Kakali Bhattacharya (PhD ’05), a recently promoted full professor of adult learning and leadership at Kansas State University and an alumna of UGA’s College of Education, recently received the Scholar of Color Mid-Career Contribution Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA).
AERA’s Committee on Scholars of Color in Education Awards recognize scholars in various stages in their careers who have contributed significantly to the understanding of issues that disproportionately affect minority populations and minority scholars who have made a significant contribution to education research and development.
“Much of the work I do is not always easy to put into a sound bite, and it cannot be easily branded and commodified,” said Bhattacharya, who received her doctoral degree in educational psychology with an emphasis in research, evaluation, measurement and statistics from UGA’s College of Education. “So, for the assessment committee to recognize my work meant that they engaged with my work deeply and felt there was value in it.”
During her time as a doctoral student, Bhattacharya became deeply immersed in critical and decolonial approaches to research on race, class, gender and transnational issues in higher education. Her scholarship and inquiry practices aim to advance the study of education in the context of the experiences of students and communities of color.
“Higher education is still in need of reform to create equitable structures and opportunities for those who are minoritized,” she said. “I focus on South Asian international students since their experiences are often outside the black and white racial binary and are excluded or marginalized from discourses of brown or Asian bodies in higher education.”
Bhattacharya credits several professors in UGA’s College of Education for enhancing her work as both an educator and researcher, including Kathleen deMarrais and Kathryn Roulston, both professors in the department of lifelong education, administration and policy, and retired professor Jude Preissle.
“These women academics were phenomenal in my life, and to this day, they continue to mentor me, support me and cheer me on when I achieve critical milestones,” said Bhattacharya. “They have taught me to engage in criticality and creativity when thinking of research and to find ways to make my work resonant with multiple groups of people, so I don’t engage in exclusionary practices.”
In addition to advancing methodological, pedagogical and epistemological perspectives and practices for effective education research and instruction, Bhattacharya also explores technology integration in social and learning spaces and is deeply immersed in arts-based and contemplative approaches in qualitative inquiry.