August 03, 2017

Eastern Michigan University professor Wendy Burke to serve as John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education for 2017-18

EMU implements place-based education program for secondary educators
The John W. Porter Endowed Chair, created in 1991, is designed to actively expand the University's role in urban school districts in Michigan, with an emphasis on school-community partnerships.
Wendy Burke headshot
Wendy Burke is the John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education for 2017-2018.

YPSILANTI – Wendy Burke, a professor of curriculum and instruction in the Department of Teacher Education and the director of student teaching at Eastern Michigan University, will serve as the 2017-2018 John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education at the University.

Burke’s project, “Further Developing Capacity to Implement Secondary Place-Based Teacher Education Pathway at Eastern Michigan University” supports the implementation of an innovative approach, abbreviated PBE, to preparing educators in southeast Michigan.

Burke has been a member of an active community of EMU students, educators, advisors and leaders who have been meeting over the last several years to lay the groundwork for establishing such a program. The project will include an in-depth case study of the PBE approach to teaching and its impact on secondary student learning and engagement.

The goal is to establish and market an exemplary Eastern PBE program that is recognized regionally and nationally, with a first step being admittance of a diverse group of future educators to the program in fall 2018.

Colleagues Lowenstein and Grewal helped lay groundwork

Burke says her 2017-2018 award builds upon the efforts of teacher education colleagues Ethan Lowenstein and Iman Grewal, the two previous awardees of the Porter Distinguished Chair. Since 2015, Lowenstein, Grewal, and Burke have been leading a school, university and community partnership that supports the integration of a youth- and community-based approach to preparing educators.

 “I’m thrilled to accept this award on behalf all of my colleagues who are enthusiastically committed to enacting the EMU Secondary Place-Based Education Teacher Pathways Program,” Burke said. “This program reflects a culmination of several initiatives that are merging after intensive partnering across stakeholding groups. It will result in a dramatic change in the way we envision and operationalize teacher learning.”

Place-based teachers use the relationships students have with their local communities as the starting point and context for learning. The students learn in the real world rather than solely from classroom activities. It’s a different approach in that student questions drive the classes.

Connecting to your community at a young age

As Lowenstein has noted, when place-based education works well, students form strong connections to their community, experience social growth and develop high levels of self-worth.

A recent example occurred at the Ann Arbor Learning Community (a K-8 charter school), where fourth and fifth graders studied a creek adjacent to the school. They asked questions about the creek, learned about watersheds, and collected water samples and other data as young scientists. Then, by connecting with a local watershed council, they started thinking more deeply about waterways and their surrounding habitats. After more analysis, the students discovered erosion around the creek and invited the water resources commissioner to their class to discuss their findings.

While EMU has long been recognized for its teacher preparation, the new initiative involves a more rigorous emphasis on engaging youth, EMU student teacher candidates, and practicing educators in the inquiry-driven decision making within communities and is a focal point for several innovative youth and community based programs involving Eastern.

Over the past several years, Burke, Lowenstein, and Grewal have each led initiatives that will now become integrated as significant dimensions of the PBE pathway program. Lowenstein, the director of EMU’s Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition has developed sites for place-based education in collaboration with educators at Ypsilanti High School and Detroit Institute of Technology.

Community-based approaches to developing educators

Burke has collaborated with the EMU Bright Futures program under the leadership of director Lynn Malinoff to develop EMU student teachers’ capacity to support youth and their social and emotional, academic and psychological development. Similarly, Grewal coordinated a partnership with 826Michigan, a non-profit writing center, and EMU students to develop their capacity to support youth and their learning while learning about youth development and community assets. Each of these efforts has focused on innovative, youth and community based approaches to developing future educators.

Together, Lowenstein, Grewal and Burke are collaborating with the Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor to develop an EMU Fellowship program that supports future educators’ capacity to establish youth driven spaces and positive youth development approaches as they progress through the teacher certification program. Each of these initiatives laid the common groundwork that will support the implementation of the EMU PBE Pathways program.

The John W. Porter Endowed Chair, created in 1991, is designed to actively expand the University’s role in urban school districts in Michigan, with an emphasis on school-community partnerships.

Porter was Eastern’s 17th president, serving with distinction from 1979 to 1989 as he displayed a strong commitment to developing educational leadership. Recipients of the award receive $50,000 to fund a single, large-scale project over the period of one year.

Burke, who has been at EMU since 2000, received her bachelor’s in the teaching of secondary English, a master’s in educational organizational leadership, and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, with an emphasis on teachers’ professional learning in educational reform, all from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest university in Michigan. It currently serves 22,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its Graduate School. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.



Contact Geoff Larcom,, 734.487.4401

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