The College of Education welcomed Dr. Rebecca M. Bustamante to her new role as Associate Dean, Community Engagement and Credential Programs, at the start of the fall semester. Prior to coming to CSULB, Dr. Bustamante was Associate Dean of Research, Inclusion, and Graduate Programs in the College of Education at Sam Houston State University in Texas where she also was a Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, doctoral program coordinator, and co-director of the Texas Academic Leadership Academy (TALA) for emerging academic leaders in higher education.
Dr. Bustamante has over 30 years of professional experience in the field of Education and has worked in a variety of roles including K-12 teaching (TESOL and bilingual multiple subjects) and school leadership, higher education administration, and international education in a variety of settings throughout the United States and Latin America. With numerous publications in peer-reviewed publications, Rebecca’s research interests focus on organizational culture and strategic planning for diversity, equity, and inclusive practices in educational environments; culturally responsive leadership development; faculty development, and systemic approaches to supporting the access and success of traditionally marginalized/minoritized groups in postsecondary education. Dr. Bustamante has taught using a variety of course modalities (e.g., face-to-face, hybrid/blended, executive models, and online) in university settings at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels and has mentored many doctoral students to successful completion of their dissertations. Rebecca is active in several professional organizations and enjoys scholarly collaboration, curriculum development, designing professional development opportunities. Having been raised in a multiracial family and having lived in multicultural settings, she seeks opportunities to advocate for equitable educational practices and values opportunities to engage with people identifying with various cultures and perspectives.
Below, Dr. Bustamante discusses her path to teaching and working in higher education, her research interests, and what she hopes all CED graduates take away from their college experience.
How and Why I Started my Career in Education
My route to the field of Education was circuitous. I think my interest in Education sparked when I was a high school student in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the 1970’s. During that time, the school system was undergoing court-mandated public-school desegregation leading to inter-racial conflicts and riots on high school campuses throughout the city. In response, the school district selected a diverse group of student leaders to conduct intercultural training sessions with peers as one way to ameliorate interracial tensions. I was one of these human relations leaders. This experience really fueled my belief that education provides a pathway to positive personal and social change…a notion that continues to guide my work to this day.
As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I majored in communications and went into the field of human resources management for a hotel chain in Washington, D.C. I could have continued my career in the corporate sector but realized the favorite part of my job was working with people from around the world and engaging in outreach projects with refugees and former inmates. This led me to enter the field of international education in D.C. and Colombia, South America for a few years, before moving to California to pursue an MA in TESOL from San Jose State. While in northern California, I was a classic “freeway flier teacher,” for adult education programs, community colleges, and the Santa Clara County juvenile justice educational system. After completing my MA, I became part of a special LBUSD-CSULB bilingual multiple-subjects credential cohort program while teaching elementary school for about four years. Shortly after my daughter was born, my family was relocated to Miami, Panama, and later to Brazil, where I continued teaching and eventually moved into educational administration in the international schools system, while simultaneously pursuing a doctoral degree in educational leadership. Upon returning to the United States, we were repatriated to the Houston, Texas area where I spent the last 15 years as a professor and administrator at Sam Houston State University. It has been a windy path indeed.
Overall, I feel so fortunate to have had such a breadth and depth of educational experiences. These experiences have fortified my commitment to educational equity and a focus on supporting students across a wide range of cultures, ages, and challenging circumstances.
Why I Chose the College of Education at CSULB
I am simply thrilled to be here. I hold fond memories of the mentorship and valuable teaching strategies I acquired from CSULB instructors when I was becoming a LBUSD bilingual teacher. Moreover, I was impressed with CSULB’s stated commitment to equity and inclusive excellence, as well as shared governance. I wanted to continue my career here in Long Beach and be a part of this highly reputable and vibrant educational community. My hope is that my knowledge, skills, and experiences can be applied in ways that further contribute to the university and college mission.
My Research Interests
My research interests namely focus on educational justice through examination of organizational culture and strategic planning for diversity, equity, and inclusive practices in educational environments and application of critical organizational theory. Additional research areas include: culturally and racially responsive leadership development; faculty development, international education, and systemic approaches to access and success of traditionally marginalized/minoritized groups in postsecondary education. I highly value collaborative research projects that draw on the strengths and synergy of researchers. Qualitative inquiry, program evaluation, instrument design, and mixed methods are my primary research approaches. I greatly enjoy mentoring and supporting student inquiry and research as well.
My Teaching Philosophy
In my teaching, I try to create environments that honor the knowledge, lived experiences, and cultural perspectives that students bring to classroom settings, both physical and digital. I view myself as more of a facilitator or guide in stimulating a co-construction of knowledge. Critical reflection, hands-on-minds-on learning, community-building, real-life problem solving, critical theory application, inquiry-oriented projects, thinking through writing and other creative means, and cultural immersion experiences. I attempt to integrate these teaching approaches, regardless of the student level, course content, or modality. I also believe every student is a potential teacher and leader.
My Biggest Source of Inspiration
I do not have one source of inspiration. I consistently am inspired by the valuable perspectives and rich experiences that first-generation, underserved, non-traditional, and underrepresented students bring to schools and higher education. I also am inspired by decades of scholars and researchers who model courage and determination in pushing for structural changes that address inequities and support inclusion in educational policies and practices. Finally, I am inspired by my family (my parents, siblings, lifelong friends, husband, and children) to do my part in striving for a more just world.
What I Hope all CED Graduates Take Away from their College Experience
I would hope our CSULB CED graduates take away a sense of competence in their knowledge and abilities to carry out their responsibilities as educators and leaders. In turn, this competence should lead to better opportunities for our graduates, as well as position them to make positive differences in the lives of others. Ideally, I hope graduates also leave our college with a sense of agency and possibility in leading for structural educational equity.