MSU Honors Music Student for Excellence in Diversity

Doctoral student recognized for work promoting inclusive environments in music education.

Joshua Palkki leads a session at the Michigan Music Conference in Grand Rapids, Jan. 2016. Photo courtesy Mark Adams.

A doctoral student in the MSU College of Music who advocates for marginalized populations has been recognized for his work in removing roadblocks and creating inclusive music education environments for the LGBTQ community.

Joshua Palkki received the Excellence in Diversity Award in the Individual, Emerging Progress category at the February 2016 All-University Excellence in Diversity Awards ceremony coordinated by the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives. Palkki was honored with a $2,500 cash award alongside other students, faculty and staff who demonstrated commitment to sustaining a culture of diversity and inclusion at MSU.

Palkki’s dissertation is among the first to explore transgender issues in choral music education. His work, he says, was influenced by his interest in social justice and equity, culturally relevant instruction, and his experience as a choral educator in K-12 schools.

VIDEO: Interview with Joshua Palkki about his studies, teaching and award recognition.
Video courtesy of MSU

“The more I learned about LGBTQ issues in music education, the more I saw that there were a lot of questions to ask and not a lot of people asking them,” Palkki says. “It was the perfect marriage between my interests in social justice and music education research.”

Palkki noted that he initially was afraid to pursue this research path, but after receiving full support from the MSU music education faculty and graduate community, as well as encouragement from the audiences at his presentations at national conferences and from readers of his publications, he knew he had made the right choice.

“More than anything, this award is encouragement to me that institutions of higher learning are becoming more inclusive and embracing of many different kinds of research, and different kinds of people,” Palkki says. “I’m hopeful my research will help LGBTQ students in school, and help teachers understand things about this student population that they don’t know.”

Professor of Music Education Cynthia Taggart comments that Palkki's scholarly work has changed the way she and her colleagues think about gender and sexuality, and has raised issues of diversity that are changing the discourse in the music education community.

“Joshua’s list of accomplishments reads more like a tenured professor than a doctoral student,” says Taggart, who is Palkki’s dissertation chair. “Josh is a game changer. He will continue to make a difference where ever he goes.” 

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