The American Association of Blacks in Higher Education recently honored University of New Orleans Ph.D. candidate Jennifer Grace with one of its annual awards for dissertation of the year. Her research focuses on rerouting the school to prison pipeline.
Grace’s dissertation investigated African-American males who had been expelled from their K-12 educational settings, specifically by asking them to describe their experiences and open up about what they felt were key factors at play. Responses from the study participants touched on themes including race and racism, self-perception, family expectations and support, male role models and mentors, school environment and school discipline. Grace hopes her research will serve as a catalyst for future study about factors affecting academic achievement by young African-American male students.
“I was awestruck when I learned that I was named as one of the dissertation of the year winners for AABHE. What a truly amazing, surreal and humbling experience,” Grace said.
“This work has been especially meaningful to me as the students I have worked with during my career have grown to become a part of who I am,” she added. “It is a personal mission to continue produce research informed best practices that negate systemic barriers to quality education for young men and women of color.”
Brian Beabout, associate professor and graduate coordinator of educational leadership at UNO’s College of Education and Human Development, said Grace’s recognition was well-deserved.
“We are all very proud of Jennifer and her outstanding research in this area, which is so important to us here in New Orleans,” Beabout said. Since May of 2010, UNO’s Ph.D. program in educational administration has awarded 11 doctoral degrees to African-Americans.
Grace earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from LSU and a master’s degree in school counseling from UNO. She is set to complete her doctorate this semester in education administration with an emphasis on K-12 schools. She has been an educator for more 10 years, serving as teacher and guidance counselor before taking on her current role as assistant principal at St. Helena College and Career Academy. There she helps design course curricula, mentors students and coordinates several aspects of instructional development on campus. In addition to her work as an educator, Grace has presented her research to several professional and academic conferences. Her lectures focus on student achievement and address strategies for engaging African-American males and understanding the national Common Core initiative.
According to its website, the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE) pursues the educational and professional needs of blacks in higher education with a focus on leadership, access and vital issues impacting students, faculty, staff and administrators. AABHE also facilitates and provides opportunities for collaborating and networking among individuals, institutions, groups and agencies in higher education in the United States and internationally.