June 2021: Angela J. Little

Owner, Angela J. Little LLC, Chicago, IL

Angela J. Little

  • Member since 2009
  • Senior Project Manager & Organizational Development Specialist
  • Chicago, IL

About Angela

When I was a kid growing up in Salem, Oregon, we didn't get a lot of lightning. It was such a special occasion to have a lightning storm that my dad would say, "get in the car!" and we would drive up to a high (but not the highest) hill to watch. Even though lightning storms are much more frequent in Chicago, where I live now, I still feel some of that childhood excitement every time they come through. I have to give my dad a lot of credit for instilling in me a curiosity and excitement about phenomena in the natural world. 

I also come from educators. My mom is an educator, and she spent decades as a speech pathologist working with young children. My grandma on my dad’s side was a kindergarten teacher and my middle name, Jean, is her name. Her mother was a leader in our tribe, the Chinook Nation, and often took on an educator role in that space. Her mother was one of the very first teachers in Pacific County, Washington and my Aunt tells the following story that we joke about to this day: "For her first assignment in the Willapa Valley area, she was offered a pig in exchange for a term's work. That seemed fair salary; her Ilwaco family could make use of a pig. At school’s end, the farmer who had raised the pig tethered it behind the schoolhouse for Jane to take home the next day. Unhappily, in the morning she found that a bear had done away with her “salary” during the night." 

I currently serve on my tribe’s education-related committee and I feel grateful to get to support future generations in their educational endeavors. If you don’t know about the Chinook, I encourage you to read this article. 

So how did I end up as an AAPT member? One major factor is that I had an amazing high school physics teacher whose name was Michael Lampert. Mr. Lampert made physics fun and encouraged me to major in physics in college. He also worked with me to make up work when some difficult things going on in my family meant that I skipped class all the time (my senior award was “most likely to be gone on a test day”). I wouldn’t have thought to major in physics in college without him. I then attended Seattle Pacific University and was one of the very first undergraduate Learning Assistants there, working with Stamatis Vokos and Lane Seeley. After getting into high energy physics research, I accepted an offer to attend UC Berkeley for my PhD in physics.

OK, we’re almost to the AAPT membership! As a graduate student I started to feel that large research university physics culture was not my culture - the de-emphasis of education and the prioritization of research, the individualism, the ways whiteness and maleness constrained and dominated. I found fellow graduate students who shared common values with me and we banded together to create a program, a space where we could emphasize community, experiment with education, and work toward equity. The first time I gave a presentation at AAPT, in 2008, it was about this program. I remember AAPT as a community where people cared about what we had to say and connected with us.

Ultimately, I shifted from physics graduate school to interdisciplinary physics education. For the last decade I’ve worked on grants that have brought me regularly to the AAPT community and I’m grateful for the connections I’ve made there. AAPT is also where I met Dr. Ximena Cid, who connected me to a burgeoning Indigenous physicist community that has now become the Society of Indigenous Physicists. Just this year I began serving on AAPT’s Committee on Diversity in Physics and I look forward to serving the community in this way. 

These days, I am a small business owner operating out of Chicago, IL. My expertise is in project management and organizational development, informed by equity and anti-oppression principles. I work mainly with Dr. Vashti Sawtelle’s physics education research group at Michigan State University and McKensie Mack’s MMG business doing this work. 

Sending you all good thoughts in this difficult year; I hope for us the support of community and rest when the world is too much.