The University’s Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis appointed Kevin Cokley, an educational psychology and African and African diaspora studies professor, as its new director in May.
The institute was formed in 2011 with the goal of using applied research to see how public policy affects resource distribution across communities. Ultimately, the institute seeks to improve such policies to better the lives of historically underserved and underrepresented populations.
Cokley, who will be the second director since the institute was established, aims to understand the relationship between racial and ethnic identities and academic achievement, particularly among African-Americans. More specifically, he researches both environmental and psychological factors that play roles in the development of African American student achievement, the students’ own self-identifications and opinions, and the public’s beliefs.
Cokley said he believes the institute may do projects that focus on the areas of education and mental health, which are areas of his expertise.
“My primary goal as director of IUPRA is to increase our research profile,” Cokley said. “We will continue to produce policy briefs that address the important public policy issues that disproportionately impact the lives of people of color. I believe that public policy should be informed by rigorous quantitative social science research.”
Along with his appointment as director, Cokley said he will continue teaching courses at the University.
“I am straddling both worlds, because I still maintain teaching and advising responsibilities in the Department of Educational Psychology,” Cokley said.
Terra Ousley, an educational psychology graduate student, said she enjoyed Cokley’s multicultural counseling course because it showed her many of the factors that counselors must consider in their work.
“The class opens your eyes to the impact race, culture and ethnicity have on our everyday lives as Americans and how they affect different people’s counseling needs,” Ousley said.
Betsy Crowe, another educational psychology graduate student, said that the course has benefited both her clinical work and her daily interactions with people.
“Obviously he is a huge expert on that topic, but I didn’t feel like he was trying to talk at us,” Crowe said. “He was intentional about engaging everyone and helping us come to new insights on our own, instead of projecting them onto us.”