Summer in the City: A Groundbreaking TC Program Gave Minority Educators Their St | Teachers College Columbia University

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Summer in the City: A Groundbreaking TC Program Gave Minority Educators Their Start

“I would not have gone to graduate school, especially not a good one, if I hadn’t been to the Summer Scholars program.”
— Shaun R. Harper

In 1987, the Southern Education Foundation (SEF), an Atlanta-based education philanthropy, brought together six Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) in the South with the graduate education schools of Columbia, Harvard and Vanderbilt Universities in a consortium to address the severe shortage of black K-12 teachers in the South. Funded by a grant from the BellSouth Foundation, the consortium created several pipeline initiatives, including the Summer Scholars Program (SSP), a six- to eight-week summer intensive educational experience designed to attract HBCU undergraduates to teaching and introduce them to graduate school.

“I would not have gone to graduate school, especially not a good one, if I hadn’t been to the Summer Scholar program,” says Harper, who graduated from Albany State University in Georgia, and earned a Ph.D. in higher education at Indiana University.

Read the stories of Harper and two other Summer Scholars alumni, Elker Harris and Diron Ford.

Headed by A. Lin Goodwin, then Assistant Professor of Education at Teachers College and Associate Director of the College’s Pre-service Program in Elementary Education, the program was designed to bring more teachers of color into public schools, where non-white students have since come to outnumber their white peers.

From 1987 through 1997, the three graduate schools of education each summer hosted 24 African American scholars – four from each of the six HBCUs –on a rotating basis. (The number of scholars fluctuated in later years.) Directed by professors of education and graduate students, the Summer Scholars were exposed to contemporary ideas and practices in educational reform and to forward-thinking educators, both in academia and in K-12 classrooms in the field.

“The successful recruitment of teachers of color, especially African-American teachers, requires the collaborative efforts of many institutions and individuals."
— A. Lin Goodwin

During the four summers when the program was held at TC, each student took a course that was part of the regular TC curriculum, and they all took a second course on critical issues in education specifically designed for them, which Goodwin taught. Together the courses earned three credits each – six total credits – which transferred back to their home institutions.

During its decade of operation, the Summer Scholars Program served 186 students. Of that number, 158 graduated from college – 90 percent of whom were involved, as of 2001, “in education as teachers, administrators, or graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in education,” Goodwin, now Vice Dean and Evenden Professor of Education at TC, reported in an SEF publication.

The program was highly successful in recruiting and retaining talented black teachers: In 2001, many Summer Scholars alumni were teaching and pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees simultaneously. Graduates of the program were teaching in eight states, and “about 30 percent of the participants who were liberal arts majors entered the field of education as a consequence of their participation in the program,” Goodwin wrote.

The three graduate schools learned several important lessons from the Summer Scholars Program, Goodwin wrote, including that “the successful recruitment of teachers of color, especially African American teachers, requires the collaborative efforts of many institutions and individuals. The creative exchange that is the natural outcome of such collaboration is likely to encourage the development of more creative recruitment strategies.”

In addition, Goodwin wrote, “collaborative efforts send those who are considering the profession important messages about the significance of a future career in the education field.” – Patricia Lamiell


On March 4, Teachers College celebrated the 20-year anniversary of another successful program to increase diversity in higher education, TC’s Minority Postdoctoral Fellowship, which provides recent doctorate recipients from universities across the nation with the opportunity to develop a program of research and participate as an active community member at TC. The Minority Postdoctoral Fellowship seeks to advance the careers of individuals from groups in U.S. society that have been historically underrepresented in the academic profession, to advance scholarship on issues affecting such underrepresented groups, and to increase the diversity of scholars and those who prepare them nationwide. Twenty years later, the program's alumni include college deans, department heads, policy analysts, entrepreneurs and four current Teachers College faculty members.

Published Monday, Apr 18, 2016

Shaun R. Harper
Lin Goodwin