ALUMNI

M.A. Alumni Stories

Mark Congdon – Class of 2013

Mark earned his BA in Communication Studies from Wilkes University, a liberal arts university located in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Mark moved to NC in 2008 because he joined Teach for America, a non-profit dedicated to closing the achievement gap in rural and urban public schools within the United States, while completing his Teaching Licensure at East Carolina University. Mark entered into UNCG’s Communication Studies graduate program after working as a special education teacher for three years as a Teach for America alumni.

His background in education and communication studies gave him the tools to understand the importance of engaging students in their learning, but did not give him the ability to completely understand the power and influence of allowing students to explore their community and creating civically engaged students. UNCG helped him explore the influence of creating civically engaged students through a community service-learning project utilizing a culturally relevant pedagogy, and the impact this can have not only on students’ self-confidence, but on their ability to enact real change in their community. It also opened his eyes to areas outside of education, like autoethnography and critical cultural communication.

The classes and learning that occurred at UNCG prepared Mark for a future in academia focusing on community engaged work. Being a teaching and research assistant gave Mark the strong theoretical foundation, tools, and experience needed to further develop his teaching and research skills.

After graduated from UNCG in May of 2013, Mark joined the Exceptional Children’s Department at Exploris Middle School in Raleigh as an Intervention Specialist. Currently, Mark is a doctoral student at the University of Maine in Communication Studies with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Innovation Engineering. His focus is on connecting the field of communication studies to educational leadership through community engaged research.

Mark is currently involved in Project Reach, a Title III grant supported by the Office of English Language Acquisition, United States Department of Education. Project Reach works with public school districts throughout the state of Maine with large populations of English Language Learners (ELL) to implement a collaborative research-based program to address diverse needs of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educators working with ELLs. Project Reach brings together multiple disciplines from the humanities, social sciences, and STEM areas to work together in addressing ELL education problems. This collaboration allows the implementation of a comprehensive, statewide program in support of K-12 ELLs in Maine’s public schools.

Mark is exploring the connections between establishing effective partnerships with community members and organizations and the impact it has on the educational leadership and student achievement in public schools, specifically focusing on students considered at-risk, like ELLs. Mark is grateful for the experience that he received at UNCG as it was a strong foundation to the work he currently is involved with. He is thankful for the mentoring that took place from the professors, and will continue to use the skills he learned to grow as a rising scholar, instructor, and community activist.