There’s an overarching question that informs the bulk of Louie Rodríguez’s research: When it comes to education, how can we make the system work better for students?
An Inland Empire native, Rodríguez now serves as both the associate dean of undergraduate education and an associate professor in UC Riverside’s Graduate School of Education. For more than a decade, he’s focused his studies on how to strengthen urban schooling at the community level as a means of driving student engagement and overall success.
In May, Rodríguez was named the Graduate School of Education’s Bank of America Chair in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Practice, a role geared toward research with implications for improving regional public education from kindergarten through community college. The opportunity, he said, will enable him to expand upon his existing body of research to potentially influence education policy and practice both locally and nationally.
“Louie Rodríguez is a perfect fit for a chair position that focuses on leadership, policy, and practice,” said Graduate School of Education Dean Thomas Smith. “His use of collaborative and participatory research with students, teachers, and leaders in schools exemplifies the kind of research-practice partnerships that demonstrate the value of the Graduate School of Education to the community.”
Speaking of his plans for the role, Rodríguez said he hopes to encourage undergraduate and graduate students alike to engage with surrounding neighborhoods through research projects that explore topics such as community engagement, school culture, and educational equity. This fall, meanwhile, he intends to use part of the Bank of America Foundation’s endowment to launch an on-campus center dedicated to “research, advocacy, and leadership development” with long-term benefits for Inland Empire schools and districts.
“UCR has the potential to become a national model for building partnerships with the regional community,” he explained. “In particular, we have the opportunity to tell a story of strength and spotlight what’s actually working here — the pockets of hope and progress. The center will be a vehicle for doing that.”
Rodríguez, who previously taught at California State University, San Bernardino and Florida International University in Miami prior to arriving at UCR in 2016, is something of an Inland Empire success story himself. He attended both San Bernardino Valley College and Cal State San Bernardino before earning two master’s degrees and a doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2005.
He has built a portfolio of work over the years that highlights the power of engaging youth, schools, and communities in work that strives for equity, voice, and justice in education. As an author, his publications include “Small Schools and Urban Youth” (with Gil Conchas, 2007); “The Time is Now: Understanding and Responding to the Black and Latina/o Dropout Crisis in the U.S.” (2014); “Intentional Excellence: The Pedagogy, Power, and Politics of Excellence in Latina/o Schools and Communities” (2015), and “PAR EntreMundos: A Pedagogy of the Americas” (2018).
“In many ways, it’s a dream for me to be here at UCR,” Rodríguez added. “I see myself in so many of our students, and I can’t ask for anything more than to be able to mentor and support them.”