Emerging Scholar Spotlight: Lauren Mims
Lauren Mims, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology at Ball State University. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia and her M.A. in Child Development at Tufts University. Under the mentorship of Dr. Joanna Lee Williams, Lauren received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology: Applied Developmental Science at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education.
Broadly, Lauren’s work focuses on promoting the wellbeing and development of Black students, with a particular focus on Black girls. Lauren’s dissertation, Meeting Black Girls on the Moon: A Qualitative Exploration of Black Girls’ Experiences in Schools, centered and privileged the voices of thirty-one Black girls to explore how ongoing practices, assumptions and processes across multiple levels of schooling perpetuate racial inequalities or promote racial equity. In seeking to better understand the lived experiences of Black girls in schools, she highlighted opportunities for educators and policymakers to “meet Black girls on the moon!”
Lauren took a leave of absence from her doctoral program to serve as the Assistant Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans during the Obama Administration, where she focused her efforts on student programming, supporting federal interagency relationships, the development of research-based publications and handbooks for students, managing the Initiative social media accounts, and engaging with stakeholders through multi-media platforms. She was a member of the White House Council on Women and Girls, the U.S. Department of Education Policy Committee, the U.S. Department of Education Socioeconomic Diversity Working Group, as well as a member of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Working Group. Lauren developed and hosted events such as the #AfAmWomenLead Student Summit to Support Black Girls, a summit to support African American students with disabilities, and reading parties for youth to share resources, foster creativity and nurture a love of learning.
Before transitioning to Ball State University to begin as an Assistant Professor, Lauren designed and piloted a socio-emotional program for Black girls in middle school in partnership with Girls for a Change (#BlackGirlBecoming). During the program, Black girls read and discussed Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming and participated in activities that addressed the challenges (and joys!) Black girls may experience in middle school. At the end of the program, students created a motivational magazine, titled Melanin Magazine, for other Black girls. In addition to original essays, the magazine included original children’s books with Black girl protagonists and an original rap titled “Hey Michelle Obama” about persevering.
The late American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said, “You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot —it’s all there. Everything influences each of us.” Lauren’s new research explores how the sum total of schooling (e.g. policies, practices, relationships, cultural representations and other norms) influences Black students’ identities. This research also explores student-teacher relationships, dreamkeeping, and the consequences of bias and discrimination.
In addition to conducting research, she is equally committed to mentoring as well as teaching emerging scholars, including pre-service elementary school teachers. Class days, Tuesdays and Thursdays, are her favorite days of the week! In addition to introducing developmental theories and issues relevant to preservice teachers, Lauren’s classes unpack how economic, political, social, and cultural influences shape the experiences of young students and their families. In Lauren’s classes, students creatively demonstrate their knowledge of child development through projects, such as recording a podcast, writing a book, writing new lesson plans, filming documentaries, and creating websites.
Lauren’s two pieces of advice for emerging scholars are drawn from two of her favorite quotes by Black women writers:
- “As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.”
- “I’ve been in many boardrooms where I was the only woman, the only person of color. There’s a wonderful poem by Maya Angelou where she says, ‘I come as one, but I stand as ten thousand.’ Before I’d walk into those rooms, I’d say that line to myself, because I feel the presence, the energy. There’s a whole pack behind me.” –Oprah. Dream a little as you work and know there’s a whole pack behind you, emerging scholars!