Shantá Robinson receives NSF early-career award for research on racial inequities in education

Prestigious honor will support scholar’s research on STEM education for Black students experiencing homelessness

What are the hurdles that Black students face because of systemic educational inequities? And how can schools and communities better support students navigating these complex challenges—particularly those studying STEM?

These are the types of answers that University of Chicago scholar Shantá Robinson is trying to examine. In recognition of her work, Robinson has received a prestigious NSF CAREER award, given by the National Science Foundation in support of early-career faculty.

The award will support a five-year project that seeks to center the voices and experiences of Black, high-achieving adolescents experiencing homelessness. Relying in part on semi-structured interviews with 100 Black students, the research will highlight students’ experiences with STEM learning at the intersections of race, class and ability.

“My research raises a critical question about the power and persistence of racism and white supremacy in our educational institutions—given our decades of educational reform, financial investment, and focus on STEM education, why do drastic disparities persist for talented, yet vulnerable, students? And more importantly, what do these students say is needed for them to be successful, even in the face of relentless exclusion and oppression?” said Robinson, an assistant professor in UChicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice.

An urban education scholar and former high school history teacher, Robinson tailors her research to support educators, school administrators and community leaders. Her new project is intended to help inform public understanding of Black students experiencing homelessness, ranging from the skills and strengths they possess to the ways that schools and communities can better support their educational and occupational aspirations.

By creating “informed portraits” that document the educational experiences of high-achieving Black high school students, the project will help evaluate the effectiveness of current policies and develop evidence-informed recommendations for educational stakeholders in order to increase STEM achievement outcomes.

The project will also support graduate and undergraduate students in STEM education research.

The NSF CAREER award—which comes with five years of grant funding—is given to individuals who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

The National Science Foundation selects nominees for the early-career award on the basis of innovative research at the frontiers of science, engineering and technology; community service; and commitment to STEM equity, diversity, accessibility, and/or inclusion.