B.A., M.T., University of Virginia; Ed.D., Harvard University
Associate Professor of Education
Research on urban education, community organizing, parent engagement, and the intersection of research and practice.
I am interested in the relationships between schools and the communities they serve, particularly in urban and inner-city environments. While we typically view school reform as an issue of school programs and classroom interactions, I explore the ways institutions and organizations outside of schools (community organizing groups, families, churches, etc.) can play a role in school transformation. In particular, I am interested in the ways community organizing can play a role in school reform efforts—by building parent engagement and leadership, challenging traditional power relations, and educational issues to issues of civic and community life. My recently published book, A Cord of Three Strands: A New Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools (Harvard Education Press, 2011) is based on the successful work of one such organizing group in Chicago, using its model to develop new conceptual understandings of parent engagement.
I work with students who have an interest in urban education and educational policy. These students may go on to pursue careers in teaching or educational law and policy, or develop educational interests within broader fields and professions. In these classes, we establish both a foundation in sociopolitical, cultural, and historical contexts as well as an analysis of current and ongoing educational issues and debates. Broader questions are often explored within the local context of schools, districts, and communities; case study is a common pedagogical tool in these courses, allowing students to explore how context shapes issues and problems. Given Wellesley College's relative proximity to Boston and Cambridge, students in my Urban Education seminar use field placements in urban schools and communities to supplement and enhance what they learn in the classroom.
Beyond my commitment to teaching and service within the campus community, I am also a collaborator in a Harvard-based research project led by Mark Warren and Karen Mapp that explores national case studies on education organizing. I am also a founding steering committee member of a new special interest group of the American Educational Research Association on Grassroots Community and Youth Organizing. These experiences allow me to stay connected to a vibrant, exciting, and emerging field of research in education organizing. I also serve on the Massachusetts Knowledge and Skills of Professional Teaching project, a working group that is developing a streamlined set of guidelines to impact teacher education and practice in the state. Within this group, I am co-chairing a subcommittee that is focused on parent and community engagement.
Residing in Boston, I enjoy the diversity of the city and find that many of my research journeys (exploring social justice, challenging inequality, and working for social change) parallel my personal journeys. I also take advantage of what New England has to offer, using the outdoors to enjoy hiking, biking, and a budding interest in photography.