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The Face of the Institution

Posted by on Thursday, July 5, 2012 in Features, Summer 2012.

Remember when you were a student at Peabody? Remember when your life was filled with learning, helping, doing? Susan B. Riley, professor of English from 1929 to 1965 at Peabody and former dean of graduate students, used to say, “Let us be up and doing!”

Things really haven’t changed at Peabody, despite the decades and the merger. Our students are still learning and helping, they’re still “up and doing!”

The following profiles introduce you to four of our current students, three of whom will be alumni by the time this magazine reaches your mailbox. Look closely.

Do they remind you of anyone you knew at Peabody?

Ashley Mace Krueger, B.S.

in human and organizational development (health and human services)

As she looked into the eyes of the patients at an HIV/AIDS hospice in South Africa, Ashley Mace Krueger had an epiphany.

“They were girls my age, and many of them already had full-blown AIDS,” she recalls. “Some of them were so ill that they couldn’t get out of bed. It was an eye-opening experience.”

Krueger chose to work in the South African hospice as her service project for the Peabody Scholars program. For two months last summer she worked in the rural KwaZulu-Natal province with Genesis Trust, a nonprofit organization that provides medical care and other support to HIV/AIDS patients.

“I chose Genesis because of its holistic way of treating AIDS patients,” she says.

Krueger worked in the organization’s job-skills training program, sustainable community garden and after-school program, in addition to teaching guitar and voice lessons in the music academy. But she made the greatest impact through her work as an administrative assistant in the care center by designing a software program to better track the patients’ progress.

“The program allowed the hospice to report decreased patient mortality to their funding agencies, which has helped them obtain more grants to support their work,” she says. “They are also exploring the possibility of using the software to implement a text-messaging system to inform patients about their disease and remind them to take their antiviral medicine on schedule.”

Peabody’s human and organizational development major drew Krueger to Vanderbilt and allowed her to specialize in health care. As one of 15 Peabody Scholars in her class, she received a $5,000 summer stipend to support her study in South Africa. The scholars program also allowed Krueger to conduct independent research with Peabody faculty members Corbette Doyle and Dayle Savage, compiling data on changes in health care and how physicians can leverage change in their practices.

Following graduation in May, Krueger began her career as a supply chain analyst with Ascension Health, a national Catholic health care system, which includes Nashville’s St. Thomas and Baptist hospitals. A newlywed, she and her musician husband, Kaleb Krueger, divide their time between Nashville and their hometown, St. Louis, where Ascension has its headquarters.

Krueger says her experiences in South Africa broadened her perspective on health care.
“It was a unique opportunity. It gave me the chance to see health care policy and practice in a totally different context. It also made me aware of the benefits of the U.S. system.”

—Joanne Lamphere Beckham

Greg Aikens, M.Ed.

in special education (visual disabilities)

While visiting an orphanage for children with disabilities on the other side of the world, Greg Aikens discovered his life’s work.

“Those children touched my heart,” he says.

An ordained minister, Aikens was working in Central Asia as part of a monthlong internship. Blind from glaucoma since age 12, he was moved by the plight of the children, many of whom came to the orphanage because their parents were unable to cope with their disabilities.

“I knew I wanted to work with children like them, and I really wanted to do that well,” he recalls. So he applied to the graduate program in special education at Peabody, with a focus on teaching visually impaired students. Supported by a Peabody Honors Scholarship, he received his master’s degree at Commencement ceremonies in May. His immediate goal is to teach at a school for the blind or as an itinerant instructor in the public schools.

Aikens counts his own disability as an asset in teaching visually impaired students. “I can connect with the students because I’m also blind,” he says. “I’m very comfortable with the techniques and technologies used to teach them.”

He uses a computer program to plan math lessons in Braille. He also takes notes on his laptop with a special program that reads the words on the screen. “I can access the Internet, Facebook and my email in the same way,” he says.

Aikens understands intuitively that visually impaired students don’t get information indirectly. “For instance, a child who’s been blind from birth might not understand body language and other nonverbal communication,” he says. “Their experiences are limited to touch or viewing at short distances, and they may need a monocular telescope to see the classroom board. In addition, they often need help with both language and social skills.”

He can share from his own experience that having a visual disability need not prevent his students from accessing certain leisure activities, sports or hobbies.

“I was in the marching band in high school,” he recalls. “I memorized the steps and one of my friends marched with me.
“Throughout my education, I was fortunate to have very supportive teachers, principals and professors,” he says. “The people at Peabody have been wonderful.”

