Dr. Marybeth Gasman, who has established herself as one of the nation’s most prominent scholars of historically Black colleges in particular and minority-serving institutions in general, is leaving the University and Pennsylvania to join the faculty at the Graduate School of Education (GSE) at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, in the Fall.
The Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI)— a repository for research, data, and best practices about MSIs — that Gasman created five years ago, will move with her to Rutgers.
On Thursday afternoon, the Rutgers Board of Governors approved Gasman’s appointment as the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Chair in Education. Her appointment is at the rank of Distinguished Professor and she will begin in her new role on September 1, 2019.
Gasman will teach one course a year and direct the newly formed Samuel D. Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity, and Justice that will house the Center for Minority Serving Institutions along with other equity-focused initiatives.
“I think it’s really an exciting opportunity,” said Gasman in an interview with Diverse. “I’ve been very happy with our Center and this is an opportunity to expand that work, build on that work, and do something much bigger.”
Rutgers-New Brunswick interim provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, Dr. Wanda J. Blanchett, hailed Gasman’s appointment as a “game changer” for the 95-year-old GSE and the state’s flagship institution.
“She has a proven track record around working effectively with historically Black colleges and institutions and we would be hard pressed to find someone else in the country who has her record of mentoring outstanding doctoral candidates of color,” said Blanchett, the dean of GSE, who added that diversity, equity and social justice work has been a central focus of the school’s mission and work. “So to have Marybeth join us at this particular time with her track record particularly around students of color, which is an area quite frankly that we have struggled with, is kind of like the missing link to an already well put together puzzle.”
Gasman will serve as the third Samuel DeWitt Proctor Chair, named in honor of the late educator and theologian who served for many years as a college president and pastor of Harlem’s historic Abyssinian Baptist Church. Proctor also served on the Rutgers faculty for 15 years, including appointments in the Graduate School of Education. He was also the Martin Luther King Jr. Chair, and a visiting professor in the Department of Africana Studies and was the first African-American faculty member at both the school and the university to have an endowed professorship named after him.
The inaugural holder of the Proctor Chair, Dr. Dorothy Strickland, an expert on literacy education, held the position for almost seven years before retiring from the GSE. Dr. Fred A. Bonner II was Proctor Chair from 2012 to 2015. Bonner currently holds an endowed chair and directs a research center at Prairie View A&M University in Texas.
Gasman said that the Proctor Chair holds a special meaning for her. She encountered the work of Proctor as a graduate student while writing her dissertation on Dr. Charles Johnson, the first Black president of historically Black Fisk University. Proctor is also referenced in her 2007 book Envisioning Black Colleges.
Like Proctor, Gasman said that she has made mentoring a major priority of her work and has served as the dissertation adviser for 81 doctoral students — mostly students of color — during her 15 year tenure at the University of Pennsylvania.
Gasman’s departure from UPenn is a major loss for the Ivy League institution. Last year, Dr. Shaun Harper — a prominent diversity expert — left the university to join the faculty at the University of Southern California and to direct its newly formed Center on Race and Equity.
Gasman, who currently holds the Judy & Howard Berkowitz Professor of Education in the Graduate School of Education at UPenn, said that although her experience at the university has been gratifying, she is looking forward to the new challenge.
“One of the things about being at Penn that I’ve probably been most proud of, is having Amy Gutmann as president and watching the institution change immensely from the time I got here. That’s been quite breathtaking to watch,” she said, adding that it was her former dean, Dr. Andy Porter, who encouraged her to jumpstart the Center for Minority Serving Institutions which now boasts 74 faculty affiliates — most of whom are people of color.
“When I first started the Center, I was afraid to fail,” said Gasman, a historian by training who received her Ph.D. in Higher Education and Law from Indiana University in 2000. “But Penn is a place you can take a risk and people will encourage you to do that.”
Gasman has authored or edited 25 books including Educating a Diverse Nation with Dr. Clif Conrad and Making Black Scientists with her former doctoral student Dr. Thai-Huy Nguyen. In 2016, she penned an article titled, “The Five Things No One Will Tell You About Why Colleges Don’t Hire More Faculty of Color” that went viral. The article was later reprinted in The Washington Post and became a focus of discussion on college campuses across the country.
An experienced fundraiser, Gasman has generated more than $22 million to support her research and that of her students, mentees and MSI partners. She currently serves on the board of trustees of Paul Quin College — a small urban historically Black college in Dallas — and The College Board.
Dr. Clark Chinn, the interim dean of Rutgers GSE said that Gasman’s scholarly research emulates and honors the legacy of Proctor.
“Dr. Gasman is in the very top echelon of scholars worldwide in the field of higher education,” said Chinn. “Her research career has consistently addressed issues of race and equity in the U.S. We look forward to working with her to advance our collective goals of creating a more diverse, inclusive and equitable landscape in higher education in our state of New Jersey and beyond.”
Gasman said that her new role will allow her to expand the Center’s reach, by working with master’s and doctoral students at Rutgers.
“We need to be a lot more generous as scholars,” she said. “And for me, this is a way to build opportunities and work across institutions and within the institution and help students build their careers and the impact they can have on equity issues.”
Over the years, Gasman has been pilloried by conservatives like Rush Limbugh but have criticized by some HBCU leaders who charge that she’s become a gatekeeper and question whether she’s the best person to make the case for these storied institutions.
“I don’t bother with it,” said Gasman about the criticism. “When I was younger, it used to bother me a little bit but I’m 50 years old now and I have a long track record of working with all kinds of students across racial and ethnic groups, gender, sexuality, religion, country of origin … I’m very collaborative. Most of my work is completely collaborative without me being in the lead at this point because I’m trying to give other people opportunities.”
Gasman said that it’s essential for White people to be “present when it comes to creating equity and fostering justice.”
“I would probably take a page from Michelle Obama’s notebook, ‘just do the best work you can, and ignore haters’ and that’s what I do,” she said.
Blanchett said that the selection of Gasman for this coveted position and the creation of the Proctor Institute is her “vision realized.”
The institute, she said “will create resources for future generations to be able to draw upon [Proctor’s] commitment to civic leadership, his commitment and belief in education as a tool for lifting communities that have often been marginalized and we wanted to be able to do that in a variety of ways.”
Jamal Watson can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson