Taking Up the Mentorship Mantle: Shaun R. Harper | Teachers College Columbia University

Skip to content Skip to main navigation
News & Events Header

Teachers College Newsroom

Skip to content Skip to content

Taking Up the Mentorship Mantle: Shaun R. Harper

 

Shaun R. Harper was inspired by his experience in the Summer Scholars Program at Teachers College to create the Grad Prep Academy, a similar program at the University of Pennsylvania, where he a professor at the Graduate School of Education.

Like the Summer Scholars Program, the Grad Prep Academy prepares talented black male undergraduates for doctoral study and research-related careers in higher education. In 2009, the Grad Prep Academy welcomed its first cohort of 10 undergraduates to Penn, where Harper is now a professor in the Graduate School of Education. Eight participants followed in 2011, and another eight in 2012.So far, the Academy has sparked the academic careers of 26 black male scholars. It has allowed Harper to study how talented black men – woefully under-represented among university professors, despite steady growth in the number of students of color in public schools – can be recruited, inspired and supported in graduate school and in academic careers.

In creating the Grad Prep Academy, Harper drew on his own experience as a Summer Scholar at Teachers College in 1997. “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.

Harper’s favorite childhood game while growing up in Thomasville, Georgia, was playing school. He had always wanted to be a teacher, he recalls, and that was the plan when he enrolled as an undergraduate at Albany State. But then he got into the Summer Scholars program, and the weeks he spent at TC opened a vista of opportunities in graduate programs in education beyond K-12 teaching. “Suddenly, they all opened up as possibilities for me,” Harper says.

“We performed so exceptionally well at Teachers College in the graduate courses that we took. As undergrads, we were doing as well as the TC graduate students. There was something confirmatory about that experience for us – that wow, we could actually succeed at a major research university.”
— Shaun R. Harper

At Indiana University, Harper found that the Summer Scholars’ method of having undergraduates take graduate courses and study alongside TC graduate students, had prepared him well for graduate school.

“We performed so exceptionally well at Teachers College in the graduate courses that we took. As undergrads, we were doing as well as the TC graduate students. There was something confirmatory about that experience for us – that wow, we could actually succeed at a major research university.”

After arriving at Penn in 2007 with a Ph.D. in higher education, Harper embarked on a career in research and leadership that examines race and gender in education. He is the founding Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at Penn.

Wanting to pay forward the self-confidence he had acquired as a Summer Scholar, Harper created the Grad Academy at Penn. There wasn’t enough funding to replicate the Summer Scholars six- to eight-week residential program, so he designed a four-day experience that brought talented undergraduates to Philadelphia and connected them with mentors who guided them through the graduate school application process. He also made it for men only, to try to address the critical shortage of male role models in academia for students of color.

But Harper kept intact what, to him, was the most important aspect of the Summer Scholars program:  encouraging mentorships with Penn faculty members who could convince talented undergraduate students of color that they have what it takes to succeed in graduate school. “It was having a scholar of Lin Goodwin’s caliber mentoring us that made a significant difference,” Harper recalled. “Her generous approach inspired me to similarly mentor others. I would have never thought of this had I not participated in Summer Scholars.”

From that perspective, the Grad Prep Academy has been highly successful. “Every single person who participated in the program is doing graduate work at a major university.” The program is taking applications for new cohorts of 32 college students in each of three years, beginning this fall, and will include black, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Latino, and Native American male undergraduates.

For Harper, a first-generation college graduate whose academic career inspired his sister to enter a graduate program in social work and his mother to begin studies at a local community college, catching talented college students in their junior year can make all the difference. They could become graduate students and ultimately join the academic ranks, and inspire other college students of color to do the same.

Harper credits the Summer Scholars Program at TC with his desire to give younger male students of color the opportunities he was given, and to model the crucial confidence-building and mentoring they will need to succeed in graduate programs: “Summer Scholars was really life-changing for me and for other brilliant black students who participated in it.” – Patricia Lamiell

 

Published Monday, Apr 18, 2016

Shaun R. Harper
Shaun R. Harper, Summer Scholars program alumnus
Shaun R. Harper
Twelve research team members (one post-doctoral fellow and 11 Penn GSE graduate students) for Shaun Harper's New York City Black and Latino Male High School Achievement Study in 2013.

