Alumni Spotlight: T. Elon Dancy II, PhD

February 1, 2023

Following his graduation from LSU in 2008 with a PhD in Educational Leadership & Research: Higher Education AdministrationLSU Lutrill and Pearl Payne School of Education Alumnus T. Elon Dancy II, PhD, has pursued a life of outstanding achievement, research, and service. Dancy is a CHSE LSU Alumni Association Hall of Distinction inductee and received the career-defining Derrick Bell Legacy Award in 2022. According to the University of Pittsburgh, this award "honors critical race theorists, critical race studies scholars, and progressive educators-activists committed to advancing social justice and educational race equity." In addition to the Derrick Bell Legacy Award, Dancy also delivered the prestigious R. Freeman Butts Lecture at the annual American Educational Studies Association Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. 

Below, Dancy speaks of his years at LSU, as well as his accomplishments in the years following his graduation.

My gratitude exceeds words.

Headshot of Dancy

T. Elon Dancy II, PhD, is the executive director of the Center for Urban Education and the Helen S. Faison Endowed Chair in Urban Education at the University of Pittsburgh.

While there were many fond memories (in my time at LSU), two people, in particular, are outstanding. First, Melonee Wicker, who I knew as "Ms. Mel", served my department in an administrative support role, but she was more than many realized and a wonderful example of an institutional "other-mother". Other-mothers are often defined as women who care for us in informal and formal arrangements (in addition to our blood-mothers). She was an advisor, a guide, and the kindest, most generous presence I encountered in the School of Education. My gratitude exceeds words. I can never thank her enough for how she watched over me as a graduate student in support of my successful matriculation. I will always love her and don't know that I would have made it through the School of Education, especially the way I made it, without her. I also admired the School of Education's current dean, Dr. Roland Mitchell. I was actually the graduate student representative on the search committee that hired Dean Mitchell as an assistant professor. I was so impressed with his deep theoretical grounding and ability to dialogue between and across schools of thought. He was an early model to me of the kinds of questions that were possible in our field of study. He also modeled a respect and care for Black studies, which drives my research and scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh. I know I'm one of Dean Mitchell's first doctoral graduates at LSU, if not his first. He hooded me and asked me what was next. While I was hopeful, I could not have imagined the ways my scholarship and career would flourish. 

The impact of research.

My 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 worldmaking, with a focus on Black American populations. Perhaps most well-known are my studies of Black masculinity and patriarchy in postsecondary contexts, anti-Blackness in higher education, and studies in education politics. I think this work has impacted the ways people think about educational institutions in relation to power and, more broadly, the tethered projects of domination/liberation, repression/resistance, and injustice/justice. The agenda has informed policies and practices at various levels and across educational contexts. I have a forthcoming book with University Press of Kentucky: Freedom Struggles in Urban Appalachia: Resisting Pittsburgh Schools, Prisons, and Carcerality with two faculty colleagues at Pitt as well as two forthcoming special issues of journals on antiblackness in education with colleagues at City University of New York and Florida International University. 

T. Elon Dancy II, Alumni Distinction Award

Professional accomplishments.

I think I'm most proud of my current work in the Pitt School of Education's Center for Urban Education. Over the last 4 ½ years, I have tried to imaginatively and collaboratively work to anchor the Center's scholarly and service projects within Black and Indigenous knowledges, political education, and the collaborative, communal praxis of freedom-minded peoples struggling against oppression.

Read closely to find ideas. 

I have learned several lessons since graduating but would share three here. First, I would advise LSU student scholars to read closely--not just words, but for the ideas. This strengthens us in conversation with each other and is an important part of doing intellectual work honestly. Second, I would encourage LSU students to refuse framings of study as somehow without action, especially in the struggle for justice. Studying is not the enemy of action, it IS action, and I don't know of any freedom struggle anywhere that has not included the careful and collective work of study. Third, I encourage LSU students to form study groups as a way to deepen their intellect and build community. Further, this will support when classes and class conversations do not cover authors, readings, or knowledges you want to think about more deeply.

About CHSE:
As a college within Louisiana’s flagship university, the College of Human Sciences & Education (CHSE) impacts the lives of individuals in our state, nation, and the world through our research, service, teaching, and scholarship. We offer programs through our five schools: School of Education, School of Leadership & Human Resource Development, School of Kinesiology, School of Library & Information Science, and School of Social Work. The University Laboratory School (ULS) is also under the college umbrella, enrolling approximately 1,400 K-12 students. ULS was named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in Fall 2015. The college is home to the Early Childhood Education Laboratory Preschool (ECELP) which enrolls 175 children ages six weeks to four years old. The ECELP is a NAEYC accredited institution.

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Contact: Mary P. Woods
Director of Communications
LSU College of Human Sciences & Education
225-578-6796 (o)