GSE launches new center on Race and Equity in Education

Ask Graduate School of Education associate professor Shaun Harper why he felt the need to launch the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education and he’ll tell you it’s about consolidating knowledge.

While there are faculty across campus who study race and equity issues in education at all levels, or conduct research into the factors that shape educational outcomes, Harper says Penn lacked a venue that brought all of those experts together to study equity issues in a cross-disciplinary fashion.

That is why GSE has established the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, an interdisciplinary hub that will unite researchers who study related topics in order to inform education policy and practice. The Center’s mission is to improve equity in pre-K to 12 schools, colleges, and universities, as well as the social contexts that influence educational outcomes.

Professors from GSE, the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Social Policy & Practice, the Wharton School, and Penn Nursing are faculty affiliates of the Center.

“There are racial disparities and other inequities that permeate the educational pipeline here in Philadelphia and across our nation,” Harper says. “It would be difficult to find a school district or university that is not grappling with inequities of some sort. The Center staff and affiliates will collaborate on cutting-edge research that shapes policy and institutional responses to widespread inequities in the American education system.”

The Center recently released its inaugural report, “Black Male Student Success in Higher Education.” In it, Harper examines 219 black male undergraduate achievers at 42 public and private colleges in 20 states. These students earned good grades, maximized their experiences, and overcame hurdles that typically disadvantage their peers. Rather than studying their success from a deficit model, Harper looked at what factors and institutional practices enabled the achievers to succeed.

“I am incredibly lucky to be at a university that has such brilliant scholars who think about race and equity issues that are related to schooling at all levels,” Harper says.  “And I am excited to help facilitate and bring these colleagues together to capitalize on the interdisciplinary nature that is characteristic of Penn.”

While race is a focal emphasis of the Center, its projects and activities will include other equity-related issues such as gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.

For more information, visit the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education website.

Racial and Equity Center