Inclusion, Ideology, and Institutional Practice: Policy and Change in a Public Postsecondary Education System
Derria Byrd

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Discipline

Although a small but growing literature examines the contribution of colleges, universities, and the postsecondary education system itself to ongoing inequities experienced by college students from marginalized backgrounds, postsecondary institutions are rarely taken as social actors whose own interests, motivations and practices help to shape students’ experiences and opportunities. As a multi-site critical policy study, Derria’s dissertation responds to this gap by investigating the role of institutional practice and culture in an equity-focused change effort. In particular, this project centers institutional habitus, a theoretical concept grounded in Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of action, to foreground institutional culture and the socially and historically constructed dispositions, norms and practices that structure institutional action and decisionmaking. Derria’s analysis draws on archival records, institutional documents, observations and interviews with administrators, staff and faculty collected during the 2014-2015 academic year from a purposeful sample of three universities in one public postsecondary system.
About Derria Byrd
Derria Byrd is a doctoral candidate in Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. Her research interests include institutional change, the outcomes and experiences of marginalized and historically underrepresented college students, and equity and reform in postsecondary education. Derria’s dissertation integrates these interests by examining the interpretation, development and implementation of an equity-focused policy at three universities in the same public system. This research has been supported by a Vilas Research Travel Award and by the Mary Metz Fund. In addition, Derria has been a proud recipient of an Advanced Opportunity Fellowship from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education as well as of the Herbert Kliebard Award for Outstanding Scholarly Achievement in Educational Policy Studies for a manuscript entitled, “The diversity distraction: A critical examination of higher education discourse.” Beyond her B.A. in English and American Literature and American Studies from Brown University, Derria has earned an M.A. in Educational Policy Studies and an M.P.A. with a focus in education policy, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to graduate school, Derria worked in the administration of several national nonprofit organizations that offer supplementary educational support to students from underserved populations.

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