My remarks upon winning the AERA Early Career Award

This weekend in San Antonio I was honored to receive the AERA Early Career Award. I was truly and deeply grateful to have been selected for this award, especially given the many luminaries of education research who’ve previously received it. I hope that the next phase of my career continues to meaningfully affect education research, policy, and practice. Next year I will give a lecture where I will talk about my agenda so far and my vision for the next 10 years of my research.

Of course, I couldn’t have received this award without a great deal of support from family, friends, and colleagues. Here’s what I said in my 90-second remarks:


Thank you to the committee for this award, and to my colleagues Bill Tierney and Katharine Strunk for nominating me. I’m profoundly honored.

On June 8, 2006, I packed up my bags and left Chicago to start my PhD at Vanderbilt University. I’d applied to their MPP program, but someone on their admissions committee saw something promising in my application and they convinced me to do a PhD instead.

That moment in the admissions meeting turns out to have defined my life. Six days after I moved to Nashville I had dinner with a handsome southern gentleman who would later become my husband. At the same time, I started working on a couple of research projects led by my advisor Andy Porter and his wife and co-conspirator Laura Desimone, work for which I followed them from Vandy to Penn a year later. In many ways, Andy is like a father to me, and I owe much of my academic success to him.

Everything else, I owe to my mother, who raised my brother and me mostly alone through financial and personal struggles. She taught me that common sense and honesty are just as important as smarts and hard work, and she showed me how to lead a simple, uncluttered life.

Nothing I’ve accomplished since I started studying education policy has happened without my husband, Joel, by my side. He is truly my other half.

My goal as an academic is to produce research with consequence—to bring evidence to bear on the important education policy issues of our day. I’m fortunate to be at USC Rossier, a school that truly values impact and public scholarship and supports its junior faculty to do this kind of research. In these fraught times, we as a community of scholars committed to truth must always, as we say at USC, Fight On!

Thank you.

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