by Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, Belin-Blank Center Director
The focus of the fall Belin-Blank Center newsletter is on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What does a DEI focus mean for talent development and education? For decades, Professor Marcia Gentry asked that question and provided scholars and educators with viable answers. There was a collective sadness among all who knew her a few months ago, on August 31st, when she passed away.
Professor Gentry was a faculty member in the Department of Educational Studies and Director of the Gifted Education Research and Resource Center, both at Purdue University. Her work focused on talent identification and development among youth from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and Black, Latinx, and Native American communities. She highlighted the underrepresentation crisis in gifted and talented programs across the nation. Her research described inclusive and expanded programming for historically underserved populations, and she translated this research into best practice for educators throughout the country. Her impact is truly difficult to put into words and will last far into the future.
We at the Belin-Blank Center are committed to uplifting Professor Gentry’s work. As we revisit our mission, vision, values, and strategic plan, DEI and anti-racism are at the forefront. We already have in existence many initiatives and programs related to this value. For example, our extensive work with twice-exceptional youth through our research, clinical, and university programs; the Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy that provides AP opportunities for rural youth; two federal grants serving talented underrepresented students in STEM and rural settings; professional development focused on DEI; and our extensive financial aid for families to attend student programs or visit our clinic psychologists.
But we can do more. I hope to increase school and community outreach regarding best practice in identification; assist more families in their homes and communities with twice-exceptional youth; spearhead DEI-focused funding initiatives; and consider community-based participatory research approaches to programming and research. We must face the biased and discriminatory history of the field and commit to a better future.
Toward the end of her life, I was fortunate to have a brief text conversation with Professor Gentry through her daughter. I told Professor Gentry the impact she has had on me professionally and, more importantly, thousands of talented youth whom would have otherwise been excluded from gifted and talented programming. Her response impacted me greatly – mostly that she said Susan Assouline and I were “women committed to the cause.”
Professor Gentry, I thank you, I’ll never forget you, and I vow to be committed tirelessly to the cause.