Imani Rising: A Conversation Between Dr. Liz Johnston and Alumna Dr. Imani Akin

Imani Rising: A Conversation Between Dr. Liz Johnston and Alumna Dr. Imani Akin

I had the very great pleasure of working with Dr. Imani Akin, when she was earning a doctoral degree from the School of Advanced Studies in 2007.  Dr. Akin likes to remember the exact date her dissertation was approved and degree conferred, which was in September 2007.  We have stayed in touch over the years.  Imani's career is inspiring and I asked if we could write a collaborative story regarding her experiences after graduation.

I talked with Imani just after she returned from a recent conference presentation at the AACE Conference in Vancouver, BC, EdMedia 2016, A World Conference on Education. Dr. Akin presented Integrating Instructional Technology into the Online Learning Environment.  Imani laughed while explaining, “Learning has to continue after graduation or you lose it”. Dr. Akin’s commitment to continued learning includes her work as chair of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) Tag on High Quality Teaching and Learning Online.


Dr. Imani Akin with President Obama

As we talked, Imani reminded me that as a high school teacher, she and her students raised money for a trip to Washington DC. A highlight of the trip was spending a few precious moments with then Senator Barack Obama. The group seized the moment to take a photo with Mr. Obama after being told he would unavailable to meet. Imani said Mr. Obama was exiting a meeting; she called out and he turned around. When he saw the students he came right over as his staff cringed.  I commented the picture says so much about Imani, always one to seize opportunities and model perseverance. Earning the doctoral degree allowed Dr. Akin to do so much more.

Imani has been providing professional development and consulting for K-12 school districts for many years. Imani explained, “I started working with Chicago school teachers and earned state certification from Illinois State Board of Education to develop and facilitate professional development.”  Imani was invited to go through the three-day training and became a national consultant with Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt facilitating teacher-training workshops on common core state standards (CCSS) across the U.S. She was then recruited to join the team of national professional consultants for the American Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). 

Dr. Akin continued, “Initially, I was developing and facilitating one or two day workshops for teacher and administration, on various topics, in school districts across the nation”.  She continued, “I had to learn to develop several workshops explaining CCSS and only CCSS for a while. I would start the workshops with the intention of dissipating anxiety and tell the teachers they already knew how to teach to the CCSS.” The jump from state to national was not a hurdle. Imani’s philosophy is to “Seize the opportunities and be willing to do the work of learning.”

I asked if the ASCD job changed in any way.  Imani explained, “After a year, I began working with teachers and principals on a year-long basis as they developed faculty development and school improvement plans.” ASCD issued us all business cards, and we became ASCD faculty.  Recently, Dr. Akin accepted a full time faculty position with the American College of Education.   She teaches leadership and research courses and serves doctoral students and candidates in developing the dissertation. Imani says, “It gets overwhelmingly busy maintaining scholarship and teaching, but I return to a state of gratefulness to complete projects.”   I say that her story is one of grace, effort, and rising.  Thank you for sharing Imani.  Follow this link to learn more about Imani and see a picture of Imani and her high school students with President Obama. https://research.phoenix.edu/content/dissertation-resources

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