TerrapinEdTalks: Advancing Equity

Equity and Justice in Education

The College of Education at the University of Maryland is a community dedicated to research and practice that transforms education to advance equity and social justice. Our work expands access to educational opportunities that empower all individuals to reach their goals and to fully participate in the broader civic, democratic, and economic fabric of society.

Our students benefit from mentorship and research opportunities with the exceptional scholars who make up our diverse faculty. From disability studies to STEM education, we are at the forefront of developing innovative coursework and conducting cutting-edge research to advance equity, inclusion, anti-racism, and social justice.

We partner closely with local school systems through teaching internships, K-12 school improvement projects, education leadership development, school counseling initiatives, and research collaborations. Our Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education is a hub for research and collaboration with national experts on issues related to equity in higher education. 

Our status as Maryland’s flagship university and our location just outside of Washington, D.C. allows for close relationships with policymakers, research agencies and nonprofit organizations on Capitol Hill and around the world. 

For our work on social justice to have an impact, it is vital that we not only further understanding of education and human development, but that we share that knowledge to improve lives in Maryland and throughout the broader national and international community. Our alumni are leaders in their fields, who continue this work in schools, community agencies, colleges, and universities. 

At the core of the College of Education’s values, academics, and research is a commitment to excellence and equity in and through education.


Centers and Campus Initiatives

An Equitable Professoriate: UMD’s ADVANCE program

Patricia Alexander presents at TerrapinEdTalks: Advancing Equity

The University of Maryland College of Education is proud to support the ADVANCE program, which promotes a diverse, inclusive work environment, and offers critical information and guidance for UMD faculty members, particularly women and individuals from marginalized groups in academia.

Each college on campus has an ADVANCE professor available to support faculty navigating the academic landscape. ADVANCE professors offer regular check-ins and mentorship opportunities, as well as help in answering questions on tenure, parental and family leave, and maintaining productivity during times of crisis, such as COVID-19.

“Our goal is to be the person they come to whenever they have issues or questions,” said Patricia Alexander, UMD Distinguished University Professor and COE’s ADVANCE Professor.

Dr. Alexander, for instance, ran a recent virtual meeting on staying productive for the university-wide “Keep Our Faculties” program, an initiative that promotes the professional growth of pre-tenure women faculty.

“It’s one thing to get them in the door, it’s one thing to keep them at Maryland, and it’s another thing to see them grow across their career,” said Dr. Alexander.

At COE, ADVANCE initiatives include nominating women and members of marginalized groups for national awards, honors, and fellowships. Moreover, ADVANCE links together diverse faculty groups, such as the ADVANCE Leadership Fellows, co-lead by Dean Jennifer King Rice, and COE’s Faculty of Color group, spearheaded by COE faculty members Richard Quentin Shin and Ebony Terrell Shockley.

The ADVANCE program started with an initial five years of funding from the National Science Foundation and focused on women in academia. Since then, many universities, including UMD, have continued to fund the program and include marginalized faculty to create an inclusive, diverse and welcoming university environment.

“For Maryland, if you invest in a faculty member, you invest in them for their career,” said Dr. Alexander. “Our goal is to make them feel welcome and that they belong.”

[TerrapinEdTalks: Advancing Equity event in 2019; Photo: Tony Richards]

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education

Thought Leaders Summit 2019

The College of Education’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education provides expertise on issues related to diversity, inclusion and social justice in higher education. Aiming to promote collaboration and interdisciplinary research, the Center provides a venue for studying and communicating the importance and transformative effects of diversity and inclusion practices in higher education. Dr. Roger L. Worthington serves as executive director, and Dr. Candace M. Moore is the director of the Center. 

With a national scope, the Center engages scholars and practitioners about research, policy and professional standards promoting more equitable and inclusive environments and outcomes for all in postsecondary education. The Center hosts an annual Thought Leaders Summit, which convenes nationally recognized scholars and practitioners to discuss some of the field’s most pressing issues and determine research priorities. This work is essential and timely, with anti-black racism a discussion not only in higher education, but also in societies across the world.

Dr. Moore was named American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Diamond Honoree for 2021, for making outstanding contributions to ACPA, student affairs and services, and higher education. Dr. Worthington is the 2020 recipient of the Dr. Frank W. Hale, Jr. Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE), recognizing his long standing contributions in service and scholarship to the field of diversity and inclusion in higher education. 

[Thought Leaders Summit in 2019. Photo: Tony Richards]

Maryland Institute for Minority Achievement and Urban Education (MIMAUE)


The Maryland Institute for Minority Achievement and Urban Education focuses on racial and social justice in K-12 education, addressing the achievement gap, and improving urban education through community partnerships. 

On a broad level, MIMAUE serves as a hub for research and exchange on major questions regarding urban education, student learning, policy matters, organizational development, leadership and professional development, and effective school reform. The Institute works in concert with local partners, particularly Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, to construct, implement and research mutually productive efforts to help solve problems and meet urban education challenges.

