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Photo Courtesy of Olivia Giorlandino.

At Teach for America (TFA)’s Brave Education Summits, the education non-profit brings together community members to help create more LGBTQ+ inclusive classrooms. TFA teaching corps members, alumni, staff, partners, and students gather for a weekend of workshops and presentations on teacher preparation, student support, school culture, policy, and more. During this year’s event, Northeastern alumnae Jenie Michael and Olivia Giorlandino, Communication Studies, were brought in by Senior Managing Director for Teach For America’s LGBTQ+ Community Initiative, Tim’m West, to present on the topic of gender bias in the classroom.

Jenie and Olivia’s presentation, which was also their undergraduate capstone project, analyzed and explained the issues of gendered communication in educational settings. Through their research, the two discovered that many professional development-training materials did not cover gender-biased communication at all. In response, their project focused on creating a training influenced by what communication scholars identified to be trouble areas of gender bias in the classroom. The training showed educators where biases lay, why they mattered, and how to avoid and eradicate them.

“I think I speak for both of us when I say the experience was incredibly validating of our undergraduate careers,” Olivia said.

Both of us dedicated much of our time at Northeastern studying the manifestations and effects of gendered communication, a topic that (oftentimes) seems to live in theory or is cast aside as in a world deemed post-feminist.

She continued, “Talking to these educators about their own experiences in the classroom and confronting these biases made our research come to life and showed us the impact it could have on people, communities, and societies. Most importantly: it showed us the effect research can have on a community dedicated to inclusion and why research like this is so important for change and understanding.”

Jenie and Olivia’s research demonstrates the importance of implementing effective gender-bias trainings, and they hope to inspire future researchers and educators to propose comprehensive plans toward creating more gender-neutral classrooms.

Their project has been submitted to the Eastern Communication Association’s Annual Conference with hopes of continuing this discussion at their event this spring.

View the full presentation or read the capstone.

Olivia Giorlandino

Olivia Giorlandino is a recent graduate of Northeastern University where she studied Communication, Graphic Design, and Business Administration. Through her co-ops, Olivia navigated internships in educational technology, public relations, corporate social responsibility, and corporate government relations. She enjoys studying how communication impacts social interactions and structures, and she has focused much of her research on gendered communication practices in this realm. She has presented her work at the Eastern Communication Association’s Undergraduate Conference twice, including in 2018 when she received a Top Paper award for her research. She believes that the collaboration between private enterprises, government agencies, and non-profit organizations have the potential to radically improve social conditions in our communities, and she thrives in being a part of that positive change. Olivia currently works in product operations at EF Education First in Cambridge, MA.

Jenie Michael

Jenie Michael graduated from Northeastern University in May 2019 with a degree in Communication Studies, along with minors in Global Social Entrepreneurship and Women’s/Gender/Sexuality Studies. During her time at Northeastern, Jenie completed three co-operative learning experiences, working in nonprofit development, nonprofit outreach, and corporate social responsibility. She is a member of the National Communication Studies Honors Society ΛΠΗ, a recipient of the Woodnick Quality of Life Award, as well as a two-time recipient of the Communications Research Award. She is most interested in the ways communication and language shape societies and is eager to find ways to harness the power of communication to change society for the better. Above all, she is most motivated by her desire and ability to affect positive change in communities small and large, and by the vision of an equitable society in which all individuals have the opportunity and tools necessary to achieve their fullest potential. Jenie currently works in development at Domestic Violence Ended in Quincy, MA.