Brittany Anderson is on a mission to change systemic educational challenges, particularly for young Black girls. At 37, the UNC Charlotte professor and University City resident has already won a National Science Foundation grant for over $1 million and was included on the 40 Under 40 list by the Charlotte Business Journal.
Here, we caught up with Anderson to learn more about her background, her important research, and what she loves most about living in University City.
Where are you from originally, and when did you move to Charlotte?
I am from Waco, Texas. I moved here in July 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. But honestly, it was the best thing for me. I was living in Tennessee, and this opportunity came available, and it has been a blessing. You learn so much about yourself and about creating community when you move.
You have a doctorate in educational psychology and have studied early-grades education for over 15 years now. What set you on that journey?
I think my whole life has been preparing me for what I do. I lean on my way of knowing, doing and being from my great grandmothers, my grandmother, my mom – my village – so they were a part of even me thinking about the NSF grant. When I was in high school, I had an internship that focused on low income communities and cultivating the needs and talents of black children. From there, I was sold on education.
You also taught elementary school, right? What did you take away from that experience?
Yes, I was a kindergarten and 2nd grade teacher in the Dallas area for 6 years. Those experiences helped me think about some of the ways in which schools do not serve our kids, particularly our most high-ability Black students. It propelled me to move from my master’s to my doctorate, and now I study the macro- and microcosms of schooling, and the unjust ways in which we serve our most disenfranchised. I was one of those kids; I’m first generation everything, so I’m able to honor the legacy of my family and their generational trauma, but use it in a way to serve girls, in particular Black girls, and teachers.
What exactly is your research about?
My research focuses on pre-service and in-service teacher development related to the talent development and identification of minimized youth. The research also centers on the lived experiences of Black girls and women, with an emphasis on their academic and social-emotional needs. My grant work dovetails these two lines of inquiry to focus on university-school-community partnerships that situate STEM engagement through relevant experiential learning with high-ability Black girls, their teachers, and families.
So, tell us more about this incredible National Science Foundation grant you won.
The grant funding will help create programming for elementary young girls—Black girls—to explore STEM through the lens of what they experience every day. Black girls have to deal with stuff with our hair, and cosmetic science deals with that, right? That’s a job. Some of the girls are interested in nails, so what’s the science behind it? What is the science behind cooking? What is the science behind medicine or getting outdoors to explore? How do you engage with students and honor the knowledge that the girls are bringing, and then how do you work with families? I’m doing some pilot work in four schools and partnering with a few CMS teachers.
What do you love most about living in University City?
It’s nice to be 10 minutes away from work. I love the trails and Reedy Creek and the Mallard Creek greenways, because I love to walk. But I also love food! And there’s a Trader Joe’s. That’s my spot. It’s just a good mix of things in University City and it was a little more affordable than trying to buy a home in Plaza Midwood, where I had been renting. And UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens. I love plants, so I love it there.