BERC is comprised of research faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students and alumni of Teachers College and other institutions devoted to enriching Black education through transdisciplinary research, cross-sector collaboration, and policy advocacy. Take a moment to learn more about our Staff, Affiliated Faculty, and Advisory Board, and their respective contributions to education research


Faculty Director, Associate Professor of Education Leadership, Teachers College, Columbia University

Sonya Douglass Horsford, Ed.D. serves as founding director of the Black Education Research Collective (BERC) and Associate Professor of Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research interests include Black education, education leadership, and the politics of race and urban school leadership in the post-Civil Rights Era.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Black Education Research Collective (BERC) Teachers College, Columbia University

Phillip A. Smith, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Black Education Research Collective (BERC), a research collaborative affliated with the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) at Teachers College, Columbia University. His research interests include education leadership and policy studies, critical race theory, and Black education leadership, with a focus on Black men and the principalship. His dissertation entitled, “Leading While Black and Male: A Phenomenology of Black Male School Leaders,” examined how the racial identities and lived experiences of Black male K-12 public and independent school leaders informed their professional lives and leadership and earned the 2020 Division A (Administration, Organization & Leadership) Outstanding Dissertation Award and the Division G (Social Context of Education) Distinguished Dissertation Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA). Dr. Smith has published in Leadership and Policy Schools; Urban Education Research and Policy Annuals; and the Caribbean Educational Research Journal. Dr. Smith also has chapter contributions in Leadership for Increasingly Diverse Schools, (2nd Edition), Routledge and Global perspectives of issues and solutions in urban education, Information Age Publishing. Dr. Smith currently serves as Co-Program Chair for the AERA Leadership for Social Special Interest Group (SIG).

Research Assistant Doctoral Student, Education Leadership, Teachers College, Columbia University Co-Chair, Graduate Student Committee, AERA Leadership for Social Justice SIG

Dominique Lester is a third year doctoral student in the Education Leadership Ph.D. program. His sponsor and advisor is Professor Sonya Douglass-Horsford. Dominique’s research and work explores how theology and ethics help inform the educational philosophies of Black superintendents in the south. Dominique joins Teachers College from Atlanta, Georgia, with an extensive background in early childhood education, theology and history. Dominique has served as a classroom teacher, training coordinator for academic organizations and institutions that work with marginalized populations and as a minister in local congregations. Dominique earned a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia. A Master of Divinity from Emory University: Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia and a Master of Arts in History and Education from Teachers College: Columbia University. Dominique is currently the graduate student co-chair for the Leadership for Social Justice SIG with AERA.


Dominique serves as the Chief of Staff- Director of Community Relations and Programming at a mega church in Westchester County where he manages over 60 different ministries, attends to day to day operations, leadership development of adult faith leaders, risk management training, establishes corporate partnerships for non-profits with educational aspirations, staffs and manages food pantry in Mount Vernon, assists in the management of a multi-million-dollar annual operating budget and organizes social action campaigns around voting, unfair labor practices and education reform. Dominique attempts academically and vocationally to bridge the gap of the public square and private life of Black moral leadership and evoke justice seeking practices through scholar activism. 


Dominique loves music, sports, and a good spades game. Dominique also collects African American Children’s books as a hobby. Dominique is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, incorporated and believes that the Atlanta Braves is the greatest baseball team of all time.

Research Coordinator and Project Lead Doctoral Student, Teachers College, Columbia University

Leana Cabral is a Ph.D. student in the Sociology of Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is a research coordinator at the Black Education Research Collective and project lead on it's Spencer-funded grant "Black Education in the Wake of COVID & Trumpism". She is also a research assistant at The Public Good and the Center for Understanding Race and Education (CURE) as well as a W.E.B. Du Bois Scholar in the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College. Her research interests include the racial politics of public education, anti-blackness in education and educational inequality. Prior to attending Teachers College, Leana worked as a consultant for a large-scale education nonprofit, the Philadelphia Education Fund, and served as the Director of the City of Philadelphia's Mayor's Office of Education's college access initiative. Prior to those positions, Leana worked in the youth development field. She holds a B.A. in Comparative Women's Studies from Spelman College.

Creative Project Director, Academic Affairs and Equity Coordinator, Teachers College Columbia University

Lily Ngaruiya is the Academic Affairs and Equity Coordinator for the Office of the Provost at Teachers College, Columbia University. Lily received her Master of Arts in Sociology and Education from Teachers College focusing her studies on race, cultural capital, and art education. Prior to joining Teachers College, Lily worked as a college counselor at a Title I charter school in Dallas, Texas. Her experiences working with Black and brown, first-generation students inspires her to reimagine supportive schooling structures both in K-12 schools and in higher education. Lily previously earned her Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College where she studied education and art history.


Lily is a collage and watercolor artist whose work centers Black women. Supported by her interest in art and museum education, her artistic practice has flourished into community art-making workshops on liberation. In this space, she facilitates dialogue and a collage-making exercise with community members to explore what it means to be free.

Affiliated Faculty at Teachers College

Mark Gooden
Christian Johnson Endeavor Professor of Education Leadership

Mark A. Gooden, Ph.D. is a Christian Johnson Endeavor Professor of Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. His scholarly interests include principalship, anti-racist leadership, culturally responsive school leadership, and legal issues in education.

