T. Elon Dancy, PhD

  • Executive Director and Chief Research Scientist
  • Helen S. Faison Endowed Chair in Urban Education
  • Professor (by courtesy), Africana Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • Co-Principal Investigator, PittEd Justice Collective

T. Elon Dancy II was appointed the third Helen S. Faison Endowed Chair, Executive Director, and Chief Research Scientist of the Center for Urban Education in the University of Pittsburgh School of Education in July 2018. He holds affiliate faculty appointments in Africana Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and serves as co-principal investigator of the PittEd Justice Collective, a three-year working group at the School of Education that is engaged in “anti-racist, justice directed” initiatives with students, staff, faculty, alumni, families, youth, and district and community partners. Dr. Dancy served a term as the Pitt School of Education’s associate dean for equity and justice, collaboratively establishing the School’s signature initiatives, study groups, and faculty pedagogy workshops.

Prior to joining the University of Pittsburgh faculty, Dr. Dancy was the inaugural associate dean for community engagement and academic inclusion in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at the University of Oklahoma. This position made him the first Black administrator in the School of Education’s 93-year history. According to university historic records, Dr. Dancy was the first Black person both tenured and promoted to full professor for the study of higher education administration in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in 2016. During his tenure, Dr. Dancy served as Provost Fellow, conducting research and collaborative programming projects related to Black student outcomes across academic fields. In recognition of his profound institutional contributions, the OU School of Education established the T. Elon Dancy II Graduate Student Scholarship in Adult and Higher Education in 2016 upon receipt of a philanthropic donation from one of his former graduate students.

Dr. Dancy’s major fields of interest are Black intellectual thought, Black masculinity studies, structural oppression, and related schooling and higher education issues. This scholarly agenda draws upon Black knowledge traditions and critical theories to examine education settings as sites of struggle and aspiration, with a focus on Black American populations. He is highly regarded for his studies of Black masculinity and patriarchy in postsecondary contexts, antiBlackness in higher education, and political economies of education. Dr. Dancy’s projects are supported by collaborative local relationships listed here, and he has received over five million dollars in funding at the University of Pittsburgh for his scholarly projects from several foundations and agencies including the Spencer Foundation, National Science Foundation, Heinz Foundation, Mellon Foundation, Grable Foundation, and the McElhattan Foundation.

Dr. Dancy is the author or co-author of nearly 100 journal articles, book chapters, monographs, and publications related to education and society. His six books include The Brother Code: Manhood and Masculinity among African American Men in College (2012), African American Males and Education: Researching the Convergence of Race and Identity (2012) (with M. Christopher Brown II), Educating African American Males: Challenges of Context, Possibilities for Practice (2013) (with M. Christopher Brown II and James Earl Davis), Black Male Collegians: Increasing Access, Retention, and Persistence in Higher Education (2014) (with Robert Palmer, J. Luke Wood, and Terrell Strayhorn), and Black Colleges across the Diaspora: Global Perspectives on Race and Stratification (2017) (with M. Christopher Brown II).

Dr. Dancy has a forthcoming book with the University Press of Kentucky, Freedom Struggles in Urban Appalachia: Resisting Pittsburgh’s Schools, Prisons, and Carcerality (with Sabina Vaught and Lori Delale O-Connor). He is also completing a special issue of Educational Studies (with Kirsten T. Edwards) focused on the relationship between the American college and the chattel slave plantation, as well as a special issue of Negro Educational Review (with Juan Battle) examining university statements following the state murder of George Floyd and global uprisings. His research and scholarly essays are published in numerous academic journals including Teachers College Record, Gender and Education, Urban Education, Journal of Negro Education, Journal of School Leadership, and the Western Journal of Black Studies (among many others).

Dr. Dancy received research awards from several national research institutes and associations, including the American Education Research Association (Division-J) and the Association for the Study of Higher Education Council on Ethnic Participation. Diverse Issues in Higher Education has named him Top Emerging Scholar (2014) and Distinguished Educator (2018) for his contribution to the study of race and gender issues in higher education. In 2022, he received the Derrick Bell Legacy Award from the Critical Race Studies in Education Association and delivered the American Educational Studies Association’s R. Freeman Butts Endowed Lecture (with his doctoral student, Christopher M. Wright). His research and scholarship are cited in national periodicals including ABC News, Forbes, Ebony, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and The Root.com.

