Ph.D. in Education, 2017
School of Education
July 1, 2013
Musical Training Encouraged Study of Learning Enrichment and Language Development Through the Arts
Christa Mulker Greenfader is a second year doctoral student in the School of Education, specializing in Educational Policy and Social Context (EPSC). Her research interests are split between two distinct, but somewhat connected, fields: (a) examining social and cognitive benefits derived from music participation and education, and (b) understanding ways in which to equip non-native English speakers with the appropriate language tools to succeed academically.
An accomplished violinist, Christa completed undergraduate studies in music at the University of Southern California. She did not want to pursue a career in performance, however, and thus received an MBA from California State University, Northridge, with the intention of becoming an executive of a music-focused education or community organization. Christa went on to serve as the Manager of Education and Public Relations for the Pasadena POPS Orchestra, as well as a Fundraising Officer for Providence Health Systems.
Immediately prior to entering UC Irvine, Christa partnered with the Learning Enrichment After-School Program (LEAP) to create and implement an after-school violin and music enrichment program in five elementary schools in Inglewood, California. These experiences shaped Christa’s current research objectives and interests.
After over five years of working with not-for-profit organizations in Los Angeles, I recognized that there is a great need for more research in what types of programs best meet the needs of young people, and how.
Many of Christa’s students in LEAP came from homes where a language other than English was spoken. Such Language Minority (LM) learners have to overcome tremendous language challenges to succeed academically, which are compounded by the fact that many of such students are from low socioeconomic status families. Christa became interested in how to foster the language and early literacy development of young LM students, particularly considering the arts as one avenue to promote oral language.
Further, it was – and continues to be – Christa’s intention to examine the fit between policy and child development. That is, how successful is policy in supporting programs that promote development, and for which students? Christa subsequently enrolled in the School of Education at UC Irvine to pursue a Ph.D. in Education with the objective of better understanding how children develop in certain educational contexts, and effective settings to facilitate learning.
My current research projects include evaluating a K-2 arts and literacy program, implemented in 30 California schools, which was designed to boost the oral language skills of LM learners. I also have begun to examine how early childhood programs, such as Head Start, facilitate early literacy skills of LM learners. In the near future, I plan to work with a Southern California symphony organization in understanding the impacts of a youth music program.
Outside of her time at UCI, Christa continues to teach violin and viola to students of all ages and levels. She enjoys hiking, cooking (and eating), traveling, and spending time with her husband, David, and their Weimaraner, Maya.