IU School of Education professor earns national award for promoting STEM education

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The 2014 Women of Color STEM Conference recently awarded Indiana University School of Education associate professor Dionne Cross Francis for her work in mathematics education.

Cross Francis is the recipient of the K-12 Promotion of Education award for educators with a demonstrated commitment to enhancing STEM career opportunities for women and minorities through promotion of STEM education programs and exemplary teaching and outreach activities. Cross Francis is also director of the Center for P-16 Research and Collaboration at the IU School of Education.

The Women of Color STEM Conference, held in Detroit, honors women from a variety of backgrounds who have promoted STEM education and disciplines across the country. The conference focused on addressing the underrepresentation of women in various disciplines of STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Awards honored the achievements of women of color in STEM disciplines nominated for their success across a variety of sectors and industries.

The nomination letter for Cross Francis highlighted her involvement in programs to promote teaching and learning. 

“Dionne is an outstanding example of a community-involved mathematics professor,” wrote Joyce Alexander, executive associate dean of the IU School of Education. “Her involvement enacts the School of Education’s goals in our long-range plan by preparing excellent teachers, engaging in collaborative partnerships with P-12 schools and agencies, illuminating and improving educational theory and practice, preparing tomorrow’s educational leaders, and creating a diverse and inclusive environment for learning, research and service."

“It was an honor to be included with such an extraordinary group of women,” Cross Francis said. “They have not only broken down barriers and strove to make advancements in STEM-related fields, but all these women have committed significant amounts of time to creating pathways for others to achieve academically and professionally.”

Cross Francis is a very effective researcher and practitioner in mathematics education. She began her career as a high school mathematics teacher in Jamaica. She then taught for three years in the United States. Her work focuses on identifying the factors that contribute to the quality of learning environments for mathematics understanding and transforming those factors in ways that maximize learning opportunities for students. 

Her numerous research projects include examinations of professional development programs to boost teacher effectiveness in teaching math and science as well as investigating the influence of culturally relevant, integrated math and science curricula on elementary school children. Cross Francis is currently heading a two-year initiative across three school districts in Indiana -- Gary Community School Corp., School City of East Chicago and School City of Hammond --  aimed at studying how to increase engagement with science and math among African American students.

Cross Francis has been awarded the Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ Junior Faculty Enhancement Award and the American Psychological Association Division 15 Early Career Award. Both awards support the work of junior faculty whose work shows potential to have a significant impact on the field. The IU School of Education also awarded her the Students’ Choice for Excellence in Teaching award and the Graduate Student Mentoring award for her work in development of pre-service teachers and graduate students.

In accepting the award at the conference, Cross Francis noted her background, raised by parents in Jamaica who never went to college but knew education was the path for her to succeed.

“So they ensured I went to the best schools,” she said, adding that school isn’t free in Jamaica, so her parents made many sacrifices to send her to the best schools available. “They were my advocates in education and in life. In a similar way, I try to be an advocate for those society seems to have forgotten -- many of whom look like me, like us.” As such, in her roles as a mathematics educator and director of the P-16 Center, she strives to develop initiatives focused on increasing learning opportunities for those who are often overlooked in school, and in society more broadly.