Doctor of Education Graduate Chandra Lebenhagen

Chandra graduated with her EdD in Curriculum and Learning in 2021


Before starting her EdD with Werklund, Chandra completed an undergraduate degree in Special Education from the University of Alberta. She is co-author of the book 'Speechless Dream: Narratives on Autism, Inclusion and Hope'

What first sparked your interested in a career in education? Why did you want to become a teacher?

Since I was in elementary school I wanted to be a teacher. At home, I would set up a classroom and develop curriculum and report cards for my dolls. I have always been drawn to the energy of schools, passionate teachers and endless opportunities for learning.


What made you want to study at the Werklund School of Education? 

I had looked at several Canadian and International university doctoral programs and Werklund stood out to me because it was one of the few that offered opportunities for a doctoral degree outside of school leadership and administration. I also liked that it offered hybrid participation, where I could meet in person with members of my cohort and the instructors.


What's your favourite part about Werklund? What is your most memorable Werklund experience?

My most memorable and valued experiences were the summer residencies. They were intense, but a valuable opportunity to connect with faculty and converse with peers on studied topics. It was also really great to get to explore the diverse backgrounds and interests of cohort members.


Who is someone who had an important influence on your experience at Werklund? Tell us about their impact. 

Of course, my supervisor Dr. Gabriela Alonso Yanez, and her ability to mentor with deep knowledge and grace was not only helpful as a mature student, but it was inspiring at a personal level. Her supervision taught me to keep the bar high in terms of integrity in scholarship. 


What is the most important lesson you have learned during your time with Werklund? 

Knowledge is fluid and people will always have different perspectives and opinions. This can be exciting and also create tension-which isn't a bad thing because it creates an opportunity for further reflection, growth and even suspended learning for all.


What is your favourite class?

I don't recall the exact name, perhaps critical praxis. However, it was a class at the end of my second residency with Dr. Mairi McDermott where I had an "ah-ha" moment when I saw the commensurability between Critical Indigenous Theory and Critical Disability Theory. This "ah-ha" prompted the theme of my candidacy paper called "A Fish out of Water".


What do you plan to do after you have completed your degree? How do you hope to make a positive impact in the community?

Since graduating, I have published a few papers on my doctoral research which has led to some exciting opportunities to collaborate with scholars from the US and Australia. Unexpectedly, part of my literature review was incorporated into a recently published book I co-authored with a non-speaking autistic boy, his mother, and teacher titled 'Speechless Dream: Narratives on Autism, Inclusion and Hope'.


Outside of Werklund, what are your favourite pastimes? 

I love spending time in the mountains and spending time in the yard.


What advice would you give to those about to begin their journey at Werklund?

Realize that the seeds that you are planting now, the connections you are making with learning and people, will continue to grow and hold meaning well past your current studies.

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