Educators Are Needed Now More Than Ever

As a global pandemic, recession and racial justice movement sweep the nation, USC Rossier can lead in transforming education

By Pedro A. Noguera, Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education

A child adds his handprint to a Black Lives Matter mural

A child adds his handprint to a Black Lives Matter mural along Colfax Avenue, in front of Benton Harbor High School, in Benton Harbor, Michigan. (Photo/AP Images, Don Campbell/The Herald-Palladium)

It is my pleasure to join you as dean of the USC Rossier School of Education. Entering this new role during a global pandemic, a looming recession and a racial justice movement sweeping the nation has been daunting. Despite the enormity of the challenges confronting our school and the field of education, I am heartened by the potential for change.

Fortunately for me, my predecessor, Dr. Karen Symms Gallagher, provided steady and visionary leadership to our school for 20 years. Under her tenure, USC Rossier built partnerships with Los Angeles-area schools and provided leadership training to hundreds of school administrators worldwide. I welcome the opportunity to build upon this foundation.

USC Rossier’s mission—to achieve educational equity through practice, policy and research—is mine as well. From my early experiences as a teacher in the Providence, Rhode Island, and Oakland, California, public schools; as a professor and school board member in Berkeley, California; and as a scholar at Harvard, NYU and UCLA, I have made the deep challenge of educational equity my life’s work.

Clearly, the present moment we find ourselves in is unlike any that our nation or our school has faced before. The pandemic threatens our health and has thrown campuses into chaos, the economic crisis threatens the welfare and well-being of millions, and political polarization and climate change threaten our future.

Yet, despite the instability and uncertainty of our current situation, I am excited about the possibilities for USC Rossier at this time. With cutting edge research and a long tradition of preparing leaders, USC Rossier is well positioned to assume a role as a changemaker in bringing about the profound transformation that must occur in the field of education. Together, we can rise to the challenge of the moment by helping educators, policymakers and schools to move decisively toward developing a system of education that is more equitable, just and humane.

In these pages, you will read about how USC Rossier faculty, students and alumni are helping to improve how we teach Black history, researching the role of police on our campuses and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is also much news to share about our school’s recent efforts, from the USC Race and Equity Center’s partnership with California community colleges, to the letter recently issued by education scholars from around the country (with leadership from our own Julie A. Marsh), urging policymakers to center equity as schools restarted this fall.

Ours is truly an honorable profession. I believe that USC Rossier can lead in making the case for profound and lasting change in education. Our children and society are counting on us.

Fight On!

Pedro A. Noguera, PhD
Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean
Distinguished Professor of Education
USC Rossier School of Education

This story appeared in the USC Rossier Magazine Fall/Winter 2020 issue as “Dean’s Byline.”