USC professor honored with Wisconsin award
Posted April 20, 2010 at 11:15 pm in News
USC professor Estela Bensimon was recognized this weekend with the University of Wisconsin school systemâs award given annually to women who make significant contributions to education. She is the first person from outside Wisconsin to receive the honor.
âI canât explain how profound an affect she has had on all our campuses,â said Helen Klebesadel, director of the Womenâs Studies Consortium within the University of Wisconsin system.
The 2010 Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award was given to Bensimon in recognition of the âequity scorecardâ she created. The scorecard maps an individual schoolâs racial and ethnic data. The scorecard then looks at statistical gaps and provides strategies for a specific campus to increase minority graduation rates, according to Bensimon.
âWe have created the tools to help colleges be much more intentional in planning where they need to be in the future,â Bensimon said.
Bensimon, who came to USC in 1995, served as the associate dean for USCâs Rossier School of Education from 1996-2000. When she stepped down in 2000, she created the Center for Urban Education with the goal of creating diversity in higher education.
âItâs not only important to bring minorities into college, but also graduate them in proportions equal to their representation in colleges or to the graduation rate of all other students,â Bensimon said.
Co-worker Sandra Luca, a research associate at USCâs Rossier School of Education, said Bensimonâs character, in addition to her work, makes her deserving of the award.
âShe just has this unyielding commitment to making things better and to really focus on some of the racial inequities that are still very much present in this country,â Luca said.
When Bensimon spoke about her research at a conference a few years ago, she was approached by the vice president of the Wisconsin school system about using the scorecard in Wisconsin. Bensimon said she was skeptical of Wisconsinâs involvement initially.
âIt would require them to invest substantial resources but they were very methodical about it,â she said. âIt takes a certain amount of courage to look at your data because you have to desegregate everything by race and ethnicity but the university did, willingly.â
Bensimon and her team worked with all but two of the campuses in the 16-school University of Wisconsin system. Other schools in states like Nevada and Pennsylvania are also in talks to use Bensimonâs scorecard in the future.
Her work with the CUE Equity Model has been mentioned in the Harvard Education Review and other publications. The center has received funding from the National Science, Forbes and Lumina foundations, among other public and private organizations, like the University of Wisconsin.
Bensimon said she is grateful to USC for the opportunities it has afforded her.
âUSC made it possible for me to be a little out of the box,â she said. âItâs a little risky, itâs doing research in a manner thatâs different than social science. Itâs controversial.â
Although Bensimon was the first out-of-state recipient, Klebesadel said the choice wasnât hard.
âI work every day with the people who are using her research on our campuses,â she said. âThey are using the most profound tool. There are a lot of good ideas, but there are not a lot of good ideas also grounded in evidence.â
Luca said Bensimonâs impact extends far beyond her research.
âThis is just one piece of what Dr. Bensimon does; sheâs a professor and researcher but also a mentor to a lot of people,â she said.