Related professional experience
From an early age, Samina Hadi-Tabassum, EdD, saw how a child’s experiences are shaped by culture. Born in Hyderabad, India, she and her family moved to the United States when she was five years old, first to a diverse Chicago neighborhood and then to a more culturally homogeneous suburb.
“We were the first non-white and the first non-English-speaking children in the school district,” she says. “I saw firsthand how children become racialized beings. I was placed in special education in third grade with children who had physical and cognitive disabilities. I was one of many immigrant children who are mislabeled and misdiagnosed.”
Those childhood experiences — combined with a passion for early childhood education and a background in science — continue to shape her work. As an Erikson Institute faculty member, she prepares our students to work with families that represent many different cultural traditions, stressing that approaching culture and language as strengths can help lead to better outcomes for children.
“We have a generation of children who are rapidly losing their linguistic and cultural identities,” she says. “Families assume they will do better if their children assimilate, but those who do best are the ones who hang onto traditions.”
Throughout her career, she has worked with teachers — many in the Chicago Public Schools — to improve their practice and better meet the needs of their students. Prior to joining Erikson, she focused on helping first-year teachers in CPS build a framework that would support both academic success and social and emotional development in their students.
Currently, Dr. Hadi-Tabassum teaches courses in cognitive and language development and directs two programs. Her areas of expertise include examining morphological awareness in children, how storytelling helps develop cognition, and the role of imagination and creativity in child development.
Dr. Hadi-Tabassum’s research focuses on the intersection of race, culture, and language. Her first book, “Language, Space, and Power: A Critical Look at Bilingual Education,” is an ethnographic study of dual-language classrooms at a New York City school. Currently, she is finishing a new book that examines race relations in a suburban Chicago school district that is undergoing a demographic shift.
“What I love about Erikson’s faculty and staff is that they are looking at the practical implications of their research in the schools,” she says. “All the faculty make a concerted effort to be on the ground, in the field — that’s really different from any other place.”
Outside of her academic work, Dr. Hadi-Tabassum pursues creative writing. She recently published her first book of poetry and is writing a short story collection.