Teachers College has announced that Erica Walker, Clifford Brewster Upton Professor of Mathematical Education, Director of the Edmund W. Gordon Institute for Urban & Minority Education and immediate past Chair of the Department of Mathematics, Science & Technology, has been appointed Dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto.
“I am deeply honored to be named the next dean of OISE, and look forward to working and learning with everyone there,” said Walker. “It’s a very exciting time to be taking on this role at such a dynamic institution. I am tremendously grateful to everyone I've worked with at TC, especially my colleagues and students, and look forward to continued collaborations.”
Walker will join the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), a global leader in teacher preparation and research, in January 2023. Her new post will follow more than two decades of innovative mathematics scholarship, mentorship and dynamic new programming and initiatives at the helm of the Gordon Institute.
“Erica Walker has left a profound imprint on Teachers College, as a universally respected scholar, mentor and administrator who has both empowered students and expanded public engagement in the critical STEM fields,” said TC President Thomas Bailey. “At the same time, her leadership of TC’s Gordon Institute of Minority and Urban Education has furthered its role as a touchstone for the College’s work to advance the cause of racial justice and equity. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with Professor Walker as part of the broader academic community.”
Under Walker’s leadership, the Gordon Institute has expanded significantly, both in terms of engaged faculty affiliates, graduate students, and fellows, but also in securing substantial external grants and gifts in support of its research and development projects as well as graduate school funding. The Gordon Institute has broadened its reach into Harlem and nearby communities, established new and fruitful collaborations across TC and Columbia, and deepened existing ties with national partners and community organizations.
The Gordon Institute supports a number of affiliated programs, recently adding the school-based REACH to its portfolio and continuing to incubate and support faculty-led research initiatives and projects. And, in partnership with the Media & Social Change Lab and the Digital Futures Institute, the Gordon Institute has ventured into the digital realm with an exploration of mathematics at historically Black colleges and universities and a new podcast series, Currents.
Walker also helped to organize TC’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance, including the 2020 and 2021 Edmund W. Gordon Lectures. “Through the Harlem Renaissance, African American intellectuals, artists and professionals in other fields profoundly shaped not only the culture of Black America, but that of the broader society in ways that continue to reverberate in our own era,” Walker said of the College’s Harlem Renaissance 100 celebration.
“Teachers College’s role as an institution that was home, at various points, to many of these important figures is an enormously rich but often overlooked part of its history. We want to shine a spotlight on that period, celebrate its enduring legacy for the College, New York City and the world, and ensure that these narratives have a rightfully prominent place in the ongoing story of Teachers College.”
A native of Atlanta and a former high school math teacher, Walker arrived at TC in 2001 as a Minority Postdoctoral Fellow. In the more than two decades since, she has piloted cutting-edge research in mathematics education, including multiple National Science Foundation projects, and has been recognized for her scholarship by the National Association of Mathematicians and the Association for Women in Mathematics, among others.
In 2015, the Mathematical Association of America commemorated its 100th anniversary by inviting Professor Walker to deliver its annual Etta Z. Falconer Lecture. And last month, the American Educational Research Association cited Walker’s “exceptional contributions to, and excellence in, education research” in naming her an AERA Fellow—an honor accorded fewer than 700 U.S. academics.
Highly regarded for her collaborative leadership, Walker centers her research on equity in mathematics education, exploring social and cultural factors that facilitate engagement, learning, and performance in mathematics, especially for historically marginalized students. She works across disciplines, methodologies of research, and with young and adult learners alike. The joyful and popular STEAMnasium project in the Department of Mathematics, Science & Technology is but one example of her collaborative, collegial style in bringing multiple disciplines, departments and community members near and far together in service of life-long learning.
“Erica Walker has infused Teachers College with an unbridled passion for collaborative, impactful research and equity in learning,” said Provost, Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs Stephanie Rowley. “Through her research and practice, she has embraced math as a palate upon which to explore rigorous learning as well as cultural, historical and contemporary contexts—enabling people of all ages to identify connections between math and STEM subjects to their everyday lives. I look forward to seeing all that she will accomplish at the University of Toronto. Her presence and voice will be sorely missed at TC.”
Walker’s work has been published in leading journals such as the American Education Research Journal, Educational Leadership and the Urban Review. She is also the author of two books – Building Mathematics Learning Communities: Improving Outcomes in Urban High Schools and Beyond Banneker: Black Mathematicians and the Paths to Excellence – and serves on the Committee of Education in the American Mathematical Society, the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival Advisory Board and the Public Math Advisory Board, as well as several editorial boards. A current project emerged from her most recent book and explores the use of storytelling in K-8 mathematics curriculum.
She earned an undergraduate degree at Birmingham-Southern College, a Master’s at Wake Forest University, and a second masters and her Ed.D. at Harvard.
“TC is an incredibly enriching place that has sustained me as a scholar and researcher, and offered so much opportunity for me to develop as an effective and collaborative leader,” said Walker. “I've learned a great deal here and I know all of my TC experience will serve me well in my new role.”