Reimagining Higher Education

December 17th 2020



The Social Science Research Council and SAGE Publishing are pleased to present a series of conversations—REIMAGINING SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS—a public forum focused on the work of cultivating equitable, anti-racist social institutions. The second event in the series, REIMAGINING HIGHER EDUCATION, featured several prominent experts of inequality in higher education.


 Richard Arum
Dean and Professor of Sociology and Education
University of California, Irvine
United States
Shardé M. Davis
Assistant Professor of Communication
University of Connecticut
United States 

 Ilyas Nagdee
Race Equality Project Manager
University of Sussex
United Kingdom

Noliwe Rooks

W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Literature
Cornell University
United States 

Moderated by Alondra Nelson
President, Global Publishing
SAGE Publishing

Introduced by Ziyad Marar
President, Social Science Research Council
Harold F. Linder Professor, Institute for Advanced Study

Thursday, December 17, 2020
12 - 1:15 PM (EST) | 5 - 6:15 PM (GMT)

This program is presented as part of the Social Science Research Council’s Inequality Initiative, a series of programs and projects that bring innovative social science analysis to bear on our understanding of the roots and consequences of unequal participation in political, economic, and social systems across the globe.

Watch the Event

About the Speakers

Richard Arum is dean of the School of Education and professor of education and (by courtesy) sociology, criminology, law and society at the University of California, Irvine. He served as senior fellow at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation from 2013 to 2015, and director of the Education Research Program at the Social Science Research Council from 2006 to 2013, where he oversaw the development of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools. He is author of Judging School Discipline: A Crisis of Moral Authority (Harvard University Press, 2013), coauthor of Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates (University of Chicago Press, 2014), and Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (University of Chicago Press, 2011), as well as coeditor of Improving Quality in American Higher Education: Learning Outcomes and Assessment for the 21st Century (Jossey Bass, 2016), Improving Learning Environments: School Discipline and Student Achievement in Comparative Perspectives (Stanford University Press, 2012), and Stratification in Higher Education: A Comparative Study (Stanford University Press, 2007).

Dr. Shardé M. Davis is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Connecticut. Her research examines the way Black women leverage communication in the sistah circle to invoke collective identity, erect and fortify the boundaries around their homeplace, and backfill the necessary resources to return to white/male dominant spaces in American society. These ideas have been published in over 30 peer-refereed articles and invited book chapters, and are best represented in her theory, “The Strong Black Woman Collective.” Her research has been recognized with the American Postdoctoral Fellowship from the American Association of University Women and the Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. She is involved with various professional communities, including serving as the chair of the African American Communication and Culture Division of the National Communication Association. Aside from her academic pursuits, Dr. Davis volunteers her time to organizations and nonprofits that support the overall livelihood of Black women and other people of color in the greater Hartford community.

Ilyas Nagdee is Race Equality Project Manager at the University of Sussex, and former representative of 1.5 Million Students of Colour in further and higher education in the UK. He has campaigned on issues around racial inequality in education including the ethnicity awarding gap, institutional racism, and decolonizing the university. He has been published across the mainstream press including in the Guardian, the Independent and elsewhere as well as in International Handbook on Islamophobia (Routledge), Doing Equity and Diversity in Higher Education: Redressing Structural Inequalities in the Academy (Palgrave Macmillan) and RIFE: 21 Stories from Britain's Youth (Unbound). He has recently published Recovering Antiracism: Reflections on Collectivity and Solidarity in Antiracist Organising by Transnational Institute. He is a graduate of the University of Manchester, where he was received several awards in recognition of his work in widening access to higher education and community engagement.

Noliwe Rooks is the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor at Cornell University where she directs the American Studies program and is a professor in the Africana Studies department. An interdisciplinary scholar whose research on race and gender in the United States engages scholarship from legal studies, media studies, sociology, political science and history, she is the author of four books, editor of four collections, and a writer whose research and writing has appeared in popular media such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, TIME magazine, and media outlets such as Democracy Now and various NPR programs. Rooks has broad knowledge about the making and unmaking of American public education, and her current research is on school choice initiatives, integration, segregation, and online and philanthropic support and funding for schools. She is consistently moved by the hope and promise of the inspired individuals and powerful movements fighting to save education—and possibly the nation in the process.