Additionally, Dr. Dancy serves as an associate editor for AERA Journal, Educational Researcher, book series editor for Contemporary Perspectives in Race and Ethnic Relations, with Information Age Press, and editorial board member for the Borderless book series with West Virginia University Press. He is past senior editor of the College Student Affairs Journal. Dr. Dancy is an executive board member of the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education and past chair of the Research Focus on Black Education Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association.

Dr. Dancy received his B.S. degree in psychology with honors from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and two degrees in the study of organizational theory and governance: the Master of Health Services Administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a Ph.D. with distinction in educational leadership and research from Louisiana State University with cognates in higher education administration and sociology. His dissertation won the School of Education’s Dissertation of the Year Award and a Citation for Excellence from the American Educational Research Association’s Division J.

Dr. Dancy’s tenure in the Center for Urban Education seeks to anchor the Center’s scholarly and service projects within Black and Indigenous knowledge traditions, political education, and collaborative, community-based praxis. The Center’s extensive programs and initiatives include a series of local and national convenings on the school-prison nexus, Black education histories, and education and freedom praxis.

Research Grants

2021 – present:

  • Co-Principal Investigator, Black Educators’ National Advisory Council. Funds support collaborative work with a national network of Black education specialists. Funded by the Heinz Endowments. $250,000.
  • Co-Principal Investigator, Reimagining Educational Work for Collective Freedom: The Labor Strike as a Portal. $50,000. Funds support seminars and symposia framing labor resistance as freedom knowledge praxis, or education. Funded by the Spencer Foundation.
  • Co-Principal Investigator, Practices of Freedom: A Model for Transformative Teaching and Teacher Education. Funded by the McElhattan Foundation. $2,000,000.
  • Co-Principal Investigator, Freedom Dreaming: Black Communal and Familial Educational Practices in Pittsburgh’s Hill District before, during, and after COVID-19. Funded by the University of Pittsburgh. $50,000.
  • Co-Principal Investigator, Freedom Dreaming: Black Communal and Familial Educational Practices in Pittsburgh’s Hill District before, during, and after COVID-19. Funded by the Spencer Foundation. $50,000.

2020 – present:

  • Principal Investigator, (Un)Doing the Consequences of Brown v. Board of Education: Toward a Network of Black Retired Teachers in Pittsburgh. Funds support an organized network of retired Black teachers providing supplemental instruction to minoritized students in Pittsburgh. Funded by Grable Foundation. $122,500.

2019 – present:

  • Co-Principal Investigator, Ending Racial Opportunity Gaps in Mathematics: New Paths Forward. Funded by Heinz Endowments. $144,656.
  • Co-Principal Investigator, Pittsburgh Regional Innovation Addressing Opportunity Gaps in Education: A Scalable Data-Driven Infrastructure for Personalized Learning. Funds support the Ready-to-Learn Social Justice Math Project in the Center for Urban Education. $406,174. Funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
  • Co-Principal Investigator, Bridging Opportunity Gaps in Urban School Contexts: Techniques and Tools for Personalized Learning Thought, AI and Culturally Responsive Mentoring. Funds support a collaborative personalized learning project between Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh Center for Urban Education to focus on improving learning in urban and low-income settings. Funded by The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. $1,770,000.

Completed University of Pittsburgh Grants

2018 – 2021:

  • Principal Investigator, Heinz Fellows. Funds support the yearly training and site-based mentoring intervention within urban schools. Funded by The Heinz Endowments. $2,400,000.

2019 – 2020:

  • Principal Investigator, Center for Urban Education Summer Educators Forum on the School/Prison Nexus, a national conference on the school/prison nexus with refereed academic presentations, community dialogues, and youth engagement. Funded by the Heinz Foundation. $250,000.