November 11, 2015

Four Penn GSE faculty chosen to lead three top education associations

Penn GSE faculty have achieved a rare trifecta in the leadership of professional organizations. Three top associations in education have elected four Penn GSE faculty members to current or future terms as president—demonstrating the School’s place at the forefront of education.

Vivian L. Gadsden, the William T. Carter Professor of Child Development and Education, will begin a one-year term as president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in April 2016. AERA is the largest national professional organization devoted to the scientific study of education.

Laura W. Perna, James S. Riepe Professor, was the 2014-2015 president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), considered the leading organization for higher education scholars. She completed her term in November 2015 as her colleague Associate Professor Shaun R. Harper prepares to take on the role of ASHE president for 2016-2017. Dr. Harper is currently an AERA council member-at-large, serving a three-year term that began this year. Perna and Harper will serve simultaneously on the board of ASHE during 2015-2016 in the roles of immediate past president and president-elect, respectively.

Rebecca A. Maynard, University Trustee Professor of Education and Social Policy, was elected in January 2015 to a two-year term as president of the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE), regarded as the leading association that promotes greater and better use of evidence to improve education policy and practice. 

“Having a faculty member recognized with any one of these honors would be a coup for a school of education,” said Penn GSE Dean Pam Grossman. “Collectively, they represent an extraordinary achievement.”

The four faculty have been elected by their peers to guide multiple facets of education scholarship across the country.

According to Gadsden, serving as president of AERA will mean working to improve lives by promoting best practices in education research, policy, and practice. “I hope to work with AERA members to deepen our understanding of the vast array of issues that face children and families in different learning settings and teaching contexts, and work toward creating positive pathways for child and family well-being,” said Gadsden, who is director of the National Center on Fathers and Families and associate director of the National Center on Adult Literacy.

Perna has also focused on real-world impact, specifically for higher education research, as president of ASHE. She has led collaborations between ASHE and five other organizations to help scholars better meet the needs of educators and policymakers. “Each collaboration is identifying directions for future research, as well as guidelines for continuing to productively connect research, policy, and practice,” said Perna, who is executive director of Penn AHEAD and chair of Penn GSE’s Higher Education Division.

As president of SREE, Maynard leads efforts aimed at understanding cause-and-effect relationships in educational problems. “I am especially proud of SREE’s success in bringing together scholars at all stages of their careers and from diverse backgrounds to improve the utility, rigor, and use of education science,” said Maynard. “We engage doctoral students, researchers, and scholars in professional development, scholarly exchanges, and the publication of our highly ranked journal, the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness.”

Through his roles with AERA and ASHE, Harper looks forward to contributing to both the field of education and the professional organizations themselves. “Strategically improving the associations’ internal cultures of inclusivity while strengthening their external impact are top priorities of mine,” said Harper, who is director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education.

By furthering expertise to support education and their colleagues, Gadsden, Perna, Harper, and Maynard can have a broad influence. Harper notes, “Leadership roles afford professors incredible opportunities to collaboratively set and advance agendas that will affect hundreds, thousands, and perhaps millions of people.”