Gordon ’93 steps down as outreach director

By
Thursday, September 6, 2007

The University’s first director of education outreach, who in his 16 months at Brown centralized information about the University’s disparate efforts to aid Providence public schools, stepped down last month.

Lamont Gordon ’93 left the University Aug. 3 to complete a Ph.D. in education at Harvard University, Kenneth Wong, professor of education and chair of the department, told The Herald.

A selection committee that includes members of the education department, the Office of the President and the Swearer Center for Public Service has already received nearly 40 applications for Gordon’s position, which is expected to be filled by Oct. 1.

Gordon’s departure will leave the University without an education outreach coordinator for at least three months, but Assistant to the President Marisa Quinn said she doesn’t consider his departure a setback to the University’s efforts to aid local schools.

In February, the Corporation created a $10-million fund for Providence public schools as part of its response to the report of the University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice. The University’s highest governing body also waived tuition for ten Urban Education Policy students or students working toward masters in teaching.

Quinn told The Herald that Gordon’s efforts were a major first step in the University’s strengthened commitment to Providence public schools. “If we only did that, I think that’s an important aspect,” she said, adding that the University now has to evaluate the programs to learn what to do next as it reaches out to Providence public schools.

When Gordon came to the Department of Education at Brown in March 2006, Brown students and faculty were already volunteering in Providence schools, but no one knew exactly how many programs at the University aided local schools. Gordon began surveying the campus – talking to diverse groups such as neuroscience and computer science professors and the director of the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center – about what they were doing to help Providence students.

In March, Gordon delivered a report to the Brown University Community Council summarizing Brown’s involvement. He also began putting his catalog of information on a Web site, which launched in June, to inform Providence students and teachers about Brown programs and to inform Brown students and faculty about the schools they could work in.

In all, Gordon collected information about the 52 volunteer programs Brown leads in more than 20 Providence public schools.

Gordon, who did not return a phone message seeking an interview for this story, was working on his Harvard Ph.D. while at Brown, but he decided he wanted to focus only on his studies, Wong said. “He decided in the long run this would be the better thing for him,” Wong said.

Gordon also supported the UEP program, a year-long course of study designed to prepare graduate students to craft policy in urban public school districts. Wong credits the high employment rate of UEP graduates – 6 out of 8 students in the program have found jobs since their May graduation – to a database Gordon created for UEP students.

The program’s operating funds paid for half of Gordon’s position, while the president’s office covered the other half. This spring, President Ruth Simmons decided to renew the pilot position’s funding for another year, Quinn said, adding that Simmons “thought it would be valuable to go forward” with the position.

But Wong said he hopes the position will prove so indispensable to Providence and Brown that the University Resources Committee, which recommends the University’s annual budget, will eventually approve it as a permanent position. URC approval would ensure permanent funding for the position from the education department’s budget instead of from discretionary sources like the UEP program and the president’s office, Wong said. Gordon’s replacement could begin the process of receiving formal approval as early as January 2008.