Dilafruz R. Williams
Dilafruz Williams is Professor and co-founder of Leadership for Sustainability Education and Fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, Portland State University. Among her long-term partnerships are the founding of: an Environmental School, several school gardens, and a Learning Gardens Laboratory on a 12-acre property that functions as a research and education site serving educators and their students many of whom are low-income, immigrants, and/or refugees.
Dilafruz’s recent research has focused extensively on garden-based education – its conceptualization and effectiveness in engagement of children and youth that enhances their holistic and academic learning. She directs the NSF-funded project: Science in the Learning Gardens. She has studied school gardens across 12 states in USA and in many countries across continents.
Her coauthored book, Learning Gardens and Sustainability Education: Bringing Life to Schools and Schools to Life (Williams & Brown; Routledge, 2012), has innumerable real-life examples of students’ writings and projects, teacher and administrator stories of successes despite challenges, and the development of a pedagogical framework to guide garden-based learning.
Dilafruz is recent past-president of Environmental Education Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. Among the more than 200 publications, presentations, keynotes, and workshops that she has offered world-wide and locally, Dilafruz’s scholarship stretches over several interconnected areas: environmental education, sustainability education, garden-based education, service-learning, social justice, and strategic school-community-university partnerships.
In 2003-2011, Dilafruz was elected city-wide to the Portland School Board where she championed policies for equity and excellence for the 50,000 students in the district. She also served as Chair of Council of the Great City Schools housed in Washington, D.C. and comprising 67 of the largest school districts in the United States. She was invited to the White House as part of a delegation of the Council to discuss the president’s new education funding initiatives.
Dilafruz commenced her career as a science and mathematics teacher, grades 6-11, then moved to academia where she has served in many leadership roles that include providing professional development and mentoring support. A native of India, she has received several Awards for excellence in teaching, service, and scholarship. Dilafruz has graduate degrees from Bombay, Syracuse, and Harvard Universities in the sciences, public administration, and philosophy of education.
Dilafruz’s passion for gardens is evident in her own delight and engagement with soil and life in its multitude of manifestations of wonders and mystery.