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Susan Dynarski to Join Harvard Ed School Faculty

University of Michigan professor Susan M. Dynarski is joining the faculty at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.
University of Michigan professor Susan M. Dynarski is joining the faculty at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. By Soumyaa Mazumder
By James S. Bikales and Kevin R. Chen, Crimson Staff Writers

University of Michigan professor Susan M. Dynarski ’86 will join the faculty of the Harvard Graduate School of Education as a tenured professor of education on July 1, 2021, the Graduate School of Education announced Thursday.

Dynarski — who holds appointments as a professor of public policy, education, and economics at Michigan — researches problems and solutions to inequality and inequity in education. She regularly contributes to public education reform efforts as co-director of the University of Michigan’s Education Policy Initiative, which aims to research, teach, and disseminate best practices in education policy.

Dynarski grew up in Somerville — about a mile from Harvard Yard — she wrote in an email. She earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees at Harvard and started her career as a union organizer with the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers. Her academic career also began in Cambridge, as an assistant, then associate, professor at the Harvard Kennedy School until moving to Michigan in 2008.

Dynarski wrote that Cambridge and Harvard are her “home,” and she is ready to return after spending 12 years at Michigan.

“Now that my kids are off to college it’s time for a change,” she wrote. “I can’t imagine a better home than HGSE for launching this next stage of life.”

A first-generation college graduate, Dynarski wrote that her research is “deeply grounded” in her own experience.

“Small differences in the environment can make a huge difference for first-gen and low-income students,” she wrote. “I think my lived experience helps me to recognize barriers to their success, and design solutions.”

Dynarski maintains an active Twitter presence, where in recent months she has blasted the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in missives to her nearly 38,000 followers. She has also written op-eds for the New York Times, including one in August warning that the U.S. should focus on reopening K-12 schools rather than colleges.

“Research is useless if it sits unread in an academic journal,” Dynarski wrote in her email to The Crimson. “I use my platform on Twitter and the New York Times to get useful knowledge into the world.”

“I also use my platform to scream in frustration and post cute dog pics,” she added.

Dynarski’s work has been instrumental in understanding inequality in education, Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean Bridget Terry Long said in a press release.

“She has pushed the field to develop a more nuanced understanding of college access, financial aid design, labor market outcomes, and high school reforms,” Long said. “She has also been an extraordinary mentor to students and voice in important education debates.”

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

—Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.

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