June 17, 2016

John W. Porter Distinguished Chair to focus on student engagement, community building and expanding place-based education at EMU

Student-driven projects will identify, tackle real-world issues in urban communities

YPSILANTI – Imandeep Grewal, instructor of teacher education at Eastern Michigan University, will serve as the 2016-17 John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education.

The John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education is designed to actively expand the University's role in urban school districts in Michigan, with an emphasis on school-community partnerships. The Porter Chair Endowment awards approximately $50,000 to the recipient with the appointment beginning Sept. 1, 2016 through June 1, 2017.

Grewal’s project is titled Creating a Place for Place-Based Urban Education in the College of Education at Eastern Michigan University. Her primary focus will be to expand the work on place-based education (PBE) at EMU that was started by the previous Porter Chair, Ethan Lowenstein and the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS).

The foundation of place-based education builds and maintains relationships within schools and between schools and local communities. This approach encourages teachers to create lessons that highlight the unique needs of their local communities, thereby making education active, meaningful and familiar for students and teachers. PBE meets state and national standards across the curriculum by designing student-driven projects that identify and tackle real-world issues in their communities.


Imandeep Grewal, instructor of teacher education at EMU, 2016-17 Porter Chair recipient

“Dr. Lowenstein has laid a solid foundation for place-based urban education during his tenure as the Porter Chair last year,” Grewal said. “But we need another year of support to take advantage of that momentum in order to formalize a urban place-based program for teacher certification.”

Grewal will be working collaboratively with Lowenstein, professor of teacher education at EMU and director at SEMIS.

Her goals as this year’s Porter Chair include:

  • Establish a place-based education learning community, and formalize a design for a PBE urban teacher preparation program at EMU
  • Analyze data from PBE teacher preparation pilot activities to identify what skills and experiences will make the teaching/learning experience in urban PBE schools more engaging and successful
  • Host the 7th annual PBE Conference at EMU in the fall of 2017

With the College of Education’s commitment to strengthening education in urban schools, the PBE teacher preparation program at EMU will focus on developing skills and characteristics essential for our student teachers to become dynamic urban community and school leaders and mentors.

For example, with the support of faculty and community members, students at Cody Detroit Institute of Technology are taking the lead in developing steam-based solutions to sustainability needs like energy, insulation, recycling and creating green spaces within the Detroit Public Schools.

“I am drawn to place-based education for its focus on student engagement and community building, and for the fact that it shifts the focus from testing to making learning active, relevant and purposeful for students,” Grewal said. “It promotes wonder, curiosity, joy, thoughtfulness, responsibility and kindness among all its participants.

“PBE acknowledges the significant role relationships and emotions play in shaping teaching and learning and it encourages collaboration, rather than competition and strives to give dignity and a voice to all students.”

Grewal received her bachelor’s degree in home science in 1986, and completed her master’s in child development in 1988, both from Punjab University in Chandigarh, India.

She began her association with EMU almost 26 years ago when she came to Eastern as an international student in 1990 to complete her second master's degree in educational psychology. Grewal went on to complete her PhD in educational studies and has been teaching at the University for more than 17 years.

Grewal has extensive experience in human development, children’s rights, promoting youth participation, educational and gender equity, multi-dimensional poverty, human capability and qualitative research. She is actively engaged in researching the educational rights of girls living in poverty in India.

She is the founder and director of a non-profit organization, Sikhya (Strengthening Girls Voices and Choices Through Education). She has also written and produced a documentary, “Bridge Over Destiny,” that examines the complex status of girls in India and the role education plays in mediating their destiny.

“I am excited to continue the excellent work my colleagues have started in place-based education at EMU and I look forward to formalizing an innovative program that will effectively prepare teachers to teach in urban settings,” Grewal said. “I will work diligently to promote EMU as a champion of urban education and it is truly an honor to serve as this year’s Porter Chair.”

Created in 1991, The John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education was named after the late John W. Porter, a former Eastern Michigan University president who served with distinction from 1979-89. The John W. Porter College of Education at EMU is named for Porter as a tribute to his contributions to the University.

For more information, visit the John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education homepage.



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, glarcom@emich.edu, 734.487.4401

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