Michelle Knight-Manuel, Professor of Education
Professor of Education

Michelle Knight-Manuel, Ph.D. is a Professor of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her scholarly Interests include:

Equity Issues in Urban Education; Teacher Education; Qualitative Research. Specifically:

  • Youth Studies (College Readiness and Access, Immigrant Education, and Civic Engagement)
  • Feminist Theories ( Black, Multicultural and Critical Race Feminisms)
  • Culturally Relevant Pedagogy
  • African-American Teaching Practices with Diverse Populations
  • Culturally Grounded Research Methodologies

Watch Professor Knight Discuss Culturally Responsive Education

Watch Professor Knight Discuss Cultural Rules of Emotion

Felicia Mensah
Professor of Science and Education | Professor of Science Education & Vice Chair, Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology

Felicia Mensah Moore, Ph.D. is a Professor of Science and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her scholarly interests include Science Teacher Education; Diversity, Equity & Social Justice Education; Urban and Multicultural Education. 

Cally Waite
Associate Professor of History and Education

Cally Waite, Ed.D. is an Associate Professor of History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her scholarly interests include the transformation of higher education in the late 19th century;  historical theory and methodology.


Erica Walker
Clifford Brewster Upton Professor of Mathematical Education | Chair - Department of Mathematics, Science & Technology | Director - Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME)

Erica Walker, Ph.D. is a Clifford Brewster Upton Professor of Mathematical Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her scholarly interests include racial and gender equity in mathematics education, student persistence in advanced mathematics, and mathematics education policy.



Advisory Board

M. Christopher Brown II

Dr. M. Christopher Brown II serves as Eighteenth President, Kentucky State University. He has a Ph.D. in Higher Education from The Pennsylvania State University. Prior to accepting the KSU presidency, Dr. Brown served as President and Institutional Executive Officer at Alcorn State University. He has served in other executive and academic roles at Southern University and A&M System, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Alcorn State University, Fisk University, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, and the United Negro College Fund.

Rodney Hopson

Rodney Hopson, Ph.D. is Professor, Division of Educational Psychology, Research Methods, and Education Policy, College of Education and Human Development and Senior Research Fellow, Center for Education Policy and Evaluation, George Mason University.  Hopson is currently an affiliated faculty member of the Center for Culturally Responsive Assessment and Evaluation at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Previously, he served as Hillman Distinguished Professor, Department of Educational Foundations and Leadership in the School of Education, and teaching faculty member in the School of Liberal Arts, Duquesne University. He received his Ph.D. from the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia.

Joyce King

Dr. Joyce E. King (PhD, BA, Stanford) holds the Benjamin Mays Endowed Chair for Urban Teaching, Learning and Leadership at Georgia State University. Recognized internationally for her interdisciplinary scholarship on curriculum transformation, policy and leadership, she has served in senior academic affairs positions at Spelman College, Medgar Evers College, the University of New Orleans, Santa Clara University, and was Head, Ethnic Studies Department at Mills College. Her concept of “dysconscious racism” continues to influence scholarship on the sociology of race. A past-president of the American Educational Research Association, she is a member of the National African American Reparations Commission.

kofi lomotey

Kofi Lomotey, Ph.D. is Chancellor John Bardo and Deborah Bardo Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership at Western Carolina University. For more than 40 years--as a scholar and as a practitioner—Kofi Lomotey has focused on the education of people of African descent. At the higher education level, he has been a university professor, department chair, provost and president and chancellor.  He has been a founder, teacher and administrator at three independent African-centered schools.  Kofi’s research interests include urban schools, African American students in higher education, African American principals in elementary schools and independent African-centered schools. He has published several books, articles in professional journals and book chapters. Lomotey is an active member of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and serves as a member of editorial boards of the Journal of Negro Education and Educational Researcher.  He has served as principal investigator on several grants totaling more than $4 million.  For 19 years, he served as the editor of the journal, Urban Education. Lomotey holds PhD and MA degrees from Stanford University in educational administration and policy analysis, a MEd degree from Cleveland State University in curriculum and instruction and a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College in economics.

Linda C. Tillman

Dr. Linda C. Tillman is Professor Emerita of Educational Leadership, School of Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A former public school educator with teaching and administrative experience, Dr. Tillman’s research and scholarship is focused on school leadership, the education of African Americans in K-12 education, and culturally appropriate research approaches. She is editor in chief of the SAGE Handbook of African American Education and co-editor of the Handbook of research on educational leadership for diversity and equity (with J.J. Scheurich).  Dr. Tillman is the Managing Member of FAIRE Consulting Group LLC, education research and training specialists.

Vanessa Siddle Walker

Vanessa Siddle Walker, the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of African American Educational Studies at Emory University. For over 25 years, she has explored the segregated schooling of African American children, considering sequentially the climate that permeated segregated schools, the network of professional collaborations that explains the similarity across schools, and the hidden systems of advocacy that demanded equality and justice for the children in the schools. Her research has garnered a number of awards, including the prestigious Grawmeyer Award for Education and the AERA Early Career Award. In addition, she has received awards from the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools, the American Education Studies Association, and three awards from AERA Divisions, including Best New Female Scholar, Best New Book, and Outstanding Book. Walker is past president (2019) of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

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