Ericka Weathers builds education policy career as faculty member at Penn State


Last year M.A. in Policy Studies alum Ericka Weathers joined Penn State as an Assistant Professor of Education in the Department of Education Policy Studies.

Education policy wasn’t always Weathers’ long-term goal. After graduating with a bachelor’s in psychology from Hampton University in Virginia, she moved to Seattle for a research position with the University of Washington Division of Public Behavioral Health and Justice Policy (PBHJP) where she conducted evaluations of education, mental health, and justice programs and policies in order to improve services and outcomes for children and families. Her work sparked deeper questions around policy, leading Weathers to pursue UW Bothell’s Policy Studies program for more formal training. 

Keith Nitta’s course on education policy and her participation in an evaluation of a student support program in the Seattle School District had a profound impact on Weathers, and eventually, she shifted her career goals in this direction. Still, she valued the interdisciplinarity of the program, such as Shauna Carlisle’s course on race, policy, and inequality. “The program allowed me to think about policy from a wider perspective. Education policy alone won’t fix problems plaguing the system.”

After graduating in 2011, Weathers continued her research at PBHJP and was accepted to Stanford University’s Educational Policy program in 2013. While at Stanford, she studied the impact of structural inequality on racial disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes. She also worked in partnership with a California school district to help address their high priority and actionable research questions.

During the fourth year of her Ph.D. program, Weathers considered her job options. Previously, she had envisioned working for the U.S. Department of Education or a research center, yet she was acutely aware of the low representation of women of color in the academy and lack of mentorship opportunities for students of color. She says, “I realized that by being an academic, I would be in a position to make a difference.” She could also advance research agendas that were important to her, and ultimately, communities of color.

Now at Penn State, Weathers teaches a graduate course on education policy and politics, an undergraduate course on inequity in education, and continues her research on racial inequities in K-12 education. She enjoys mentoring students, being part of a supportive junior faculty community, and the opportunities to produce new information that enables education reform.