FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: AMANDA YURICK
Dr. Amanda Yurick arrived at Cleveland State University in 2006, but she had to make a 180-degree turn on her road to get here. The initial path had Yurick destined for a career on stage, in concert halls, playing the cello.
That was the plan, at least, after earning her bachelor’s degree in music from Kent State University. Thirty years of being a cellist, though, had taken its toll and injury crept in to form an ample roadblock.
It proved to be life-changing.
“I never imagined being a professor,” said Yurick during a conversation in her third floor office at Julka Hall. “I developed tendinitis and scarring in my elbow and needed surgery that kept me from playing the cello for nine months. Naturally, I needed a job. So, I started looking and landed a teaching position at a juvenile corrections facility just outside of Akron. I taught a classroom of 20 males in all subject areas. The first three months were rough, but things settled down and I found that I absolutely loved teaching.”
Yurick, now an associate professor of special education and board certified behavior analyst in Cleveland State’s Teacher Education Department, was working with inmates who all had a one-year minimum commitment for crimes such as robbery, assault and drug possession. Her degree in music meant she had the ability to be licensed in grades K-12, a desirable credential for corrections facilities that need versatile teachers who can teach any subject and grade level.
“I was learning to teach on the fly, but I knew that I wanted to work with students who had behavior problems,” recalled Yurick. “I started sending emails to [The] Ohio State [University] where I came in contact with Dr. Gwendolyn Cartledge, who would become my advisor throughout my master’s and doctoral programs.”
Cartledge, a nationally renowned writer and researcher on teacher education for students with mild disabilities, enlisted Yurick as her graduate assistant for a grant focused on improving academic social outcomes for African-American males. Yurick then worked on a leadership training grant during her doctoral program with another highly regarded leader in the field, Dr. William Heward.
Yurick, who earned both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in applied behavior analysis and special education from Ohio State, took a sabbatical in 2010 from Cleveland State to work on an E-Mentoring grant at Ohio State. The grant paired community members with at-risk students in three urban high schools in Cleveland. A mentoring curriculum of online interaction with periodic face-to-face meetings aimed to prepare these students for college and/or employment following graduation.
It was during this time when Yurick was contacted by Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility in suburban Columbus, a maximum security facility that was one of four juvenile correctional facilities in the state, to serve as a consultant.
“I worked with all four of the facilities with the goal of reducing gang-affiliated violence and seclusionary practices,” said Yurick. “Most of my time was spent at Scioto, but I would meet with all levels of administration at the facilities.”
A few years ago, Yurick was contacted via social media by a former inmate and student from the juvenile corrections facility in Akron where she got her start. That former inmate is now married with a family and has a job.
“My level of expectations for those young men was extremely high,” said Yurick. “They rose to the challenge and genuinely began to enjoy the academic experience. They competed with one another to excel at academics.”
Yurick maintains the same high standards for her students at Cleveland State. While they’ll face hurdles on their road to becoming teachers, nothing is insurmountable.
“Most juvenile commitments are for a year or less,” continued Yurick. “The majority of juvenile inmates across the state are from the Cleveland area. I try to instill in my students [at Cleveland State] that there’s going to be behavioral challenges, but you have to work through them. You have to find a way to connect with your students.”
5 THINGS ABOUT AMANDA YURICK
Favorite movie: Fight Club
Favorite vacation destination: Spain
Favorite food: Middle Eastern
Favorite activity when not working: “I spend my time taking care of my kids.”
One thing people don’t know about me is… “I use a Magic 8 Ball to answer questions from my students.”