Building a New School...Twice A Chat with Julianna Stockton ‘06

Gretchen Rice ‘20 and Allison Basore ‘20


Julianna Stockton graduated from Olin’s first class in 2006, and is now a founding faculty member of the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning. She has earned two Master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from Columbia University.


What was it like to be in the first graduating class of Olin?


“Awesome!” Julianna says. “It was a great opportunity to have a say in what happened to me over the next 4 years.”  


“There wasn’t as much of a master plan as I thought there was,” she laughs, stating that this made her feel like her opinion mattered. Olin was her top choice because of the hands-on, do-learn curriculum. The close community that came from the small size was an added bonus.


What has your education been like after Olin?


“I wasn’t sure when I applied to grad school whether I wanted to teach high school or college,” she explained.  But she knew she wanted to stay in academia. Part of her influence came from her last year at Olin, when she had completed an AHS (Arts, Humanities, Sciences) capstone on gender in mathematics education. Overall, she was in the process of getting the Ph.D. while also getting her master’s. Combined with the fact that she did not take time off, she managed to finish it all in four years after Olin. She went to Teachers College at Columbia University because it was the only Mathematics Education program she could find that had significant mathematics course requirements.


How was your experience working at Sacred Heart?


After receiving her degree, Julianna went to work as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. When she first started, she was assigned to teach math for elementary school teachers. She enjoyed teaching teachers, “...a population I care very deeply about,” Julianna says. According to her, most students self-identify as “a math person” or “not a math person” by 4th grade, which makes elementary school teachers a significant part of their development. She pushed for student-driven learning instead of having them “...sit and passively copy down proofs.”


Julianna taught typical math major courses like calculus and linear algebra, as well as designing several new courses. She says Sacred Heart was a great place, where she could explore her many varied interests, and that she enjoyed thinking about curricular questions. She also helped develop two new engineering programs there. Heading into this job, Julianna says she felt “...unsure in my first 2 or 3 years that it would be the right fit. As time went on, I gained confidence, and learned more about the institution and how it worked.  That helped me find, and often to create, the opportunities that were right for me. It was a great career experience.”


Can you tell me more about what that experience has been like as a founding faculty member at the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning?


“It’s a little crazy to think about,” Julianna says. Olin Professor Mark Somerville had sent her an email with the job posting. “Much like the decision to be an Olin partner, I couldn’t pass it up.” She loved working with teachers already, and she felt it was a bit like Olin  - the academy was going beyond cutting edge in teacher preparation.


As part of the planning for Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning, Julianna and her team did user testing, similar to the approach she took in the Olin class - User Oriented Collaborative Design (UOCD). They were designing curriculum unit prototypes in design cycles. Their first pilot cycle was in March and April 2017, followed by two design teams that summer. She says she was “...wearing my curricula design hat for most of the summer: research, brainstorming, ideation, hackathon ...” She was asking questions such as “What are the next steps for the coming week? Month?” and “What kind of math content to teachers need?” or         “How will faculty be evaluated?”


At this point, she also moved her family from Connecticut back to the Boston area. Currently, Julianna is still working at the Woodrow Wilson Academy, pioneering new ways to prepare teachers.


I Understand You Have Hired a Couple Other Olin Alumni at Woodrow Wilson!

Woodrow Wilson Academy followed in Olin’s footsteps by kicking off with a Design year, recruiting 10 Design Fellows (like Olin Partners) who spent the 2017-2018 academic year helping design the curriculum of the Academy. Among this pioneering cohort are two more Olin alumni, Breauna Campbell ‘14 and Doyung Lee ‘17.


“It was a great fit to have Olin graduates as part of our design year - they care deeply about education, have lots of innovative ideas, and understand the user-oriented design process.” In September 2018, Breauna and Doyung and the other Design Fellows will be joined by 12 more graduate students, making up the pilot class of the Woodrow Wilson Academy. The students are pursuing masters degrees in education, specializing in middle or high school math, chemistry, or biology.


“We’d love to have more Oliner’s apply for future classes, too!”, Julianna commented, inviting any Olin students or alumni interested in a teaching career to reach out to her for more information about the program.

Advice for Oliners?


At one point, Julianna faced a professional identity question about identifying as an engineer. “I don’t identify as an engineer,” she says. Going into the workforce, Julianna said she had a realization about the design parts of Olin’s curriculum. She realized “How baked in this UOCD -design-thinking-outlook was... I am literally going through the design cycle - for myself! Even if I’m not actually an engineer, I do identify as a designer. It’s what I think I’ve done all along and puts a name to what I care about.”


After looking back at what she learned about herself and her education, Julianna finished our conversation with, “Olin really was for me.”


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