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Home » Discover Rackham » Student Spotlight: Shanta Robinson

Approached in her local grocery store regarding the curious collection of items in her shopping cart, Shanta explained to a clerk that she was buying supplies for her high school social studies class. She taught at the local high school, one of the most challenging schools in Charlotte, North Carolina and she lived and worked in the same community. She was gratified to find “I was lifted up by the community. There was so much support for the work I was doing with kids there. Even now, I want to help local organizations meet students where they are.”

The journey to graduate studies at U-M was a natural path for Shanta. She says, “I loved teaching and loved the students I taught, but I wanted to make a bigger impact on a policy scale. I was drawn to U-M because of the amazing faculty doing work in race, inequality and class in education today.”

Shanta’s dissertation research focuses on the educational and occupational aspirations of homeless youth of color. She is predominantly concerned with issues of marginalization and how to create models for success for these at-risk populations. During the research phase of her dissertation, Shanta has become embedded in local organizations that support homeless youth, a situation which allows her to help staff with their priorities. She finds herself undertaking more of a consulting role there. “Having an outside perspective allows me to provide them a unique view and make different connections.”

She’s passionate about her research and the population she strives to help. “There is a lot of work to do because there is a lot of need. I’m hopeful, mostly because the youth themselves are hopeful and very resilient. These kids are up against a lot, I want to help level the playing field for them.”

A Rackham Merit Fellow, Shanta says her advisor, Carla O’Connor, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the School of Education, e-mailed her about the Bouchet Honor Society and suggested she apply. As an inductee into the 2014 class, Shanta serves as an example of scholarship, leadership, character, service and advocacy modeled by members of this esteemed society for students who have been traditionally underrepresented in the academy. She hopes to make connections with other graduate students and professionals in the society with similar interests. “I want to create a network of other research professionals and community activists and work towards how to do both in ways that are productive.”

She says her academic advisor, Carla O’Connor, “is amazing. She is one of the reasons I came to Michigan. She’s an amazing mentor and supporter of my work.”

Where Shanta and her family ends up after she graduates is uncertain at this point. “I want to still be able to work within the community and academia in places that need me the most and where I can do the most good. I still have so many big dreams.”