School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

From two worlds – Meet Clarissa de Leon

PhD candidate, Faculty of Education     

by Phil Gaudreau, August 2020

Clarissa de leon

Is Clarissa de Leon a Canadian with Filipinx heritage? Or a Filipina who lives in Canada? Or something else altogether?

This is not only an academic question for Clarissa (B.Ed’13, MEd’17). True, she is a fourth-year PhD student and her dissertation looks at how engaging with texts and literature impacts the way racialized peoples develop agency, autonomy, and their identity. However, the topic is also personal to her.

“As a teacher, I taught culturally diverse students and wondered what I could do to better support them,” Clarissa says. “Looking specifically at Filipinx-Canadians, we often don’t have opportunities to develop our cultural identities so how can education, particularly English Language Arts, help empower these learners?”

Clarissa’s question led her back to Queen’s, where her journey as an educator first began. The Mississauga native even teamed up once again with her master’s supervisor, Faculty of Education Dean Rebecca Luce-Kapler.

Clarissa’s research belongs to the field known as curriculum theorizing, which has to do with curriculum, teaching, and learning. She plans to work with the Filipinx-Canadian participants in her study to select books, videos, and music that will help them explore their cultural identities. One promising candidate is a book that will be familiar to Queen’s Reads enthusiasts.

“One of the books I hope to use is Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez, a Filipina-Canadian author,” Clarissa notes. “Scarborough features two characters who are Filipinx and is about what it means to exist in a diverse community. For my study, Scarborough offers a lot of access points into discussions about the many different ways we form our cultural identities.”

Scarborough, which was the 2018-19 Queen’s Reads book, got Clarissa involved in the annual common reading program, leading to many exciting opportunities to design programming for her fellow students and share her own research. It also led Clarissa to get involved in this year’s Queen’s Reads campaign.

That community-oriented mindset to her work has been front and centre for Clarissa from the beginning of her studies. She sees her PhD as a way of giving back to the community and hopes, whether she remains in academia, to serve and educate others.

“Something education researchers have gotten good at is thinking about what research is for. We are teachers first and we push ourselves to always consider how to pull our research directly into places outside of academia so that it impacts the learners and educators that most benefit from our work,” she explains.

One of the aspects Clarissa has most enjoyed about her program is the tight knit cohort in her PhD program. The graduate students often spend time together outside school, which has opened her up to new skills such as painting. Clarissa has also taken advantage of the great outdoors in the Kingston area, particularly on walks with her dog.

To learn more about the Doctorate in Education program, visit the Faculty of Education’s website.