Joseph Derrick Nelson, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Studies at Swarthmore College, and affiliated faculty with the Black Studies Program, and the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program. He is also a Senior Research Fellow with the School Participatory Action Research Collaborative—a race and gender equity institute at the University of Pennsylvania. As a sociologist of education, his research employs interdisciplinary frameworks to examine two interrelated fields of inquiry: (1) race, boyhood, and education, and (2) identity, culture, and school reform. For the last eight years, his research has been situated within learning environments that largely serve Black students from neighborhoods with concentrated poverty.
His multi-year projects to date have led to publications with Teachers College Record, Harvard Educational Review, the Psychology of Men and Masculinity, and co-editing a special issue on boys’ education with the Journal of Boyhood Studies. His forthcoming book is entitled, Unjust Resilience: Black Boyhood, Academic Success, and the Middle School Years (Harvard Education Press). He recently co-edited the Routledge Handbook on Boyhood in the United States, with over thirty contributors. In public media, his research has been featured in the Washington Post, The Atlantic, and National Public Radio. In the United States and abroad, he has presented his research at The White House Summit for Children’s Media and Toys, the Ideas Festival of the Aspen Institute, and the International Boys’ School Coalition. In 2019, he was named Co-Editor of the historic journal, Men and Masculinities.
He is the Co-Founder and a Co-Principal Investigator of The Listening Project: Fostering Curiosity and Connection in Middle Schools with Dr. Niobe Way and other faculty at New York University. Funded by the Lyle-Spencer Foundation, this three-year project involves partnerships with eight middle schools throughout New York City, where students and teachers are trained on a method of “Transformative Interviewing” (Way & Nelson, 2018). The goal is to re-ignite curiosity, listening, and connection among students, teachers, and parents, and in order to counteract dehumanizing stereotypes that often permeate middle school cultures.
Prior to Swarthmore, he held postdoctoral fellowships with the Ford Foundation, and the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation. In the high-poverty neighborhood where he grew-up in Milwaukee, he taught first-grade in a single-sex class of Black boys.