Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Carmen Kynard

Committee Members

Gillian Bayne

Jennifer Adams

Subject Categories

Art Education | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Educational Methods | Higher Education | Liberal Studies | Prison Education and Reentry | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education | Social Justice


Mattering, Nadia Lopez, Hip-Hop, Education, Mass Incarceration, Marginalization


The goal of this dissertation is to examine the theoretical frameworks of mattering (Rosenberg & McCullough, 1981; Schlossberg, 1989; Love, 2018) in traditional and non-traditional spaces through a Hip-hop lens. When mattering is applied to marginalized groups, it centers them to a certain extent. In my dissertation, I examine how Dr. Nadia Lopez, the former principal of junior high school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy (MHBA), employed mattering in her holistic approach to education. Her dedication to her students, faculty and staff went viral on the popular blog Humans of New York in January 2015. Lopez’s commitment is to “open a school to close a prison inspired and challenged others to look at and approach education differently—including myself.

Throughout my doctorate education, I examined and applied lessons learned from Dr. Lopez and other sources into my own research and teaching. As someone steeped in Hip-Hop culture, my work also reflects the global phenomena. Like a Hip-Hop DJ, my methodology and theorizing involved collecting, selecting, and mixing various images, texts, narratives to produce a literary mixtape in three volumes while centering Black subjectivity. Therefore, this body of work is more than an auto/ethnography (Boylorn, 2014)and an untraditional dissertation.

In these volumes, I look at mattering through the art and science of DJ-ing and I also reflect on the ways that I employed mattering in incarcerated spaces with rap music and the relationship between teaching and learning. It drew the questions: What does Hip-Hop culture and mattering look like in higher education? How does higher education regard the lives and voices of marginalized? Themes of performative gestures and traditional violence emerged which were used to maintain the structure of settler colonialism. These hard truths force academics invested in equity to reassess their approach the marginalization and the violence that is inflicted on many. The dissertation also revolves back to acknowledging and showing gratitude to Dr. Nadia Lopez for inspiring, investing and igniting different walks of life.