Meet Your Neighbor: Yolandra A. Plummer, Ph.D. – Professor and Director

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Educating and empowering young adults at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) has been at the forefront of Yolandra Plummer’s decade-long mission as both an award-winning professor and a program director.

The educator, who has resided in Ward 7 for almost 25 years, enjoys her four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom, colonial-style-house that is nestled in the Hillcrest/Penn Branch neighborhood.

The University of the District of Columbia
Plummer’s life has revolved around UDC since 1993 when she earned a Master’s in Public Administration at the city’s only public university. She received her doctorate a few years later at Howard University where she had earlier obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism and multicultural studies.

“Overall, it has been a great experience. I have had great mentors [at UDC and within the District of Columbia Government]. Each year I have grown and learned to incorporate immersive technology into my courses. For example, students enjoy being able to access the course syllabus by using a QR Code,” said Plummer, who has called southeast home for nearly half of her life.

Dr. Yolandra Plummer delivering a short speech after accepting the Penczek Award. The ceremony was held at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.

She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses at the School of Business and Public Administration. Recently Dr. Plummer began teaching Ph.D. courses within the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences. UDC is recognized as the only urban public land-grant university in the United States.

“My research interests include the dimensions of digital learning experiences for low-income populations and especially individuals with learning differences,” said the tenured professor who also serves as a Dissertation Advisor in the Ph.D. program.

Ties to the DMV
Although Plummer was raised in an Atlanta suburb, she spent part of her childhood locally when she attended Forestville Elementary School. Her mother worked for the federal government while her father worked for Delta Airlines. The family lived in Prince George’s County at the time and relocated back to Georgia for professional advancement when Plummer began middle school.

Kudos and Awards
Plummer, who serves as UDC’s Chair of the Institutional Review Board and is also an executive board member of the Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, has recently received noteworthy awards and recognition.

She received the Alan G. Penczek Service-Learning Faculty Award in December 2022. The award recognizes and honors a faculty member in public universities, community colleges, and independent colleges/universities for excellence in the integration of service learning into the curriculum and for impact on students and the community.

In addition, she was appointed as a 2022 Myrtilla Miner Fellow. The Myrtilla Miner Faculty Fellows Institute acknowledges educators who enhance teaching and learning metrics.

Paving Access Trails to Higher Security
Besides being a valued and award-winning professor, Plummer is also the director of UDC’s Paving Access Trails to Higher Security (PATHS) program. The work readiness program serves District residents receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. The program trains, up to 400 individuals annually, in Digital Literacy, Contact Tracing, and Community Health Worker certifications.

“As far as the work itself, it wasn’t too hard. You have to do a lot of your advocating for yourself or you won’t make it. You have to have a goal and stick to it,” said Alethea Hicks who finished a certification in CompTIA A+ in November 2022. Hicks learned and mastered networking, virtualization, cloud computing, and security topics. She awaits her background check to be completed so she can start working at the Pentagon as a PC Technician.

“The partnership with UDC [and the District of Columbia Government’s Department of Human Services] has exceeded over twenty years. Currently, under the leadership of Dr. Yolandra Plummer, she is equipping citizens in the District of Columbia with skills in digital skills, skills in contact tracing, and business administration. UDC and Dr. Plummer play a critical role in the transformation of our citizens citywide to uplift and enrich their lives,” said Dr. Victor McCrary, the Vice President for Research at UDC.

Home Is Where the Heart Is
“I remember my husband thinking that we’d just buy one of those ‘mini mansions’ in one of the Maryland suburbs like several of our friends and family. But I reminded him that Washington, DC would remain the nation’s capital and that maybe we should just live here. He agreed and we never regretted that decision. This area is a city for all seasons. The [Hillcrest/Penn Branch neighborhoods] have a rich history in African American culture. There is a warmth and caring here,” Plummer fondly proclaimed.

Besides appreciating her community, Plummer enjoys traveling on family vacations or getaways with good friends. The pescatarian also appreciates fine seafood like the traditional Maryland Crab Cake or Caribbean cuisine featuring shrimp rotis, escovitch king fish or steamed red snapper, callaloo, rice & peas, and sweet fried plantains.

Encouraged by the daily meditations that she digests, Dr. Plummer became an educator “to empower students and especially those of color in a culturally relevant setting. Many do not understand the power of information. I want my students to understand the importance of information and how to access and use it to their advantage in their professional and personal lives. When my students see me, they know that they matter because I care about them.”