TONY JACK


Assistant Professor of Education at Harvard University

Junior Fellow at Harvard Society of Fellows

"Racism, or rather race and exclusion, was written into our laws and practices and our social policy."
- Tony Jack

KIRK CARAPEZZA OF WGBH INTERVIEWS TONY JACK

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ABOUT


WHY HIM, WHY NOW? Low-income students face a variety of challenges in the remote learning environment that’s emerged in response to the coronavirus crisis. As a first-generation college graduate and the author of a book about how lower-income students from public and private high schools adjust to the college environment, Jack can offer a unique perspective on the challenges these students are currently facing. EXPERTISE How education intersects with race, class, and ethnicity; poverty; inequality BACKGROUND Anthony Abraham Jack (Ph.D., Harvard University, 2016) is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and an assistant professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He holds the Shutzer Assistant Professorship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. His research documents the overlooked diversity among lower-income undergraduates: the Doubly Disadvantaged — those who enter college from local, typically distressed public high schools — and Privileged Poor — those who do so from boarding, day, and preparatory high schools. His scholarship appears in the Common Reader, Du Bois Review, Sociological Forum, and Sociology of Education and has earned awards from the American Educational Studies Association, American Sociological Association, Association for the Study of Higher Education, Eastern Sociological Society, and the Society for the Study of Social Problems. Jack held fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation and was a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellow. The National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan named him an Emerging Diversity Scholar. In May 2020, Muhlenberg College will award him an honorary doctorate for his work in transforming higher education.

Jack frequently writes about his experiences as a first-generation student at an elite college. He grew up in a low-income, predominantly black Miami neighborhood in a single-parent household where his mother worked a security guard. He transferred from a public high school to a private one his senior year, an experience he says prepared him to navigate academic life at Amherst College.

Fun tidbits: He loves Harry Potter and knitting, is afraid of heights, and officiates weddings. DEGREES Bachelor’s (B.A.) in Women’s and Gender Studies; B.A. in Religion from Amherst College Master’s (A.M.) in Sociology from Harvard University Doctorate (Ph.D.) in Sociology from Harvard University MAJOR PUBLICATIONS He’s known for his 2019 book The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students. It’s won a number of awards, including the Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize from Harvard University Press. Check out this review of it in EducationNext, an education policy journal. Jack defines the titular “privileged poor” group as lower-income undergraduate students who graduated from private high schools. He explores the fact that their most significant advantage over the “doubly disadvantaged,” or lower-income students who attended public schools, isn’t the superior education they receive, but rather their ability to navigate the informal social rules that govern elite college life. He’s written a dozen articles on diversity at elite colleges, including “William Julius Wilson and the Study of the ‘New’ Diversity at Elite Colleges” in The New Black Sociologists: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives collection in 2018, “(No) Harm in Asking: Class, Acquired Cultural Capital, and Academic Engagement at an Elite University” in the Sociology of Education journal in 2016, and “Crisscrossing Boundaries: Variation in Experiences with Class Marginality among Lower-Income, Black Undergraduates at an Elite College” in the College Students’ Experiences of Power and Marginality: Sharing Spaces and Negotiating Differences collection in 2015.

He’s also published essays in the popular press, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. Here are a few of his recent pieces: “I Was a Low-Income Student. Classes Weren’t the Hard Part,” The New York Times Magazine, September 2019 “What the Privileged Poor Can Teach Us,” The New York Times, September 2015

PROFILES OF HIM “Can This Man Change How Elite Colleges Treat Low-Income Students?,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 2019 This profile provides details on Jack’s background growing up in a low-income, single-parent household in Miami and offers glimpses of his personality (he’s a 6’5” man who loves to knit, for instance).

FURTHER READING Anthony Abraham Jack Wants to Redefine How We Think About College Campus Inequality, The Nation, May 2019 In this Q&A about The Privileged Poor, Jack discusses his personal connection to his research as a first-generation student, explains the “hidden curriculum” of unwritten rules and expectations disadvantaged students must master at colleges, and theorizes about how schools can most effectively help such students. Anthony Jack: A New Voice for Diversity in Higher Ed, Harvard University, June 2016 Jack speaks about aspiring to be both a traditional academic who publishes in top journals and a nontraditional one who seeks to engage the public outside the academy. He also outlines the concrete changes he wants to see come of his research and shares his love for all things Harry Potter. RECENT VIDEO INTERVIEWS Danielle Allen and Anthony Jack - ‘The Privileged Poor, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, March 2019 On Diversity: Access Ain’t Inclusion | Anthony Jack | TEDxCambridge, TEDxTalks, June 2019