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Marital status of Black couples, the art of Joaquin Torres-Garcia, and international and multi-cultural education are the varied topics scheduled for presentation by Clarion University of Pennsylvania’s 2008 Frederick Douglass Summer Scholars.

This year’s Frederick Douglass Scholars, Laura Straughn, Elizabeth Watson, and Arlesia Williams, are spending the first five-week summer session as visiting summer lecturers. They will give public presentations about their dissertation research Monday, June 23, 2:30 p.m. in the Reinhard Village classroom/clubhouse at the community center; and Tuesday, July 1, 12:45 p.m. in Frame Hall at Clarion University – Venango Campus. The presentations are free and open to the public.

This is the eighth consecutive summer Clarion University is hosting visiting Frederick Douglass Scholars. This program provides university experience for doctoral candidates primarily from historic black colleges and universities. The presence of these teaching fellows diversifies the summer session faculty. Dr. Jocelind Gant, assistant to the President for Social Equity, coordinates the summer scholars program.


Laura Straughn is from Pensacola, Fla., and received her B.A. degree from Florida State University in psychology and master’s degree from Fordham University in counseling. She is entering her third year in the Ph.D. program in Howard University’s Counseling Psychology program. She is co-teaching Education 110: Introduction Education and a graduate level course, Foundation of Education, with Dr. Greg Goodman, professor of education.

“I am benefiting from Dr. Goodman’s expertise,” said Straughn. “I am also involved with an online course for the first time and it is an interesting opportunity.

Clarion and Howard University have a collaborative program, so Straughn visited Clarion University in October 2007 as part of Howard’s Preparing Future Faculty program. Two Howard doctoral students, Kesha Morant and Tehani Finch, participated in the summer 2007 Frederick Douglas Scholars Program at Clarion and provided Straughn with enough information that she applied to come to Clarion.

“They spoke highly of the Clarion programs,” said Straughn. “This is a prestigious opportunity that will provide me with more teaching experience in a different environment. I definitely want to teach. I will co-teach as a graduate assistant at Howard this fall and I will be using what I am learning here. This experience will make me more competitive in the job market.”

Her presentation will be “Socio-Cultural Factors That Affect Marital Satisfaction for Black Couples.”

“This is a really important topic,” said Straugh, who gained her interest in psychology from her mother, a vocational/rehabilitation counselor. “The marriage rate is down particularly among Blacks and I am studying what factors influence marital satisfaction and what contributes to it.”

Straugh is a daughter of Brenda Moorer of Pensacola, Fla., and John Straughn of Pensicola, Fla.


Elizabeth Watson is from San Diego, Calif., and received her B.A. in art history from the University of California at Santa Cruz and her B.S. in civil engineering from University of California at Berkeley. She is currently a doctoral candidate at The City University of New York Graduate Center’s art history program under the supervision of professor Rosemarie Bletter. She is the co-teaching Art 110: The Visual Arts, with Catherine Joselyn, professor of art.

“We had art where I went to high school and I enjoyed it,” said Watson about her decision to study art history. “I was not interested in being an artist and I also liked mathematics. When I looked for a college I found a program that let me combine both in art history and civil engineering.”

Watson learned about the Frederick Douglass Summer Scholar program at Clarion University four years ago. She further examined it earlier this year. After discovering the art course teaching opportunity, she applied and was accepted.

“The course includes art history and components of art, which are taken into account when creating art,” said Watson. “Part of the reason I am in this program is to sort out what I want to look for in a teaching position. Clarion has appeal that I hadn’t thought about before and is making me consider a wider range of options.”

Watson will return to New York City after the program to continue working on her dissertation. She expects to complete her studies and receive her Ph.D. at the end of the year.

Watson’s presentation, "Paris, New York, Madrid, and Montevideo," examines the experiences of artist Joaquin Torres-Garcia in those four cities.


Arlesia Williams is from Country Club Hills, Ill., and received her bachelor’s and first master’s degree from Illinois State University, Normal, Ill., and a second master’s degree from Northern Illinois University, De Kalb, Ill., where she is now a doctoral candidate in the adult and higher education program. She received the Northern Illinois University Outstanding Graduate Student Award and the Carter/Woodson Scholars Doctoral Fellowship. She is a member of Kappa Delta Phi Honor Society and Phi Beta Delta International Honors Society.

Williams is co-teaching Education 327: Instructional Strategies and Management and Principles of Leadership with Dr. Barrie Brancato, professor of education.

She comes into education from a corporate/industrial environment where she served in litigation management, operations management and business development, quality assurance, and workplace training and development. This experience led her to a graduate course in adult education and her master’s degree in adult education/human resource development. She expects to complete her dissertation and receive her degree in May 2009.

Another of last year’s Frederick Douglas Scholars, Valerie Jefferson, is Williams’ friend and recommended coming to Clarion.

“Valerie had a wonderful experience at Clarion and recommended the program as an opportunity to gain additional university teaching experience,” said Williams. “Teaching is my passion and I want to teach at the university level. Although I have corporate training and some college teaching experience, I am grateful for an opportunity to work with an experienced mentor in my field, share some of my research and to improve my teaching skills.”

Williams has branched out into other research interest areas in multi-cultural and international education and has participated in several programs abroad to Brazil, China, Taiwan and Malaysia. Those interests are reflected in her presentation, “Learning in Foreign Lands: Experiences of Doctoral Students and Faculty in International Programs.”

She is a daughter of Robert and Alma Williams of Chicago, Ill. Robert is an arbitrator and Alma recently retired following a 42 year teaching career.

The Summer Scholars program is one of the three components of the Frederick Douglass Institute at Clarion University, which also includes the Frederick Douglass Collection in Carlson Library and the Frederick Douglass Graduate Assistantship program.

Frederick Douglass (1818-95) was an escaped slave, fiery abolitionist, revolutionary journalist, dedicated defender of women’s rights, a spellbinding orator, prolific writer, advisor to President Abraham Lincoln, and a public official.

8/20/2008 11:39 AM

Clarion University hosting three Frederick Douglass Scholars