Dr. Suzy Thomas on Action Research as a Tool for Knowledge Democracy

Dr. Suzy Thomas and Dr. Aubrey Uresti recently co-wrote and published an essay titled: “Action Research Communities: Reimagining Networking And Collaboration In A Global Pandemic.”

The Action Research Network of the Americas (ARNA) showcases action research projects in community-based and educational settings, promoting action research that is conducted with a commitment to honesty, integrity, inclusiveness, multivocality, engagement, and achievement within sustainable national and international democratic societies. ARNA supports the development of small, active groups of people who want to share resources, strategies, practices and ideas around a specific topic through the Action Research Communities (ARCs). In order to provide support to ARC members through the discouragement and lack of structure brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Counseling Department faculty Dr. Suzy Thomas recently published an essay alongside Dr. Aubrey Uresti, Assistant Professor of Counselor Education at San José State University, titled Action Research Communities: Reimagining Networking And Collaboration In A Global Pandemic.

Dr. Suzy Thomas is a professor in the Counseling Department at the Kalmanovitz School of Education. She is a credentialed School Counselor (PPS) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). Dr. Thomas is also a former middle and high school counselor and teacher. She is passionate about advocating for school counselors and school-based reform in local, statewide, regional, national, and international venues. Her research interests include mentoring, collaboration, LGBTQ+ youth, legal and ethical issues in counseling, group counseling, action research, and school counseling reform.

“As is often the case in our own field of school counseling,” wrote Drs. Thomas and Uresti, “we found ourselves having to improvise quickly when the pandemic prompted the shutdown of our institutions, halted in-person instruction and events, and postponed the 2020 ARNA conference, and we were called upon to respond creatively by discovering unexpected strengths in ourselves as educators in online settings.”

Drs. Thomas and Uresti are the co-chairs of the ARCs, and used this new skillset to design an original and innovative series of virtual conference events and activities that proved to be a highlight of the virtual ARNA 2021 conference. Because 2021 represented the first virtual ARNA conference ever, they wanted to find innovative ways to use technology to promote connection and allow opportunities for participants to have fun and enjoy virtual spaces where they could relax and engage with one another. At the time, they had simply been trying to adapt to unforeseen and highly stressful changes in their professional lives as a result of the pandemic; however, the feedback they received led them to believe that what they prepared for the ARNA 2021 conference could ultimately be of benefit to others engaged in action research and seeking connection and community in the midst of the pandemic. This piece emerged from the desire to share these “silver linings” in the hopes that others might experience the same type of hope and optimism that they felt during and after the virtual community building at ARNA 2021.

Drs. Thomas and Uresti also collaborated with KSOE’s Dr. Laura Heid of the Counseling Department and Dr. Everett Louis of the Teacher Education Department on anti-racist practices in teaching, counseling, and supervision. The presentations that they made at state and regional conferences informed some of the content that was eventually incorporated into their essay. 

“This piece reflects our current work in the areas of anti-racist pedagogy and counseling practices and our collaborations with Drs. Heid and Louis, along with our longstanding involvement with ARNA and action research as a tool for grassroots change and social justice,” said Dr. Thomas. “In addition, KSOE has been an ARNA sponsor since the inaugural conference in 2013 that I helped to organize in San Francisco, and so I am particularly grateful to our current Dean and several former Deans for their support for ARNA.”

Visit our website for more information about the Counseling program offered by the Kalmanovitz School of Education.