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Scholarship winner seeks solutions to urban education

by Olivia Niland
Boosted by the Gladys Campbell Scholarship, Xiomara Mateo Gaxiola pursued her doctorate at USC Rossier. (USC Photo/Kathy Christie)
Boosted by the Gladys Campbell Scholarship, Xiomara Mateo Gaxiola pursued her doctorate at USC Rossier. (USC Photo/Kathy Christie)

Xiomara Mateo Gaxiola, this year’s recipient of the Gladys Campbell Scholarship, didn’t begin her education expecting to be a teacher. It was only during a break before graduate school when the young Trojan, who received her bachelor’s degree in international business and had planned to earn an MBA, realized that teaching was what she wanted to do with her life.

“I naturally fell in love with it,” said Gaxiola of her first teaching position as a volunteer classroom assistant at her younger sister’s school, where she was left in charge of the classroom when the teacher she assisted took her first vacation in 10 years. At that point, she said, it became clear that education, rather than business, was her true calling.

After 13 years in the field of education as a classroom teacher, mathematics instructional coach, educational program designer and research associate in schools throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District, Gaxiola wanted to have a greater impact on educational equality and teacher beliefs about diversity.

She decided to pursue her doctorate at the USC Rossier School of Education, which was made possible with support from the Gladys Campbell Scholarship established in 2001 by the Gladys Campbell Charitable Trust to support areas of greatest need. Currently, the fund supports graduate fellowships for two doctoral research assistants in the Office of Academic Programs.

“The Campbell Scholarship has provided me not only with financial support, but because it involves me with the school, it has also provided a greater scope to my education,” said Gaxiola, who credits the scholarship with allowing her to become more involved with USC Rossier faculty and programs within the school and on campus.

“Typically with the EdD program, you’re only on campus on the nights you have class, but because of the Campbell Scholarship and working with my academic adviser, I’m able to be on campus more often,” she said. “It has made me much more connected to Rossier as a school and USC as a university.”

As a research assistant, Gaxiola worked with Darline Robles, USC Rossier professor of clinical education, on the curriculum design for the school’s new Master of Education in School Leadership program, which launched in August.

Working to create the program, Gaxiola said, helped to provide her with extensive knowledge of school administration and leadership.

“The Master of Education in School Leadership program has added a whole new breadth of knowledge in school leadership to my repertoire,” she said. “It has been amazing.”

The 15-month online program aims to prepare educators to take on leadership roles in K-12 school settings. Working with many former superintendents in creating the program’s curriculum was “extremely enriching,” Gaxiola said.

“A scholarship like this allows individuals the opportunity to take the time to think through problems of practice,” she explained. “When a student has to work full time and go to school, that doesn’t leave time or space to work through problems innovatively. It’s more important than ever that students have the opportunity to answer these deep, systemic problems that schools are having.”

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