One of MIMAUE’s signature projects is Mathletics, an innovative research and educational enrichment project that fosters math knowledge and fluency, and promotes the integration of students’ athletic and STEM identities. MIMAUE’s director, Dr. Stephanie Timmons-Brown, co-directs the Mathletics project with Dr. Lawrence Clark, an associate professor in mathematics education. Hosted at the University of Maryland and Coppin State University in Baltimore, the program received $1.7 million in funding in 2019 from the National Science Foundation and aims to engage African American and Latinx youth in STEM learning by building students’ knowledge of statistical concepts and data science through sports. 

[Mathletics program in 2019; Photo: Chris Samoray]

Teaching and Learning

Learning about Cultural Diversity through Intergroup Dialogue

Fall 2019 Master's SAC cohort

Having tough conversations about difficult topics is key to tackling societal issues. The College of Education has been at the forefront of training educators on how to create inclusive classrooms and engage in these critical conversations. In response to past, present and future social injustices, COE created the Intergroup Dialogue course. For almost 20 years, the Intergroup Dialogue course has brought students and faculty with different social identities together to discuss multiple forms of bias and marginalization, including sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, and religious oppression.

Master’s students in the student affairs concentration are also engaged in the Intergroup Dialogue program, facilitating and engaging in real-world conversations in a co-facilitated and structured environment. Students have the opportunity to complete training that allows them to co-teach the course  to undergraduate students across the UMD campus. 

Partially funded by an innovative teaching and learning grant from the University of Maryland’s Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), COE recently revamped this course to train students on how to facilitate virtual discussions around equity.  

Dr. Bridget Kelly, associate professor in the Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education, is the Principal Investigator of the grant. As a liaison between the Student Affairs Concentration and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, she has deep expertise in dialogue and helps train facilitators.

“The course is especially relevant today, as we face a siloed and entrenched socio-political climate. Intergroup Dialogue may help students navigate polarization, listen to differing perspectives, change misconceptions, and examine who they are as a complex mix of intersecting identities with power to change and challenge inequities,” Dr. Kelly said. 

Being an effective communicator will always be an important ingredient in becoming a top-notch educator. As modern issues change and evolve, COE will continue to offer innovative courses that address bias and promote social justice.

[Student Affairs concentration students in Intergroup Dialogue course, 2019. Photo: Bridget Turner Kelly]

Launch of a New Disability Studies Minor 

Peter Leone

The University of Maryland introduced a new disability studies minor. Housed in the College of Education, the new minor features coursework from across the university, emphasizing the interdisciplinary nature of the program. 

“Disability is something that cuts across demographics and areas of study,” Professor Peter Leone said, in a Maryland Today article on the launch.

Students enrolled in the minor examine the concept of disability from a historical and contemporary lens. A popular iSeries course, “Disability: From Stigma and Side Show to Mainstream and Main Street,” is one of the core courses in the minor. Electives include courses on assistive robotics, disability culture and the neuroscience of learning. 

Dr. Leone helped found the program and is an expert on students with disabilities and educational programs in institutional settings. His research highlights the links between disability and school failure, as well as the vulnerability of special education students to juvenile justice system involvement. 

The minor, in conjunction with UMD President’s Commission on Disability Issues, signals a growing awareness of disability and access on campus—and in the general public. 

[Peter Leone at Maya Angelou Academy; Photo: Stephanie S. Cordle]

Grants, Outreach, and Community Partnerships

Redesigned Elementary Education: Centering Social Justice

Diverse Minds poster

Our newly redesigned elementary education undergraduate program includes components on Teaching for Social Justice across all coursework. Reflecting our College’s commitment to social justice and advancing equity through education, the courses prepare teacher candidates to engage with difficult topics in the classroom and teach to today’s diverse student body. Critical practices for anti-racist education are embedded in coursework and internship experiences.


"The goal of the program is to help candidates identify patterns of behavior, policies, or practices that perpetuate disadvantage and work to disrupt those practices," said Karen Rehder, elementary education co-coordinator and professional development schools coordinator.

Pedagogical content focuses on issues of justice and equity highlighting the Black Lives Matter movement. Reflection and examination of personal bias and areas for growth are captured in professional development plans to guide faculty and teacher candidates for continued growth in becoming anti-racist educators.

"Recognizing how privilege affects justice is key to our candidates' shaping their approach to teaching with social justice at the forefront of their decision making," said Tracy Dunheimer, elementary education co-coordinator and professional development schools coordinator.

[Poster: UMD undergraduate student and UMD COE Teacher Resident Jessica Graber]

Training the Next Generation of STEM Education Equity Researchers: The QRM Scholars Program

NSF QRM Scholar Cohort

Combining our strengths in rigorous scholarship and STEM education, the College launched a quantitative research methods institute for promoting research on equity in STEM. Supported by a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the NSF Quantitative Research Methods (QRM) Scholars program aims to strengthen early-career researchers’ design, measurement, and analysis skills.

