Sociology Graduate Students

Melissa Marini Svigelj
  • Title
    • PhD Candidate
  • Division Graduate Studies Division
  • Department
    • Education Department
  • Affiliations Sociology Department
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • McHenry Library, 0282
  • Mail Stop Education Department

Research Interests

Extending upon the advocacy and activism Melissa engaged in during her career as an educator, her scholarship, research, and art engage the entwined vines of healing, sharing, discovering, and storytelling. Drawing from anti-colonial and critical studies across disciplines, her research centers on access to educational services for young people being detained in locally-operated adult jails as a component of decarceration and abolitionist strategies. She also explores how to utilize civil rights legislation to eliminate educational injustices and to dismantle systems designed to extinguish and inter. Melissa draws from multiple qualitative research approaches and critical frameworks including archival activism, critical archival studies, selective case study, multimodal critical discourse analysis, critical policy studies, DisCrit, and critical thematic analysis with emphases on situating research intersectionally and contextualizing it through political, social, and historical lenses.

Biography, Education and Training

Melissa Marini Švigelj-Smith (pronouns she, her, hers) was an educator in Cleveland (Ohio) public high schools for two decades and taught high school students at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center during four of those years. Her blog is part of a national network of education bloggers, and her posts have been featured on national and state education blog sites. Interviews with Melissa can be found in the archives of the Rick Smith Radio Show, It’s About Justice local radio show, on the podcast Quote Unquote, and in news articles in the The Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio’s KQED blog, Mindshift. She has been asked to present at conferences nationwide, and to consult on education policy locally and nationally on behalf of students entangled in the juvenile justice system.

Honors, Awards and Grants

Legal Studies Graduate Fellows Program                                                     2021-22

University of California, Santa Cruz


Cota-Robles Fellowship                                                                             2018-23

University of California, Santa Cruz


Social & Emotional Learning Innovation Grant                                             2016-17

Novo Foundation & Rockefeller Philanthropic Foundation

2017 - 800 applications from more than 40 states, 12% of applicants were selected

2016 - 430 teacher applications from 34 states, 25 awards to individual teachers


National Teacher Award for Excellence in Computer Education                      2016

Fuel Ed



3Rs Committee Teacher of the Year                                                            2015


Selected Publications



Švigelj, M. M. (forthcoming 2021). The "radical" dream of liberation and humanization in a juvenile detention center. In T. Kress, R. Lake, & E. Stein (Eds.), Radically Dreaming: Illuminating Freirean Praxis in Turbulent Times (Chapter 26). DIO Press.


Švigelj, M. M. (forthcoming 2021). Opportunities for Hope are Created. In M. W. Cole, S. M. Madison, A. D. Henze, & J. Sosnowski (Eds.), Flying Kites: Narratives of Prison Literacy in Essays & Art (pp. -). DIO Press.


Švigelj, M. M. (forthcoming Jan. 2022). Re-mediating Dominant Narratives of Incarcerated Children with Exceptionalities. In R.D. Williams (Ed.) Challenging Deficit Thinking for Exceptional Education Improvement (pp. -), IGI Global. Peer-Reviewed


Švigelj, M. M. (submission July 2021). Youth as Educators. In (Section Eds.) R. Sintos Coloma & J. Rhee International Encyclopedia of Education, 4th Edition (Section 8). Elsevier. 




Švigelj, M. M. (29 August 2021). Removing Management, Forum of the American Journal of Education, Category: Features. 


Literary and Art Journals


Švigelj, M. M. (2021a). In verse operationalization. Iron City Magazine Issue 6.


Švigelj, M. M. (2021b). Poetic Injustice in the Headlines. Iron City Magazine Issue 6.


Švigelj, M. M. (2021, January). Irrational Numbers. Interim 37.3-4, Special Issue: Black Aliveness, Solace & Solidarity.


Švigelj, M. M. (2021, Summer/Fall). Poetic Injustice in the Headlines. Wordpeace 6.2. 


Švigelj, M. M. (2021, Fall). Embodied Graphic Organizing. CATALYST - Systems Change 1.3.


Švigelj, M. M. (2021, Fall). Shattered. Scapegoat Review.


Švigelj, M. M. (2021, Fall). In verse operationalization. In Parentheses.


Selected Presentations

NoVo Foundation and Education First

Presenter, November 2nd, 2016

It Takes a Community: SEL at a juvenile detention center. Convening titled “SEL in Action: Showcase of Nationwide Best Practices and Innovation,” Phoenix, AZ


NoVo Foundation and Education First

Presenter, October 26th, 2017

Seeds of Hope & Teaching at a Juvenile Detention Center, Convening titled “SEL in Action: Showcase of Nationwide Best Practices and Innovation,” Albuquerque, NM 


American Youth Policy Forum 

Presenter, December 4th, 2017

It Takes a Community: SEL and PBIS at a juvenile detention center. Organized by the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) in Washington, D.C., for their webinar titled "Social and Emotional Learning for Traditionally Underserved Populations" 


Case Western Reserve University

Presenter, April 27th, 2018 

Seeds of Hope: Trauma-informed teaching in a juvenile detention center. Conference convened at Case Western Reserve University at the annual Schubert Center for Child Studies conference, Cleveland, OH


Ohio University

Presenter, October 15th, 2020

Schey Sales Centre Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Lunch, “Tying Current Inequities to the History of Access to Wealth Accumulation and Education for BIPOC,” online


University of California, Santa Cruz

Presenter, December 18th, 2020

The Artists Statement, A Durational Tour: Becoming, Organized by the Literature Department, online


American Educational Research Association

Panel Member Invitee, April 10, 2021

Symposium, “Illuminating Freire’s Legacy: Praxes of Hope, Love, and ‘Appropriate Anger,’” online


Curriculum Studies Summer Collaborative

Panel Member Invitee, June 11, 2021

Stories of Resistance, Resilience, and Hope: Freire’s Legacy in his Centennial Year, online


American Sociological Association

Presenter, August 6, 2021

Student Forum session Sociology of Secondary and Post-Secondary Education II, “Five Young People's Public Education Reclamation,” online


11th International Conference on Education & Justice 

Presenter, Sept 18, 2021

5.2. Intersectional Analyses across Educational and Other Institutions: “Seeking Educational Justice for Youth in Adult Jails,” online


American Educational Studies Association

Panel Member Invitee, November 6, 2021

Critical Pedagogies of Love: Possibilities and Praxis, Portland, OR