Shaun Harper

Photo by Shon Fuller

In a video praising the largest-ever research project on Black and Latino boys attending public high schools across New York City, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan applauded Shaun Harper’s intellectual leadership and predicted his study had great potential to transform schools across the country. In a Tweet two years prior, Duncan directed his followers to Harper’s research on racial equity in college sports, which the U.S. Department of Education relied on in its efforts to regulate the NCAA. “Dr. Harper is one of America’s most important teachers and a leading voice for educational justice,” another U.S. Education Secretary, John King, writes on Harper’s website. “From the consciousness-raising articles he writes for public audiences to the thousands of professionals for whom he designs and facilitates learning experiences each year to the lucky students in his classrooms at USC, Shaun consistently teaches complex diversity, equity, and inclusion topics with impressive sophistication and deep expertise.”

Two U.S. Presidents and a California Governor have appointed Harper to significant boards and councils. This week, the highly-respected scholar joined the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy as a Professor in the Department of Public Policy and Management. Harper is one of 14 Provost Professors, an elite cadre of interdisciplinary faculty members who hold joint appointments in two or more academic schools at the University of Southern California. He joined the USC Rossier School of Education and USC Marshall School of Business faculties in 2017 after spending a decade at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a tenured full professor. Harper was named University Professor last year, a distinction bestowed only to 27 of nearly 4,700 full-time USC faculty members. Additionally, he holds the Clifford and Betty Allen Chair in Urban Leadership.

Harper is best known for his rigorous scholarship on race, gender, and other dimensions of equity in policymaking, educational, and corporate contexts. He also is an expert on intercollegiate and professional sports. One of his 12 books, Scandals in College Sports, offers comprehensive analyses of significant policy violations that occurred over four decades. He is currently writing a new book on the equity implications of name, image, and likeness policies in college athletics. “Analyzing the effects of policies on people, particularly those whom unfair structures and systems cyclically disadvantage, satisfies me intellectually,” Harper notes. “But much more satisfying is using what I know to inform policy activities, with the ultimate goal of improving those people’s lives, their communities, their workplaces, and the institutions in which they are educated.”

“Adding Professor Harper to its already impressive roster of policy experts will instantly benefit the Price School,” says Hawai‘i State Representative Justin Woodson. “Shaun’s impact on policymaking across all levels of government is colossal. His is one of our nation’s clearest, most helpful, and most credible voices on equity issues.” Woodson and Harper served together on the national education policy committee for the Biden-Harris campaign three years ago.

Harper has testified twice to the U.S. House of Representatives and spoken at numerous White House and federal agency convenings as well as at three Congressional Black Caucus annual legislative conferences. His research has been included in several amicus briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and cited in over 22,000 published studies across a vast array of fields and disciplines. The recipient of dozens of top academic awards and four honorary degrees, Harper is currently ranked the fourth most influential scholar in the field of education. He served as the 2020-21 American Educational Research Association president and the 2016-17 Association for the Study of Higher Education president. He was inducted into the National Academy of Education in 2021. The following year, U.S. President Joe Biden appointed him to the National Board for Education Sciences. He has been a National Education Policy Center Fellow since 2016.

Beyond his academic work, Harper prides himself on teaching various publics through extensive journalistic engagement. For example, more than 700,000 people have read the 70 Forbes articles he has published over the past 14 months; Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern highlighted one of them on the U.S. House of Representatives floor last September. Harper also has reached more than 2 million readers through other articles he has written for the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Fortune,, and other major press outlets. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, and The Atlantic are among the hundreds of newspapers and magazines in which he has been featured or quoted. He was named editor-at-large of TIME magazine in 2020. Harper has been interviewed on CNN, ESPN, NBC News, NPR, and the Dr. Phil Show.

“Policymakers at both the state and federal levels need credible, evidence-based research to inform the development and implementation of policies and regulations that help us realize a more just and equitable society,” notes Brian Bridges, New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education. “There is no better intellectual in America to provide the depth and breadth of scholarly output that will help shape future higher education policy than Dr. Shaun Harper, and the work that will emerge from his appointment to the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy faculty will certainly inform the efforts of State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEOs) across the country.” Three years ago, Harper designed and delivered DEI trainings for all employees of SHEEO, the professional association that serves state system chancellors, commissioners, and secretaries like Bridges. He also keynoted the 2021 SHEEO national higher education policy conference.

Harper is founder and executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center, a national research, professional learning, and organizational improvement enterprise. Over its 12-year lifespan, the Center has generated more than $37 million in grants and contracts for diversity, equity, and inclusion projects. Public K-12 schools and districts, colleges and universities, military branches, nonprofit agencies, healthcare entities, and corporations are among the more than 700 organizations the Center has served. Harper and his research team have worked with mayors and other city government leaders in Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and Portland. They have also done workplace climate assessments, strategy advising, pay equity analyses, and professional learning activities for state agencies in Georgia, Texas, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Colorado. A national White House summit focused on educational equity for African American students is among the dozens of public engagement programs Harper’s center has hosted.