Sophia's Story: Background & Education
Early Childhood to High School
Multinationalism, Culture & Identity
Born into a multicultural family, Sophia has been passionate about issues of identity and belonging from a very young age. Sophia’s father is a third generation Italian-American raised in a suburb outside of Cleveland, Ohio and her mother is the product of two immigrants, a Catholic Puerto Rican and Muslim Iranian who met while studying medicine in Iowa City.
Sophia grew up with her three siblings, bouncing from city to city, both throughout the United States and four years in Norway, before settling down in Morristown, New Jersey as a fourth grader. Considering herself somewhat of a Jersey girl, Sophia graduated from Morristown High School, before attending Princeton University as an undergraduate.
Princeton University Undergraduate Studies
Sophia's Introduction to the Dominican Republic
At Princeton, Sophia majored in Spanish Language and Culture, with certificates in Latin American Studies, African American Studies, and Urban Studies. It was during this time that she visited the Dominican Republic for the first time and completed a CIEE semester abroad in 2010 in Santiago de los Caballeros, the country’s second largest city. During this time, Sophia was exposed firsthand to the Dominican Republic’s Eurocentric views of beauty, and tensions between Dominicans and Haitian immigrants. She dedicated her undergraduate studies to researching patterns of race and identity across the Hispanophone Caribbean, and her thesis focused on how identity politics play a role in the immigration and acculturation of Haitian immigrants in the D.R., Dominicans in Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans in the United States
While Sophia was writing her thesis, she also began working part-time for the Princeton Education Research Section. She was trained to evaluate public bilingual preschools based on teachers’ use of language and the cultural responsiveness of classroom setup, as well as teaching and learning materials. Sophia learned how small nuances, such as the type of plastic food children have to play with, the colour of the dolls they use, and the characters in the stories they read, all impacted the way a child learned to appreciate his or her culture and identity.
Post-Graduate Studies & Teacher Development
Masters of Philosophy in Education (MPhil), PhD Candidacy & Educational Consulting
After graduating from Princeton in 2012, Sophia moved back to Santiago de los Caballeros to teach. In her first year she taught English at a private university, PUCMM, and then taught Math and Geography to 5th to 8th graders at a private bilingual middle school. She used her classrooms as platforms to discuss issues of race, immigration, and culture, and to foster empathy and compassion. From 2015 to 2016, Sophia completed a fellowship through Princeton in Latin America (PiLA), where she was assigned to work as a teacher trainer for The DREAM Project in Cabarete. During this time she worked in more than five public schools in the north coast of the D.R. and trained six Dominican teachers. Witnessing the evident growth in her teachers, Sophia gained a new interest in teacher professional development. The next year she went on to complete a Masters of Philosophy in Education, Globalisation, and International Development at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Her thesis focused on teacher professional development in developing contexts and her project involved consulting for Save the Children U.K.’s teacher training project in Tanzania. After graduating with an MPhil in 2017, Sophia was awarded a fully-funded scholarship from the Faculty of Education to continue her studies as a PhD candidate. She is now pursuing a PhD in Education at the Faculty’s Research in Equitable and Access to Learning (REAL) Centre, where her studies has brought her back to the Dominican Republic to do ethnographic-school based research also on the north coast of the island.