Long-time Columbia University Professor Christopher Emdin is joining the University of Southern California as a tenured full professor in January 2022. He will also hold the prestigious Robert A. Naslund endowed chair in curriculum and teaching in the USC Rossier School of Education. Additionally, Emdin has been named the USC Race and Equity Center’s inaugural Director of Youth Engagement and Community Partnerships. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Emdin,” states Brandi Jones, our Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer. “He brings extensive knowledge and passion for creating and sustaining inclusive learning environments for students and families of color. His bold, enterprising thinking will not only advance our work in the USC Race and Equity Center, but will also greatly impact students and educators in the greater Los Angeles area.”

Our center already works extensively with Los Angeles Unified School District, Inglewood Unified School District, other local K-12 districts and charter networks, all nine colleges in the Los Angeles Community College District, and five other community colleges in the L.A. area. Emdin will help extend the reach of our local impact by developing and leading a portfolio of work that engages young people and adult Angelenos who live in predominantly Black, Latinx, and AAPI communities. “My work is anchored in community,” Emdin says. “This is an opportunity to create and reimagine existing connections, embark on new collaborations, and engage in a radical dreaming of what schooling that honors equity can look like.”

Emdin has amassed an international reputation for excellence and the consistent production of high-impact scholarship. He is especially well known for his intellectual leadership on urban education, teacher education broadly and science education specifically, and hip hop education. His empirical work focuses primarily on qualitatively amplifying the perspectives, experiences, and voices of urban youth of color, most especially those who too often experience alienation in K-12 schools. His theoretical work principally focuses on deepening, innovating, and adding complexity to what has long been referred to as culturally relevant pedagogy in the field of education. “In an era where it has become either taboo or divisive to discuss issues related to race and racial equity, it is essential that we have institutions that are bold and unapologetic in addressing misconceptions, driving public discourse, and engaging in community-rooted practices to overhaul the landscape of teaching and learning,” he notes. “The USC Race and Equity Center is such a place. I am looking forward to furthering its mission.”

A highly-respected and accomplished scholar, Emdin was named a White House STEM Access Champion of Change in 2015; highlighted in Education Week as one of the 75 most influential professors in the field of education every year between 2017 and 2021; recognized by The Root as one of the 100 most influential African Americans in the United States in 2016 and 2017; and featured in TIME magazine as one of 27 people “bridging divides across America” in 2020. Six years ago, the American Educational Research Association presented him its prestigious association-wide Early Career Award.

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too, one of Emdin’s eight books, is a New York Times Bestseller. He also has published more than 30 articles in Science Education, Journal of Curriculum Studies, Educational Leadership, Urban Education, Journal of Negro Education, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, and other highly-respected peer-reviewed academic journals. In addition, he is frequently invited to give talks at K-12 school districts and universities across the country. He also has delivered keynote addresses at dozens of national education convenings, including the annual South by Southwest education conference.

“Chris is a genius, as in an actual genius,” insists Shaun Harper, our center’s founder and executive director. The creation of Science Genius is one of many extraordinary applications of Emdin’s research. Science Genius uses rap battles as a tool to teach urban youth about science. For students to succeed in battles against their peers, their delivery (or flow) and the creativity of their lyrics must be met with a serious demonstration of their understandings of complex scientific concepts. Students sometimes lose battles because their science knowledge is not as strong as their competitors’. Emdin and other researchers on his team have found that losing on the science dimension of the battle criteria almost always motivates students to focus harder on mastering science in preparation for future battles. Science Genius has been highlighted on CNN, NPR, and Vice News, as well as in The Atlantic, New York Times, Washington Post, and numerous other media outlets. More importantly, it has led to partnerships between Emdin, celebrities and rappers (including the Wu-Tang Clan), science teachers, and more than 3,000 students in schools across various states (New York, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas), the Caribbean (Jamaica and Barbados), and Canada (Toronto and Calgary).

“I am excited to contribute to the existing research and practice at the Center and offer a perspective that honors youth and community voices,” maintains Emdin. “I am also very excited to bring the successful  initiatives I have developed around Hip-Hop and education in New York City to Los Angeles. There are powerful cultural Hip-Hop roots that exist on the west coast. I hope to explore them deeply and place them in conversation with similar roots around the world as we construct a national and international framework for engaging in #HipHopEd work across the globe.”