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College of Education > News and Publications > 2020: 04-06 news > Conchas to join Penn State as inaugural Hoy professor

Conchas to join Penn State as inaugural Hoy professor

As the U.S. grapples with systemic racism and inequality, Gilberto Conchas plans to use his endowed professorship as an instrument for advancing the College of Education’s vision of diversity and inclusion.

At a moment when the U.S. is grappling with systemic racism and inequality, Gilberto Q. Conchas plans to use his position as the newly named Wayne K. and Anita Woolfolk Hoy Endowed Professor in Educational Policy Studies as an instrument for advancing the College of Education’s vision for promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.

 “I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Conchas to the College of Education,” said Dean Kim Lawless. “Through his research, he increases awareness of the experiences of minoritized students and articulates pathways to better diversify higher education institutions. His impressive research background, as well as his leadership roles both in higher education and in foundations centered on education, are huge assets for the College.”

Conchas said he was pretty much sold on the College of Education upon visiting the University Park campus in early March. Not only was he highly impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of Dean Lawless and the rest of the College community, he also felt encouraged by the faculty’s commitment to educational equity and social justice.

 “It truly takes a village to create community and I felt and saw it firsthand,” he said. “When the opportunity was presented to me to join the Penn State community, I knew I could call this place home and take my research to the next level.” Gilberto Conchas

Conchas is leaving the University of California Irvine as professor of educational policy and social context, and founding director of Community Engagement & Student Success. In 2006, UC Irvine named him a Chancellor’s Fellow to recognize "[how his achievements in] scholarship evidence extraordinary promise for world-class contributions to knowledge, and whose patterns of contributions evidences strong trajectory to distinction.”

Previously, he was an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education from 1999-2004, senior program officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2008, and founding director of the UC Irvine College and Career Academy Support Network (CCASN) at UC Irvine, in partnership with UC Berkeley, from 2011 to 2014.

Conchas earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UC Berkeley and both a master’s and doctorate in sociology from the University of Michigan.

“I appreciate that the College of Education is deeply entrenched in the hard work to combat educational injustice and to promote educational excellence,” he said. “I believe that the endowed professorship will allow me to contribute my unique qualifications to expand upon the College’s accomplishments and to further advance equity and social justice through research, teaching and community-engagement efforts.”

The Wayne K. and Anita Woolfolk Hoy Professorship in Education was created in 2016 through a generous gift from Wayne K. and Anita Woolfolk Hoy. Wayne is a graduate of the educational administration doctoral program at Penn State, and although Anita received her doctorate from the University of Texas, she always has admired the Penn State educational psychology program.

The first holder of the Wayne K. and Anita Woolfolk Hoy Professorship in Education was intended to be a faculty member in the Educational Leadership program. Upon Conchas’s retirement or departure, the next holder will be in the Educational Psychology program.

Upon retirement/departure of that professorship holder, the professorship will revert back to Educational Leadership. The professorship will continue to alternate in this manner.

"It is exciting to welcome a scholar of Dr. Conchas’s caliber to Penn State as the inaugural Hoy chair,” said Kevin Kinser, head of the Department of Education Policy Studies. “He will add to our capacity providing a high-quality program in equitable educational leadership."

Conchas’s interest in educational inequality is closely intertwined with his personal history and ethnoracial identity. “As the son of Mexican immigrant farmworkers, it is my utmost responsibility to conduct research that addresses systemic forms of racism and to find solutions to eradicate all forms of injustices. The aim of PreK-12 and higher education is to empower all students who, despite being affected by marginalization, unjust immigration policies, poverty and inadequate education policies, navigate successfully through inequality in U.S. society and culture,” he said.

 “Dr. Conchas’s research unearths the triumphs of urban high school youth of color — African American, Vietnamese, and Mexican American — despite unequal public-school processes,” Lawless said. “He challenges the stereotypes of students of color as under-performers and highlights successes. His research provides a better understanding of the steps necessary to diversify higher education institutions, and make sure that students are well equipped to graduate.”

As a scholar who researches issues of inequality in education, Conchas said the national outrage over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, and the resulting Black Lives Matter protests present opportunities for universities to elevate and enhance the role of institutions of higher education in a changing global society.

“Penn State is poised for a transformational undertaking on how teaching, research and service are relevant and useful to the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the nation, and the world in the context of partnerships and reciprocity," Conchas said. "Thus, my main goal is to facilitate school success efforts in low-income communities, namely among Black and Latinx communities.”

Numerous peer-reviewed scholarly journals have published Conchas’s research on social inequality and education, including Urban Education, Journal of Latino Studies, Harvard Educational Review, Review of the Sociology of Education, Urban Review, Education and Urban Society, and Teachers College Record.  He is the author and coauthor of nine books, including The Color of Success: Race and High-Achieving Urban Youth (2006), Small Schools and Urban Youth: Using the Power of School Culture to Engage Youth (2008), StreetSmart SchoolSmart: Urban Poverty and the Education of Boys of Color (2012), and The Chicanx/o/a Dream: Hope, Resistance, and Educational Success (2020).

Stephanie Koons (June 2020)