Erica Walker Named to Lead Teachers College’s Institute for Urban and Minority Education
Expert in mathematics education will build on the rich history and innovations of a longstanding TC flagship
Erica N. Walker, Professor of Mathematics & Education, has been named the new Director of Teachers College’s Institute for Urban & Minority Education (IUME), effective January 1, 2018.
Walker, a former public high school mathematics teacher who earned her doctorate from Harvard University in administration, planning and social policy, is an authority on the social and cultural factors and educational policies and practices that facilitate math engagement, learning and performance, especially for underserved students. She is the author of two books, Building Mathematics Learning Communities: Improving Outcomes in Urban High Schools (Teachers College Press, 2012) and Beyond Banneker: Black Mathematicians and the Paths to Excellence (SUNY Press, 2014). In 2015, she delivered the prestigious Etta Z. Falconer Lecture in Washington, D.C., to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Mathematical Association of America.
Walker also will continue to serve as Chair of the College’s Department of Math, Science & Technology.
IUME was founded in 1974 by psychologist Edmund W. Gordon, Jr., who continues to hold the title of Director Emeritus. The Institute’s guiding premise as a hub of research and development for urban and minority education has been the need to attend to the broader contexts that surround the educational lives and trajectories of young people and adults alike, and to reveal new understandings of the nature of education writ large. During the 1980s, IUME was the largest research and development unit of Teachers College, taking in substantial federal and private dollars.
“I’m greatly honored to have the opportunity to lead IUME, which is such a central part of Teachers College and was one of the very first university initiatives of its kind to address issues in urban education and advocate for underserved people.”
— Erica Walker
Gordon was succeeded in 2011 by Ernest Morrell, a highly regarded expert on English education. Morrell’s six-year tenure marked a time of dynamic creativity for IUME that included a major focus on youth participatory action research, a cross-disciplinary initiative to introduce local students to the education history of Harlem, and the establishment of TC’s annual Edmund W. Gordon Lecture. Morrell left TC to join the faculty of the University of Notre Dame but remains active in the academic life of the College with his students and colleagues.
Erica Walker’s association with IUME dates back to her arrival at Teachers College in 2001 as a Minority Postdoctoral Fellow. She was soon named a Research Fellow at the Institute and subsequently a Faculty Fellow.
“I’m greatly honored to have the opportunity to lead IUME, which is such a central part of Teachers College and was one of the very first university initiatives of its kind to address issues in urban education and advocate for underserved people,” she says. “That focus, created by Dr. Gordon, was such an important innovation, and we want to carry it forward into the 21st century – especially in the current political climate.”
Walker offered particular praise for IUME’s use of cities as “text” and as rich sites for developing human potential.
“IUME has always had a strong combination of faculty, students and staff whose interest in educational opportunity and equity extends beyond the classroom,” she says. “And that’s appropriate, because TC is the home of John Dewey, and the belief that life itself is education is a key idea, central to the College’s mission. How we see cities as landscapes for learning and as contested sites of democracy and power is central to educational questions today.”
Last year, Walker delivered IUME’s fourth annual Edmund W. Gordon Lecture, in which she argued that more students might identify as “math people” if schools leveraged their informal introductions to the subject by “sponsors” of all rank and station. She is anxious to continue building IUME as a site of inquiry and advocacy. IUME has the capacity, among other things, to highlight ways in which young people engage in learning within and beyond schools and to drive efforts to challenge and surmount educational inequities.
“I love Ernest Morrell’s work in literacy. I think it inspires us to see that mathematics works in a similarly interdisciplinary way, situational and complex, taking place in the real world as well as in people’s imaginations,” says Walker, who served on the search committee that hired her predecessor. “IUME has a rich tradition of inviting people from multiple disciplines to work together to solve problems, to generate, curate and disseminate important ideas relevant to research and practice, and to enrich our understanding of how to enhance human potential. I’m excited about continuing IUME’s work and bringing some new ideas to shepherd it into the future.”
Published Monday, Dec 11, 2017