GSN Profile: Jermaine Wright, Doctoral Student, Public Affairs
Rutgers Graduate School-Newark
Office of the Dean
Visit: 185 University Avenue
John Cotton Dana Library, Suite 306
Newark, New Jersey 07102
Phone: (973) 353-5834
Before coming to Rutgers-Newark, Jermaine Wright had already built a career around fostering success among young Black and Latino men. As a SPAA doctoral candidate, he’s training his research on how schools can use performance information to improve programs and better serve underrepresented students.
Presently, Wright works as the University Director of the City University of New York Black Male Initiative (CUNY BMI), which focuses on social and academic support to improve enrollment, retention, and graduation rates. He’s been there for eight years. Previously, he spent two years as a program manager at the National Urban League where he helped people transition out of public assistance and into the workforce. Wright observed that the same people came back for help again and again, lacking the educational background and wherewithal to stay ahead. He decided to pivot his career to the education sector, where he might help people attain self-sufficiency earlier in life.
In the non-profit sector, people were used to evaluating programs based on performance metrics. When he arrived in academia in 2008, Wright found that wasn’t necessarily the case. And sometimes even when data was collected (students’ GPAs, course completion and withdrawal rates, etc.) it wasn’t made available or used to improve programs. At CUNY, he went about changing that. Now, CUNY BMI uses performance data and survey data collected from BMI students to inform decision making and fund allocation to ensure better outcomes for students. For his research, Wright is looking at what data is collected at universities, where it’s available, and who has access. Performance information creates transparency and accountability. It shows what academic programs are working and which ones might need to be bolstered.
The path toward a PhD can be lonely, but Wright says, “I think there has never been a point where I’ve emailed or called a faculty member where they weren’t responsive and engaged.”
Wright chose Rutgers for its reputation in Public Administration, he says, and has found caring faculty who are willing to assist their students, even before their research goals have solidified. Wright expects to complete his doctorate this fall.