Professor Nancy Hill has been named Charles Bigelow Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Hill is the fourth professor to be named to the endowed chair since its inception in 1960.
“When it comes to understanding how parents and children experience education together and what their needs are, Nancy has established herself as a leader, both here at HGSE and in the field as a whole,” said Dean James Ryan. “I am delighted to recognize Nancy’s tremendous impact with this important distinction. Her work has led us, and will continue to lead us, to a better understanding of how we can provide the best possible education for students from a wide variety of backgrounds and circumstances.”
Hill, a developmental psychologist who received her Ph.D. from Michigan State University and postdoctoral training in prevention and intervention science from Arizona State University, has been part of the HGSE faculty for 10 years. Her research identifies the unique and interactive ways in which race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status influence parenting beliefs, practices, and child outcomes. In particular, she has worked to better understand the family-school relationship — how families create their own education agenda, how they socialize educational goals, how they advocate for their youth, and how they teach teens to also advocate for themselves.
"It is an incredible honor to have been selected for this endowed professorship," said Hill. "It is an affirmation of my commitment to education, to training doctoral and master's students, to my teaching and research here at the Ed School, and to my focus on the ways students, adolescents, and their families think about their futures and develop their goals."
Charles Bigelow was a Harvard alum, having received his S.B. in 1865, and worked as a wool manufacturer in Boston for 41 years until his retirement. Upon his death in 1927, his will established the Charles Bigelow Fund, reading in part, “In making this gift it is my desire to promote so far as is my power a better knowledge of the education, using the word education in its broadest sense to include influence as well as methods of training, which will best tend to improve the human race.”
In her new role, Hill will further pursue her work on the ways ethnicity and socioeconomic status shape parenting and their engagement with school on behalf of their children, including a research project on the familial and school-based relational supports that help youth envision meaningful futures, manage their concerns about job market, and plan for post high school success. In addition, she will continue her work in understanding parents' experiences in navigating school choice policies.
"You often hear the phrase, 'Education starts at home,' used mostly for young children and students, but I think that idea carries all the way through a student's academic career," Hill said. "I look forward to building on how families and their students work together to navigate school contexts, and educational opportunities — from the transition to high school and even into their early careers."