Kennesaw State professor dedicated to diversity in education

KENNESAW, Ga. | May 24, 2021

Tristan Glenn
Tristan Glenn

Tristan Glenn had an “aha” moment during a demonstration of the Bagwell College of Education’s avatar laboratory.

The lab utilizes mixed-reality technology to simulate scenarios teachers can encounter through interactions with digital avatars of students that all have their own unique personalities. Glenn, an associate professor of special education in the BCOE’s Department of Inclusive Education, participated in a simulated parent-teacher conference.

“Immediately, a light bulb went on, and I said, ‘This could be the next wave of my scholarship,’” Glenn explained.

Glenn’s research focuses on culturally responsive teaching, the practice of relating educational content to students’ cultural backgrounds in order to be effective in multicultural classrooms. Understanding the factors that contribute to every student’s cultural identity – including race, ethnicity, gender, region and family – can help teachers engage with students and foster a sense of belonging, according to Glenn.

“My scholarship aligns with developing teachers who, regardless of their own background, are capable and committed to having the knowledge, skills and dispositions needed to teach children who are culturally, linguistically and racially diverse,” Glenn said.

Always looking to enhance the process, Glenn has incorporated mixed-reality into his teacher training. He recently completed a study that involved several teacher candidates in the Bagwell College using the avatar lab to teach lesson plans in simulated classes of diverse students.

“I found that the students who used the mixed-reality simulation to teach experienced considerably more growth than those who didn’t, in terms of believing in their ability to conduct culturally responsive teaching,” Glenn said.

Considering his commitment to diversity in education, Glenn has been selected to lead the College’s new Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) program. Through a grant from Georgia Power, the initiative will provide academic support, mentorship, tuition assistance and job placement assistance to help increase the number of African American males in the teaching profession.

The Bagwell College is recruiting applicants among incoming freshmen and current students and will welcome its inaugural cohort this fall.

“For me, all of this is a convergence of learning and thinking how to improve schools for historically minoritized populations – children of color, children with disabilities, children from high-need, high-poverty settings,” Glenn said. “This is a culmination of all that work.”

– Paul Floeckher

Photos by Jason Getz

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit