Equity and Diversity
The faculty of the University of Delaware College of Education and Human Development are committed to the creation of a more equitable society, one in which every individual, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation has an equal opportunity to thrive and prosper. This not only means equal access to vital social services like education and healthcare but also additional support and opportunities that address persistent disadvantages among groups or individuals.
Research carried out by our faculty has helped scientists, policymakers and the general public better understand the root causes of systemic problems in our society and develop solutions that will broadly improve quality of life. Supported by grants and collaborative partnerships, our faculty study unequal access to mental health services for people of color, the achievement gap, homelessness, poverty, incarceration and many more systemic problems afflicting historically marginalized communities.
Researchers by Topic
Nationally, studies have demonstrated that disciplinary approaches, such as suspension and expulsion, are overly applied to boys, children of color, and children with disabilities with devastating consequences. How can we prevent early childhood programs from using these approaches for children from birth to age 5? Martha Buell’s research in education and social policy centers on the quality of early care and education for infants and toddlers. Her most recent project, funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, analyzes the alignment and cohesion between the federal Child Care and Development Fund policy guidance in relation to disciplinary approaches and state-level policy actors.
How can build meaningful connections between educational theory and practice? As a clinical professor in Human Development and Family Sciences, Rosalyn Washington’s areas of interest include teacher preparation, educational policy relating to early childhood education academic redshirting and mentoring and other-mothering of graduate students. She teaches courses related to literacy, inclusion, professionalism and engaging diverse families.
What steps can teacher education programs take now to train the next generation of teachers to be culturally responsive? Since 2015, Lynn Worden and co-researchers Rosalie Rolon-Dow and Jill Flynn have been developing a curriculum for teacher candidates at the University of Delaware with the goal of developing racial literacy. Their recent research offers guidance on helping students to understand that race is a social construct and reflect on ways that the opportunity gap created by racist structures impacts education, special education, discipline in schools and resources for schools.
How can we build more inclusive communities? Ann Aviles’ research focuses on examining the policies, services and programs that impact the educational opportunities, material realities and mental health of youth of color who are experiencing homelessness or other forms of instability. Aviles also collaborates with community-based organizations to advocate for educational access, equitable funding and anti-racist systems and practices with, and for, students and families of color experiencing homelessness, poverty, incarceration, and mental health challenges.
In what ways do at-risk families and their communities impact adolescent and young adult developmental outcomes? Mellissa Gordon’s research explores the complex ways that interactions between these systems (families, communities, and youth) inform youth and young adult outcomes. Her work is situated at the intersection of several theoretical frameworks, including Ecological Theory and Critical Race Theory. She aims to identify protective factors that can mitigate the adverse circumstances that emerge in the lives of ethnoracial minority youth, and to promote meaningful, sustainable, life-long success.
How do we bridge LGBTQ+ developmental research and community impact through developmentally-informed, affirmative interventions? Eric Layland’s research areas include LGBTQ+ within-group differences in mental health and unhealthy substance use, the impact of stigma on LGBTQ+ development, strengths-based approaches to LGBTQ+ health and LGBTQ+ affirmative interventions. Through community partnerships and funding support from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Layland has led and collaborated on several intervention evaluations.
How do past and present race, ethnicity, gender and social class dynamics shape the educational opportunities and experiences of urban families? Drawing on sociocultural frameworks including critical race theory, cultural production theory, and diaspora studies, Rolon-Dow’s research aims to address issues of educational inequity and seeks to promote socially just educational practices and policies that draw on the strengths and cultural resources of families and communities.
What is the relationship between globalization and family change? According to Bahira Trask, even as women are increasingly working outside the home, and likely traveling long commutes to labor-intensive jobs, domestic roles remain largely unchanged—women have continued to handle most domestic chores, raising the question about improvements in their quality of life. However, financial independence has also ushered in a new era for women globally, where women in unhealthy relationships are more likely to leave. Trask is a frequent member of United Nations expert group meetings, and in 2018 delivered the keynote address for the United Nations International Day of Families.
