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April 14, 2015

UMass Boston professor earns Guggenheim, College Board fellowships

  • Boston
UMass Boston's Mark Warren is one of 13 social scientists to receive Guggenheim Fellowship this year.

As announced in a full page ad in the New York Times, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Public Affairs Mark Warren is one of the 2015 recipients of the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship.

This year, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation awarded 173 fellowships to more than 3,100 applicants who have demonstrated capacity for productive scholarship and show future promise. Warren, in his third year teaching in the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, was one of only 13 social scientists to receive the award, which includes funds to support his research project, “Building an Educational Justice Movement: Organizing against the School-to-Prison Pipeline."

The term “school-to-prison pipeline” refers to harsh and racially inequitable school discipline practices that push students, especially young men of color and those with social needs, out of school and into the criminal justice system. Warren says that 75 percent of black students in Texas have been suspended at least once during their high school years, and students who are suspended are more likely to drop out of or be expelled from school.

“It’s a great honor and also a great responsibility that my research really matters to improve the lives of young men of color,” Warren said.

Warren plans to spend the next academic year doing field work in Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, and the Mississippi Delta, conducting interviews and making observations about the movement against the school-to-prison pipeline. Last month, Warren received the College Board Fellowship to Advance Educational Excellence for Young Men of Color at the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute that will support this same research. He will be in residence at Harvard University during the 2015-2016 academic year.

“Part of what prompted this project is almost everybody has only studied how communities organize at the local level and education policy is more and more being set nationally either by the federal government or by national lobbying groups, like for charter schools, and so if organizing is going to be effective, it has to find a way to be able to build power at the local level and the national level,” Warren said.

Although this will be Warren’s first foray into the school-to-prison pipeline, he has played a leading role in researching community and youth organizing, with a particular focus on education reform. He is the national co-chair of the Urban Research Based Action Network (URBAN), which brings together scholars and community activists to promote collaborative research designed to advance community action. The first of his three books, Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy, is a primer on faith-based community organizing. He’s also a voice for the role that young people and parents in communities of color play in working toward educational justice and equity.

“I grew up in a union household where I was raised to believe people had to organize and fight to improve the conditions of working class people, so I became an organizer and an activist at an early age, and now I study and work with organizing groups around issues that I’ve cared about all my life,” Warren said.