H. Gerald Campano, a professor in Penn’s Graduate School of Education, won the 2018 David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English for his work on the intersection of literacy and identity in immigrant communities.
Campano, who chairs the Reading, Writing, and Literacy Division of GSE, won the award for his most recent book, “Partnering with Immigrant Communities: Action Through Literacy." In the book, Campano explores how immigrant communities use literacy to advocate for their educational rights. He said his research is focused on creating partnerships between universities and immigrant, migrant, and refugee communities.
Campano co-authored the book with Maria Paula Ghiso, a professor of literacy education at Columbia University Teachers College, and Bethany J. Welch, executive director of the Aquinas Center, a Catholic community center in Philadelphia.
As part of the research, Campano said he maintained a six-year partnership with St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Community, a multiethnic, multilingual Catholic parish. Through this partnership, he explored how universities and community organizations can work together to make curriculums more culturally inclusive.
Campano also said he engages in "participatory research" that involves working alongside community members and participating in active group discussions with citizens from both older and younger generations.
The professor added that this collaborative research method helps empower people and “create opportunities where literacy can be a vehicle for people and families to address issues that matter to them."
Chloe Kannan, a second-year Ph.D. student in the Reading, Writing, and Literacy Division of GSE, works with Campano to help create new initiatives that respond to issues of cultural diversity through literacy. She also emphasized the importance of his research because literacy consists of “different ways of communicating and making meaning.”
Campano said he is “grateful to the families and the parents and young people who have given their time to collaborate with us and do research together," adding that immigrant communities have surpassed cultural boundaries to create a cultural knowledge through literacy.
The professor's long-term vision is to create community-based research centers supported by Penn to support “young people in valuing their identities, experiences, [and] their multiple languages through a process of collaboration."