On September 1, 2016 , Sepehr Vakil was appointed as the first Associate Director of Equity and Inclusion in STEM Education for the Center for STEM Education, housed in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Vakil, an Assistant Professor of STEM Education at the University of Texas at Austin will lead efforts to promote equity and inclusion in STEM for the Center for STEM Education.
“Dr. Vakil brings an important perspective and unique expertise to the Center for STEM Education” said Victor Sampson, the Director of the Center for STEM Education. Dr. Sampson continued that the “efforts [of the Center for STEM Education] to provide all students in Texas with effective STEM education will be greatly improved with the addition of Dr. Vakil.”
“I am honored to be given this opportunity by Dr. Sampson and excited to work with such a talented team of STEM educators and researchers,” said Dr. Vakil upon his appointment. “My approach to issues of equity and inclusion is one that includes thinking about how all students, but students from historically marginalized communities in particular, are given opportunities to excel in STEM fields and access to effective STEM teachers and pedagogical approaches. At the same time, however,” continued Dr. Vakil, “it is critical that we move past issues of access and begin to address more fundamental questions around the underlying philosophies and purposes of STEM education. In this way, we can connect STEM learning to issues of community empowerment and social justice and begin preparing young people to collectively address the increasingly complex and challenging sociopolitical, environmental and human rights issues of the 21st century.”
In his new role, Dr. Vakil will coordinate the efforts of the Center for STEM Education to increase equity in access and outcomes in STEM education for Texas students. This includes facilitating research into equitable STEM teaching and learning and aiding in the dissemination of new innovations in equitable STEM education to districts, schools, and teachers throughout Texas.
Dr. Vakil’s research revolves around the intersection of equity and the teaching and learning of STEM, particularly in computer science and technology. This focus has led Dr. Vakil to conduct participatory design research projects in several contexts. These efforts include founding and directing the Oakland Science and Mathematics Outreach (OSMO) program—an after school program serving youth of color in the city of Oakland. Dr. Vakil also has experience teaching and conducting research within public schools. During graduate school, he co-taught Introductory Computer Science Courses for 3 years in the Oakland Unified and Berkeley Unified School Districts. As part of a university-research collaboration between UC Berkeley and the Oakland Unified School District, he worked with students and teachers in the Computer Science and Technology Academy at Oakland Technical High School to design an after school racial justice organization named SPOCN (Supporting People of Color Now!) Dr. Vakil’s work at the intersection of equity, STEM, and urban education has also led to publications in prestigious journals such as Cognition & Instruction, Equity and Excellence in Education, and the Journal of the Learning Sciences.
Dr. Vakil joined the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin in August 2016. Prior to his appointment, he received his Ph.D. in Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology from the University of California at Berkeley, and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from UCLA.