How can schools address the mental health gap that exists between white and non-white students? According to Tia Barnes, the mental well-being of students of color is often overlooked by researchers developing social and emotional learning interventions. Few have incorporated culturally responsive strategies that acknowledge the role racism can play in student mental well-being. Barnes is the principal investigator for a Delaware Department of Health and Social Services grant-funded project that will examine the physical and mental health, social media use, and discrimination experiences of black girls ages 10-19 in the state of Delaware.
How can we improve health inequities? Valerie Earnshaw’s research focuses on understanding and addressing the relationship between health inequities and stigma. She seeks to improve health outcomes through interventions to improve the wellbeing of vulnerable and at-risk children, youth, families and those living with chronic illnesses. With the support of a National Institute of Mental Health grant, Earnshaw is currently developing an intervention to reduce clinician stigma and improve HIV outcomes.
What’s driving disparities in health outcomes between white and non-white patients? Heather Farmer’s research focuses on the intersections of race, gender, and socioeconomic status (SES) in producing health disparities in older adults. She has conducted longitudinal analyses of racial disparities in chronic disease physiology and outcomes using nationally-representative panel survey data on middle-aged and older adults in the Health and Retirement Study. Dr. Farmer is involved in several projects that are funded through the NIH, including as co-investigator on a REACH Equity Award that aims to examine racial disparities in 30-day readmission rates in older adults with cardiovascular disease.
What does it mean to “matter” as a Black boy in the United States? How do both Black and Latino adolescent boys conceptualize their postsecondary futures? Roderick Carey’s research examines the school experiences of Black and Latino boys (18 and under) and how they conceptualize their post-secondary school futures and enact college-going processes. Inspired by Black Lives Matter, and funded by UD’s Partnership for Public Education and the Spencer Foundation, Carey’s new research project, “The Black Boy Mattering Project,” will challenge educators to reflect on their interactions with Black boys in particular and (re)imagine learning contexts that compel these boys to matter abundantly.
How can we understand and improve the quality of instruction in mathematics in K-12 educational settings? Erica Litke’s research focuses on understanding and improving instructional quality in mathematics across three strands: describing and analyzing instructional practices using observation instruments, connecting instructional quality to broader issues in education by understanding the policy climate in which mathematics teaching occurs, and developing teacher knowledge. In a recent study, Litke used an observation instrument she developed to examine instructional practice in algebra lessons and support professional development opportunities for teachers tied to these instructional practices.
How can we best prepare teachers who are willing to examine and address the effects of race and intersecting social constructs on schooling? Dr. Rolón-Dow’s research focuses on the intersections of sociocultural identities and educational equity and opportunity, and on the application of critical race frameworks to educational problems. She investigates pedagogies that promote racial literacy development in pre-service teachers. She also explores how pre-service teachers respond to curriculum that addresses race and racism in educational experiences. Dr. Rolón-Dow engages teaching and scholarship projects that aim to make racial literacy a foundational pillar of teacher education programs.
How can K-12 teachers connect their students’ personal, lived experiences to an often mandated, impersonal, and standards-based curriculum? This question is pressing for teachers who are working in under-resourced schools serving students who have been historically marginalized by traditionally oppressive curricula. Elizabeth Soslau’s research has shown that teachers highly valued the opportunity to humanize their classrooms and implement a pedagogical framework that focused on elevating students’ voices and incorporating students’ lived experiences as part of a meaningful and rigorous curriculum focused on developing students’ sense of agency.
How can we promote students’ and personnel’s mental and behavioral health through multi-tiered systems of support in schools? Brittany Zakszeski’s research leverages advances in implementation science to address barriers to schools’ adoption, high-fidelity implementation and sustained use of evidence-based assessment and intervention practices at the universal (system-wide), targeted and individual levels. In recognition of limited school resources and workforce shortages, she prioritizes refining accessible, efficient and scalable practices. She is particularly committed to promoting equitable outcomes for minoritized students, families and communities.
How has the emergence of disability studies transformed higher education? According to Laura Eisenman, students with disabilities have greater access to post-secondary learning opportunities, but disparities persist according to class, race and gender. Eisenman’s research focuses primarily on post-secondary education opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities. She was the principal investigator of a five-year grant to fund transition and postsecondary programs for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Her research also includes understanding the social and community experiences of young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, exploring the meaning of disability in educational contexts, and the integration of disability studies perspectives in interdisciplinary pre-service professional programs.
