Sousada Chidthachack Grande2019 Rising Alumni

Sousada Chidthachack Grande

Sousada Chidthachack Grande is the Assistant Principal at Ascension Catholic School, and has a PhD in curriculum and instruction. Sousada was born in a Thai refugee camp, and did not return to the country until almost 30 years later, when she taught mathematics in rural Thailand during her doctoral program. She was driven to focus her research on closing the math achievement gap for English language learners, and traveled to several countries to present her research during her time at CEHD. She speaks four languages–English, Laotian, Spanish, and Thai–which helps her connect to students. When she came to CEHD, she wanted to work on projects that would greatly increase access to mathematics for marginalized students of color, because her own journey helped her understand that mathematics equals opportunities.

Current Job

Assistant Principal, Ascension Catholic School

CEHD Degree

PhD Curriculum and Instruction, 2016

Please list any professional accomplishments you wish to mention.

Volunteer activities

My volunteer activities include being a Girls Group mathematics mentor and tutor, a tenure promotion reviewer, a Women in Mathematics panelist, a Page Education Foundation Service-to-Children volunteer, and a research peer reviewer. I have also volunteered at Ascension Catholic School; University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Youth Development; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; University of Oregon, Corvallis; the Page Education Foundation and Wallin Education Foundation; the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics; and the International Congress of Mathematics Education. I’ve also provided mathematics classroom support in the Minneapolis Public Schools for grades five through 12 and served as a Scholar Success Story Speaker.

Awards or honors from collegiate, professional, or volunteer experiences

I was the invited spotlight speaker on Teaching Mathematics with Conceptual Understanding to Middle School Immigrant Students at the 2018 WIDA Annual Conference: Schools and Communities Empowering One Another. I was an invited speaker on Soft Skills and Professional Communication in the Workplace for STEM Professionals at the 2018 Infinite Possibilities: Women in Mathematics and Sciences Conferences at Howard University. In 2017, I was the University of Wisconsin-Madison Visiting Scholar Invited Speaker. I presented “Implementing Standards-Based Mathematics: Toward Improving Conceptual Understanding of Key Ideas of Linear Functions for Middle School Immigrant Students. I received a CEHD Alumni Society Advanced Study Scholarship, was a recruitment officer and research assistant for Prepare2Nspire, a graduate research assistant for College in the Schools, and a reflective practice partner and curriculum development partner for EngrTEAMS (Engineering to Transform the Education of Analysis, Measurement, and Science). I received CEHD Curriculum and Instruction Travel Grant to serve on an education committee in Vientiane, Laos, one to present at a University of New Mexico mentoring conference, and one to present a research poster at Psychology of Mathematics Education in Vancouver, Canada. I was named a 3M STEM Education Fellow, an Iron Range engineering research assistant, and a Mithun STEM Education Fellow. I received a Women’s Philanthropic Leadership Circle Award, a Dr. Nancy “Rusty” Barcelo Women’s Center Award, and was the winner of the People’s Choice Award for Globalization and Diversity for Best Poster at the 2014 CEHD Research Day. I received a travel grant to be a conference presenter at a women in mathematics conference at the University of Oregon, Corvallis, and a travel grant to present a peer-reviewed research paper at the Hong Kong Association for Educational Communications and Technology, University of Hong Kong. I was named a Justice Alan Page Scholar by the Page Education Foundation and was a winner of the best oral presentation from the Mathematical and Biological Institute at The Ohio State University. I took part in the Park City Mathematics Institute Secondary School Teacher Program in 2012, and in the same year, participated in Infinite Possibilities: Women in Mathematics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where I was the winner of the best travel award essay. In 2011, I was a recipient of a Funding for Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) grant for mathematics education research in Brazil.

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

In my first year as a doctoral student, I taught mathematics in rural Thailand for one month (2011). I was born in a Thailand refugee camp in 1984 and have not looked back. Seeing so many young people, especially young girls, eager to learn and attend school was the motivation I needed to start the doctoral program strong. I ended up writing my dissertation combining areas I am most passionate about: how to close the mathematics achievement gap for English language learners.

