Diversity leadership winner Robinson eyes new models for educators

By: Michael Chesnick. August 15, 2022.

As K. Lynn Robinson explores collective learning in her research, she’s convinced it can help change the art education profession in ways that better represent the nation’s diverse populations and communities.

For her efforts, the School of Art doctoral student has been named the recipient of the 2022-23 Dr. Maria Teresa Velez Diversity Leadership Scholarship. The award is given annually to a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arizona who’s committed to diversity and inclusion through teaching, research or outreach and service.

“My research is less about teacher development than it is about modeling new possibilities for all educators,” Robinson said. “We tend to look at education as the sole work of the teacher, but students learn in nearly all the spaces we find them in. Grandma’s house, at the community center, or in their dad’s garage. What if we gathered all these educators and gave them access to art materials and ways of doing?

(From left) Tehan Ketema, K. Lynn Robinson, Mayor Regina Romero and Prof. Sama Alshaibi attended the 2022 MOCA Gala. (Photo courtesy of K. Lynn Robinson)

“What if we encouraged them to work together and shared authority in the design of the lessons their children will engage within the classroom? We’d then have the village our ancestors spoke of, and we’d return to a collective learning environment more conducive to the diverse populations we serve.”

As a graduate research assistant, Robinson helped create an arts equity student fellowship for the College of Fine Arts and has been “key to the successes” of the university’s Equity in the Arts, said Dr. Amy Kraehe, associate vice president for the Arizona Arts’ program.

Robinson, also a graduate teaching assistant, calls the Art & Visual Culture Education program in the School of Art “one of a kind,” led by Drs. Kraehe, gloria j. Wilson, Ryan Shin and Carissa DiCindio and Robinson’s first-year mentor, Dr. Manisha Sharma.

“The art education field is over 70 percent white women, so joining a program that has such a diverse faculty spoke to my own experiences in the arts and education and the kind of practice I hope to have,” Robinson said. “Getting your Ph.D. is a certain kind of evil and really takes everything from you in the process, but (these professors) have given me such a fulfilling and multidimensional perspective on the power of the arts and how interwoven equity can be in its practice.”

Robinson received her B.A. in History & Peace, War and Defense from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her M.A. in Heritage Preservation/Public History from Georgia State University. While earning her master’s, she began consulting as an exhibit and program designer for small and large museums around Atlanta.

As for what to do with her Ph.D., Robinson is still working on her career plans.

“I’d love to teach ways the arts can be integrated into the curriculum for formal and informal education,” she said. “It’s a big passion of mine as I received this kind of teaching from my parents and schooling.

“I’d also love to continue into the arts business world and open my own gallery/community space in the communities that have been largely excluded from access to the arts. I want a space where people can talk the talk and walk the walk. Where art and education are accessible and transformative at all levels.”

For Robinson, art education has a “keen ability to work against the grain.”

“If we allow it, the methods of art education, in all of its reflexive beauty, can be elevated in such a way that it touches the deepest parts of our humanity — that urge to come together.”


  • Named in honor of Dr. Maria Teresa Velez, associate dean, University of Arizona Graduate College, and her lifelong commitment to promoting graduate student diversity and inclusion.
  • The award consists of $25,000, plus full base graduate tuition and student health insurance for a year.
  • More information
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