Two Doctoral Students Enter Prestigious Leadership Programs

Americo Amorim, a Brazilian entrepreneur, and Juliana Ospina Cano, who has introduced STEM education to over 2,000 immigrant children and youth, are the type of innovative practitioners attracted to the Doctor of Education program at the Johns Hopkins School of Education.

Americo has been selected as a Faculty First-Look by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, and Juliana is one of the British Council’s Future Leaders.

In 2014, Americo formed a company called Escribo to reduce illiteracy in his country. He had discovered that 70 percent of Brazilian public school students finished the third grade unable to read. His mission was as daring as it was lofty because, while he had experience creating apps that taught young people how to play guitar, he had no experience in language and reading development. So he decided to go back to school.

“The EdD program at the Johns Hopkins School of Education seemed perfect for me because it is focused on developing students’ knowledge to solve a problem of practice,” said Americo, who received an Aileen and Gilbert Schiffman Fellowship at the School of Education. “Brazilian doctoral programs are not designed for applied research.”

For his dissertation study, Americo is creating a program comprised of digital games supporting the development of students’ phonological awareness skills—rhyming, alliteration, and syllabic and phoneme operations—that he hopes will be implemented in Brazilian public schools. He currently is piloting the first games, and his goal is to develop a randomized controlled trial to evaluate their effectiveness using standardized tests for phonological awareness, reading and writing.

“My goal for the next five years is to create a comprehensive reading program that assists students throughout their entire reading and writing development path,” he said.

Juliana, who holds a master’s degree in education from the School of Education, has taught STEM for the past 10 years as part of UnidosUS, formerly the National Council of La Raza.

Prior to joining UnidosUS, she held leadership positions in public schools in Tennessee and Georgia that promoted high-quality and equitable educational opportunities for students and families from all backgrounds. At STEM Preparatory Academy, Nashville’s first STEM-focused public charter school, she developed systemic and sustainable practices that increased student achievement and created a welcoming environment for all families.

Her doctoral research at the School of Education focuses on the cognitive development of immigrant adolescent youth. As a Future Leader, Juliana will develop policymaking expertise and the skills to maximize the impact of her work. She will have the opportunity to discuss major policy issues in the Houses of Parliament, engage with political leaders and visit some of the U.K.’s leading global institutions.

Americo Amorim

Juliana Ospina Cano