Pitt Education Faculty Members and Alumna Receive 2023 AERA Publication of the Year Award

University of Pittsburgh School of Education faculty members Linda DeAngelo and Max Schuster, along with Pitt Education alumna Qiana Lachaud (PhD ‘20), received the 2023 Publication of the Year Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA)’s Graduate and Postdoctoral Education Across the Disciplines Special Interest Group.

The award recognized their article “The Faculty Role in Grooming and Gatekeeping Students’ of Color Potential Along the Professoriate Pipeline,” which was published in the renowned journal The Review of Higher Education.

The award was presented at the 2023 AERA Annual Meeting, held April 13-16, 2023, in Chicago.

The article focuses on how faculty members at colleges and universities interact with racially minoritized undergraduate students, specifically in relation to their potential to pursue a PhD. It examines how faculty relationships and mentoring impact the graduate education pathway for Students of Color.

“We need to think about the dominant narratives around student potential and challenge the structures in higher education that are oppressive,” says DeAngelo, an associate professor of higher education at Pitt Education and coordinator of the school’s PhD in higher education program. “Through that type of work, we can equitably open up pathways to the PhD for Students of Color.”

Building on the theoretical work and equity-minded practices of higher education scholar Estela Bensimon, the article examines how normative assumptions about student success, such as the ways faculty understand the utility of and use grades and tests scores as measures of student potential, limit access to mentoring and continuance in the PhD pathway for Students of Color.

“Not only does this article move theory forward in some bold new ways but there is also a strong practical element to our work that decodes the unquestioned worldviews practitioners and educators rely upon to make sense of student potential,” says Schuster, an assistant professor of practice at Pitt Education and coordinator of the school’s Master of Education in higher education program.

“Reimagining what student success would look like outside of these dominant narratives takes a concerted effort that intentionally targets these assumptions,” says DeAngelo. “Things like equity-minded holistic review of applications, having high expectations and rigorous curricula for students, and providing unbounded support for Students of Color are what’s really going to move us in the direction toward transformative change.” 

Recognizing the constraints of educational structures is an essential step in moving toward justice, says Lachaud, who earned a PhD in social and cultural analysis of education from Pitt Education and is now a clinical assistant professor at Georgia State University.

“I have witnessed far too many individuals’ well-being harmed by the diminishing of their cultural expressions in educational spaces. I hope that this work moves education closer to being a liberatory space,” says Lachaud. “In receiving this award, it provides me with hope that faculty members have clearer examples and a vision for how they can better participate in justice-oriented work.”

DeAngelo and Schuster agree that the article offers hope for diversifying and renewing graduate education. 

“It isn’t enough to help students navigate oppressive structures. A lot of equity work can be focused on how we get Students of Color around these barriers,” says DeAngelo. “The justice paradigm that emerges in our scholarship takes equity work beyond that to replace oppressive structures that have kept us where we are right now.”

“I hope that those working with students take away from our research that advancing equity and justice in higher education requires paradigmatic transformations that interrogate taken for granted assumptions about what constitutes student success,” says Schuster.

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DeAngelo and Schuster are faculty members in the Department of Educational Foundations, Organizations, and Policy at the Pitt School of Education. The programs are now accepting applications.