When D.L. Moffitt interviewed Joseph Derrick Nelson, a visiting professor in TC’s Department of Education Policy & Social Analysis, this past spring, one of his first questions was: “What do you think teachers and administrators need to help them (re)imagine Black boys in their schools and classrooms?”

Moffitt was referring directly to Nelson’s project, “Reimagining Black Boyhood,” but, in essence, the question was one he’s been posing for a long time.

One of seven children raised by a struggling single parent, Moffitt has navigated his own education with huge success. He was a Gates Millennium Scholar and Honors College student at George Mason University, where, during his freshman year he co-founded an initiative that provided campus tours to more than 2,000 low-income students, kindergarten through eighth grade, in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. He subsequently won a Fulbright English Teaching Fellowship that took him to Germany.

As a result of each experience, he started to consider how fate and circumstances point people along very different paths — including two of his brothers, who are incarcerated.

When I left college, I started asking very pointed questions about the reasons why people are living in poverty... I  came to understand that law, business and economics — disciplines that lie outside of the classroom — intersect inside the classroom and dictate policy there, overshadowing the child-centric priority of that space.

— D.L. Moffitt

“When I left college, I started asking very pointed questions about the reasons why people are living in poverty,” says Moffitt. “I wanted to find the mechanisms that restrict access to quality education for children living in low-income communities. I came to understand that law, business and economics — disciplines that lie outside of the classroom — intersect inside the classroom and dictate policy there, overshadowing the child-centric priority of that space.”

Graduates Gallery 2020

Meet some more of the amazing students who earned degrees from Teachers College this year.

As a result, Moffitt, who originally planned on pursing a teaching degree at TC, instead received his master’s degree in Education Policy this past May. While at the College, he burnished his skills in data analytics while immersing himself in both the EPSA Federal Policy Institute and assisting Nelson and the Institute for Urban & Minority Education on a study of black males and education. He also served as an education consultant with a task force of the Columbia Law School Center for Public Research and Leadership.

Increasingly, he’s also drawn on his knowledge and skills to directly challenge injustice. After experiencing racial harassment during his Fulbright year abroad, Moffitt recommended to the Fulbright Program that cohorts of diverse scholars teaching overseas need more support to navigate and thrive in the countries to which they are assigned. Partly in response, the U.S. State Department, which sponsors the Fulbright Program, and the German-American Fulbright Commission, held a diversity roundtable in Berlin to address those concerns. Reflecting Moffitt’s thought leadership, the proceedings included a cultural sensitivity workshop for working Fulbright scholars from diverse backgrounds. After returning home, Moffitt also led webinars and presented at diversity conference to help other Fulbright Scholars “navigate their personal identities abroad.”   

And in late May, as the country was rocked by police violence against black Americans, mass protests, looting, curfews, Moffitt publicly resigned from a summer position working as a political organizer in an under-represented area of Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the 2020 election. In a note posted to his LinkedIn profile, he spoke out against acts that he felt led to exploiting black voters while disregarding their political concerns. 

“One of my many hopes is that…the DNC [Democratic National Committee] and the Biden campaign assert a new vision for the U.S. that genuinely believes that Black Lives Matter, independent of their political capital,” he wrote. “If you want to truly win in November and beyond, please be better and do better.”

During the coming months, Moffitt will be studying for the admission test for law school — another key piece in a career plan that could include one day pursuing a college presidency or even a seat in the U.S. Senate.   

“I think combining a JD with an MBA will help me to make long-term, strategic decisions,” he says. “Education helped me to find my purpose. I want to develop policies that will one day give all kids greater access to quality education.”

— Steve Giegerich