Education Fellows Gathering at the Ikeda Center

As part of its Education Fellows program, the Ikeda Center convenes a gathering in Cambridge halfway through each two-year cycle of the program. The current fellows, each of whom is doing doctoral work relating to some aspect of Soka, or value creating, education, are able to engage in dialogue with the program’s Advisory Council members about their progress on their respective research and dissertation activities. This year’s gathering took place on July 26th, 2019.

All three current Fellows attended. Nozomi Inukai is a doctoral candidate in the College of Education at DePaul University and a research fellow at DePaul’s Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies in Education. She also teaches graduate and undergraduate courses at DePaul. Michio Okamura is also a doctoral candidate in the College of Education at DePaul and teaches Japanese in the Chicago Public Schools. Vicki Mokuria just completed her dissertation in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A & M University.

Advisory Council members in attendance included Isabel Nuñez, Director of the School of Education at the Purdue University Fort Wayne; Jim Garrison, Professor in the School of Education at Virginia Tech; Ming Fang He, Professor of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading at Georgia Southern University; Larry Hickman, Professor Emeritus at Southern Illinois University; Bill Schubert, Professor Emeritus of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois, Chicago; Virginia Benson, Executive Director of the Ikeda Center; and Jason Goulah, Associate Professor of Bilingual-Bicultural Education, and ​Director of the Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies in Education. Dr. Goulah is also Executive Advisor to the Ikeda Center.

First to present about her dissertation research was Ms. Inukai. Her topic is “the being and doing of a ‘good teacher’ from a Soka/soka perspective,” and her investigation centers on the ideas, philosophy, and practices of selected faculty at Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo, California. Some of the qualities of the “being” of the teacher she has identified so far include qualities such as a belief in the limitless potential of students and a commitment to engaging them as co-creators of knowledge. “Doing” can include demonstrating vulnerability, employing dialogue, and designing assignments for students to apply their learning. During their feedback, advisors recommended that she look not only at being and doing as distinct categories, but also as ones that merge and overlap. They also worked with her on best ways to analyze her various data.

Michio Okamura’s dissertation engages the method of self study to analyze the processes and experiences by which he became a value-creating educator. He is drawing on the complete works of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi to address both the theory and practice of his transformation. Included in his analysis is a review of the various methods by which he has engaged with Makiguchi. Another key source for Okamura is a “critical friends” dialogue he had with a fellow DePaul education graduate student. Ideas beyond Makiguchi include such sources as Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development and Gardner’s multiple intelligences. Input from the advisors focused on helping Okamura determine the best way to capture not only his experience but also his natural voice in the writing of the dissertation. In response to his concern about expanding his sources to include more women authors and authors of color, advisors offered guidance and recommendations for works to draw upon.

To open her report, Vicki Mokuria provided an overview of the topics in her dissertation, which she had just successfully defended a few weeks prior. Her thesis is divided into three sections: an auto-ethnographic piece mapping the life experiences that led her to embrace Soka educational philosophy and apply it in her life; a collaborative auto-ethnographical study analyzing her collaborative work with four undergraduates excavating how racism influenced their identities, with the piece modeling “teachers as curriculum makers”; and a study of Soka-identified educators at the Brazil Soka School as well as the activities of Soka-oriented educators in Brazil’s public schools. These sections are connected by four themes: personal agency as resistance to injustices; Soka educational philosophy; the importance of in-between, liminal spaces; and the potency of narratives and narrative-type research. Mokuria also reported on how her presentations on these themes have been received at conferences. Advisors offered suggestions for finalizing her dissertation for publication by her university and strategies for her to pursue as she seeks to become published in education journals.

Daisaku Ikeda’s educational philosophy, as well as his philosophy in general, emphasizes the essential role of mentorship in calling forth the potential not only of teachers but of us all. The spirit of mentorship was evident in the room as the three emerging scholars committed themselves to further advancing the knowledge and practice of value-creating education.

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The Education Fellows Program was established by the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue in 2007. The program aims to advance research and scholarship on the internationally growing field of Soka education.



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