Although he loves teaching, Aikens says his ultimate goal is to be a minister. “But I don’t know what that will look like for me,” he says. “Eventually, I want to work in a developing country with children who have disabilities.”

—Joanne Lamphere Beckham

Shaka Dickerson, M.Ed.

in organizational leadership

Shaka Dickerson believes that confidence is the key to success. Sound too much like a late-night infomercial? Listen again. He has a new take on the “teach a man to fish” saying.

“You can teach a man to fish, but if he doesn’t believe he can fish, he won’t be successful,” the Peabody graduate student says. “But if a man believes he can fish, even when he doesn’t know how, he’s going to get in the water and figure it out somehow.”

Providing people with that innate sense of self-confidence is Dickerson’s ultimate career goal. After graduation, he would like to use what he’s learned in his organizational leadership program to develop a social enterprise that “infuses every average person with the confidence that they can do their part to change the world.”

“We all have a large capacity to effect change,” he says. “But most of us don’t believe that we can do it.”

Dickerson believes that his studies at Peabody will help him be a change-maker. “I feel like it was divine intervention that led me here,” he says, noting that the program is a great fit. “Organizational leadership gives me that M.Ed. background, a business background and a teaching background. I have a lot of options.”

Dickerson majored in urban studies as an undergraduate at Columbia University and learned about Vanderbilt only when he was well into his graduate school search. He liked what he found.

“Vanderbilt is uniformly respected, and Peabody is the top-ranked school,” he explains. “But it’s the intangibles that rankings don’t really show. People here are proud to say they are representing Vanderbilt. There’s a very active student and social component to the campus.

“Rankings help. But how much people enjoy their experience is important, too. I found both here at Peabody.”
Dickerson has found lots of support in his program’s cohort as well as the team approach that both faculty and staff have with students. He’s been active on campus, serving as vice president of both the Peabody Coalition of Black Graduate Students and Peabody’s Graduate Student Association. During the last year, he’s had an opportunity to help recruit students of color to the school as the admissions liaison of multicultural recruitment.

“I would love for other people to have the opportunity that I’ve had here,” he says.

—Jan Read

Ellen Zambetti, M.Ed.

in teaching and learning in urban schools

Ellen Zambetti is one of seven participants at Bailey STEM Magnet Middle School in east Nashville teaching and learning thanks to an innovative partnership between Peabody College and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Teaching and Learning in Urban Schools is a master’s degree program that puts a team of licensed teachers in an urban school and then closely monitors their work in the classroom. Zambetti is passionate about working with children, and the program seems tailor-made for her.

“I was excited about this program because I knew it would help me become a better teacher,” she says. “Your basic undergraduate teacher preparation doesn’t prepare you for all the struggles that you have in schools with a low-income population.”

Zambetti teaches math at Bailey. She creates six-week projects, called capstones, to engage her students. In one project, her students had to plan a road trip across the United States in which they used their new math skills to calculate gas prices while also comparing to gas prices in the 1960s. In science class, the ’60s theme continued and they built model cars of the era. Reading class featured a book about a family road trip from Michigan to Alabama, also set in the ’60s.
“With this method, the students learn through exploration instead of us just standing up there talking to them,” Zambetti says. “We try to do things that are really engaging, and they end up teaching themselves and each other.”

The program is a five-year commitment for the teachers who are participating. Their two years of Peabody tuition is paid by Metro Nashville Public Schools and the Nashville Public Education Foundation. In return, the teachers are contractually obligated to teach an additional three years at an urban school.

“Teaching at a school like that takes a lot more effort and can be emotionally exhausting,” Zambetti says. “A lot of times we’re their family. We have to get them necessities, but we love to do that because we love our kids.”

In the short time she’s been with the program, Zambetti has seen a definite improvement in her students. Test scores are up and behavioral problems are down.

“Helping these kids overcome their personal obstacles is my biggest goal,” she says. “With the right tools and the right leadership any school can succeed.”

—Cindy Thomsen

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  • Claudettte brown

    July 10th, 2012

    It is good to see that there is success in your diversity efforts! It is great to have and share positive models to encourgage this.. Thank you!

  • Zaheer Iqbal

    August 16th, 2012

    It gives me great pleasure that I’ve known Shaka Dickerson at Vanderbilt; we were together in a couple of classes. It is a real privilege that I befriended a person like Shaka who has such inspiring and motivating thoughts! Bravo, the Vandy spirit!

  • Anonymous

    May 7th, 2013

    Teachers that are passionate about what they do are sadly in short supply. I’d like to see more of this type of thing happening.

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