By Karen Rivedal, WCER Communications
Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) Director Courtney Bell has appointed WCER researcher and associate professor of higher education Brian Burt to lead WCER’s path-breaking Wei LAB one year after he became its assistant director and nearly 15 years since he first used the LAB’s programs to help him succeed as a Black PhD student at the University of Michigan.
“The lessons I learned from these programs have informed my research agenda, confidence, mentoring, advising, and team supervision practices,” Burt says. “They were transformative experiences. But never did I imagine, as a doctoral student or early-career faculty member, that I would one day direct the lab that provided me with formative and consistent preparations for my later career. I am thrilled.”
Burt takes over as director and chief research scientist of the Wei LAB — Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory — from Jerlando Jackson, who left UW–Madison this spring to become dean of Michigan State University’s College of Education.
“We are thrilled to see the important work of the Wei LAB be able to continue under Brian’s able direction,” Bell says.
Burt’s dissertation work explored how a research team in engineering was designed and led, and his scholarly interests include graduate student learning, persistence and retention, STEM education, and the Black student experience. The Wei LAB focuses on designing and disseminating research that informs policymakers, practitioners, and citizens on how to best promote equitable and inclusive learning and work environments in higher education.
“The mission of the Wei LAB will remain the same, but I am excited to expand upon its legacy,” Burt says, “with an emphasis on being an incubator for educational research, theory, and policy, and a hub promoting promising practices for higher education to workforce pathways.”
As an example, one of the LAB’s first projects will be to create a suite of programs that will be of interest to researchers and emerging scholars who are committed to improving equity and inclusion in their professional practices, Burt says. Some immediate topics the LAB will address include advising graduate students and leading/supervising research teams.
Burt came to UW–Madison from Iowa State University in fall 2019 as an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and while working at the Wei LAB as a research scientist. Don Gillian-Daniel is now the LAB’s assistant director, with Claire Brainard as manager. The LAB also has one postdoctoral scholar, four doctoral students, one master’s student, and one undergraduate, plus several scholars who are research affiliates, with possible openings for other students and research scholars.