Educational Equity: How Well Are we Preparing Our Students?

Saturday, September 24
10:30 - 11:30 AM
G-17, Claudia Cohen Hall
About this Session: Zip codes continue to determine a child's chances in life. This session explores how our schools serve under-represented students of color and what resources are available to them as they strive for the rigors of Higher Education. 

Presented by the Graduate School of Education.

Featured Speakers

Robin-Renee Allbritton, M.Ed. C'84

Adjunct Professor
Temple University
City of Philadelphia Policy Fellow 2016 - 2017


Robin-Renee Allbritton is a native Philadelphian and a product of the Philadelphia School District. She earned a Bachelor’s of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania where she majored in Sociology. Ms. Allbritton has been conferred a Master’s in Education from the Urban Education program. While at Temple University, her graduate research focused on “The Influence of Black Fraternity Mentoring Initiatives on First-Generation Male Students”, “The First-Generation Student from Preparation to Graduation”, and “Grit and the First-Generation Student”.

For over two decades, Ms. Allbritton has tirelessly followed her passion in the field of college admissions advocacy. She has placed low-income, first generation students into a myriad of post-secondary institutions throughout the country that include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s), Tribal Colleges and the Ivy League. Ms. Allbritton approaches the admissions process in a holistic manner by providing application support, financial aid workshops and scholarship searches. She has helped over 1000 first-generation students matriculate into college, and maintains a 90% college completion rate. She also provides seminars in which she teaches parents how to advocate both financially and academically for their college-bound children. Ms. Allbritton has expanded her work with racially and economically marginalized students to include training in multicultural and LGBTQ youth counseling.

Ms. Allbritton currently teaches Kids, Community and Controversy as an adjunct professor at Temple University. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Public Policy, and envisions working as an educational policy analyst in Washington, D.C. where she will continue to advocate for underserved urban students throughout the nation. She is currently in the Higher Education program at Temple University.

Nelson Flores

Assistant Professor
Educational Linguistics Division
Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania


Dr. Flores has a Ph.D. in Urban Education from the CUNY Graduate Center at the City University of New York. His research involves the study of the historical and contemporary instantiations of raciolinguistic ideologies, where language and race are co-constructed in ways that marginalize racialized communities.

Dr. Flores has collaborated on several additional studies related to the education of language-minoritized students in U.S. schools. He served as project director for the CUNY–New York State Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals, a New York State Education Department initiative, seeking to improve the educational outcomes of emergent bilingual students through an intensive seminar series for school leaders, combined with onsite support by CUNY faculty. He currently serves as the principal investigator of the Philadelphia Bilingual Education Project (PBEP).

Vivian L. Gadsden

William T. Carter Professor of Child Development and Education
Director, National Center on Fathers and Families
Associate Director, National Center on Adult Literacy
University of Pennsylvania


Vivian L. Gadsden is the William T. Carter Professor of Child Development, Professor of Education, and Director of the National Center on Fathers and Families at the University of Pennsylvania, and on the faculties of Africana Studies and of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. She is President of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Dr. Gadsden’s research and scholarly interests focus on children and families across the life-course, from early childhood through the aging process, particularly children and families at the greatest risk for academic and social vulnerability by virtue of race, gender, ethnicity, poverty, and immigrant status. Her conceptual framework, family cultures, has been used widely to examine the interconnectedness among families’ political, cultural, and social histories and racialized identities; social practices; and literacy processes. Her current, collaborative projects include studies of Head Start children’s literacy learning and teacher communities (the Evidence-based Program for the Integration of Curricula study), family engagement, and parent involvement; young fathers in urban settings; health and educational disparities within low-income communities; children of incarcerated parents; and intergenerational learning within African American and Latino families. She serves on the Board of the Foundation for Child Development, and has served or serves on numerous other foundation and Congressionally mandated review committees, including the Foundation for Child Development’s Young Scholars Program, the Spencer Foundation where she was a Resident Fellow, and White House initiatives. Most recently, Gadsden served as the chair of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Supporting Parents of Young Children. The report from this study, Parenting Matters, was released in July 2016. In addition to her leadership roles in AERA, she has held leadership roles in the Society for Research in Child Development. Gadsden is a member of several editorial boards and was Co-Editor-in-Chief of Educational Researcher, published by AERA. She has published numerous journal articles, book chapters, texts, and reports, including booklength volumes on literacy and African American youth; re-entry of incarcerated parents in the lives of children, families, and communities; and risk, equity, and schooling as well as a forthcoming book volume on children of incarcerated parents. As Director of the National Center on Fathers and Families, she was instrumental in building research and national policy initiatives to promote father involvement. Gadsden is a Fellow of AERA, and earned her doctorate in education and developmental psychology from the University of Michigan.