 

Shaun R. Harper was inspired by his experience in the Summer Scholars Program at Teachers College to create the Grad Prep Academy, a similar program at the University of Pennsylvania, where he a professor at the Graduate School of Education.

Like the Summer Scholars Program, the Grad Prep Academy prepares talented black male undergraduates for doctoral study and research-related careers in higher education. In 2009, the Grad Prep Academy welcomed its first cohort of 10 undergraduates to Penn, where Harper is now a professor in the Graduate School of Education. Eight participants followed in 2011, and another eight in 2012.So far, the Academy has sparked the academic careers of 26 black male scholars. It has allowed Harper to study how talented black men – woefully under-represented among university professors, despite steady growth in the number of students of color in public schools – can be recruited, inspired and supported in graduate school and in academic careers.

In creating the Grad Prep Academy, Harper drew on his own experience as a Summer Scholar at Teachers College in 1997. “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.

Harper’s favorite childhood game while growing up in Thomasville, Georgia, was playing school. He had always wanted to be a teacher, he recalls, and that was the plan when he enrolled as an undergraduate at Albany State. But then he got into the Summer Scholars program, and the weeks he spent at TC opened a vista of opportunities in graduate programs in education beyond K-12 teaching. “Suddenly, they all opened up as possibilities for me,” Harper says.

“We performed so exceptionally well at Teachers College in the graduate courses that we took. As undergrads, we were doing as well as the TC graduate students. There was something confirmatory about that experience for us – that wow, we could actually succeed at a major research university.”
— Shaun R. Harper

At Indiana University, Harper found that the Summer Scholars’ method of having undergraduates take graduate courses and study alongside TC graduate students, had prepared him well for graduate school.

“We performed so exceptionally well at Teachers College in the graduate courses that we took. As undergrads, we were doing as well as the TC graduate students. There was something confirmatory about that experience for us – that wow, we could actually succeed at a major research university.”

After arriving at Penn in 2007 with a Ph.D. in higher education, Harper embarked on a career in research and leadership that examines race and gender in education. He is the founding Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at Penn.

Wanting to pay forward the self-confidence he had acquired as a Summer Scholar, Harper created the Grad Academy at Penn. There wasn’t enough funding to replicate the Summer Scholars six- to eight-week residential program, so he designed a four-day experience that brought talented undergraduates to Philadelphia and connected them with mentors who guided them through the graduate school application process. He also made it for men only, to try to address the critical shortage of male role models in academia for students of color.

But Harper kept intact what, to him, was the most important aspect of the Summer Scholars program:  encouraging mentorships with Penn faculty members who could convince talented undergraduate students of color that they have what it takes to succeed in graduate school. “It was having a scholar of Lin Goodwin’s caliber mentoring us that made a significant difference,” Harper recalled. “Her generous approach inspired me to similarly mentor others. I would have never thought of this had I not participated in Summer Scholars.”

From that perspective, the Grad Prep Academy has been highly successful. “Every single person who participated in the program is doing graduate work at a major university.” The program is taking applications for new cohorts of 32 college students in each of three years, beginning this fall, and will include black, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Latino, and Native American male undergraduates.

For Harper, a first-generation college graduate whose academic career inspired his sister to enter a graduate program in social work and his mother to begin studies at a local community college, catching talented college students in their junior year can make all the difference. They could become graduate students and ultimately join the academic ranks, and inspire other college students of color to do the same.

Harper credits the Summer Scholars Program at TC with his desire to give younger male students of color the opportunities he was given, and to model the crucial confidence-building and mentoring they will need to succeed in graduate programs: “Summer Scholars was really life-changing for me and for other brilliant black students who participated in it.” – Patricia Lamiell

 

How This Gift Connects The Dots
 
Scholarships & Fellowships
 
Faculty & Programs
 
Campus & Technology
 
Financial Flexibility
 
Engage TC Alumni & Friends