Shaun Harper, founder and executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center, completed his first doctorate, a Ph.D. from Indiana University, 20 years ago. In 2017, Governors State University was the first institution to award him the Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa degree. He was awarded two additional honorary doctorates from Georgetown University and Whittier College this spring.
Harper also delivered the commencement address to 1,600 graduates of the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies, about half of whom attended the in-person ceremony in Washington, DC last week. This was the largest and most racially diverse graduating class in the School’s history. A video of the honorary degree conferral and Harper’s graduation speech is available on YouTube.
Located approximately 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles, Whittier College is one of the most diverse private four-year institutions of higher education in the United States – more than 70% of its undergraduates are students of color, over one-third are Pell Grant recipients, and many are first in their families to attend college. Whittier is one of 71 member institutions in our center’s Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance. Earlier this year, Harper facilitated a retreat on racial equity and campus racial climate for the College’s executive leadership team and 23-member Board of Trustees.
“Gratitude feels like an insufficient articulation of what I feel about the three institutions that have chosen to honor me this way,” he says. “I am beyond grateful and humbled by these honorary degrees. I will deeply appreciate them for the rest of my life.”
In addition to leading our center for the past 11 years, Harper also is a Provost Professor in the USC Rossier School of Education and in the USC Marshall School of Business. Additionally, he is the Clifford and Betty Allen Chair in Urban Leadership. This March, President Carol L. Folt named him a University Professor, a distinction only bestowed to 26 of 4,700 USC full-time faculty members. Harper was inducted into the National Academy of Education last year, served as the 2020-21 American Educational Research Association president, and was the 2016-17 Association for the Study of Higher Education president.
In addition to these honorary doctorates, Harper is recipient of four USC teaching awards and dozens of top honors from highly-respected national professional associations. He has been repeatedly recognized in Education Week as one of the 10 most influential education professors in the country.