On Thursday, September 19, Ford School Professor Susan Dynarski was named one of nine inaugural recipients of the University of Michigan Distinguished Diversity & Social Transformation Professorship.
The designation was recently created to recognize senior faculty who have shown a commitment to the university’s ideals of diversity, equity and inclusion through their scholarship, teaching, or service and engagement. The Board of Regents approved the appointments Sept. 19. They are effective Sept. 1.
This recognition will allow Dynarski, a champion of reducing inequality in education, to further her work. "Sue has dedicated her career to bringing down the barriers to accessing higher education. The impact of her cutting-edge research and creative solutions is already being felt on U-M's campus and other universities are taking similar approaches because of its success. This honor will allow her to do even more impactful work," said Michael S. Barr, Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of the Ford School.
“These scholars are nationally and internationally recognized researchers,” said Provost Martin Philbert. “Their scholarship and contributions to their fields represent a level of engagement and accomplishment that U-M is proud to support.”
Also awarded the new designation were Ketra Armstrong, Audrey Bennett, Lola Eniola-Adefeso, Stephanie Fryberg, Marita Inglehart, Carla O'Connor, Denise Sekaquaptewa, and David Wooten.
They will hold their initial appointments for five years and receive an annual stipend of $20,000 to support their scholarly and professional work. They also will receive special faculty fellow status at the National Center for Institutional Diversity, and will spend at least one semester as a faculty fellow-in-residence.
“While their areas of investigation vary, they are united in one aspect: The breadth and depth of their work has led to innovative, often interdisciplinary, research and teaching that explores and addresses questions related to DEI with our local communities, and extends beyond to global societies,” said Tabbye Chavous, director for NCID and professor of education and psychology.
Similar to other U-M professorships, such as the Arthur F. Thurnau, Collegiate and Distinguished University professorships, the University Diversity and Social Transformation Professorship is reserved for only the highest level of achievement.
As NCID faculty fellows-in-residence, the awardees are asked to share a set of goals related to their own scholarship, teaching, or service and engagement that they plan to accomplish during that term. They also will have access to NCID’s administrative infrastructure and other center resources to support their activities.
Dynarski’s own story fuels her passion for the research she conducts and the policy ideas she promotes. As a first-generation student, she often talks about her personal experience with the transformative power of education. Her research converges on the central theme of reducing socioeconomic and racial inequality in educational attainment, primarily at the post-secondary level. As an economist, she uses large-scale datasets and quantitative methods of causal inference to understand the effects of charter schools, financial aid, postsecondary schooling, class size, and high school reforms on academic achievement and educational attainment.
In recent work, Dynarski and her colleagues crafted and deployed the HAIL (High Achieving Involved Leader) scholarship. Low-income Michigan students were mailed an early, unconditional promise of four years of free tuition for those who applied and were admitted the U-M. The researchers found that students who received the mailing were twice as likely to apply and enroll at U-M as those who hadn't. The research captured the attention of universities, fellow researchers, and the media. It also played a part in U-M’s Go Blue Guarantee initiative.
Another major area of Dynarski’s research is simplifying the FAFSA, which students use to apply for financial aid. She has delivered a TED talk and testified in front of Congress on this and related financial aid topics a number of times.