Devaneke Crumpler

MA in Educational Studies: Educational Policy and Leadership (LEADPOL)

Devaneke  Crumpler, School of Education

Student Status: Current student, full time

Geographic Region of Origin

I'm from the South Bronx of NYC - the Grand Concourse, Fordham Road, and Mount Eden will forever be home.

Previous Education

I attended Cornell University for undergrad where I majored in Development Sociology and minored in Inequality Studies. I took a course with my advisor and now mentor, Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue called Education, Inequality, and Development, which sparked my interest in Urban Education Reform. 

Prior to Joining the Program

Catapulting off my interest in Urban Ed Reform, after undergrad I worked for two years in the Greater Boston Area at two distinct charter schools. Both shared the mission of college access and equity for all its students, but adopted very different approaches. These were the formative sites where my own ideologies about how to implement education developed.

After Boston, I exercised my Cornell alum status and worked at Cornell Tech in NYC. Cornell Tech has been an ongoing project since 2012 to open an applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island. During my years there, the office was intended to promote a "startup" culture, which was a new experience for me. The amazing Cornell Tech campus is set to open this summer, which is very exciting and the product of many years of hard work (Go, Big Red!)

Why the Educational Leadership and Policy Program? 

Choosing the University of Michigan was the easy part: the University has a longstanding tradition of academic excellence, and it's a premier public research institution. Deciding on which program in education I wanted to pursue proved more challenging. A number of programs caught my eye but I ultimately decided on ELP for three reasons.

First, the program is designed to be able to be completed in ten months. I had been out of school for about four years, and exiting the workforce to pursue an advanced degree was a major life decision. Knowing that the program was able to be completed full-time in one academic year indicated to me that the program respected any time or financial sacrifices I needed to make, and the timing provided an incentive hone in on my research interests. After all, if you’re completing the program in only a year, you have to capitalize on it.

Second, I appreciated that our program offers both an administrator certification track (LPAC) and a non-certification track (LEADPOL). I knew that whichever track I chose, being a part of the cohort as a whole would still allow me to learn from my peers. ELP is intentionally collaborative, so I don't ever feel as though I'm completely missing out on critical resources. I ultimately chose the non-certification track.

Last, my research interests are centered around providing a well-rounded and fully-resourced education to students who have been traditionally marginalized from the U.S. school system. This includes students of color broadly, as well as court involved youth, and students labeled "disengaged." I believe that even with the purest of intentions, many ed reform decisions can be made that further exclude these groups from participating in schooling. Yes, we need qualified teachers who care about our kids, but we also need advocates who are savvy about school funding and legal issues, vigilant about programs that perpetuate systems of oppression, and innovative about continuous development processes. I felt that being in ELP would guide me along this path, and I wasn't wrong.


This semester, winter 2017, I'm conducting my internship on site at the Washtenaw Alliance for Virtual Education (WAVE). It's a free, public high school for students in the county school districts. What makes it a special place is its unique twist on offering a flexible, project-based program for students to earn high school credit. For me, the most valuable part of this school's mission is its recognition that a traditional approach to schooling does not always fit the needs and circumstances of all students. In my coursework, I pay special attention to student-centered approaches to education and differentiated/individualized learning. I'm very excited and fortunate to explore how WAVE carries out these objectives. 

Individualized Course of Study

Promoting differentiated education and developing individualized learning plans for students who are frequently marginalized from schooling are core to my research interests. In keeping with these aims, three courses I've taken and/or am currently enrolled in have helped to shape my views. 

  1. Cultural Studies (EDUC 645) with Dr. Camille Wilson - I took this elective in the fall and it was both foundational and transformational. We discussed many cultural studies principles but the idea that resonates most with me is that of space making. We, as educators, create a physical and metaphorical space for our students. Through language and discourse, we act as co-creators of space, having agency in our choices. Whether educators are aware/accepting of it or not, there's an unequal power dynamic between educators and students -- primarily because of how U.S. schooling has been designed and habituated. Therefore the choices we enact in space-making must be done very carefully. Culture is fluid and nothing just "is." What we experience in schools, from overt seating arrangements to covert curricular choices, signal messages to our school community, students, and their families about what our values are. Since responding to the individual educational and personal needs of marginalized students is intrinsic to my research interests, understanding how we as educators can enhance or hinder equity through space-making is essential for me. 
  2. Perspectives of Education Reform (EDUC 649) with Dr. Percy Bates, Jr. - This is a core course of the ELP program for a reason! The layout of the course recognizes that the individuals of the ELP cohort are at different starting points. Some of us may have been education majors in undergrad, while others of us might not have been. Some of us have participated in U.S. K-12 schooling as students, while others of us might not have. This course is designed to get us all working with the same vocabulary and historical context of U.S. education. More importantly than that, this class was engaging and fun. Dr. Bates provided a myriad of opportunities to collaborate with each other, which built camaraderie among our cohort. He has a wealth of knowledge and there were no questions that we didn't try to unpack as a class. This class is probably the course that united our cohort.
  3. Youth Empowerment (SW 713) with Barry Checkoway - Youth Empowerment is a cognate that I'm taking this semester with our neighbors in the School of Social Work. We're delving into ideas such as youth participation and community organizing, which hold potential for new ways to differentiate education, and provide individualized, culturally-responsive learning plans. So far, it has exceeded my expectations. 

Highlights of the Michigan Experience

Being part of the graduate student community has been the highlight of my Michigan experience. There are so many things to do and so many people to meet. I think Michigan is very cognizant that being a graduate student has the potential to be isolating and lonesome. This feeling can be amplified if, like me, you attended an undergraduate university other than Michigan.

Rackham and the School of Ed, specifically, are very proactive in offering us frequent programs, activities, socials, and events that allow us to feel connected to each other, and the University as a whole. I can honestly say that the push to create a graduate school community is greater here than any other place I’ve witnessed.
With that being said, I must, in good faith, advise everyone to invest in warm winter clothing (the heavier, the better). You wouldn’t want to miss out on all of the events because you’re not thermally prepared. Also, Ann Arbor is beautiful even during blizzards. Having protective winter clothes allows me to appreciate winter, even when I’m scraping beautiful snowflakes off my car.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

A motto that I carry in my work surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion is an eloquently simple quote from Zora Neale Hurston, which says, “you got to go there to know there.”

My focus on education is such a personal one because I am a first-generation college graduate. I only developed a broader sense of the world outside the poverty and stagnation of my neighborhoods, once I traveled to new worlds via education. However, this extended reality I have had the privilege of knowing would not have been possible if all doors for urban, Black women had remained shut.

Therefore, when I speak about the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion in matters of education reform, it comes from the full awareness that there are too many voices still missing from the conversation. Without these voices, we will only have a limited perspective of what the world looks like as well as what the world can become.

My ideology translates into more concrete terms as I think about the impact I want to make after Michigan. With the changing political climate in the U.S., I am wary of the consequences this will have on cities like Detroit and its students. Historically, Detroit has been abused and exploited, and our children are the ones who suffer most. Knowing that you have to go there, to know there, I am equally cautious about not being a transient citizen myself. In essence, much of the work I want to do around diversity, equity, and inclusion after I graduate involves organizing the social capital of Detroit and empowering youth to have their voices heard, just like mine was in the Bronx, several years ago.

Devaneke invites prospective students to contact her with questions about her experience in the program or student life.

Crumpler’s program of study:
Educational Leadership and Policy