Ph.D. in Education, 2012
School of Education
July 1, 2008
Experience in a Housing Project Community Center Led Jimmy Leak to Ph.D Study of Educational Policy and Social Context
Originally from North Carolina, Jimmy completed his B.A. in Political Science and Public Policy with a focus in Education Policy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Jimmy’s interest in education stemmed from an education course at UNC and time spent tutoring in a local school district. From there, he wanted to reach out to children who might not have experienced the educational opportunities that he had enjoyed, and spent two summers as a site leader at a community center in a housing project in downtown Durham, North Carolina. During his time at the community center, Jimmy worked with African-American children ages 5-12. He began to realize the vast inequalities in the education system and how some children were not being given the opportunities and resources to excel in school. Drawing on his experiences, Jimmy worked on several projects during his senior year at UNC including an evaluation of a program in the Durham Public School District that centered on closing the achievement gap between black and white students.
After graduating from UNC, Jimmy worked in an after-school program and as an assistant project manager at a woodworking design company while applying to graduate schools. Jimmy looked at several graduate programs in Education Policy, but decided on UC Irvine because of its Ph.D. specialization in Education Policy and Social Context, the diversity of Southern California, and the opportunity to be a part of a new program that was dedicated to research in education.
Jimmy is a member of the inaugural cohort of the Ph.D. program in Education with a specialization in Education Policy and Social Context. He also works as a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Education, where he has gained great experience in teaching and increased his knowledge of issues in education. His current research interests focus around achievement gaps between African-American and Hispanic students and their white counterparts. Jimmy is working on a first year project with Dr. Peg Burchinal doing secondary data analysis on the Family Life Project. He is looking at the differences in parenting practices between black and white mothers and how these differences may impact the achievement gap between black and white students.
In the coming years, Jimmy hopes to explore issues surrounding school re-segregation in Southern California school districts. Specifically, he would like to research more about strategies and policies that can be implemented to reduce inequalities in opportunities and resources between students of different racial groups and socioeconomic status.