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Anthony Jack

Poverty and equality shape not just how students get to college, but how they make it through.

Assistant Prof. of Ed. at Harvard University | Author of The Privileged Poor (March 2019)

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Anthony Jack | Assistant Prof. of Ed. at Harvard University | Author of The Privileged Poor (March 2019)
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

A student from a low-income background attends an elite university on scholarship, and finds herself burdened by that status. This is the paradox of the privileged poor student, says sociologist and speaker Anthony Jack. Upheaval like this will be addressed when modern institutions revise the policies of subtle, and not-so-subtle, exclusion that harden these divisions between students. In the ongoing dialogue about race, inclusion, and social justice, Jack’s talks provide a firm foundation for that conversation.

Anthony Jack, sociologist and Assistant Professor of Education at Harvard University, is vividly changing the way we address the issue of diversity and inclusion in education. His upcoming book, The Privileged Poor, reframes the conversation surrounding equality—on campuses, in communities, and across America. In it, he explains the paths of two uniquely segregated groups. First, the “privileged poor”: students from low-income, diverse backgrounds who attended elite prep or boarding school before attending college. The second are what Jack calls the “doubly disadvantaged”—students who arrive from underprivileged backgrounds without prep or boarding school to soften their college transition. Although they struggle differently, both groups lack the cultural connections, ease, and funds to fit into a community that, by default, privileges the privileged.   

 

“No matter how much a student knows about Chopin and Beethoven, at the end of the month, they’re still hungry.”

— Anthony Jack, on the limits of cultural capital.
In his keynotes, Jack asks audiences to look beyond what is easily taken for granted about education and student life. The privileged poor and the doubly disadvantaged don’t always know what they have access to—like attending office hours, or seeking out student services. They aren’t wondering where to spend spring break, but how they’re going to eat when the cafeteria closes over the holiday. As Jack shows, it benefits every aspect and every member of a community to improve the experience of these students. 
 

Drawing on his landmark research into the sociology of how real poverty intersects with higher education, Jack speaks in revelatory terms about what you and your organization—as an administrator, association organizer, educator, or student activist can do to bridge this education gap. The privileged poor student is “the canary in the coal mine,” he says. But it doesn’t have to end there. Jack’s information can be used to help all students, especially the privileged poor and the doubly disadvantaged, avail themselves of the resources, rights, and privileges that they will apply to their lives after graduation.

 

Anthony Jack is a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and assistant professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research has been cited by The New York Times, the Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, The National Review, The Washington Post, American RadioWorks, WBUR, and MPR. His book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students, is forthcoming with Harvard University Press. 

Speech Topics

Education
The Privileged Poor How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students
What does it mean to be a poor student on a rich campus? This question is all the more important as colleges and universities continue to take affirmative steps to socioeconomically diversify their campuses. In this talk, Anthony Jack examines how class and culture shape how undergraduates navigate college by exploring the “experiential core of college life,” those too often overlooked moments between getting in and graduating. Here, he sheds new light on how inequality is reproduced by contrasting the experiences of the Privileged Poor—lower-income students who graduate from boarding, day, and preparatory high schools—and the Doubly Disadvantaged—lower-income undergraduates who graduate from public, typically distressed high schools. Drawing on interviews with 103 undergraduates and two years of observing everyday life at an elite university, Jack interrogates the social and personal costs of exclusion that have implications for undergraduates’ objective opportunities and their social well-being.
 
Diversity & Inclusion
Diversifying Your Workforce Inclusion Has More Than One Setting
How do you and your company think about diversity recruitment and, equally important, the question of retention? What are you looking for when you screen appicants? In this talk, Anthony Jack helps corporate audiences understand not only what happens to students on campus before they submit their resumes and cover letters to employers, but also the larger social inequalities that make them look different from their wealthier applicants. Jack shows that in the same way that schools must look at how students don’t simply assimilate at the moment of entry, companies must also examine taken-for-granted policies that privilege those from money, and place undue burdens on employees from nontraditional backgrounds.