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New Faculty Focus: Jordan Conwell

In the Department of Sociology, he focuses on issues related to racial inequality in education.

by Katie Vaughn October 29, 2018

Jordan Conwell

Title: Assistant Professor of Sociology and Educational Policy Studies

Hometown: Rocky River, Ohio

Educational and professional background: BA (double major in Sociology and Rhetorical Theory and Criticism), Bates College; MA and PhD (Sociology), Northwestern University. While this is my first year on the faculty at UW-Madison, I was here last year as an Anna Julia Cooper Post-Doctoral Fellow.

How did you get into your field of research? 

My research focuses on a number of issues related to racial inequality in education. I came to be interested in this topic through hearing about my own (African-American) family members’ experiences of schooling — which ranged from a lack of educational opportunity in earlier generations to educational attainment and accomplishment for my parents’ generation. These conversations helped me understand the importance of schooling for success in life and multigenerational upward mobility projects. In the present moment — in which we would like to view our society as “color-blind” or “post-racial” and would rather talk about inequalities along less historically fraught lines, such as social class — my work seeks to understand mechanisms through which race continues to structure students’ school experiences and outcomes, to the disadvantage of those from historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups.

What attracted you to UW-Madison? 

In general, I was attracted to UW-Madison by the university’s great overall reputation for research productivity and teaching, as well as strength in my areas of research.

What was your first visit to campus like? 

My first visit to campus actually occurred during my first few years of graduate school when I was here for a conference. I remember thinking Bascom Hill lent the campus a nice, distinguished feel. 

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with? 

I hope students who take a class with me will come away with an understanding of how sociologists view the issues we discuss that is concrete enough so that it is like a pair of glasses. Hopefully, at times, they will put the glasses on to interpret similar issues outside of the classroom.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties? 

Since the mid-20th century, achievement gaps between children from high- versus low-income families have grown substantially. But, there are still achievement gaps between Black and White children whose parents have the same incomes. Interestingly, these gaps are larger between those from high-income families than between those from low-income ones.

Hobbies/other interests: 

Cooking, movies, watching sports, participating in CrossFit.