Darris Means, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, was named one of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education’s 2023 Emerging Scholars.
Each year, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education editors select candidates based on their research, educational background, publishing record, teaching record, and competitiveness and uniqueness in their field of study. Means is one of 15 scholars selected this year nationally.
“I am honored to be recognized by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education,” says Means. “My work is built on collaboration with faculty and student co-researchers. Thus the honor is recognizing collaborative work that examines and addresses racial, class, and spatial equity in education.”
Much of Means’ interest in higher education is focused on access. His research examines racial and class inequities in rural contexts, and he challenges perspectives that equate rurality to whiteness.
“I want to push educators, policymakers, and researchers to consider a diverse rural geographical context in their practices, policymaking process, and research,” says Means.
Means earned his PhD in Educational Research and Policy Analysis with a concentration in higher education from North Carolina State University. During that time, he worked full time with the Elon Academy, a college access and success program for high school students with financial needs or no family history of college.
“I am a first-generation college student who received the maximum Pell Grant,” says Means. “So the opportunity to learn from the Elon Academy students and families is one of the most impactful professional experiences I had in my life.”
After working as an assistant professor of college student affairs administration at the University of Georgia, Means joined the Pitt School of Education in 2020.
“I decided to join the Pitt faculty because of the opportunity to engage in scholarship and practice related to spatial equity for rural students, schools, and communities,” says Means.
Due to his rural scholarship, Means has had many opportunities to advance equity in rural education. In 2021, the Ascendium Education Group invited him to serve on an advisory board to develop a national postsecondary rural research agenda. He also served as the Inaugural Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Chair for the American Education Research Association’s Rural Education Special Interest Group from 2020-2022. Additionally, Darris was elected to the National Rural Education Association’s executive committee as the Rural Researcher representative in 2023.
Means believes Pitt Education is preparing future educators and leaders in higher education to create more equitable and just college and university campuses.
“Because of Dean Valerie Kinloch’s leadership, the school has taken a strong stance to not just talk about equity and justice but to ensure equity and justice are at the center of everything we do,” says Means.
Darris Means teaches in the Pitt School of Education’s Department of Educational Foundations, Organizations, and Policy. The programs are now accepting applications.