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Lori Patton Davis to deliver iconic 2021 Brown Lecture in Education Research

Janet Kiplinger Ciccone
September 15, 2021

Lori Patton Davis, professor of higher education and student affairs and a nationally recognized scholar, educator and thought leader on racial justice, equity and inclusion in education, has been selected to deliver the iconic Annual Brown Lecture in Education Research during the 2021 conference of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Her lecture title, "Still Climbing the Hill: Intersectional Reflections on Brown and Beyond," is inspired by the poem by Amanda Gorman, the National Youth Poet Laureate who read "The Hill We Climb" at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration.

The 18th Annual Brown Lecture by Lori Patton Davis will be held virtually on Thursday, October 21, 6-7:30 p.m. ET.

Patton Davis, one of the most influential educators in the country and the first Black woman elected president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, will challenge the dominant narrative about the 1954 Brown v. the Board of Education decision and introduce perspectives typically overlooked or erased in larger Brown discussions.  

Her insights will inform the work of scholars, students and practitioners who want to challenge the traditional thought processes around Brown, its impact and how it is applied today, not just in K-12 schools, but in higher education as well.

Drawing on her professional philosophy that is rooted in equity-mindedness, collaboration and innovation, Patton Davis' talk will bring context that benefits educators, policymakers and researchers in three ways:

  • Using Brown as a catalyst to take a deeper dive into historical context, Patton Davis will challenge dominant narratives about the decision. Her perspective positions us to better understand why Brown, while significant, isn't an educational cure-all, so we can garner more knowledge, learn from mistakes and acknowledge Brown's unfulfilled promises.
  • By making connections between past and present, Patton Davis will explain how understanding Brown can help us better frame today's divided opinions about issues in education. She will use differences in opinion about how to respond to COVID-19 in educational settings to illustrate this concept.
  • Listeners will gain perspective to better understand the pushback against critical race theory, a slippery part of the hill that keeps us from reaching the top. Patton Davis will make connections to help us activate our talent, skill and knowledge to move us further up the hill.

Patton Davis will also make recommendations about how a critical race lens might guide us toward a more progressive realization of the promises of Brown. In particular, she will suggest how educational researchers, the majority of whom are situated in postsecondary settings, can engage in activism, modeled after the communities still fighting for racial and educational equity since Brown.

Patton Davis is a trailblazer in academia

As a two-time recipient of the Mildred E. Garcia Award for Exemplary Scholarship from the Association for the Study of Higher Education, as well as the first Black woman to chair the college's Department of Educational Studies, Patton Davis maintains a critical research agenda that has deeply influenced the landscape of and knowledge base within higher education research.

Much of her scholarship uses Black feminist, intersectionality and critical race frameworks and centers around the lives and experiences of minoritized groups as they interact with visible and invisible policies, practices and processes.

Her research on Black women and girls in educational and social contexts, particularly their collegiate experiences, is a galvanizing force and model for those committed to disrupting the scholarly neglect to which Black women and girls have been subjected. She is co-editor of the forthcoming book Investing in the Educational Success of Black Women and Girls from Stylus.

Patton Davis is particularly recognized as the foremost researcher and scholar in the area of campus culture centers, having edited Campus Culture Centers in Higher Education, the first and only volume to highlight various types of racial/ethnic culture centers in higher education and their continued relevance on college campuses.

An accomplished and influential scholar, Patton Davis has an established reputation as a leading expert on Critical Race Theory (CRT) applied to postsecondary contexts. Her Urban Education article titled "Disrupting Postsecondary Prose: Toward a Critical Race Theory of Higher Education" cogently theorized CRT in higher education.

She also addresses educational equity as co-author of the most widely adopted text in higher education and student affairs graduate programs across the country, Student Development in College, published by Wiley.

Currently, Patton Davis, a native of East St. Louis, Illinois, is studying the experiences of Black children's educational pathways under the Missouri Transfer Law. Funded in part by the Spencer Foundation, she explores how a seemingly innocuous education policy led to the near dismantling of a high school populated by racially, socially and economically disadvantaged students.

Her collaborations in this work with three Black women scholars, also from East St. Louis, offer an alternative perspective to Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities. Their work on this subject appears in Teachers College Record, Urban Education and the forthcoming book from SUNY Press titled, Re-authoring Savage Inequalities: Counter-Narratives of Community Cultural Wealth in Urban Education.

Read more about Lori Patton Davis' scholarship, honors and awards.

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