The co-founders have a decade of experience working together on research and outreach regarding education and civil rights.

One of their first collaborations included the writing of a social science statement submitted by 553 social scientists in the U.S. Supreme Court’s voluntary desegregation case, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (2007). The social science statement was the fifth of its kind to be filed in the history of desegregation cases, with the first submitted in Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

Together, they most recently co-edited: School Integration Matters: Research-Based Strategies to Advance Equity (with Megan Hopkins).

Erica Frankenberg
Co-Founder & Director

Erica Frankenberg

Erica is an Associate Professor in the Department of Education Policy Studies in the College of Education at The Pennsylvania State University. Her work has been published in education policy journals, law reviews, and practitioner publications. In addition to her scholarly work, she has helped school districts design diversity policies, and has served as an expert witness in school diversity cases. Prior to becoming a professor, she led the initiative on school integration at the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles.

Her current research projects include:

  • Studying suburban racial change
  • Exploring the policies and politics of voluntary integration programs
  • Understanding how school choice policies affect racial stratification

She has co-authored and co-edited several recent books including:

In her report Segregation at an Early Age, released October 2016, she shared findings about the extent to which preschool students are in racially diverse educational settings.

Her research has been supported by the William T. Grant Foundation, Center for Rural Pennsylvania, and the Spencer Foundation.

Peter Piazza
Post-Doctoral Scholar

Peter completed his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at Boston College in 2015 and has worked for the last 3 years as a policy researcher at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). His dissertation used qualitative methods to examine democratic engagement in the enactment of a Massachusetts law that limited teacher job protections in the state.

At AIR, he conducted program evaluations related to dropout prevention and state-sponsored school improvement efforts. Motivated by his experiences visiting highly segregated schools as well as his reaction to the Trump election, Peter started a blog called the School Diversity Notebook, where he writes regular posts about news events and recent research related to school integration.

Maraki Kebede
Graduate Assistant

Maraki is a dual-title Ph.D. candidate in Educational Leadership, and Comparative and International Education at Penn State University. She is a 2016-2018 Jackson Scholar and a Graduate Assistant for the Center of Education and Civil Rights. Her research interests include immigrant education experiences in the US and the involvement of international organizations in education for development. Maraki completed her Master’s degree in International Education and Development at the George Washington University, while assisting international development organizations with strategic planning, project-based partnerships, and fundraising. Before pursuing her Master’s, Maraki worked as an Instructor and Academic Advisor at University of Maryland–College Park as well as a teaching assistant and an International Student Office assistant at Montgomery College.

Liliana M. Garces

Liliana is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at The University of Texas at Austin and an affiliate faculty at The University of Texas School of Law. Her research has been published in education policy and law journals. In addition to her scholarly work, she has represented civil rights organizations and hundreds of social science researchers as Counsel of Record on four amici curiae (friend-of-the-Court) briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to becoming a faculty member, she worked as a civil rights lawyer and a judicial law clerk in federal district court.

Her research focuses on the dynamics of law and education and her current projects include:

  • Examining access policies for underrepresented populations in higher education
  • Understanding the influence of legal cases and other laws on access and equity efforts
  • Exploring the use of social science research in the legal arena

Liliana is co-editor of Affirmative Action and Racial Equity: Considering the Fisher Case to Forge the Path Ahead (with Uma Jayakumar and Frank Fernandez).

Her research has been supported by the William T. Grant Foundation, the W.E. Upjohn Institute, the Spencer Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.


Centers and Institutes at Penn State

The Center for the Study of Higher Education at the College of Education

One of the nation’s first research centers established specifically to study postsecondary education policy issues.

Penn State Law Civil Rights Appellate Clinic

Provides intensive training in appellate advocacy by involving students in noncriminal civil rights cases before the state appellate courts, federal courts of appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Population Research Institute

A multidisciplinary center that supports innovative population research.

Penn State Law’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic

At the Center, students produce white papers, practitioner toolkits, and primers of national impact for institutional clients based in Washington D.C., and across the nation.

National Centers

The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA

Renewing the civil rights movement by bridging the worlds of ideas and action, to be a preeminent source of intellectual capital within that movement, and to deepen the understanding of the issues that must be resolved to achieve racial and ethnic equity as society moves through the great transformation of the 21st century.

National Coalition for School Diversity (NCSD)

A network of national civil rights organizations, university-based research centers, and state and local coalitions working to promote school diversity.

Student Organizations

Pennsylvania Education Equity Project

Conducts research and produce scholarship aimed at influencing policy makers, educators, and citizens on issues related to educational equity in Pennsylvania schools.