Projects
Cultural Studies of Quantification
The dominant orientation toward quantitative social science and policy research has eschewed critical social theories, believing the data to be objective and free of ideology.  In other words, it has assumed privileged access to the “truths” of natural phenomena via the logics of mathematics. Such an orientation tends to interpretively misrecognize the underlying structural relations of the data, often falling into the trap of creating pathological and deficiency narratives of marginalized groups. In turn, these narratives lead to social policies that build upon pejorative ideologies of these groups and their members. This program of research engages questions in the philosophy of science on quantification in order to both deconstruct the positivist paradigm and develop new approaches to quantitative inquiry. This work seeks to rethink and reconceptualize the use of quantitative methods from a critical theoretical lens (broadly conceived).
     As part of this program of research, the initiative is engaging work in digital cultural studies and critial software studies. The technological and data revolution that is upon us has challenged many of the traditional philosophy of social science assumptions, while also making the digital footprints of social life and quantification evermore relevant for cultural studies and critical inquiry. With a focus on rethinking their possibilities for critical inquiry, the initiative is doing work on the cultural studies of computational and data analytics, with a particular focus on the ways in which social differences are materially and discursively reconfigured both within and outwith digital architectures.
Ongoing Research on Inheritance and Social Reproduction in Education
This ongoing line of research seeks to enhance empirical knowledge and conceptualization of the social process of inheritance and its implications for educational processes of human learning and development. This work includes research on both intergenerational and multigenerational effects of inequality on the social distribution of standardized test performance, as well as examinations of the forces of inheritance embodied in parenting practices and child health. This work has focused on three areas of interest: (1) the forces of parents’ and grandparents’ socioeconomic resources and practices on their child’s or grandchild’s standardized test performance and academic skills development; (2) a focus on the processes of human learning and development within deviantly marked youth cultures of inherited marginalized conditions; and (3) a reconceptualizing of the process of inheritance from a new materialist theoretical lens. Each of these areas has profound implications for social policy.

Medical Education Enrichment Evaluation
(ME Cubed)

Diversifying the biomedical and the health professional workforce has been a national objective for decades, considering the ever-changing demographics of the nation’s population and the persistence of disparities in health across communities. Specifically, African-American and Hispanic physicians have higher propensities to practice in vulnerable communities, but minority students struggle to gain admission into health professional schools.. The University of Pennsylvania has invested significant resources in programs aimed at increasing the number of diverse students in the health professions. Through decades of investment, a consolidated institutional appraisal of these programs’ scope along with both the financial and human capital investment does not exist. This study seeks to develop an evaluation framework for assessing these programs after creating a comprehensive inventory. The Medical Education Enrichment Evaluation (ME3 pronounced ME-Cubed) develops an assessment framework for diversity-focused pipeline programs within Penn Health Profession schools. By developing an evaluation framework, investment of faculty and staff time will be optimized, since the identification of best practices will assure that the quality of the programs remains high.  ME3 will augment future collaboration and grant writing efforts and assist prospective students in determining the best fit to target their career aspirations.

SP2-Aliadas en Cadena Evaluation 
In January 2016, the School of Social Policy & Practice began a new initiative in Venezuela. This initiative is conducting a formative and impact evaluation of an NGO program that provides training in information and communication technologies for low-income women. Through the systematic involvement of faculty and students, SP2 will create an evaluation system to assess the success of a Venezuela-based NGO and build a measurement instrument that will help the organization in achieving greater efficacy and long-term sustainability. 

Critical Inquiry on
Social Policies of Education

The history of federal policy on education in the United States reveals that the nation has invested most of its reform efforts on schooling. While the importance of schooling for affirmative human development and the building of competitive national economies in technologically advanced societies cannot be underestimated, school reform efforts do not address the even more critical social and educative conditions, resources, and possibilities outside of schooling in the communities and homes of learners. Research on inheritance and social reproduction demonstrates the importance of what children are exposed to and doing at home, in the community and in their everyday lives; the kind of resources they and their families have access to; and how and what they and their parents understand and do is not only a function of their current conditions but of the conditions in which their parents grew up. Thus, it has become increasingly clear that education is not just about what goes on in schools or even in context, but that education is ubiquitous to the very social process of being human. This notion has become understood as "education comprehensively conceived." This line of inquiry critically examines and explores the possibilities and limitations of social policies for education comprehensively conceived. Most important, this line of work seeks to consider and reimagine social policy from the conceptual lens of thinking comprehensively about education.