Student Spotlight: Brittany Marshall

GSE Student Aims to Inspire a Positive Math Identity Among Black Women and Girls


Brittany Marshall, a native of Chicago, Illinois is a doctoral student at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degree in architecture. Ms. Marshall has always wanted to go back to school to further her education, and after a decade of teaching; she felt it was time to pursue her goals. She is studying for her Ph.D. in education and her focus/specialization is mathematics education.

Ms. Marshall loved school as a child. However, she didn’t consider a career in education in college, because most of her peers were pursuing careers in law, medicine, or engineering— so she decided to go into architecture. Eventually, during the economic recession in 2008, she realized her passion for teaching and decided to switch careers. She taught math for elementary, middle school, and high school (grades 4-12) in Chicago. Ms. Marshall wanted to specifically teach mathematics to Black children.

Ms. Marshall, along with her co-pi Michaela Harris from Vanderbilt University are the recipients of the American Education Research Association (AERA) grant for their project titled “The Role of High School Mathematics Experiences for Shaping Black Women’s Mathematics Identities.” The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is a professional organization for education researchers. AERA did an open call for presentations and selected five finalists out of 40 submissions, and Ms. Marshall and Ms. Harris’ project was one of the five selected. They presented their project to the AERA team and won the grant. Ms. Marshall is excited about receiving the grant, but she is also nervous because now the real work begins! Ms. Marshall and Ms. Harris were supposed to present at the conference in April, but that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Marshall and Ms. Harris were both interested in math identity in Black women and girls. They both wanted to create a research project that could be carried out at both of their campuses for cross-campus comparison. “We decided to explore the background factors and high school experiences that shape positive mathematics identities in young Black women that lead them to majoring in STEM fields,” stated Ms. Marshall.   

“This opportunity allows me to be able to publish at least one paper. Just being able to create a research project from start to finish with another person—learning everything on the fly, and doing this project before even taking my qualitative methods courses, puts me at an advantage. This opportunity is beneficial for me because it allows me to do a research project before starting a dissertation,” said Ms. Marshall. “So far, I’ve had a great experience at the GSE. My advisor Dr. Dan Battey, has been an amazing help. From the day we met, I just knew that he believed in me and the work that I wanted to do. Also, Dr. Luis Leyva at Vanderbilt University, who is a GSE alumnus, has been an amazing support to me as well,” stated Ms. Marshall. Ms. Marshall is also a graduate researcher in Dr. Leyva’s PRISM lab at Vanderbilt University. “A former professor at the GSE, Kisha Porcher —and faculty member and my classmate Tasha Austin has provided a great emotional support system, while I attended classes,” stated Ms. Marshall.

“I’m not involved in any extracurricular activities on campus because of my heavy workload. I’ve been trying to keep my head down and get my work done. Since I’ve had other careers before this, I feel it is important to allow the younger students to be the leaders on campus,” stated Ms. Marshall. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, binge watching television shows, playing the guitar, and taking care of her two cats.