How do racially minoritized students experience the racial climate of predominantly white universities? Dr. Rolón-Dow uses narrative storytelling to capture students’ experiences of racial microaggression and microaffirmation on university campuses. These stories illustrate how racially minoritized university students navigate predominantly white universities. Her work illuminates problematic types of racial interactions on university campuses as well as interactions that can contribute to more racially affirming campus environments. Dr. Rolón- Dow’s work outlining a theory and typology of racial microaffirmations was published in Race, Ethnicity and Education. Dr. Rolón-Dow has also conducted research on the experiences of Latinx students in Puerto Rico and mainland U.S. universities. She focuses on the ways Latinx students experience diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
Research has demonstrated that students from underrepresented groups often foster deeper connections with teachers who share a cultural, racial, or ethnic background with them. But, how can we encourage more students from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue teaching as a career? Carol Wong’s research and service interests center on equity and the learning sciences. Her recent projects with University of Delaware colleagues aim to improve academic and social support for prospective teacher education students who are underrepresented, low-income, or first-generation college students. She has also worked to create a “pipeline” that encourages Delaware youth from historically underrepresented populations to enroll in teacher education programs at the University of Delaware.
Funded Research & Engagement
Transformation Grant: Racial Literacy Education, Phase II
Co-PIs: Rosalie Rolon-Dow, Jill Flynn, Lynn Worden
Center for Teaching and Assessment of Learning
The Black Boy Mattering Project: A Partnership with a Local Delaware High School Grant
PI: Roderick Carey
Partnership for Public Education, University of Delaware
Street PAR Health Project: How Street Identified Black Youth and Young Adults Understand and Experience Violence in Two Local Neighborhoods
PI: Yasser A. Payne, Co-PIs: Ann M. Aviles and LeRoi S. Hicks
Christiana Care Hospital
School-Based Mental Health Promotion in the First State: Building Capacity with Multi-Tiered Systems of Support
PI: Brittany Zakszeski, Co-PI: Marika Ginsburg-Block
United States Department of Education
Need in Deed Learning Collaborative–Critical Service Learning and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy at Warner Elementary School, Wilmington, DE
PI: Elizabeth Soslau
Partnership for Public Education, University of Delaware
IMPART: A Provider-Assisted HIV Partner Notification & Testing Intervention for Prisoners in Indonesia
Co-PIs: Valerie Earnshaw, G. Culbert
National Institute of Mental Health
From theory to practice: Critical service-learning in urban elementary and middle school classrooms
Co-PIs: Elizabeth Soslau, Kathleen Riley
Aneysha (AJ) de Coteau
AJ’s research interests include race and diversity in education, queer theory in education, equity in education, and teacher preparation for diversity.
Nefeteria aims to pursue academic and policy work centered on pan-Africanism and the sociology of education, specifically ways to cultivate spaces to develop youth agency as a bridge between theory and practice.
In the News
In the News
Culturally responsive (CR) teaching, a teaching approach that leverages students’ cultural identities to support their academic success, requires a particular …
Allison Karpyn, associate professor in CEHD’s Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, offers new insight into how state regulations …
Career and technical education (CTE), or educational programs that specialize in the skilled trades, applied sciences, modern technologies and career …
How do we create high schools where Black boys believe that they matter? According to University of Delaware (UD) assistant …
Research Centers & Labs
The Autism in Context Research Lab, directed by Dr. Sarah Curtiss, conducts research that is useful to autistic youth, their families and educational professionals. Research topics have included family mealtimes, sex education and the transition to adulthood.
The Center for Disabilities Studies works to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families through education, advocacy, service and research. It promotes empowerment and opportunity, accessibility and inclusiveness, so all may fully participate in – and enrich – their communities.
New Directions Early Head Start (NDEHS) provides pregnant women, infants, toddlers and their families with quality care and family services. They support families and their very young children with the goal to promote children’s success and families’ self-sufficiency through community collaboration and partnerships.