Mavis Sanders is the senior research scholar of Black children and families at Child Trends. We talked with her to learn about her research, both at Child Trends and earlier in her career, and to find out more about her life outside of work.
Can you tell us about your primary research interests?
My primary research interest is studying the roles of schools, families, and community partners in improving educational outcomes for Black children and adolescents. For the past 10 years, I have examined factors that influence the implementation of school, family, and community partnerships within the context of full-service community schools (FSCSs). It is gratifying to continue this work as more attention is being directed toward FSCSs, but I am really excited to develop a broader research agenda on Black children and families in my new role at Child Trends.
What sparked your interest in education and improving educational outcomes for Black children?
I became an educator because I loved school and valued the skills transmitted through formal education. My favorite subjects in grade school were reading and language arts (going to the library was a Saturday ritual in my home) and math (I won my first trophy at a citywide math competition in 8th grade). My interests flipped in college after I took my first political science course and became enamored with the social sciences. The critical literacy and numeracy skills I gained through formal schooling were liberating; they diminished the social constraints placed on me as a Black woman.
Before coming to Child Trends, I served as a professor of education and an affiliate professor in the doctoral program in language, literacy, and culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I chose a career in educational research because I wanted to better understand the processes of teaching and learning and how to make these processes more effective for students who have been denied access to educational opportunities.
What are your hobbies or interests outside of research?
I am an avid reader of all things related to the Black diaspora. I go through periods of favoring fiction or nonfiction, but I consistently have at least four books on my nightstand that I can’t wait to start. The books currently on my nightstand are Black Neighbors: Race and the Limits of Reform in the American Settlement House Movement, 1890-1945 by Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn; All Aunt Hagar’s Children by Edward P. Jones; The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers; and Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain.
To wrap up, can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself or your family?
I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama and am the youngest of five daughters. Although I haven’t lived there since 18, I still consider Birmingham my home and conducted my dissertation research there.
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