School of Education
July 1, 2011
Experiences in Afterschool Settings Shaped Utopian Vision of Education as a Vehicle for Individual Realization and Community Advancement
The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Dr. Maria del Pilar O’Cadiz got started in the afterschool field during her graduate studies at UCLA when she accepted a position as an educational program director and later became executive director of the Boyle Heights Elementary Institute (BHEI)—a community based organization serving Latino youth and their families in the urban immigrant enclave of East Los Angeles.
It was during this time (1992-1996)—engaging in intense educational research and practice, working on my dissertation on Freirean curriculum reform in the municipal schools of Sao Paulo, Brazil while collaborating with the students, parents and UCLA undergraduate students in the BHEI —that I became convinced that afterschool settings represent opportune spaces for supporting the broad developmental needs of diverse children and youth, particularly those from immigrant backgrounds like my own. By engaging them in meaningful learning experiences, validating their histories, culture, and knowledge, connecting them to their communities and the broader society and universe of knowledge, programs have the potential to help students develop a positive sense of social and academic efficacy, civic responsibility, and engagement. Both were powerful experiences that to this day shape my utopian vision of education as a vehicle for individual realization and community advancement, and inform my critical perspective on the structural and ideological factors that negatively affect students in and outside the classroom.
In 2000 Dr. O’Cadiz came to UCI to coordinate the Collaborative Afterschool Project as part of the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s regional afterschool technical assistance team. The project operated out of UCI for three years and then moved to Cal Poly Pomona until March of 2007.
This was a dream job that allowed me the privilege to work with Nancy Christensen (Director, Communications Coordinator) and Peter Jones (Assessment & Evaluation Coordinator) and other fantastic people who have since left the DOE family. This work also brought me in contact with an immense array of community organizations, afterschool professionals, and youth workers whose passion and commitment to expanding learning opportunities for youth continue to inspire my scholarly interest in the afterschool field.
Dr. O’Cadiz returned to UCI in early 2007 as a researcher working with Professors Mark Warschauer and Deborah Vandell on a two-year evaluation study, Technology Out-of-School Learning, and Human Development. Presently, as a Project Scientist she continues to conduct afterschool related research, including the California Afterschool Outcomes Measures Project, creating online student outcome measures to serve as accountability tools for the State’s After School Education and Safety Programs (ASES), along with the Summer Learning Outcome Measures Project, and a three year study of THINK Together’s Supplemental Educational Services and Afterschool programming in the Santa Ana Unified School District.
I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world to be working with such a phenomenal team: Dr. Valerie Hall (Project Scientist) and Andrea Karsh (Research Associate), under the leadership of Dr. Vandell, and Jenel Prenevost and Tracy Bennett (THINK Together). As a Project Scientist at UC Irvine, I am privileged to continue my connection to the field and pursue my passion, conducting afterschool related research in my community.
Recently Dr. O’Cadiz co-presented with DOE associate researcher Claudia Pineda and doctoral candidate Femi Vance at the 2010 Best of Out-of-School Time Conference, offering the workshop “The Creativity Payoff: Assessing the Benefits of Creative Content in Out-of-School Time (OST) Programs.” She has also recently served on the dissertation committee of UCI Ph.D. candidate Femi Vance and of Dr. Allison Deegan, who completed her Ed.D. at CSULB. Both dissertations focus on the OST field.
I like that my educational expertise and extensive professional network in the out-of-school time field can be a resource to others seeking to contribute to the research or those working to build better programs for youth. I especially enjoy supporting up and coming scholars, particularly women of color, and staying engaged in my community through various cultural and educational projects: it’s not only a pleasure but also a moral imperative for me.
I am proud to serve on the boards of two organizations currently providing creative arts and literacy based afterschool programming: WriteGirl and Living Histories. In addition, I am involved with a local group of educators on developing an Escuela Freire charter high school in Santa Ana.Right now I am curating an exhibit series featuring the life work of my father, Sergio O’Cadiz Moctezuma, at the MC Galery, at the Santora Building in Santa Ana [See attached program]. A master painter, sculptor, and architect, who contributed various public art works in the region – including a SAUSD school, the Santa Ana College Library, and City Hall – my father was instrumental in contributing to my perspective on the value of the arts in education.
Dr. O’Cadiz completed undergraduate studies at Oberlin College and two masters degrees, including a M.Ed. in Curriculum, Administration, and Teaching, at UCLA. She received her Ph.D. in Social Sciences and Comparative Education at UCLA in 1996 and was awarded the Comparative and International Education Society’s Gail Kelly Outstanding Dissertation Award for her dissertation, The Politics of Schooling in Brazil: A Freirean Curriculum Reform in the Municipal Schools of São Paulo. Her writings related to this dissertation research have been published in Anthropology and Education Quarterly, by UNESCO, in several book chapters, and in a coauthored book, Education and Democracy: Paulo Freire, Social Movements and Educational Reform in São Paulo (O’Cadiz, M. P., Torres, C. A. and Lindquist Wong, P., 1998). In 2004 she contributed to the Harvard Education Press publication, Afterschool Education: Approaches to an Emerging Field, with the commentary “Affirming Culture and Building Citizenship through Afterschool Curricula.” She has presented papers on her ongoing research activities at numerous professional conferences nationally and internationally and conducted workshops for practitioners of the afterschool field.