Published: Oct. 31, 2016

Research Hub

Ben Kirshner, CU Engage faculty director and co-principal investigator in the new research hub, works with Denver youth involved in the educational justice movement at Project VOYCE.

CU Engage, in collaboration with CU Boulder’s National Education Policy Center (NEPC), has received funding from the Ford Foundation to launch a research hub that will contribute relevant and timely research about education policy issues.

Flipping historical paradigms of university-based research, the goal of the research hub is for the work to be in partnership with those in the field and those working within the educational justice movement. The principal investigator (PI) will be Michelle Renée Valladares, who is Associate Director of NEPC. Ben Kirshner, faculty director of CU Engage, and Kevin Welner, Director of NEPC, serve as co-PIs.

"The objective of  NEPC and CU Engage is to leverage our expertise and capacity as university researchers so that we can serve as a research hub for building and strengthening the work of organizers, advocates, policymakers and education leaders. We hope to infuse the emerging movement with the best research available," says Kevin Welner, NEPC Director.

The research hub's primary goal is to leverage the resources and potential of education researchers at CU Boulder to produce high quality and accessible research to inform education justice policy. "NEPC will do this by expanding the reach of our Closing the Opportunity Gap projects, and continuing to work with our more than 120 fellows." notes Michelle Renée Valladares, NEPC Associate Director. CU Engage will draw on its expertise and position working thoughtfully and equitably with community groups and educational justice advocates locally and globally.

Both CU Engage and NEPC employ a unique approach to creating and sharing research as a tool to advance social justice. Specifically, they use the power of high-quality research, the democratic mission of a public university, and the social capital of university affiliations to develop publications and projects that address inequalities in our education system and in schools’ surrounding communities. The policy expertise and national foci of NEPC combined with the community-based and participatory research of CU Engage complement each other well.

“This grant is exciting for CU Boulder because it will provide funded graduate research training opportunities in community-based research. Graduate researchers will get training and support to carry out rigorous research that addresses complex public challenges in partnership with community groups,” Kirshner explains. CU Engage has hired current graduate student Taphy Tivaringe as the CU Engage GRA and newcomer Siomara Valladares, who completed her PhD at UCLA, as the CU Engage Research Associate. NEPC is in the process of hiring a new Research Associate.

CU Engage’s specific contribution will be to focus on research related to youth issues. Young people across the country are engaging in campaigns and movements to improve educational opportunity, dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, and have a voice in the political process. Research is needed that can document the impact of this work and identify best practices when communities or districts implement needed reforms.

Together, NEPC and CU Engage are excited for the opportunity to contribute fresh and meaningful research to the education justice movement locally and beyond.