Carol Sutton Lewis C'80 PAR'17

Board Overseer
University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences


Carol Sutton Lewis is an attorney whose current focus is on education and arts organizations. She created the blog Ground Control Parenting ( for parents of children of color, with a particular emphasis on issues affecting boys. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of Stanford Law School and The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences, and is a former trustee of the Collegiate School in New York City. She was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Advisory Council of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, and sits on the New York Advisory Council of Common Sense Media, an advocacy group dedicated to helping children thrive in a world of media and technology.

Carol also serves as the Vice Chair of the Studio Museum in Harlem. She is a member of the board of the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, and is a former trustee of the Addison Gallery at Phillip’s Academy in Andover, Mass. She has previously served on several other boards, including those of New York City’s public television station, the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, Inc., The MacDowell Colony, Inner City Broadcast Holdings, Inc. and Inner City Broadcasting Corporation.

She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford Law School.

Sean Vereen, Ph.D. GED'00 GRD'05

Steppingstone Scholars, Inc.


Sean Vereen, Ed.D., is the President of Steppingstone Scholars, Inc. Since 1999, Steppingstone has operated under the belief that the quality of a student education and their chances at bettering their life should not be defined by their socioeconomic status, race, or zip code. Steppingstone works with families, students, partner schools, and sister nonprofits to create opportunities for talented educationally underserved students that lead to college degree attainment. Under Dr. Vereen leadership Steppingstone has launched a number of new innovative programs that have increased the organization impact and scope. He has built strategic partnerships with the School District of Philadelphia, as well as a number of the region's leading universities including Temple University, University of the Sciences, Drexel University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Vereen supervises a full time staff of 11, part-time teaching staff of 30, reports to a 23 member Board of Directors, and annually raises a budget of over $1.2 million.

Previously, Dr. Vereen worked at University of Pennsylvania for 13 years in a number of positions focused on diversity and student academic and extracurricular life. In his last position at Penn he was the Associate Dean of Opportunity and Access in the Office of Admissions. He oversaw initiatives focused on the cultural and socioeconomic diversification of the undergraduate student body. Under his tenure, the population of underrepresented minority students (Black, Latino, Native American) increased 32% in a 4-year period. In 2012, the underrepresented minority population reached 20% of the overall undergraduate student body - the highest percentage and number in Penn’s 272 year history.

Dr. Vereen received his Ed.D. in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education in 2005. His research focused on how leaders of minority focused resource centers navigate a complex higher ed institution. He is a guest lecturer on issues of social and educational mobility and inequality, narrowing the achievement/service gaps for educationally underserved students, and how to diversify educational institutions.

Anne Williams-Isom

Chief Executive Officer
Harlem Children’s Zone®


Anne Williams-Isom is the Chief Executive Officer of the Harlem Children’s Zone®, overseeing the organization’s comprehensive pipeline of programs, which serve 13,000 children and 13,000 adults.

Ms. Williams-Isom found her calling to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families when she was still a child herself. Growing up with a single mother in Queens, she witnessed firsthand the many challenges confronting kids i

n struggling communities. Yet she also learned that, with the right support and opportunities, they have the potential to overcome those challenges and realize their ambitions. Ms. Williams-Isom received a bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology from Fordham University. Soon after, she began working in Community Affairs for the New York Police Department in Brooklyn. Working in Brooklyn in the 1980s, at the height of community policing, further fueled her commitment to social justice—but it was only after graduating from law school at Columbia University that she fully came to appreciate the complexity of social problems and the pivotal role of the community in solving them.

After receiving her J.D., Ms. Williams-Isom practiced law for five years at two of New York’s most prestigious firms. She then took on the position of Director of the Office of Community Planning and Development at NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). There, she oversaw the development of crucial community partnerships, including a partnership with HCZ. During the creation of the original HCZ Project in the 1990s, Ms. Williams-Isom worked with Geoffrey Canada, offering strategic counsel on integrating preventive services into HCZ’s neighborhood-based network of programs. She also instituted the first ACS Leadership Academy for Child Protection, providing professional development for the staff overseeing investigation of the 55,000 reports to ACS of child abuse and neglect each year. Throughout her 13-year tenure at the agency, Ms. Williams-Isom remained steadfast in her primary goal: to strengthen families and support vulnerable children.

In 2009, Ms. Williams-Isom joined Mr. Canada to become HCZ’s Chief Operating Officer, overseeing operations across the organization. As COO, she worked to advance HCZ’s data-driven culture of accountability, spearheading numerous initiatives to strengthen services and improve outcomes for HCZ’s children and families. Ms. Williams-Isom assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer on July 1, 2014. She has been featured in articles in The New York Times and Crain’s New York Business.

Ms. Williams-Isom is routinely sought after for her expert advice and guidance on child welfare and community development. She currently serves on the Advisory Council of the recently created My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, inspired by President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

Ms. Williams-Isom was appointed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to his Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board in January 2016, and was selected to be a part of the Pahara-Aspen Education Fellows Program in December 2015.

She is also the recipient of a Public Interest Achievement Award from the Public Interest Law Foundation at Columbia Law School (2015) and an Annie E. Casey Foundation Children and Families Fellowship (2007-2008).

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