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Micere Keels  

Associate Professor in Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago

Dr. Micere Keels is an Associate Professor in Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago. She focuses on understanding how race-ethnicity and poverty structure the supports and challenges that children and youth experience. She is particularly interested in how family and neighborhood inequality are associated with the sorting of children into different quality schools, and the interventions that can improve their educational outcomes. She is currently leading three projects that work to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of students from historically marginalized communities.

She is the founding director of the Trauma Responsive Educational Practices Project (TREP Project), which is a research-translation and research-practice-partnership that aims to connect the brain and behavior research on developmental trauma with the realities of school and classroom management. The TREP Project works to develop the individual and organizational capacity of educators and schools serving children growing up in neighborhoods that have high levels of toxic stress, such as violent crime, concentrated poverty, concentrated foster care involvement, and housing instability. The TREP Project is currently working with 15 schools. Lessons learned from this work is disseminated to a larger audience through the project’s website TREPEducator.org, which is an implementation and learning resource for educators and administrators.

She is working with a team of researchers from the University of Haifa to conduct a bi-national intervention development study to improve the educational outcomes of youth who have been placed at-risk for dropout by growing up in developmentally challenging neighborhoods and households. The intervention uses a future-oriented, occupational framework to target improving students’ engagement with and attachment to school as well as their sense of purpose for completing high school by making it relevant for their future aspirations.

Lastly, she has been tracking a cohort of Black and Latinx students who entered college in 2013, and is writing a book that examines these students’ needs for counterspaces on campus. Counterspaces enable students of a given marginalized identity to gather, validate, and critique their experiences with the larger institution, and develop counter narratives that challenge dominant representations and notions concerning their marginalized identities.

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