BMCC Students Provide Community College Perspective at International Conference

(L-R) Raul Chavez, BMCC Professor Cara Kronen, John Cocco, Nicole O'Donnell and Mia Johnson.

(L-R) Raul Chavez, BMCC Professor Cara Kronen, John Cocco, Nicole O’Donnell and Mia Johnson.
November 17, 2016

On November 4, BMCC students Alejandro Pena, Nicole O’Donnell, Mia Johnson, Raul Chavez and John Cocco presented on the panel Community College Students Speak Up: Theories, Notions, and Perceptions at the American Educational Studies Association (AESA) 2016 Annual Conference in Seattle, Washington.

The BMCC students were the only community college students at the conference, and they “presented their work alongside doctoral graduate students and scholars from some of the most well known universities in the country,” says Teacher Education Professor Yolanda Medina. “They did wonderfully.”

Professor Medina, with BMCC Teacher Education Professor Cara Kronen, led the students’ investigation and attended the conference with them. 

“Community colleges were founded on the principles of social justice and became a democratizing force in the American educational system,” says Professor Kronen. “Today, they play an increasingly important role in providing affordable and openly accessible educational opportunity to students from a wide range of backgrounds. The students presented their interpretations of the mission of community colleges in the United States, and whether that mission is met at BMCC and within CUNY.”

The BMCC students came away with a number of perspectives on their experience as panelists in front of a national conference audience.

“It was a valuable experience to be able to speak to professors from four-year institutions about community colleges, which are an academic point of entry for many students,” said Raul Chavez. “It is beneficial for professors at four-year schools to better understand their students — who may have transferred from community colleges — and their experiences.”

According to Nicole O’Donnell, “We focused on how colleges sit at the intersection of history and social justice. Because of the diverse student body in community colleges, they are an optimal place for students to become agents of social change.”

Mia Johnson said being on the panel “created the opportunity to show other educators and students a different side of a community college. More often than not there is a stigma attached to community colleges, which leads to students being apprehensive about applying to them — but in this panel I was able to contradict that stigma.”

John Cocco reflected that “It was insightful to talk with other educators and be able to compare and contrast their experiences in the classroom with our own.”

The AESA is an international scholarly organization comprised of educators, professors, and others interested in education research, says Medina, who has taken BMCC students to present at this conference in years past. This year, however, “The students were invited to present in the Past President’s invited session, which was highlighted in the conference program,” she says.

To follow through with the students’ project and participation in the conference, “We plan to submit an article to a peer-reviewed journal such as Educational Studies: A Journal of the American Educational Studies Association,” says Medina. “The article will focus on the mission of community colleges and how BMCC helps fulfill this mission. It will include both historical research and narrative. We hope that it will change readers’ understanding of the role of community colleges in the educational landscape.”

“We are very proud of the work that these student and all BMCC students are doing,” says Kronen. “All too often, community colleges are talked about as if they are second-tier institutions of learning. It is incredible to see how BMCC students can rise to the challenge with a little encouragement and support. We are grateful to have this opportunity to work so closely with our students on such a meaningful project.”



share this story »


  • Professors of Education Yolanda Medina and Cara Kronen mentor five students in research into community college missions
  • The students present their project at the 2015 annual conference of the American Educational Studies Association
  • They present alongside doctoral and graduate students

share this story »