Healing-Centered Research Collective

A vibrant community of researchers committed to exploring, advancing, and applying the principles of healing-centered and restorative practices. Guided by the mission and values of the Acosta Institute, our collective gathers bi-weekly to engage in transformative discussions that bridge theory, practice, and research within the healing-centered paradigm.

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At the Acosta Institute, we are dedicated to harnessing the transformative power of healing-centered education. Our Healing-Centered Research Collective exemplifies this commitment by fostering a collaborative space where scholars, practitioners, and curious learners come together to deepen our understanding of healing-centered practices and their impact on individuals, communities, and society.


Creativity: We embrace creativity as a catalyst for innovation and transformation. In our research collective, we encourage innovative thinking and exploration of new ideas to expand the frontiers of healing-centered knowledge. 

Collaboration: We believe in the power of collaboration and collective wisdom. Through our weekly meetings, we create an inclusive environment that values diverse perspectives, fosters mutual respect, and promotes the exchange of ideas.

Learning and Growth: We are dedicated to continuous learning, growth, and personal development. Within our research collective, we engage in ongoing inquiry and exploration to deepen our understanding of healing-centered practices and their applications.

Integrity: We uphold the highest standards of integrity and ethics in our research endeavors. We strive for authenticity, transparency, and accountability as we contribute to the body of knowledge surrounding healing-centered and restorative approaches.

In our bi-weekly meetings, we delve into a wide range of topics, including trauma-informed practices, mindfulness-based interventions, community healing, restorative justice, and more. By drawing upon diverse research methodologies and interdisciplinary perspectives, we strive to generate new insights, develop evidence-based practices, and contribute to the broader field of healing-centered education

Interested in the Acosta Institute Healing-Centered Research Collective? 

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Kia Darling-Hammond

Dr. Kia Darling-Hammond, PhD, is author of the Bridge to Thriving Framework© and CEO of Wise Chipmunk LLC, an education and research firm. There she leverages over 25 years of work in education, research, and leadership to offer learning opportunities and advising to students, educators, organizations, and other entities including the Congressional Black Mental Health Brain Trust and the Congressional Black Caucus’ Suicide Prevention Taskforce whose work supported advancement of the Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act. The Wise Chipmunk ethos is to do deep work through collaboration, affirmation, resourcefulness, joy, and ease.

Dr. Kia focuses on human development, transformative justice, and healing justice in her work. Her approach is grounded in the knowledge that design driven by those furthest from power improves everyone’s lives, so it centers the wholeness and wisdom of people experiencing complex oppression first. Her goal is to support people and organizations as they face their fears, cultivate abundance, and develop a principled, perseverant approach to getting free.

Dr. Kia’s diverse clients have included LeanIn, Bank Street College of Education, Brooklyn Friends School, Fetch Rewards, the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, Stanford New Schools, the National Black Justice Coalition, The Steve Fund, The Acosta Institute, Share our Strength, Camp Fire, and WE Teachers, as well as private individuals.

Dr. Kia speaks widely and has published in academic and popular press. You can follow her on LinkedIn @kiadarling.

Dr. Rhonesha Blaché

As CEO & Founder of BLACHE Education, LLC, Dr. Rhonesha Blaché is Building a Legacy of Africana, Critically Conscious, Healing-centered, Empowerment Education as an international educator, consultant, and community builder. She has utilized education as a tool for healing throughout her 27 year career as a practitioner, researcher, and professional development facilitator. As an avid lifelong learner, she has earned a BS in Psychology at Arizona State University, an MAEd in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Phoenix, and an Ed.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University, and traveled to more than 60 countries to indulge in experiential learning. As an educator, she has successfully taught a broad range of life skills and academic subjects to students of all age groups, grade levels, socioeconomic statuses and abilities in various settings from small local public schools in rural areas to large international private schools in urban areas across North America, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. With uBuntu as her onto-epistemology, she is committed to uplifting and building bridges between people of African descent worldwide. Her research is focused on intergenerational healing through identity and leadership development, culturally relevant pedagogy, humanizing curricula, and comparative & international education. As the former Senior Executive Director of the African Diaspora Consortium (ADC), Rhonesha was directly involved in developing and implementing the first African-themed AP Capstone Seminar, which spread across the globe and led to the first AP African American Studies course.

