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COEHD’s Kimberley Cuero receives Fulbright


Cuero will research Colombia’s school choice and the decision-making process of stakeholders in choosing a school.

By Sherrie Voss Matthews, International Media & Marketing Coordinator

A family vacation in July 2011 was a bit more than a family vacation when Kim Cuero visited her husband’s family in Colombia. Her daughters wondered why mom was always off at meetings at La Universidad del Valle (Univalle) and exploring the schools around two neighborhoods in Cali, Colombia.Kimberly Cuero

When Cuero explained that her plan was to apply for a Fulbright research/scholarship grant so that maybe the family could return and live in Colombia near their extended family for a few months, the girls began to understand.

The Cuero family will be in Cali either during fall 2012 or spring 2013 as Cuero, an associate professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Learning & Teaching, teaching at La Universidad del Valle (Univalle) and doing a qualitative research study on school choice in two vulnerable urban communities.

During her visit last year, Ingrid Carolina Gómez, director of the Psychology Institute invited her to return to teach and collaborate with the Tier One researchers and graduate students at the Centro de Investigación en Psicología, Cognición y Cultura (Research Center of Psychology, Cognition and Culture). She will teach one doctoral-level course while at Univalle; the rest of the time she will concentrate on her research.

This collaboration will also allow her to join their publishing group, which will allow her to collaboratively publish research in Spanish-language journals.

“It was just a smashing meeting,” Cuero explains. She will teach Qualitative Research Methods to doctoral-level students.  “I sought out Univalle as my host institution for three primary reasons. First, Univalle is committed to extensive and rigorous research as evidenced by its recognition as the region’s tier one university. Second, it is the only public university in and around Cali that boasts a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse student population much like my home institution that is classified as a Hispanic-serving institution.

“Lastly, Univalle is known for its commitment to social justice and equity, which have been at the center of my own work as an educator and researcher.”

Cuero will spend her research time examining school choice as it exists in the two adjacent urban communities in the east side of Cali, Agua Blanca and Potrero Grande. She will visit at least six schools and interview parents, students, teachers and other stakeholders about why they chose the schools they did, the results, and expectations.

Among the schools she plans to study include:

  • El Nuevo Latir (The New Heartbeat). El Nuevo Latir  will soon open in Agua Blanca as the premier public school in the city featuring the latest technological and pedagogical innovations. It has been a controversial school, though, because of the funding given to it rather than other schools in nearby neighborhoods.
  • Private, community run schools, which range from one-room schoolhouses to vocational and typical elementary and secondary schools that cover a city block.
  • Nonprofit schooling options, such as an early childhood center and K-12 school in Potrero Grande run by COMFANDI (a large nonprofit company that offers a wide range of social services and support).

Cuero hopes to shed some light into the complicated choices that parents, teachers and communities must face when it comes to education and school choice. The U.S. discourse has often been over-simplified, Cuero argues, looking at the perceived problems, such as bad teachers, and not examining the deeper inequities in funding and other influencing factors.

“We in the U.S. can learn much from developing nations, like Colombia, that have been grappling with these educational choices and false choices for decades,” Cuero says. “School choice is part of the discourse in the U.S., it is messy, but it is an issue in neighborhoods like the ones I’ll visit in Cali.”