Equity and Diversity
The faculty of the 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
By the time a child from an affluent family is three years old, he will typically have heard around 25 million words. Contrast that with a child raised below the poverty level, who may only have been exposed to around 10 million words. So how do we close the “word gap”? According to Martha Buell, director of the Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood, at-risk children need access to high-quality early care and education programs that will help them to learn and grow in a supportive environment. Buell researches primarily with the Early Literacy Project, which is designed to increase the language and literacy skills of Head Start Preschool children.
What steps can teacher education programs take now to train the next generation of teachers to be anti-racist? 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.
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.
Department Chair & Professor
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.
Is racial justice partly a pedagogical project, a matter of learning? Janine de Novais’ research answers that question with a resounding yes. Derived from her ethnographic study and practice-based inquiry of courses on race, her Brave Community pedagogical approach supports educators and thought leaders to teach about race in ways that support people to unlearn racism. This research and practice are enriched through the contributions of practitioners in K-12 and higher education that de Novais encounters through her Brave Community Workshop™.
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 foster educational spaces that are more inclusive of the lived experiences of historically marginalized communities? Janine de Novais researches at the intersection of race, culture, democracy and education, and she explores the interaction of race and culture in educational spaces. In her recent work, de Novais introduces Brave Community, a theory about the relationship between classroom dynamics and meaningful learning about race and culture. In 2016, de Novais was one of nine “Promising Minority Scholars” honored by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), as well as a semi-finalist for the 2016 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship.
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.
Carol Wong’s research and service interests center on equity and the learning sciences. Recent projects aim to enhance diversity recruitment efforts by improving academic and social support for prospective teacher education students who are underrepresented, low-income, or potential first-generation college students, including the creation of a “pipeline,” whereby Delaware youth from historically underrepresented populations would enroll in teacher education programs at the University of Delaware, which in turn, will increase the diversity of teachers in our local schools.
Funded Research & Engagement
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
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
Advisor: Rob Palkovitz
Ph.D. in Human Development & Family Sciences
Kendell’s research interest is centered around critical race theory, ethnic identity development, the continuation of racism and ethnic discrimination through systems (i.e. family, education, policy), its impact on individuals and families and how to combat it.
In the News
UD researcher surveying Black girls to help reduce disparities
A University of Delaware researcher is surveying the experiences of Black girls in Delaware to better understand their lives and help community advocates develop targeted interventions to reduce disparities and help them succeed. Tia Barnes, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, is collaborating with …
CEHD Faculty Receive General University Research Grants
Twelve University of Delaware professors, including three in the School of Education and one in the Department of Human Development & Family Sciences, have won General University Research grants to work on a broad range of projects, from reducing mealtime stress for families with autistic children, to using artificial intelligence …
Improving Teacher Diversity
There’s a critical shortage of male teachers of color in the United States. Black and Latino men make up less than five percent of the teaching workforce, even as the student population in school districts across the country are growing more racially and ethnically diverse. They are underrepresented in teacher …
Research Centers & Labs
The Autism in Context Research Lab, directed by Assistant Professor 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.