“Addressing achievement gaps and equity issues in STEM education is very important,” said Laura Stapleton, COE professor and principal investigator. “If not researched with proper rigor, we won’t have the insights we need on how to improve STEM education and better prepare a diverse scientific workforce.”

The program provides yearlong training to cohorts of 20 early-career STEM education researchers, selected from institutions nationwide after submitting a research proposal. Each scholar is paired with an experienced research methodologist from the COE, as well as receiving mentorship from faculty experts across departments, facilitating support and collaborative opportunities to better assess equity issues in STEM education. 

“Our training program is designed to help researchers learn the latest methodological tools, enhancing the scope of research skills brought to bear on these critical education issues,” said Gregory R. Hancock, COE Professor and co-principal investigator.

Helping Youth with Disabilities Succeed at Work: Center for Transition and Career Innovation 

ADA event featuring Gov. Hogan, Dean Rice, COE researcher Richard Leucking and other MD leadership

The Center for Transition and Career Innovation, co-directed by Drs. Ellen S. Fabian and Richard Luecking, researches how to effectively prepare students with disabilities for college and careers. Announced in 2018 by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and COE Dean Rice, CTCI is designed to address the barriers to employment for individuals with disabilities.

“Even though we’ve made some progress, youth with disabilities continue to lag behind their peers in terms of post-school employment and post-school enrollment in secondary institutions,” Dr. Fabian said. “Until you can close that gap, that disparity is going to persist throughout their lives, leading to lower earning, poorer jobs and more dependence as opposed to independence.”

One CTCI research study is funded by a $6.8M grant from the Maryland State Department of Education, creating opportunities for 400 students with disabilities from eight Maryland counties to receive career and college planning services. Called Way2Work, the project aims to identify factors that help with a successful transition to higher education and careers. 

“This initiative reflects how the state and the university are working together to improve the lives of Maryland youth with disabilities, while bolstering the preparation of the state’s workforce—two very important goals that go hand in hand,” said College of Education Dean Jennifer King Rice.

In addition to Way2Work, CTCI provides professional development opportunities and is developing a comprehensive transition services database focused on students with disabilities.

[L to R: UMD Center for Transition and Career Innovation Co-Director Richard Luecking, UMD College of Education Dean Jennifer King Rice, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Maryland Department of Disabilities Secretary Carol A. Beatty, Marcella E. Franczkowski, Assistant State Superintendent for the Maryland State Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services. Photo: Tony Richards]

Unity Mural
Margaret Walker, Ph.D.
Clinical Associate Professor

Margaret Walker speaks in front of the Unity Mural

University of Maryland and Bowie State University students collaborated on the development of a mural in 2018, which was later installed at the Maryland House of Delegates’ building in Annapolis. At the mural installation, UMD and BSU faculty and students presented the collaborative art project, which focuses on themes of justice and unity. 

“We designed the unity mural in order to engage students in discussions about social justice, including hate-crimes and discrimination, and how to prevent these problems from proliferating in our society and schools,” said Dr. Margaret Walker, a clinical associate professor at COE. “We intentionally collaborated with students at BSU, an HBCU, to actively encourage our students to communicate and collaborate with a group of students outside of their community.”

The community-based mural was collaboratively designed via Skype sessions by UMD art education students, led by Dr. Walker, and BSU art students led by Art Professor Gina Lewis. More than 250 members of the community painted the mural over two days in 2018, at The Clarice’s NextNow Festival. The process was documented by BSU photojournalism students in a class led by BSU Assistant Professor Jennifer White-Johnson.

The UMD students who helped develop the mural were in Dr. Walker’s Foundations of Art Education course, which focuses on community-based art education as a means of connecting children and schools with the local community. 

“The mural project was a perfect opportunity to experience art as a way to bridge divides in the community,” she said.

[Margaret Walker speaks at Unity Mural installation; Photo: Stephanie S. Cordle, UMD]

Latinx Intelligentsia Podcast
Michelle Espino Lira, Ph.D.
Associate Professor 

Latinx Intelligentsia podcast

Dr. Michelle Espino Lira hosts Latinx Intelligentsia, a podcast that focuses on uplifting the Latinx/a/o community in academia. Her podcast has featured guest experts discussing topics like undocumented students seeking higher education and scholar-activism.

“Educational opportunity is a fundamental value in the U.S., yet not all students are afforded equitable access to resources and support that would help them to achieve their educational goals,” Dr. Espino wrote of the podcast’s mission. “Latinx Intelligentsia was launched to tackle these difficult issues by uplifting Latinx/a/o communities in higher education through research, praxis, and service.” 

Dr. Espino’s research centers on the factors that influence the educational achievement and experiences of underrepresented students, particularly Latinx/as/os, along the P-20 pipeline. While her studies often focus on students, she also looks at the educational paths underrepresented professionals take to leadership positions, particularly senior university leadership roles. She has explored how Latinx/a/o university administrators and faculty become interested in senior leadership, the challenges of moving up in their area of expertise and the benefits of filling these roles.