Student Profile: Kevin Clay
Kevin Clay always knew he wanted to do justice-oriented work; he just didn’t know what that would look like until he began studying the educational experiences of students of color while pursing his master’s degree in social and philosophical foundations at Rutgers Graduate School of Education (GSE).
Throughout his studies, Kevin engaged issues of identity, race, gender, and sexuality, and focused most intently on the experiences of urban African-American communities. Kevin began to see the many structural inequalities that students of color face. He saw education as a way to reveal these issues to young students by teaching them about the social phenomena they experience and empowering them to stand-up against those inequalities.
Kevin began working for the Talent Search East and Upward Bound programs at Rutgers University-Newark upon receiving his master’s degree. Talent Search and Upward Bound provide urban high-school students educational resources to help them achieve their academic goals and navigate the college admissions process. After one year as an academic advisor for Talent Search, Kevin decided to come back to GSE to pursue his Ph.D. in Theory, Organization,and Policy, focusing his research on internalized racism in urban settings.
“Marginalized groups often passively accept that they are inferior to other groups,” noted Kevin. “Students of color almost automatically assume their community is less meritorious because they’re unaware of the accumulated structural injustices. This internalized racism is inevitable.”
Kevin’s research also explores how the identities (gender, race, sexuality, socioeconomic status) of urban-living students impact their educational experience.
Kevin is currently conducting research for his dissertation employing Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) at Mercer County College Upward Bound in Trenton, New Jersey. YPAR is a method that enables young people to investigate and research local issues and find practical solutions. Kevin is teaching 19 high-school students the process of identifying issues, collecting and analyzing data, and finding a solution throughout the course of the program. Kevin hopes that teaching his students to do proper research will enable them to make their own informed decisions and help them fight the issues of racial inequality.
During his free time, Kevin partners with his colleague Mara Hughes to conduct anti-oppression workshops. They hope to address issues of inequality within the classroom and other educational institutions and encourage educators to adopt an anti-oppression pedagogy.
Throughout all of the work Kevin does, his main goal is to raise awareness on the issues people of color face and encourage all people to become more active in fighting these inequalities. Kevin plans to continue educating students in and out of the classroom upon finishing his studies at the GSE next May.
To learn more about the Ph.D. program at the GSE, please visit the program webpage.
Take the Next Step