaching undergraduate Early Childhood courses.
  • Assisting in hosting an international scholar and outdoor education expert with Kent State faculty.
  • Co-teaching professional development for in-service teachers beside Kent State faculty.

The ECED program at Kent State has allowed me to turn my passion for working with children into a profession. I now have the opportunity to work with young learners every day. I know that my courses have prepared me to make choices that will best support the unique needs of every learner within my community of learners. My time within the early childhood program also fostered in me a love of learning. This passion continually inspires me to grow as an educator, researcher, and person to be the best person I can before my current and future students. 

I would tell a new graduate student to choose Kent State's early childhood program for graduate work because of the strong emphasis on multiple cultures and lived experiences. I wanted to learn how to support the unique needs of all learners within my classroom and truly enact culturally sustaining pedagogy. The courses here teach you how to tap into familial Funds of Knowledge so that you can foster meaningful home-school-community partnerships. These partnerships then have the opportunity to drive classroom learner, fostering a more meaningful construction of knowledge. Learning experiences and mentorships within the early childhood program allow you to expand your own research interests, centered around personal inquiries. These experiences open doors, leading to opportunities to present at conference and co-author peer-reviewed publications. This work then has the opportunity to inform your classroom instruction.

You leave Kent State with a wealth of new insight, professional experiences, and partnerships with faculty that can extend your learning and research into the future.


Early Childhood graduate student Elizabeth Guilford

Elizabeth Guilford

My background is in early childhood education, and I came to Kent State because I was interested in learning from a diverse and instructor population.

My best learning experiences have been going to Toronto to visit select IB schools, student teaching in South Africa, teaching a kindergarten summer camp for three years through Project GRAD Akron, working on an argumentative mathematics article with Dr. Kosko, and traveling to Copenhagen to present my master’s thesis at the RECE Conference with Dr. Kroeger.

In the Early Childhood graduate program, I am learning about how to meet the needs of diverse families and children. In my master’s thesis, I am studying how African American mothers perceive kindergarten readiness and what they do to prepare their children for school. This meets my goals because I am formalizing different interpretations of the public school system, learning the history of the public school system, and how this impacts my current and future practice.

Kent State Early Childhood Education will provide you with a variety of perspectives and interpretations on education and childhood. They will guide you to discover your own perspectives and interpretations as well as question current practices in the public and in your own teachings.