The Harvard Graduate School of Education is pleased to announce that Stella Flores, Ed.M.’02, Ed.D.’07, is the 2019 recipient of the Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education. Flores is a nationally recognized scholar and leader in higher education who has dedicated her career to increasing equity and college access for low-income and underrepresented students. She is currently the associate dean for faculty development and diversity as well as an associate professor of higher education at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University. She is also the director of access and equity at the Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy.
Throughout her career, Flores has been driven by a passion to explore the ways in which education policy can promote fair and just outcomes for all students. In her current role she examines metrics and interventions to increase equity for students at every level of education. “I am driven by the promise of the American dream, although, ironically, the research has clearly said this is often more of a dream than a reality for certain populations,” says Flores. “Still, I remain committed to finding locations of hope and change, identifying barriers for removal, and developing interventions that can change the course of a student’s life, for not only a better life but for optimal choices.”
Her recent work focuses on the racial college completion gap and looks at sources of inequality along the education pipeline. She has also looked at English language learners and found that high data quality sheds a different light on these students that is, on average, more positive. As a researcher, she advocates for a clear translation of high-quality data. “Bad research can lead to bad public policy, and I take that very personally,” Flores says. “I have made it my mission as a teacher to train the next generation of translators of research to various audiences.”
In today’s world, more than half of the students in public schools are nonwhite. Understanding how policy decisions limit educational access and college completion for this growing group of students is incredibly important. “Higher education undergraduate enrollment will soon be minority majority, and [Flores’] work helps inform a future that will soon be upon all institutions of higher ed,” says Hanna Rodriguez-Farrar, chair of the HGSE Alumni Council. “Her work is personal, and that fuels her commitment to it. She's also mentoring the next generation of scholars and academics to help diversify the faculty ranks, so that students [of all backgrounds] will increasingly see more faculty who look like them. This is critically important for their success and the future of higher education.” Flores will receive the Alumni Council Award at HGSE’s Convocation ceremony, on Wednesday, May 29, 2019.
“When I heard of the award, I immediately thought of my parents,” Flores says. “I know they would be proud of me, but what I really want is for them to be proud of themselves. This is a family accomplishment…. It is rare for someone from my area of the country, the South Texas border, to get to Harvard — and then to win this honor.”
The Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education was first given in 1985. The council annually selects a recipient based on significant service above and beyond the professional requirement, impactful work, and continued dedication to education. All HGSE alumni as well as current HGSE faculty and staff are able to submit nominations.