Alumna Fosters Positive Social Change
- Major: Teaching Credential
- Class Of: 2000
“ The approach that I often take involves continuously being mindful of who is not included, why, and considering what I can do about it. ”
Michelle Samura developed a penchant for processes of learning at a very young age. Her connection to education came from her mother, who was also an educator.
“My mom, who was a teacher, instilled in me a deep respect for educators and helped cultivate my inquisitive nature,” said Samura. “I love learning, so becoming an educator was a natural fit.”
Today, she serves at Chapman University as associate dean of undergraduate education in the Attallah College of Educational Studies and associate professor in the university’s Integrated Educational Studies program.
Samura credits Cal Poly Pomona, where she earned her single subject credential in social science, as significantly contributing to her journey to becoming an educator.
“My time at Cal Poly Pomona was essential for my career,” Samura said. “The teacher credential program provided some valuable initial training in pedagogy and I also had the opportunity to take some excellent classes in political science, economics and history to further prepare me for the content I would be teaching.”
She also learned the importance of incorporating diverse perspectives into the classroom, which has impacted her personal and professional development.
“The college emphasizes understanding and supporting diversity of student experiences, backgrounds and perspectives. I don’t remember using the term ‘inclusive education’ at that time, but looking back, that is one way of describing what a number of the college’s faculty were advocating,” she said. “My colleagues in the program and I were challenged to understand the beautifully complex differences that each student has and create educational environments in which they can learn, grow and thrive.”
Further, she learned how to help her students connect course content with their daily lives.
“As a teacher-in-training at CPP, I had the opportunity to develop my skills of integrating primary source documents into lessons,” she said. “My methods courses, fieldwork experiences, history and political science courses enabled me to practice using resources and techniques, such as analyzing World War II photographs or deconstructing the text of referendums on a ballot, to help my students connect textbook content with real-world situations and examine current issues from multiple perspectives.”
After receiving her teaching credential from the College of Education and Integrative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona, she taught history, economics and U.S. government in Montebello Unified School District. Later, she went on to earn her master’s and doctorate from UC Santa Barbara. She joined the faculty of Chapman University in 2011 and officially assumed her role as associate dean in 2016.
“The most exciting part about being a professor and administrator at Chapman University is having the opportunity to support diverse students, develop community, and foster positive social change with a team of committed and caring colleagues,” Samura said. “As an academic, I get to think, read, write and talk about topics I am interested in for a living; and in my associate dean role, I have further opportunities to bring about greater equity and inclusion, which are primary aims of my research and teaching at an institutional level.”
Samura is overseeing two key initiatives focusing on creating pathways for community college students and facilitating community-engaged learning. Additionally, she is the principal investigator of the Architecture of Belonging project, which studies the role of space in the development of belonging and community, particularly examining residential halls.
“Much of my personal and professional endeavors have been centered on better serving individuals and groups who typically are overlooked,” she said. “The approach that I often take involves continuously being mindful of who is not included, why, and considering what I can do about it. Underlying my pursuits as a professor and associate dean is a belief that thoughtful research, inspired teaching and creative collaborations can foster positive social change.”
Samura is a recipient of Chapman’s Outstanding Teaching Professorship Award and the University of California All Campus Consortium On Research for Diversity’s dissertation fellowship. She has published a number of articles and book chapters on space, race and education and currently sits on the executive board for the Orange County Excellent Public Schools Initiative, which aims to promote educational innovation across the nation.