Q&A with Deondra Rose (Duke Faculty & Author)
In this DukeJournos interview with Deondra Rose, a Duke Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Political Science and Author, we learn the power and importance of using writing to push the boundaries of knowledge and promote human advancement.
A Published Professor Working to Educate All
Undergraduate Major: Political Science (University of Georgia)
M.A. & Ph.D.: Government with a Specialization in American Politics and Public Policy (Cornell University)
As an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, Deondra Rose takes her role as educator seriously for she believes higher educational institutions can develop students into critical problem solvers, which is what our world needs. Discover how Rose balanced her roles as educator and researcher to publish her book after years of love and labor writing it.
In this Who is DEMAN Interview, Rose explains how her passions for education and equality propelled her to write her book “Citizens By Degree: Higher Education Policy and the Changing Gender Dynamics of American Citizenship.”
What inspired you to write your book Citizens By Degree: Higher Education Policy and the Changing Gender Dynamics of American Citizenship?
DR: Citizens By Degree came about as a result of a longstanding fascination with how lawmakers attempt to solve problems like chronic inequality and the marginalization of particular identity groups using public policy. For political scientists, education has long been recognized as an important determinant of not only socioeconomic status, but also political and civic engagement. I was struck by the fact that, when trying to make sense of women’s increasing educational attainment since the 1960s, many explanations have focused on the impact of second wave feminism, changing social norms regarding women’s engagement in the public sphere, and demographic changes like increasing age of first marriage and declining fertility rates that have helped to expand the amount of time that women can devote to higher education. Yet, scholars were not paying attention to the role that policymakers have played in this development. Throughout much of American history, men surpassed women as the recipients of bachelor’s degrees. This gender gap was exacerbated by the creation of the G.I. Bill, which essentially helped an entire generation of American men to gain expanded access to college degrees but did relatively little for women. But, by 1981, women surpassed men as the recipients of bachelor’s degrees; and that trend has continued, unstinted, in the years since. In my book, I make the case that by creating landmark federal student aid programs under the 1958 National Defense Education Act and the 1965 Higher Education Act; and by prohibiting sex discrimination in college admissions under Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, lawmakers helped to generate a dramatic shift in the gender dynamics of U.S. higher education.
Balancing research, teaching, and so much more can be a real challenge; but it has been a lot of fun to find strategies for balancing it all.
How did you find time to write your book while also serving as an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke?
DR: Research and teaching are both integral parts of my job as a faculty member at Duke, so I entered first years at Duke with a determination to completing Citizens By Degree while also teaching and participating in the many other activities that we do as faculty members. I was fortunate in that the book was rooted in my Ph.D. dissertation research; so, when I started at Duke in 2014, I had been thinking about my research question for quite a while and could really focus on producing a polished manuscript and marshaling it through the publication process. Balancing research, teaching, and so much more can be a real challenge; but it has been a lot of fun to find strategies for balancing it all.
What parts of writing this book were harder than expected and easier than expected? Why?
DR: Being patient through the production process was a challenge for me. Once I had a completed and fully revised manuscript, it still took a while before I actually saw the book in print. That’s pretty typical of academic publishing, but I was so excited to see it in print that waiting was tough! But, there’s nothing quite like seeing years, and years, and yeeeeeeeeeaaaaarrrrrrrrrsss of hard work finally in print. That was wonderful. I don’t know if I would say that anything was easier than I expected. Perhaps offering input on the design of the cover. That was fun.
There’s nothing quite like seeing years, and years, and yeeeeeeeeeaaaaarrrrrrrrrsss of hard work finally in print.
Your article “In Defense of ‘Me’ Studies” that you co-wrote for Inside Higher Ed with Phillip Ayoub in 2016 received a great deal of attention. It gives insight into the importance of scholars who study issues related to their own identity (such as ethnic studies, women’s and gender studies, and queer studies). In it you discuss “professionalism and the question of rigor,” “ghettoization of ‘me’ studies,” and the danger of dismissing such studies. Do you have anything you would add to this article now, over three years later?
DR: Three years later, I’m struck by the impact that the article has had on the discourse around identity and scholarly research and how much it has resonated with scholars representing a diverse array of academic fields. When Phil and I decided to get into the debate and to defend research conducted by “me scholars,” we felt a responsibility to acknowledge—and indeed celebrate—the contributions that this group of scholars makes to the intellectual community. I continue to believe that embracing and empowering diverse perspectives is an imperative if we want academic research to push the boundaries of knowledge and to promote human advancement. The insights that have emerged as a result of scholars’ willingness to draw upon their own identities and lived experiences to pose compelling questions, to craft thoughtful research designs, and to engage in powerful analysis are a boon to the academy.
What drives you to continue teaching?
DR: As a scholar of U.S. higher education and higher education policy, I spend a great deal of time thinking about the significance of colleges and universities to society as a whole. As we operate in an increasingly diverse and complex society in the 21st century, I think that one of the main contributions that higher educational institutions can make is to take seriously our capacity to invest in our students with the hopes of helping them develop into citizens who are equipped to think critically about the world, who feel comfortable raising questions, and who feel equipped to actively engage as problem solvers. Moreover, I believe that we must think seriously about how we can make the research that we produce broadly accessible in hopes that doing so will provide valuable support for any who endeavor to solve social problems and to produce evidence-based policy.