Leigh Patel, a Professor in the Department of Educational Foundations, Organizations, and Policy, is an interdisciplinary researcher, educator, and writer. With a background in sociology, she researches and teaches about education as a site of social reproduction and as a potential site for transformation. She works extensively with societally marginalized youth and teacher activists.
Patel previously served as the school's inaugural Associate Dean of Equity and Justice. Patel came to Pittsburgh from her role as Professor at UC Riverside Graduate School of Education, where she held an appointment in the Education, Society, and Culture program. She previously spent 13 years as a tenured faculty member at Boston College, in addition to prior appointments as adjunct faculty at University of Nevada Las Vegas and visiting scholar positions with several international universities.
"I am excited to be part of this well-established public university at a time of tremendous energy and innovation,” Patel said. “I work across research, policy, and practice, often utilizing historical analysis and collaborative knowledge building to further equity and justice. Education is a crucial part of societies, and I work towards transforming those institution to focus on learning rather than social reproduction and containment."
“With every action, we are furthering equity and justice or impeding it. Often there is a combination at work. I take up hard questions of these intricacies within Pitt and the long and active history of arts and activism in Pittsburgh,” said Patel.
Since receiving her PhD in Curriculum & Instruction with emphases in sociology of education and literacy from UNLV, Patel has become a consistent voice in educational policymaking and policy analysis. She is the recipient of the June Jordan Award for scholarly leadership and poetic bravery in social critique. She also is a national board member of Education for Liberation, a long-standing organization dedicated to transformative education for and by youth of color.
Patel, also published under Lisa Patel Stevens, is the author of Decolonizing Educational Research: From Ownership to Answerability, Youth Held at the Border: Immigration, Education and the Politics of Inclusion, co-author of Critical Literacy: Context, Research, and Praxis in the K-12 Classroom and co-editor of ReConstructing the Adolescent: Sign, Symbol and Body. She also has authored dozens of scholarly articles and book chapters with her writing and research being featured in media outlets including The Atlantic, Beacon Broadside, The Feminist Wire, Racialicious.com and HuffPost Live. Her work has been supported by grants from the Spencer Foundation and the American Educational Research Association. She is also a highly sought after public speaker about equity and justice issues in education.
Her latest book, Without struggle there no study: Higher education in a settler colony will be released in early 2021 from Beacon Press.
Prior to working in higher education, Patel was a journalist, teacher, and state-level policymaker. She earned a master’s in Curriculum Development with an emphasis in secondary pedagogy while in the midst of her teaching career. Across all of these experiences, her focus has been on the ways that education structures opportunities in society and the stories that are told about those opportunities.