Assistant Professor, Educational Sociology
"Initially I was interested in how charter schools have been a response to changing race politics. However, as I began to look at the historical trajectory of alternative schools, like charter schools, I saw that they are often a very political response to the social movements of their day."
Since receiving her PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2001, Assistant Professor Lisa Stulberg has made it her mission to tell the story of urban education, and specifically the role that charter schools play. "Initially I was interested in how charter schools have been a response to changing race politics," she says. "However, as I began to look at the historical trajectory of alternative schools, like charter schools, I saw that they are often a very political response to the social movements of their day."
Stulberg's interest in charter schools began when she was teaching in an after-school program at a middle school in a predominantly low income, African-American community in West Oakland, California. "The school was not doing well by its students. I began working on a project with a non-profit in the area that was designed to involve more parents and community members in the local schools."
From this project, a group formed to found a charter school called the West Oakland Community School. Stulberg was part of this group. "We were excited by the possibility of creating a learning environment that really served all students well."
As a result of a Steinhardt Challenge Fund grant, Stulberg has been able to continue her research surrounding that school. She also used the research to co-edit a book, with Eric Rofes, a professor at Humbolt State University. The Emancipatory Promise of Charter Schools: Toward a Progressive Politics of School Choice (SUNY Press, 2004) is a collection from charter school practitioners and researchers designed to be a politically progressive support for such schools.
Before coming to the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in the Professions in 2002, Stulberg lectured in Social Studies at Harvard University. She decided to come to NYU in part because "there's so much happening with New York City's public schools. It's exciting to watch - and hopefully to become involved in and study and learn from." She also values the fact that the Department teaches a lot of the foundation courses that students throughout Steinhardt take. "I really enjoy the conversations with students and faculty across the entire school. Those conversations are very inter-disciplinary and that appeals to me because that's the way I think and approach my own work."
Because of this inter-disciplinary approach, Stulberg enjoys that her students offer so many different perspectives on the subject of urban education. "I have such range of students, drawn from so many different fields, with so many interests, and they bring all that into the classroom in a respectful, open way that makes for really lively discussions."
She further describes her students as interested in learning from each other and committed to using their education for something that will do good. "They are aware of what's going on around them and care about being engaged in the world. That's wonderful to see."