López said Penn State was appealing right from the start of the process. “From the way I was approached about the opportunity (which I consider an exemplar that should be used when recruiting senior faculty) to the equity focus that is evident throughout the college, it was clear to me that it is a place where I would thrive, both professionally and personally,” she said. “There are so many individuals focused on equity, it was clear to see a vast number of possibilities for collaborations with faculty and students.”
López is leaving the University of Arizona as the Ernest W. McFarland distinguished professor in leadership for education policy and reform; founder and director of the Education Policy Center; and associate dean of the College of Education. At Penn State, she’ll succeed Richard Duschl, who retired in 2019, as the Waterbury-chaired professor and will begin on July 1.
López earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas; a master’s in educational psychology and special services (counseling) from the University of Texas-El Paso; and a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Arizona.
“My long-term goal in this position is to use it as a platform that leverages the deep expertise in the Penn State College of Education, as well as collaborators in the community,” López said. “There are amazing things already happening in the college, and I am so very excited to get started by engaging in conversations with my colleagues about their vision, the needs in various contexts, and ways we can collaborate.”
The Waterbury Chair, established in 1988, is sustained by an endowment that was contributed to the University by Kenneth Waterbury and is designed to support the ongoing work of an outstanding scholar in secondary education.
“Dr. López has an exciting research agenda and record that cross traditional fields. Her rich experiences working in different schooling settings can inform our programs and practices,” said Rose Zbiek, head of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “Her ability to engage various audiences and leverage her background and experience will be a driving force in transforming education in collaboration with colleagues in the college and partners on and beyond campus."
Lawless said the Waterbury Chair brings attention to education in special ways. "The opportunity for Dr. López to impact equity pedagogy as a focus of research, a topic for our students, and a way of instruction for faculty will be remarkable. The effects will be seen across our programs in Curriculum and Instruction and across the entire college,” Lawless said.
López began her career in education as a bilingual (Spanish/English) elementary teacher, and later as an at-risk high school counselor, in El Paso, Texas. Her work appears in some of the most prestigious and selective venues in her field, including Teachers College Record, Journal of Teacher Education, Theory into Practice and Education Policy Analysis Archives.
Some of López’s research has been funded by the Spencer Foundation, the American Educational Research Association Grants Program, the Division 15 American Psychological Association Early Career Award, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. In addition, she is currently senior associate editor for the American Journal of Education and co-editor of the inaugural unified American Educational Research Journal.
López said that for equity work to take place, anti-racist work needs to be at the center.
“I foresee my primary academic emphasis to reflect the work I have carried out that helps us understand the kind of knowledge educators need to transform educational spaces to equitable, anti-racist spaces — what I collectively refer to as asset-based pedagogy,” she said.
“This includes an understanding of our historical contexts and how they contribute to the disparities we continue to see today, as well the role of identity in our marginalized youth. To that end, I do want to continue to conduct research on the ways educational settings (which we now, more than ever, must consider as spaces that include students’ homes) promote achievement and identity.”
López said she once presented at a mentoring session with Leticia Oseguera, associate professor of education (higher education) and senior research associate in the Department of Education Policy Studies (EPS). López also said she and Erica Frankenberg, professor of education (education leadership) within EPS are both National Education Policy Fellows.
“Although I have followed her [Frankenberg’s] work for quite some time, we have not (yet) had the opportunity to work together,” López said. “I have had the opportunity to learn about the amazing work [Penn State] faculty are carrying out and I am eager and excited to launch collaborations with so many of my new colleagues.”