Education at Illinois populates the academy with scholars of color

by Christopher M. Span   /   Jun 01, 2016

Education at Illinois populates the academy with scholars of color

Recruiting and graduating scholars from underrepresented backgrounds is a moral imperative and way of life

In a piece for The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Christopher M. Span, associate dean for academic programs and an associate professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization & Leadership (EPOL), noted the diverse talent that annually comes from the College of Education at Illinois. This spring, 12 African-American women—known as the “Talented 12”—earned doctorates in EPOL; one African-American woman earned a doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction; one African-American woman earned a doctorate in Special Education; and six African-American men and 11 Latina/o students earned doctorate degrees in the College this year, as well.

“How did the College of Education, particularly EPOL, achieve these remarkable results?” Span asks in his piece. “The answer really starts with two individuals: Dr. James D. Anderson and Dr. William T. Trent.”

Dr. Anderson is nearing his 50th year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Professor Anderson obtained his baccalaureate at Stillman College, a historically black college in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and started graduate school in 1966. After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in 1968, Anderson, as a graduate student, was a member of the campus leadership team that envisioned and implemented Project 500, a campus initiative that lead to the recruitment and enrollment of nearly 700 African American undergraduates to the University of Illinois.

William T. Trent, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities, came to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1983. In 1966, he earned his baccalaureate degree at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky. Thereafter, he obtained his doctorate at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  Dr. Trent is beginning his 34th year on the faculty . Between 1994-1999, he was an associate chancellor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign responsible for campus diversity and inclusion issues.

Noting the remarkable accomplishment of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis graduating eight African-American women with doctoral degrees, Span writes:

“I applaud this accomplishment and am beyond appreciative of the efforts of these women and their college and university. There are few institutions of higher education, particularly at predominantly white institutions, where these kinds of results and accomplishments occur, and these stories should be celebrated (and ideally replicated) for their successes and achievements.  That is why I feel compelled to write this story and share upon the success.”

Read Span’s full article, “Creating the Talented Tenth.”