Facing Global Educational Issues: Penn GSE Researchers in Austria

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Media Contact:Jill DiSanto | jdisanto@upenn.edu | 215-898-4820
Media Contact:Kat Stein | katstein@gse.upenn.edu | 215-898-9642October 5, 2012

Marybeth Gasman and Laura Perna, two researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education are in Austria this week for the Salzburg Global Seminar

While significant strides have been taken in increasing access for children and adults to quality education around the globe, substantial gaps in educational and social mobility still exist.  To address these, the Salzburg Global Seminar and the Educational Testing Service have convened a seminar to identify these gaps, the kinds of impact they have, why they persist and what can be done to eliminate them.

The seminar focuses on higher education and lifelong learning.  It brings together more than 60 leading educational researchers, policymakers, practitioners and advocates from across the globe to analyze successful case studies that illustrate examples of effectively narrowing the educational and social mobility gaps.

Perna and Gasman, both from Penn GSE’s higher education division, have research areas that fit well with the theme of this year’s event, “Optimizing Talent –- Closing Education and Social Mobility Gaps Worldwide:  Higher Education and Lifelong Learning.”

Perna received a Presidential Fellowship, along with support from the Office of the Provost and the Graduate School of Education and is representing Penn at the event. 

To prepare for the event, she reviewed the presenters’ research and started making connections between their work and her higher education research in the United States, Kazakhstan and Ireland.

“This symposium is providing me with a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learned from my own and others’ research about the forces that contribute to and limit college access and success for students from low-income families and racial/ethnic minority groups in light of what we know about this problem in other contexts,” Perna says. “Although the magnitude and nuances of the issues vary, there are some fundamental similarities in the challenges that limit the structure of higher education opportunity across nations.”

Gasman will lead discussions, summarize the event’s progress and has added a new hat to the many she already wears: journalist.  She will be “reporting live” from the Salzburg Seminar, blogging for the Huffington Post, the Chronicle of Higher Education and European media outlets. 

She’s also handling the video interviews with speakers and participants, which will be shared on YouTube.  The Educational Testing Service invited Gasman to attend because of her work on minority-serving institutions and issues surrounding college access and success for students of color.

“The best part about being here is talking to very smart, caring and highly innovative people about higher education around the world,” Gasman says.  “There are similar issues but differences in context –- and context matters.”

The ultimate goal is to identify, develop and refine existing and new policy strategies that enable greater social and educational mobility.  This can optimize young people’s talent across all social levels in a way that has the broadest benefit and deepest impact on individuals and the societies in which they live.