Claire Robbins, an associate professor in the School of Education, has received a Spencer Foundation grant for her project, “Examining the role of graduate colleges in advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion at public universities.”

The Spencer Foundation is a national foundation focused on supporting education research. In particular, it has a history of funding research dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion in education. The foundation’s small research grants program sponsors education research projects spanning one to five years and with budgets of up to $50,000.

Robbins and her co-principal investigator, Rosemary Perez, a faculty member at the University of Michigan, received the grant for an ongoing comparative case study of graduate education at three predominantly white public universities in Michigan, a state where legislation prohibits affirmative action. The goal of the study is to examine the role of graduate colleges in fostering inclusive learning environments for students. Throughout the data collection period, Robbins and Perez are conducting research at these universities through interviews with staff and administrators, student focus groups, observation of college programs, and analysis of public documents.

“Receiving this grant is rewarding and meaningful for me,” said Robbins. “The reason that I became involved with research on graduate education was because of my dedication to graduate students at Virginia Tech. In learning from students’ experiences, and from my own teaching and prior research, I've come to understand how important it is that we dedicate lots of attention to graduate education, particularly as it relates to equity, diversity, and inclusion. We're very excited that we were awarded this grant in what we understood to be a competitive round.”

A faculty member in the School of Education since 2012, Robbins is an associate professor of higher education and student affairs and program leader for the Ph.D. in Higher Education graduate program. A former student affairs professional, Robbins has authored more than 30 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and other publications, and she has delivered more than 50 presentations at regional, national, and international academic and professional meetings.

Robbins's research, teaching, advising, and professional engagement focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion in graduate education; graduate and undergraduate student development, socialization, and learning; and critical perspectives on race, gender, and identity.

Her most recent work has been published in such publications as the Journal of College Student Development and the Handbook of Student Affairs Administration.

She is a member of the American Educational Research Association, the Association for the Study of Higher Education, and ACPA – College Student Educators International, from which she has received multiple awards. She also serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education and the Journal of College Student Development.

Robbins earned a Ph.D. in college student personnel administration and a graduate certificate in women, gender, and sexuality studies at the University of Maryland. She also holds a master's degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a bachelor's of arts degree in education and sociology and anthropology from Swarthmore College.

Written by Mary Crawford