Tune in to Focus Carolina during morning, noon and evening drive times and on the weekends to hear stories from faculty members at UNC and find out what ignites their passion for their work. Focus Carolina is an exclusive program on 97.9 The Hill WCHL, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Dana Griffin draws on her personal experience growing up to advocate for stronger partnerships between parents, children, and their teachers. Her work in the UNC School of Education is helping students succeed in the classroom and beyond.

“I got into the research that I do because of my experience growing up in rural Virginia with a single mom,” Dr. Griffin said, “and realizing that even though she was very involved in our lives, the schools wouldn’t have seen her as being involved in our lives because she was working.”

Dr. Griffin’s research focuses on low-income parents — particularly in rural environments — and working with them and the school system. She credited her mother with instilling a sense of duty about education in her.

“What she instilled in me about education, meaning that my job was to go to school and do the best that I could, I think that was very powerful and long-lasting.

“That’s one of the things that I try to help other parents do is not see themselves in a negative way, but really talk about education and instill that sense of educational attainment in their kids.”

Dr. Griffin uses focus groups and communities to start building the necessary relationships with parents and teachers.

“If parents do not feel that teachers have their child’s best interest in mind and if teachers do not feel that parents support them, there’s a huge conflict and there’s this barrier that’s not going to be crossed.”

Dr. Griffin uses focus groups to get perceptions and barriers from parents, which she then reports back to the school on.

“My research affords me the opportunity to be out in the community and to work with parents where the teachers, they don’t have the time to do that and some parents don’t have time to come into the school.”

When speaking with parents, Dr. Griffin emphasizes that she’s not there to tell them what to do.

“I do tell parents I’m not the expert over their kids. I’m not the expert over their lives. I can’t tell them what they should be doing. I can tell them what research says works, but I do not want to be seen as the expert. So I try not to use it as a way to build relationships with parents, especially if I want them to see me as one of them.”