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International Conference to Examine Urban Education

Teachers, researchers, community members and other educational stakeholders committed to supporting youth in urban environments will gather in Nassau, Bahamas in November for the third biennial International Conference on Urban Education (ICUE).

Dr. Chance W. LewisDr. Chance W. Lewis

Centered around the theme “Building and Sustaining Global Partnerships for Learning and Development,” the solutions-based conference will engage educators, school psychologists, faith-based leaders and health care, law enforcement and business representatives in sessions on PK-12 best practices, social justice and advocacy and education policy and leadership, among other timely issues in urban education.

ICUE is sponsored by The Urban Education Collaborative at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“In putting together a conference like this, all of my research, all of the things that I do, are tied back to my experience as an urban student and what I did and did not receive during my time as a student,” said Dr. Chance W. Lewis, founding executive director of The Urban Education Collaborative and the Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Urban Education at UNC Charlotte.

“This international conference is really the only gathering globally that specifically focuses on urban education,” he added, noting that particular issues in urban education — such as allocating the proper amount of resources to schools and the economic impact of an education — transcend national boundaries.

Conference panel discussions, roundtables and poster sessions will delve into solutions-based discussions on 10 topics, or “strands,” relative to urban education.

The strands include PK-12 best practices that are working in urban schools across the globe; social justice and advocacy; adequate counseling for college and career readiness, in addition to mental health counseling; business development and economics; higher education; physical health and wellness; social work; school discipline and suspension prevention; and science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM).

Dr. Tyrone C. Howard, director of the Black Male Institute and a professor of education at the University of California, Los Angeles, will be the keynote speaker.

One educator will receive the highly anticipated Outstanding Urban Teacher Award, which recognizes a teacher excelling in work for urban students.

The Urban Education Collaborative set the conference up as a solutions-based approach because in previous education conferences Lewis has attended throughout his career, “people just reiterate the problems over and over,” he said.

To prevent fueling a deficit narrative around issues affecting urban youth, individuals who submit proposals to present are required to include solutions in their presentation proposal. Organizers’ communications with selected presenters also are tied to solutions-based approaches to the work presenters are doing.

“We kind of force their hand to really get to thinking about solutions because, oftentimes, that’s not necessarily the default,” Lewis added. “We’re intentional about this being a space for solutions-based ideas that people can take back and, hopefully, easily implement once they get back to their home destinations.”

To sustain efforts around improving urban education, conference participants will also have access to conference proceedings that document in a “short and concise” publication the research and solutions presented in various sessions.

For Lewis, what started as a vision has grown globally. This year, organizers have received more than 500 submissions for people to present at the conference.

“It’s definitely a great interest in this topic, and each time, it continues to grow,” he said of ICUE.

Since the establishment of the conference, Lewis said, the collective is starting to see momentum in urban education, particularly in graduate studies, and even undergraduate studies in some cases.

Still, there are few universities nationally that have a full urban education doctoral program, he said. The conference “brings a broader awareness to the current issues that are going on in urban education.”

One of those issues, Lewis said, is a more “vested interest” in the improvement of schools in urban environments.

“Given that education around the globe is an issue that impacts multiple levels of employment,” he said, “now you are starting to see stakeholders from many industries pay close attention to urban education because as they look for their future workforces, they understand that the educational impact, particularly in densely populated areas across the globe, will be a direct pipeline for the future workforce.”

The definition of urban education also will e “drastically” redefined in the next 20 years, Lewis predicts, referencing factors such as the increasing gentrification of city spaces.

However, scholars and stakeholders attending the conference will have the opportunity to spark the dialogues that will lead to or improve supportive environments and life opportunities for urban youth through education.

To learn more about the forthcoming International Conference on Urban Education taking place in Nassau, Bahamas, from November 8-10, 2018, visit

Diverse is one of several partnering organizations for this conference.

Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at [email protected]. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon.

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