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Crystal Anderson PhD

Crystal Anderson, PhD

Assistant Professor, Education
Program Coordinator, Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Graduate Program 
Program Coordinator, Teaching and Learning Graduate Program

Dr. Anderson specializes in a variety of disciplines and programming at all levels of education and in teaching. She earned her bachelor's degree in Sociology from the University of Wyoming, a master’s degree in Teaching and Teacher Education and a doctorate of philosophy also in Teaching and Teacher Education with a concentration in sociocultural studies. In higher education, she teaches graduate courses in Foundations of Education which focus on the history of American schooling, curriculum theory, philosophy and sociology of education, and educational policy. She also teaches social studies methods courses for all grade levels. Prior to higher education, Dr. Anderson has taught subjects such as health education, ethnic studies, social justice education, and in most social studies subjects at the PK-12 level.

In her doctoral research, Dr. Anderson investigated a powerful form of critical pedagogy developed by teachers in the La Raza Studies Program in the Tucson Unified School District. The program became a divisive issue among local residents and eventually throughout the state. The arguments by the teachers rested upon the need for a culturally relevant curriculum that comprehensively revised the subjects of  history, literature, and the arts/music that would specifically address students’ cultural and linguistic funds of knowledge. Geared toward Mexican American students who were likely to leave high school in grades 11-12, the program was widely successful in capturing those students from the educational pipeline and redirecting them for high academic achievement and long-term success. However, Arizona residents argued that this program was anti-American and that it pushed a critical race theory agenda for schooling. After years of litigation in the state Supreme Court, the program was forced to end. Dr. Anderson studied rhetoric and discourse during that period of time using a qualitative study grounded in a critical pedagogy framework and with the lens of critical discourse analysis. 

In her 18 years of teaching, she’s had opportunities to teach and work with women and children in rural communities in Mexico and Guatemala, as well as in poor and immigrant communities in our southwestern states. These experiences have not only solidified Dr. Anderson’s commitment to human dignity and social justice, but to education as a fundamental human right.

In all areas of teaching, she actively incorporates the curriculum developed by Rethinking Schools, the Brown University Choices Program, Teaching Tolerance, and the Equity Literacy Institute.  

In her non-teaching capacities, Dr. Anderson has advised and counseled thousands of students at all ages to help reach their educational goals and to develop life skills to navigate the real world. Her success in building authentic relationships with students is linked to her deeply caring philosophy of education (founded on the work of Nel Noddings). She has also worked in the non-profit sector as a women’s health counselor. 

Dr. Anderson is known for her integrity and high intellectual standards for teaching and learning. She is enthusiastic and has a kooky sense of humor. She has roots in both New England and the Southwest and prefers the hot desert climate. She speaks some Spanish and is an emerging gardener. Dr. Anderson also manages ADHD for both herself and her son and is an advocate for destigmatizing mental health care. 

Research Interests

Democracy and education, history and philosophy of education, critical theory, critical pedagogy, the educational experiences of Latino students, critical social studies theory

Service and Professional Development

Co-Chair of Cabrini Day Planning Committee: Healing the World: Prophetic Vision and Activism (Fall 2021)
K-4 Transformative Curriculum Committee Member, Lower Merion School District (2022-present)
Faculty Mentor, Women’s Lacrosse team (2022-ongoing)
Budget Advisory Committee (2019-2022)
Technology Committee, (2019-2022)
Judge, Philadelphia National History Day Competition (2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)
Chapter Advisor, Pennsylvania Council for the Social Studies Cabrini Chapter (2014)
Board of Directors Member, Pennsylvania Council for the Social Studies (2013-2016)
Brown University Choices Fellow Training (Santa Rosa, CA, 2016)
National Council for the Social Studies Summer Leadership Institute (Washington D.C., 2014)

Presentations and Scholarship

Current Scholarship

Anderson, C.L. (in process). “To be or not to be?” That is the question: Finding the purpose and value anymore of graduate educational foundations courses at small, liberal arts colleges.

Anderson, C.L. (in process). How Maria Montessori found herself in Guatemala: An exploration and analysis of ‘progressive’ education in San Toliman schools.

Presentations and Published Scholarship

“Teaching Using Deliberative Dialogue: How We Can Help Our Students Better Understand Social and Political Conflict”  (Session presented at Faculty Development Day January 2022)

“Recognizing and Engaging Latino Students” (Session presented at Faculty Development Day, January 2020)

Opening Speaker, Ivy Young Willis/Martha Dale Award Presentation featuring Tarana Burke, (2019)

Discussant (NCSS), Annual Meeting of the National Council for the Social Studies/College and University Faculty Assembly (CUFA), 2018

Anderson, C.L. (2018, October). “Every campus a refuge: Reimagining the university in a time of crisis.” Presented at Fall Faculty Forum. Cabrini University, Radnor, PA.

Anderson, C.L. (2018, March). “A moment that changed my life: Antonia Darder, critical pedagogy, and transformation.” School of Education Bulletin: Vol. 1, No. 6. Cabrini University.

Anderson, (Swenson). C.L. (2017, May). “Developing the Urban Education Minor”. Presented at the Sixth Annual Faculty Research and Scholarship Celebration. Cabrini University, Radnor, PA.

Anderson (Swenson), C.L. (2017, April). “Teachers and Trump: Reactions to the 2016 presidential election”. Research and conceptual art presented (with students) at the Arts, Research, and Scholarship Symposium. Cabrini University, Radnor, PA. 

Swenson, C.L. (2011, November). Schools and the American empire: A critical discussion of youth consumer culture and the imperialist project of commodifying 'democratic' classrooms. Paper presented at Critical Theories in the Twenty-First Century: A Conference of Transformative Pedagogies. West Chester University, West Chester, PA.

Swenson, C.L. (2011, March). “The dream act and immigration policies: Great needs and greater contentions”. Presented at the 2011 Social Issues for Latino Communities Conference: Making Connections, West Chester University, West Chester, PA.

Vinson, K.D. (Chair), Ross, E.W. (Discussant). Swenson, C.L., Gibson, R., Fleury, S., Marker, P. (2008, November). “Paulo Freire and contemporary social studies scholarship: A critical (re) appraisal.” Paper presentation and symposium conducted at the 2008 National Conference for the Social Studies, Houston, TX.

Swenson, C.L. (2008, November). “Preparing teachers for Mexican-American students: A consideration of culturally responsive pedagogy within the social studies.” Presented at the 2008 National Conference for the Social Studies, Houston, TX.


Brown University CHOICES Teaching Fellow, 2016-2019
Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award, West Chester University, 2011-2012
Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, 2009
College Teaching Certification, earned at the University of Arizona, 2007
Grant Recipient/Facilitator for Youth Mural Project (Padrinos Barrio Mentoring Project), 2007
Alpha Kappa Delta, International Sociology Honor Society, Gamma Chapter University of Wyoming, 2001

Professional Affiliations and Memberships

National Council for the Social Studies, 2005-present
College and University Faculty Association (NCSS), 2007-present
American Educational Studies Association, 2017-present
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 2014-present
Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education, 2013-present
American Educational Research Association (Division K), 2006-present (Division F), 2011-present
Pennsylvania Council for the Social Studies, 2011-present
National History Day Organization, 2005-2018
Arizona Council for the Social Studies, 2005-2009