I want to thank Dr. Sarabeth Berk (MAT 2006) for accepting my invitation to share in this biography her academic professional journey since graduating from RISD. It is my hope that Sarabeth's profile will the the first of many that will provide insights into the diversity roles that RISD Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) and Master of Arts (MA) in Art + Design Education alumni play in the world. Paul Sproll, Ph.D., Head, TLAD
Sarabeth Berk Ph.D.
grew up on the western slope of Colorado and is currently the assistant director of a campus-level initiative at the University of Colorado Boulder that aims to establish innovation and entrepreneurship as part of the culture and practice of the University. Since graduating from RISD, Sarabeth has been teaching art, building community connections, and shaping education through design practices. First, Sarabeth taught environmental art at the Island School in the Bahamas, a semester abroad program for high school students. Then, she managed children’s workshops and an outreach program at the nationally-renowned artist residency, Anderson Ranch Arts Center. She left in 2010 to teach full-time and was the middle and upper school art teacher at Francis Parker School in San Diego, a private college preparatory program. At that point, Sarabeth felt compelled to make a bigger impact in education and decided to enroll in a graduate program while teaching full-time. This was when she discovered action research and was ignited to study her own teaching and publish the findings.
She transferred to the University of Denver to complete her PhD in curriculum studies and instruction. Her dissertation research focused on the multiple professional identities of art educators and what happens in the spaces between those professional identities. A/r/tography was her research methodology, which enabled her to investigate this concept through a combination of visual art and writing. Surrealist paintings became critical to explaining and exemplifying the themes in her research such as metamorphosis, juxtaposition, and paradoxical relationships.
During her doctoral studies, Sarabeth also worked at the University of Denver as the coordinator of a creativity & entrepreneurship program for freshman students. She left that work to manage a $4M Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant for Denver Public Schools (DPS), which involved connecting charter and district schools to share best practices through communities of learning and peer coaching. Upon a restructure in the central administration, Sarabeth became part of the founding team of the Imaginarium- DPS’s first internal innovation lab. In this role, Sarabeth used design thinking to train teachers, leaders, and administrators to be innovative problem solvers both within classrooms and schools and within central office systems and structures. Presently in her career, Sarabeth considers herself an innovation strategist and scout, always on the lookout for overlooked and unnoticed opportunities, as well as an educational experience designer and disruptor. For her own professional identity, Sarabeth works at the intersections of education, entrepreneurship, creativity, design, and research.