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Sherick Hughes '97

As a young man growing up in rural North Carolina, Sherick Hughes ’97 experienced inequities and opportunities at the intersection of race, class, gender, education and desegregated schools. He later witnessed those same inequities and opportunities while working with urban and rural public elementary school youth in North Carolina and Ohio.

His experiences sparked a desire to advocate and seek solutions that would provide equitable educational opportunities to all.

“I witnessed many children and their families being ‘left behind,’” said Hughes, an associate professor of education at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a 2009 UNCW Distinguished Alumni recipient. “My central mission and vision became research, teaching and service in education with the goal to influence the social context of education in ways that matter for improving learning opportunities and educational outcomes, particularly for the most vulnerable and marginalized youth, families and educators.”

Over the years, Hughes’ work has aided in the advancement of education. His research was applied to a N.C. Supreme Court case involving schools; to rural extension education efforts in Pennsylvania; urban education policy efforts in Indiana; and, most recently, his research on the myth and math of affirmative action was requested by national- and local-level legal advisors. “It has the potential to be used in pending cases regarding race-conscious college admissions,” he said.

In March 2016, Hughes was recognized by the American Educational Research Association as a Distinguished Scholar.  

Hughes learned from his mentor Deborah Brunson, an associate professor in UNCW’s Communication Studies Department, that his research could make a difference.

“My scholarly endeavors essentially reflect a commitment to equitable and optimal educational opportunities,” he said. “While exploring ways in which power, privilege, equity and diversity influence education, my professional agenda addresses the social context of education; critical race studies and black education; and interdisciplinary foundations of education.”

Hughes has always had a genuine curiosity about people, said Eddie Stuart, vice chancellor of the Division for University Advancement. Stuart has known Hughes since they were middle school students.

“It is no surprise to me that his life’s work has lead him to be a leader in the field of education with a particular interest in urban/rural education and racial contexts which impact it,” Stuart said. “He values education and the empowerment it affords, which is evident in his pursuit of understanding critical issues in the accessibility and delivery of educational opportunity.”

-- Venita Jenkins