DU professor wins national educational leadership award

In a room crowded with colleagues, Erin Anderson listened to a colleague praise the extent of her accomplishments. Now it was his turn to speak. Anderson stepped onto the podium, ready to accept an award and expressed his gratitude.

For the second time in three years, a University of Denver professor has won the Jack Culbertson Award, established in 1982 and presented to an outstanding junior professor of educational leadership.

Anderson’s distinction, one of nine separate awards, was presented at the University Council for Educational Administration’s 35th annual conference in November in Columbus, Ohio.

Anderson, an assistant professor of educational leadership and political studies at the University of Denver, is making a name for herself in the science of improvement. In 2017, she began working with Denver Public Schools to help teams, teachers, and principals solve problems to create lasting change.

“Very early on, I established a research agenda around [improvement science], “she says.” There were similar types of efforts and processes. I was an early adopter of the theory.

So far, Anderson has seen real progress as schools work together to create a more equitable, inclusive and successful space for students.

She grew up in a family of educators but became interested in sociology at university. After realizing that schools could be an impetus for change, she returned to get a teaching license. And when she walked into the classroom, she knew she had a long way to go.

“I started to see all the ways the education system is built on a white supremacist culture. It made me want to do research, ”she says.

She went back to school and got her doctorate from the University of Virginia to better understand school improvement.

She felt that the researchers were not in touch with the day-to-day functioning of a school. She wants practice to influence theory. In doing so, she learned something fundamental: it is less about telling a school to manage better and more about giving schools a process.

Anderson’s research and work with DPS is community-based. She does the service and then writes about it.

A relationship research trajectory is rare but powerful, says Jayson Richardson, chairman of his department. And with Anderson scoring DU’s second victory, he has reason to be proud.

“I think it really says we have researchers doing the public good, and it’s getting noticed by our peers,” says Richardson. “This is the kind of work that we need to see more of. ”

At the end of the ceremony, as she watched her professional colleagues, Anderson was proud to have won an award among such impressive academics.

Janice G. Ball