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Impacting Policy and Creating Greater Equity

Michael Reid JrCurrently a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin, Michael Reid, Jr., is intent on utilizing research to examine poverty as a barrier to student development. After completing his Ph.D. in educational policy and planning, Reid hopes to make an impact on federal and state policies related to education. His focus is driven by his lived experiences growing up in Philadelphia and attending public schools throughout K–12.

“Between grades five and nine, I went to a different school every year,” says Reid. “My education was sort of like a journey, so I was always curious about how my unique schooling experience was created by local policies — what dictates our school districts, schools and what kinds of supports they have for students.”

As an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut, Reid was a McNair Scholar. During that time, he did research on income segregation, which motivated him toward his current focus. Going forward, he anticipates leveraging data and research to inform policy-making about schools and support families from marginalized backgrounds.

“Michael wants to ensure that education is not only equitable, but also achievable and that students have access to living up to their potential and achieving their academic and career goals,” says Dr. Erik M. Hines, professor in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University, who was director of ScHOLA²RS House (Scholastic House of Leaders in Support of African American Researchers and Scholars) at University of Connecticut when Reid was an undergraduate. “When he went into his master’s degree [in educational psychology], he said, ‘Dr. Hines, I want to merge this with helping underserved communities, especially in education, closing the opportunity gap and making sure that students will have the opportunity to develop their potential and be academically successful if they have the right support systems in place,’” says Hines.

“A lot of our realities are socially constructed through policy-making,” says Reid, who has co-written peer reviewed journal articles for the Texas Education Review and Journal of College and University Student Housing. He has also participated in peer-reviewed presentations at conferences. Earlier this year, he received the University Graduate Continuing Fellowship.

Reid is already meeting with politicians in Texas about educational policy. In addition to being a graduate research assistant at Texas, he was part of the Graduate Archer Fellowship Program in Washington, D.C., which provided him exposure to policy networking with individuals in the federal government. He currently is also a graduate research assistant with the Center for Community College Student Engagement. Reid’s doctoral coursework is completed, and he is currently focusing on his dissertation. His master’s thesis was “District Achievement in Florida: Examining the Relationship Between Within-District Income Segregation, District Wealth and Income-Achievement Gaps.” While his dissertation is still in development, it will examine what segregation means through an interdisciplinary lens. He will look at the history of segregation, how it developed and what it has meant. “For so many Black, Latinx, and Hispanic children across the country…schools and districts are spatially concentrated with inequality, poor education, teacher turnover, and things like that, which is really hampering their educational experiences, their educational mobility and then their social mobility and what their long-term life outcomes are,” Reid says. “I’m focusing on Black families who have been in segregated urban communities,” he adds. “I was curious about…how the effects of living in a segregated, impoverished neighborhood over time has affected them. … Currently, I’m focused on their educational resilience. How did they create unique family capital and how that capital then transmits across generations within a family.”

He will carry a sense of storytelling into policy work because he sees power and impact in these stories. Upon completion of his doctorate, Reid says he hopes to work in policy research and advocacy either with a nonprofit organization or in government. The goal is to influence decision-makers and impact lives. “Wherever he decides to go, he will make a tremendous impact,” says Hines. “His goal, his purpose is to create change in a positive way for the students who need it the most.”

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