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

Lesa Covington Clarkson—when I was searching for a doctoral program, it was very important to me to have professors of color and faculty that understand the challenges of navigating an education system that disadvantages women of color, especially in STEM fields. Clarkson also helped fund my PhD through her award-winning mathematics program, Prepare2Nspire: Mathematics Mentoring and Tutoring in an Urban Setting. I am thrilled to learn that she recently won the Presidential Award for Community Engagement.

Kathleen Cramer—I took my first doctoral class with her. She gave feedback that helped me grow as an academic, and eventually became my PhD advisor. Cramer wrote several of my winning letters of recommendation for grants and scholarships.

Susan Staats—Staats is my co-advisor. She hired me to be a part of College in the Schools as a graduate student. Through the graduate assistantship, I traveled all across the state of Minnesota to observe high school teachers who were providing opportunities for their students to earn University-level mathematics credits. Three years later, I continue to work with Staats to host high school classrooms at College in the Schools Field Days. I believe that her work truly increases access to higher-level mathematics for youth that otherwise would not have the opportunity.

These women have also inspired me throughout my career.

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

When I entered the PhD program, I had five years of experience teaching high school mathematics in an urban setting. It was my goal to collaborate with top researchers and professors on projects that would increase greater access to mathematics for marginalized students of color. I understand that mathematics equals opportunities from my own journey. The greatest impact of my educational experience in CEHD would be traveling the globe to present research and sharing evidence-based practices to support other educators and education leaders. Some of the countries that I have traveled to as a graduate student in CEHD include Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, Germany, Laos, and Thailand.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

Communication skills: being able to articulate to a wide array of audience members your academic research work, and inspiring meaningful change.

Relationship building skills: the ability to listen to other people's story and being vulnerable when you need to be to make deeper connections. People do not care about your accolades, but how you make them feel. It starts with listening and caring deeply about people.

Collaboration skills: team work is important when trying to solve problems in the community. You need to use other peoples' strengths to complement your own to maximize your progress.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, what do you do?

I enjoy being out on Lake Calhoun or Lake of the Isles for a walk or to rollerblade, I enjoy spending time with my 10 year old dog, Magnum Rambo, and I enjoy trying new food with my husband in the Twin Cities (and when our budget allows, across the globe).

How do others describe you?

Energetic, caring, and driven. My recent favorite, "You have a spirit of achievement." I think my parents would like that one most.

How do you describe yourself?

Ambitious, thoughtful/intentional, and optimistic. I have been told that I have a "robust social life." It is true! I love spending time with people of all ages.

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

A recent one: Becoming by Michelle Obama-- she is inspiring on many levels: personal level (family), career (education path) and servant leadership attitude.

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

I would love to sit down and talk to Oprah! She embodies all that I aspire to be: she educates, informs, and uplifts communities.

I think I have to pick someone that is not alive, too: I would love to have coffee with Maya Angelou. She has a strong heart and mind.

Their stories inspire me—a story about tragedy, forgiveness, and triumph above all the chaos and evil. They are heroes and not victims. Their mindset is unbelievable—you are meant for great things, no matter your circumstances. Powerful.

What gets you excited about work?

I look forward to work each day to be greeted by scholars as young as grade K to grade 8. There is an innocence and joy in their hearts that they exude. It is contagious. I love the hugs and letters that I received over the years from current and former students. Education is truly a work of the heart.

Earlier this month, a student I taught middle and high school math wrote me an email to let me know he got into medical school at the University of Minnesota. My heart is so full. Stories that remind me that as educators, our efforts truly matter and students do reap the benefits of our dedication. It is so important to show up every day with the mindset that little people are watching us and we need to be our best self.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I dreamed of being a talk show host like Oprah Winfrey. She interviews ordinary people and tells their extraordinary stories. She also meets with top world leaders and inspires real change. I cannot wait to meet Oprah one day.

Outside of your job, how do you grow professionally?

I am a firm believer that we all need mentors in our life to enrich our lives and to help us to grow to be our best self. I meet with mentors often (monthly) to get inspiration and to bounce ideas for my next project or career opportunities. I also try to attend and present at research conferences.

What is a "fun fact" about you?

I have been to six of the seven continents (I have never been to Antarctica). I can speak four languages: English, Lao, Thai, and Spanish.