Jordan Bell

Jordan Bell is an award winning Assistant Professor of English at Dutchess Community College where he teaches English and Philosophy courses through a critical lens, and he is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center with research interests that center around Critical Race Theory, BlackCrit, Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Education (CRSE), Healing Centered Engagement, and Racial Literacy, amongst other things. Moreover, Jordan also serves as the Chair of the State University of New York (SUNY) Black Faculty and Staff Collective (SBFSC) where the collective works to support Black Bodies at SUNY and beyond, as a For the Culture intern at Equity & Excellence in Education, and as an editor for New York University’s (NYU) Voices in Urban Education (VUE) Journal and Co-EIC for CUNY GC's Urban Education journal, Theory Research and Action in Urban Education. Here are some of Jordan's recent publications:

"Going beyond anti-racist pedagogical practices: Co-constructing a pro-Black classroom." Journal for Multicultural Education. (2022).

 "Diggin’ in the Racial Literacy Crates." Equity & Excellence in Education. (2021).

“Get to Know Me, Homey: Exploring Critical, Relational, and Racial Literacy Possibilities in Academic, Co-Excavative Letter Writing.” Journal for Multicultural Education. (2022).

 "We are each other’s breath: Tracing interdependency through critical poetic inquiry." International Studies in Sociology of Education. (2021).

"Beyond Brutality: Addressing Anti-Blackness in Everyday Scenes of Teaching and Learning." Northwest Journal of Teacher Education. (2021).

Drisana McDaniel

Drisana McDaniel is a group facilitator, social justice educator and transformation activist.

Her teaching addresses social injustice, racialized dimensions of trauma, resilience and capacity, and connecting across differences to experience healing and integrity. Through her practice The Alchemy of Now, Drisana attends to the nitty-gritty of our individual and collective experiences from an embodied, historical, social, and psychospiritual perspective. She envisions transformational justice as the fruit of contemplation and action. As a coworker-cofounder of the Transformative Teaching Collective, she supports organizations and groups by designing and facilitating workshops and gatherings that focus on conflict-resolution, social justice education, empathy, the practice of non-violence, healing and collaboration. Her mission is to radiate freedom and vitality by facilitating liberation and awakening by curating workshops, seminars, and events to realize with others what is possible when we explore our radical interconnectedness. Drisana is currently in the process of earning her Ph.D. at the California Institute of Integral Studies, focusing on various philosophical inquiries, with a particular interest in exploring the intricacies of leading a fulfilling life amidst disturbances. Her recent publication, “Beyond the Edges of Order: A Framework for the Motherhood of Becoming,” in Mothering Outside the Lines: Tales of Boundary-Busting Mamas. Additionally, she serves as an adjunct professor at the College of Charleston. Residing in Summerville, South Carolina, Drisana shares her home with her two daughters, while her adult son resides in Atlanta.

Quin Gonell

Quni Gonell grew up just north of Boston in a working-class immigrant household as the youngest of eight siblings. Although he struggled with schooling throughout his teenage years, he was eventually able to find a path that diverged from many of his peers. Among the most important factors that led Quin away from street life were strong relationships with teachers who went beyond their roles as educators to guide and support him. As such, authentic relationship building and empathy became significant drivers of success in his classroom. Today, such values continue to inform his practice as a school-based restorative practices coordinator working to develop and sustain restorative programs and lead a team of restorative practitioners at a high school serving over 3,000 BIPOC youth. Restorative approaches also comprise Quin’s volunteer work as a circle keeper within his local community where he co-facilitates weekly healing circles for a diverse group of men.

Before moving on from the classroom to pursue a Ph.D. in educational leadership, Quin was inducted into Salem State University’s Teachers Hall of Fame and recognized as a Massachusetts Colleges and Universities Teacher of the Year. His more recent work as a scholar was acknowledged by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) when he was selected as a 2021 recipient of the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award. That same year, he and a group of researchers from the University of Vermont received the American Educational Research Association's (AERA) Impact Award for Grassroots Community and Youth Organizing as recognition for their community-engaged research. Quin’s research has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Review of Educational Research, Professional School Counseling, Action Research Journal, Middle School Journal, and the International Journal of Research and Method in Education. Most recently, Quin co-authored a book titled Little Book of Program Design and Evaluation: Using Participatory Research to Build and Assess RJ Initiatives, which is available to the public through mainstream retailers. 

Andre Chenfeng

Andre ChenFeng  is an advocate for healing-centered education. He is a Ph.D. student at Claremont Graduate University, with a focus on integrating contemplative practices and critical theories in higher education, specifically, around liberation-based healing with Teacher Educators of Color. He is also an adjunct faculty member at CGU in the Teacher Education Program. Andre received his Associate of Arts from Pasadena City College and Bachelor’s and Master’s of Education from University of California Los Angeles. He taught seventh and eighth-grade mathematics for twelve years in Los Angeles. In his spare time, he watches This Is Us with his wife and enjoys reading books about big feelings with his son and daughter.

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