U of M Professor Visits BSU to Discuss Research on Decolonizing School Psychology
Bemidji State University’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has been hosting events throughout November for Native American Heritage Month. A professor from the University of Minnesota visited campus on Monday to speak about her work, which is focused on Indigenous ways of knowing and being and on challenging colonial practices in school psychology.
Dr. Lisa Aguilar, an assistant professor of school psychology at the University of Minnesota, held a presentation at the American Indian Resource Center titled “Research is Relationship: Undoing Colonialism in School Psychology.” BSU psychology students were invited to attend and be the first to hear about her research and her journey to where she is now.
“How I really got started was in graduate school working with other Black students. They’ve taught me a lot, actually, about activism and how colonialism has impacted the history of this country, but also the systems that we’re still all in,” said Dr. Aguilar. “And so, I just felt a passion for continuing to engage in that work and specifically how it affected my community and how I can utilize that within my research.”
Students from all backgrounds gathered and listened to Dr. Aguilar as she gave her personal backstory, so students could know her before knowing more about her work.
“In psychology, they never get personal,” added Dr. Aguilar.
Dr. Mark Standing Eagle Baez, an assistant professor of clinical psychology at BSU, believes it’s important that the school should be culturally sensitive and honor Indigenous students and their heritage.
“It’s a very low percentage [of Indigenous students here] and we’re trying to change that because we’re in the center of three of the largest reservations in Minnesota. So why aren’t we seeing more Indigenous students?” said Dr. Baez. “So a lot of that has to do with what was shared today in the presentation is building that relationship and building trust. And yes, they do want to learn. They want to have that opportunity to gain knowledge.”
Dr. Baez added that the most important thing is to implement a reform to make BSU more welcoming to Indigenous students.
“It’s hard when they don’t trust or when they don’t feel like they’re invited. So it is something that we want to change the demographics of seeing more Indigenous students come and to let them know that they are welcomed here at the university,” said Dr. Baez.
As Dr. Aguilar develops and does additional research on the thesis statement she presented to attendees, she also wishes to include students in her journey.
“I think hopefully I’ve planted some seeds, and if there’s interest in doing this work, whether it’s with me or somewhere else, I’m hoping that they kind of take that and put their own spin on it and work from their place of lived experience and then continue on with the work,” said Dr. Aguilar.
Dr. Aguilar is accepting doctoral students into the school psychology program at the University of Minnesota and is exciting at the prospect of Native students taking interest in it. More information can be found on the department’s website.