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In high school, Amanda Moreno, PhD, read a book called “Dibs in Search of Self” that influenced her entire career path. The story of a gifted child who has trouble expressing himself and how his interactions with the book’s author, clinical psychologist Virginia M. Axline, brought about remarkable changes, resonated with the young Dr. Moreno.

“After reading the book, I kept thinking, ‘If only all children had greater opportunities and resources to help them realize their full potential,’ ” she says. “That’s what holds people back — not their level of intelligence.”

Throughout her career, which has included direct service, research, and instructional roles, her focus has been on understanding the connections between children’s social-emotional well-being and learning. Of particular interest is the role adults play in providing children with conditions that foster positive development and the factors that impact the ability of adults to fulfill that role.

Her current research includes a federally funded, four-year study on mindfulness practices in Chicago Public Schools classrooms, the first one of its kind looking at a large sample of kindergarten through second grade students in high-poverty schools. She also has studied preschools and child care centers to understand how best to work with adults and provide resources to enhance their sensitivity to the interactions they have with children.

Students in both on-campus and online versions of Dr. Moreno’s courses can expect rigorous and lively discussions in which bold ideas, creativity, and applied thinking are valued over “correct” answers and statistics. With rigor also comes support, and she notes that students will find a network of faculty, staff, and peers more than willing to offer encouragement and assistance. “Children are serious business, so we consider it our job to help you succeed.”

Dr. Maxine McKinney de Royston comes to Erikson from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she currently serves as Associate Professor of Curriculum & Instruction. She earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Education. Prior to her appointment as tenured Associate Professor at UW-Madison, Dr. McKinney de Royston held prestigious Post-Doctoral Fellowships from the Spencer and Ford Foundations. She has received a number of awards and fellowships in teaching and research. Maxine McKinney de Royston speaks several languages, including Portuguese, Guaraní (Paraguay) and Haitian Kreyòle. She is also fluent in English, Spanish, and Tetun (Timor-Leste).

Dr. McKinney de Royston’s research and teaching examine how educators’ political clarity can be reflected in their pedagogical practices in ways that support the intellectual thriving and holistic well-being of racially and economically minoritized learners. She is a co-editor, along with Na’ilah Suad Nasir, Erikson’s Trustee Carol Lee, and Roy Pea, of the Handbook of the Cultural Foundations of Learning; free access:

In addition to numerous peer-reviewed articles, chapters, and other publications and presentations, over her career Dr. McKinney de Royston has served as Associate Editor of the American Educational Research Journal, Co-Chair of the Wallace Foundation Emerging Scholars Committee, and Advisor to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Family, Youth, & Community Advisory Council. She is a member of several professional learned societies, including the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the International Society of the Learning Sciences, the National Association for Multicultural Education, and the National Council of Black Studies.

In 2022, Maxine was listed among The Represented Collective’s Legendary Woman of Color in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Maxine McKinney de Royston will begin her new role on August 1, when she will become Dean McKinney de Royston. To learn more about Maxine’s research, experience, and teaching, visit:

Dr. Ayanna F. Brown comes to Erikson from Elmhurst University, where she serves as Associate Professor of Education and Cultural Studies, Coordinator for the English Language Arts major, and Ombudsperson. Previously, she served as Associate Chair of Curriculum & Professional Development.

Dr. Brown holds a B.S. from Tuskegee University in Language Arts Education, M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instructional Leadership from Vanderbilt University Peabody College, and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Language, Literacy and Sociology. Her research focuses on discussions of “race,” contemporary African American studies, and discourse analysis. Dr. Brown was Chair of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Assembly for Research (2013-2014). She holds memberships with several honor societies including Phi Kappa Phi, Alpha Mu Gamma, and Alpha Kappa Mu.

Dr. Brown is the author of several peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and is Co-Editor of Critical Consciousness in Curricular Research: Evidence from the Field. She is Editor of Racial Literacies Informed by the Sociopolitical and Sociocultural Contexts for Youth. Dr. Brown is a member of NCTE, AERA (where she serves as Division G Co-Chair for Language, Literacies, and Communities), and is a founding Member of The World Congress of Applied Linguistics on Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality.

In addition to engaging in research and advocacy nationwide, Dr. Brown has presented her scholarship on four continents. Over her 25-year career, she has taught at Metro Nashville Public Schools, developed curricula and programs for school partnerships, and received many research grants and fellowships, including the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary Education Midwest & Plains Center Equity Fellows. She is Co-Principal Investigator for RESULT, a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant aimed at increasing the number of STEM majors employing culturally responsive education as a catalyst for thinking about teaching in everyday life. Alongside colleagues, Dr. Brown was recently awarded a $1.3 million NSF Grant, PRIDE, to continue working to increase diverse teachers of STEM focus on literacies and culturally relevant and sustaining pedagogies.

Dr. Ayanna F. Brown will begin August 1. Learn more about Associate Vice-President Ayanna F. Brown